For the past month, Sarah and I have been editing our two YA dystopian novels, The Price of Pandemonium and Darkness, Set Us Free. We’ve both spoken at length on the podcast about the challenges associated with each one.
The Price of Pandemonium, the second book in the series, is nearing completion—I’m doing my final major set of revisions before we send it off to our editor. It is (relatively) error-free, and most of my changes are minor tweaks to paragraphs to enhance the characters’ mood or tone. It has been a (mostly) painless process and a welcome breath of fresh air after reading through Darkness, Set Us Free.
Sarah has been burdened with reading and commenting on Darkness, Set Us Free. I wrote in a previous blog post how I initially thought this book was one of the best we had ever written. That it was fairly polished and only needed a few tweaks here and there. I went on to write about how wrong I was and how Darkness, Set Us Free needs a lot of editing.
Both Sarah and I have been reflecting on our initial feelings about this novel—how it felt like our best writing—and the dawning realisation that it needs major work done to it. Originally, I thought our change in opinion was due to our gradual improvement as writers. Having left the novel sit for over a year while we wrote our Ancient Greece book, I thought perhaps Darkness, Set Us Free felt lacklustre because we were used to a higher standard of work.
But that didn’t sum up all the problems with it. It wasn’t just that there were poorly written passages and parts that fell flat. Some parts are too wordy. Others lack depth of emotion. The major problems are a distinct lack of tension, and the characters are introspective. Way too introspective. There are chapters littered with pages of internal monologue, which has the opposite effect of what was intended.
During one of our podcast episodes today, Sarah raised a great point—most of this novel was written in 2020 amid the COVID pandemic. At the time, we felt that all the lockdowns had been beneficial for our writing. After all, we wrote an entire novel during that period. But now, looking back, perhaps the feelings of isolation and uncertainty we felt during the pandemic leaked into our writing more than we intended. Maybe the issues we’ve identified in Darkness, Set Us Free arose from our mindset when we wrote it.
This got me thinking… how much does our mindset influence our writing? How much of what we are feeling translates into the characters’ feelings and thoughts in our books? I don’t know the answer to this, but I do think that this played a major role when we were writing Darkness, Set Us Free.
Now, we are left with the difficult job of editing this novel. And it is going to be a massive job. Perhaps one of the more challenging edits we have undertaken so far. But I am up for the challenge.
Have you noticed any difference in your work from the COVID pandemic? Do you think your mindset affects the quality of your writing? Let me know in the comments below.