Proofing Winter’s Light

by M.J. Hearle

There are aspects about the writing process I genuinely love.

I love beginning a new project, coming to the blank page with an idea for what might very well be the best thing I’ve ever written. Of course, it might turn out to be the worst thing I’ve ever written, but that pregnant moment before my fingers hit the keys is magic.

I love having written. There are fewer more satisfying feelings than glancing at a stack of pages and knowing that you’re responsible for every word printed on them.

Occasionally, I actually love writing. Especially those periods – brief though they are – when the story is flowing, characters and scenes spilling from my fingertips as though remembered instead of contrived.

I love typing ‘The End’.

One of the aspects of being a writer that, well…sucks, is proofing. I hate re-reading over my own work. It’s tedious and often painful. Tedious, because re-reading sentences that you’ve probably already re-read and re-written half a dozen times is incredibly boring. Painful, because you’ll probably discover your manuscript is nowhere near as good as you thought it was.

After finishing the draft of Winter’s Light which incorporated the notes of my fantastic publishing team at Pan, I was suffused with a confidence that was entirely foreign to me – the book was good. Better than good, Winter’s Light was brilliant. It might in fact change the face of the YA Paranormal genre forever with its daring plot and startling prose. The fact that my publisher didn’t require another pass at the book further bolstered my confidence. I’d gone through an extra two or three drafts on Winter’s Shadow before reaching the same stage. Was it possible I was ready to proof the typeset pages after only one editorial pass! Surely, I was the only author in the history of publishing to ever achieve such a feat. This confidence remained right up until I received the typeset pages and reality set in.

My book was not as wonderful as I’d led myself to believe. Firstly, there were still many  corrections to make – almost every other page required an amend – and secondly, my story simply wasn’t that amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of Winter’s Light. Overall, it’s a much more sophisticated novel than Winter’s Shadow. My writing has improved and there are passages in the book that work like gangbusters (the climax is particularly cool) it’s just not the fragile work of genius I thought I’d written. Alas, it’s merely a very good YA paranormal. It probably won’t change the world.

Interestingly, my emotional journey editing Winter’s Light is almost the opposite of what I experienced editing Winter’s Shadow. Before I’d reached the proofing stage on Shadow, I was convinced the book was a dud. Poorly written, derivative, full of embarrassing characterisations and hollow emotion. Going over the typeset pages, I was was relieved to find out I was wrong. The book was okay. Pretty good in fact. I liked the story and thought I did a fair job of conjuring an appropriately gothic atmosphere. There was room for improvement but I suspect there always is. We’re not building cabinets here, we’re writing stories and as such the success of the finished product is always going to remain subjective. What I think works, a reader may dislike and visa versa. Which is why I can’t ever really trust my reactions to my stuff. There’s an element of faith involved.

I suspect if I was to re-read the manuscript for Winter’s Light I’d swing back from weary acceptance all the way to giddy optimism again. That seems to be the writer’s lot. See-sawing between conflicting emotions. As always, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Your writing is not as amazing, nor as bad as you think it is.

In May, readers will be able to make their own judgements. Despite my own current exhaustion with Winter’s Light I’m genuinely excited to see how its received. It’s so far out of the Twilight mold there’s a chance it might alienate readers who have come to expect more of the same. Hopefully, not. I’d like to think all the Shadettes and Shadudes out there would welcome something a bit more challenging then what the genre usually serves up. We’ve seen enough tired iterations of the same plot. It’s time for something new. I might not have written a timeless work of art, but I can guarantee it’s something you haven’t read before.

M. J.