The nature of the universe is that it is ever-changing. That is its inexorable course—to never stop changing. It is expanding, new worlds are being created and destroyed as galaxies crash into each other. Black holes suck entire solar systems into their insatiable gullet from which not even light can escape. From galaxies to subatomic particles, things are in a constant state of change.
My manuscript was no different.
I still have the original outline, and boy was it ambitious. It would have been close to 60 chapters! Sure, there are plenty of 60 chapter epic fantasy books out there with over 1,000 pages—Tad Williams, George R. R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, etc. Epic fantasies of epic proportions are the crowning achievement of the genre. But they’re usually written by experienced authors, not a pretentious newbie with more experience charging into battle than writing a novel…just like me. Looking back at my original outline, I can see the naivaté in my writing, and why it changed so much.
Qualitative internal growth, the type that improves our skills, requires change. It demands an improvement from where we once were to where we are now. Try and failure are the ingredients for improvement and success, perseverance the oven. I’ve always been ambitious in my ventures, usually taking on way more than I can chew. When I first started drawing, I didn’t use books to learn, I opened my Nintendo Power magazine and drew Final Fantasy’s Tiamat. It was always easy to see where I began and where I ended my drawings because the progression of improvement was so obvious. My first novel was no different.
My friend Lisa (who had over 15 years of editing experience, with many books published) was integral to my growth. She introduced me to stilted writing, show-don’t-tell, and countless other nuances of writing that I hadn’t gleaned from research or the books I’d read. By the time I finished my first draft of Age of Darkness, its resemblance to the original outline was obscure at best.
My second draft went through a similar transformation, though admittedly far less extreme. Each time I went through my manuscript it changed until I had a finely polished, well-written epic fantasy novel.
Understand that your manuscript is an ever-evolving work of art. There will never be, or at least should never be, a moment when you read through its pages and think to yourself, “I should have changed that…” A thousand different readers will give you a thousand different opinions, insights, and perspectives that you could never have imagined. But there comes a point in time when you’re just nitpicking over superfluities, and you have to move on.
Now, as I ponder War of Ages, I think of plots twisting and transforming, love interests turning traitorous, and a protagonist that lost his mantle to a troubled little girl. The story that I had initially wanted to tell is hidden, much the same way a seed is hidden within the tree.
Embrace change. It’s the only constant you’ll truly ever know.