It's November! Lots of people I know are engaging in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a challenge to write a full novel in a month. 1667 words a day for 30 days... By the fifth day, you're likely to want to wring someone's neck, possibly your own.
In fact, the very first draft of The Kaedin Secret was written in November 2013. This year I am doing NaNoWriMo again for a side project, just for fun. (I know, I have an odd sense of fun.)
My very favorite thing about November is the fact that Starbucks sells peppermint mocha for the coming two months. I am a horrendous addict to the minty-chocolatey-deliciousness. Hot or cold, with an unhealthy dollop of whipped cream on top and then a sprinkling of candy cane bits.... Mmm. Heaven.
Thinking about peppermint mocha reminds me of this time last year, when I was deep into development edits with Samantha De Silva of Firewords. As mentioned, I wrote the first draft of The Kaedin Secret in 2013, and spent much of 2014 and 2015 rewriting and editing. Eventually I had to concede that I could only make it that good, and so I sought out a professional editor who could tighten it up.
I'd already known about Samantha when I took a writing workshop in the 2013 Singapore Writers' Festival. At that time, I had thought that her style and mine were close enough and I understood her perfectly. I also remembered that she had talked about her editing services. Thus, when I needed an editor, I thought of her first.
I sent her a query about her structural editing services in September of 2016, and later, my full manuscript. By October, we had pared the essence of my raw novel down to the bones to see what the world of The Kaedin Secret was made of. From the driving forces behind most of my characters to the political structure that shaped the society of Aleis, Samantha asked incisive questions that trimmed away the unnecessary fat and built up the meat of the book.
That November onward, we met frequently at a Starbucks. It turned out that she loved peppermint mocha too! (That fact has nothing to do with the structural edits. I just like that both of us love the same drink.) Rewrites, further development, some reshuffling... We went through that process for months so I could be satisfied with The Kaedin Secret.
When you find a good editor, you're lucky. They help clarify your vision. Samantha certainly helped me see The Kaedin Secret as more than just a little queer romance set in a fantasy world. I now have a deeper message that I want to tell the world. The process wasn't all one way either. I turned down some edits that she suggested. Sticking to my guns on those occasions were helpful to me as a writer too, because I could then articulate why I refused to make certain changes.
I still have my very first draft. When I compare that to what she has helped me craft, I thank all the Creators that my subconscious chose to remember her name from so many years ago. Having someone to guide me through my edits made me a better and more focused writer. And now, I have another NaNoWriMo to conquer - this time, armed with the tools that Samantha has given me.
Time to buy a peppermint mocha to celebrate!