My copy-edited manuscript is expected to arrive tomorrow, and so I spent much of today re-reading In Ashes Lie.
I’m pleased to report that I like it, after all.
You’d think that would go without saying. But I spent so long head-down in this book, and so much of that time under a series of unpleasant stressors, that I truly lost my perspective on it. It’s the longest book I’ve ever written by a margin of nearly twenty thousand words, and approximately 87% more plotty than its closest competitors, which meant I had a difficult time holding the entire thing in my head at once; by the time I finished revisions, I was making changes half-blind, trusting to well-trained instinct that what I was doing would actually work. For all I knew, I was creating a Frankenstein monster of a book. But now, with the respite of having not looked at the thing for over two months, I find that — while there are some rough edges around those last-minute changes — on the whole, the thing works.
(Even the sentences, mostly. I can pay close attention to those in short stories, but in novels they tend to happen on autopilot, while my brain wrestles with plot and character and so on. Especially in a book like this. My autopilot, however, has gotten much better these last few years.)
Don’t get me wrong: I still don’t ever want to wrestle again with the fire-breathing hydra that is seventeenth-century English politics, and I still think this book deserves its moniker of “the Beast.” But that’s the voice of the months spent writing it, not the voice of the result. I don’t love it in the same way I love Midnight Never Come — no two books are ever the same — but I honestly believe Ashes has both Giant Spectacle and character moments that far surpass the best I was able to pull out for its predecessor. (The whole “burning down London” thing helped with the former.) It is a book I can be proud of.
And that two-month respite means I (hopefully) have the will to slog through the CEM, which is my last chance to catch any errors, polish those rough edges, and fix the sentences the autopilot did a less-than-spectacular job on. The production department appears to allot the same amount of time for copy-editing regardless of book length, so I’ll have to stick to a pretty rigorous schedule to get it done. But I’m actually looking forward to starting, at least.
(Ask me again in a week how much fun I’m having.)