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On the James River for an artist walk

my world is birdsong and cricket and rushing water, russet and green and blue blue blue! Big Jim, my favorite river, is at his most stunning today, friendly and rock-studded and framed in autumn. I’m here for the beauty, for the inrush of sounds and images, for a way to clear my head of fear. The fear that is every writer’s most dangerous enemy. The fear that, I’m learning, is as bad on a second novel as it is on a first. The fear that shrieks: Will I ever get it right?????

Revising a manuscript is usually my favorite part of writing, but sometimes revising turns into, in Mary Amato’s words, “putting makeup on a corpse.”  That’s what I’ve been doing for a year now. I’ve been pimping Deathsign’s prose till it shines, but the structure of this, my second novel, still isn’t right.

Problem is, how do I right it? Two trusted readers have told me my fantasy world of Avani is too complex. Should I simplify it? Cut away some of the wonder and weirdness? Why not have regular ponies instead of ponies with antlers? Why not have fewer kingdoms and sheikdoms and homelands? I believe these two readers when they tell me it confuses them. However, I don’t believe them when they say the world is too complex. J.K. Rowling has hundreds of named characters in her stories, and plot twists to make Hitchcock drool. Middle Earth and Narnia and Panem are complicated worlds where, somehow, you never feel lost.

And so I conclude that Deathsign’s problem isn’t its world. Lina’s world, Avani, with its seven homelands, its wizards and kings and thanes, is NOT too complex. Worlds are supposed to be complex! Deathsign’s problem isn’t the world it creates, Deathsign‘s problem is its author. Me.  I still haven’t told the story well enough, and the question today is not whether to change the storyline but how.

So today I’m walking beside the James River, searching in the falling leaves and the hammering of a woodpecker and the blue flash of a kingfisher’s flight for the courage to keep revising until I get it right. The courage to believe that, if I work hard and trust in what Julia Cameron calls “Good Orderly Direction” I will, in fact, get it right.