The Executioner

I was asked once what is the hardest part of writing, and I had a very definitive answer: it’s that very first edit after the initial novel draft. You see, I don’t get a lot of writer’s block and reviewing the novel’s finer points has its moments, but reading the very first draft is excruciating. Not only is it slow going, but depressing as well. All that hard work and you come to the realization that everything you penned sounds awful.

When I’m editing that first time, there is no “best” way to do it. I can slog through it one chapter at a time, or jump around to follow a particular character or scene. However I go about it, it feels like I’m facing an executioner. Something like . . .

“The axe or the noose?”

The man who had entered the room was giant in stature with the gut of a drunk. Unshaven, I’ve never seen a beard so pathetic, sparsely sprouting long black hair from all parts of the face and neck.

“Does it matter, executioner? I’ll be finished soon enough.”

“You would think, but it doesn’t always end so easily.”

“How do you mean?” Where I was from, they stuck a dagger in your bowels and when you lay there dying, they searched you for enough coin to be buried in your own box.
“If you take the axe, one-well aimed blow would do the trick, but the crowd is not so keen on a quick death, especially by one of your ilk. There’s an executioner by the name of Three Chop Nick who had a better way to entertain the crowd.” The executioner tugged at a hair sprout absently with an admiring look in his eyes. < Note: tip of the cap to authors Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman >

I could only imagine the sport of missing the necessary cut to make it a quick end. “And the noose?”

“Some necks break right enough the moment the floor drops. Others hang on, eyes bulging as they claw the rope at their neck for so long that most of the crowd disperses before it’s over. Not a pretty sight, I tell you.”

“Are there––” I couldn’t keep my voice from cracking. “Are there any other options?”

“It’s been some years since a quartering. If you prefer to have the limbs torn from your body by opposing horses, I’m sure that can be arranged.”

“No need to trouble yourself.” I’d seen a man quartered once, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

“And those who practice necromancy always get the flames. Never before have I heard someone scream with such conviction.”

“I believe your first two choices more than adequate. Can I decide on the morrow?”

The executioner shook his head. “You think these things happen at a moment’s notice? There’s planning to be had, heralds to announce the event, invites to be sent and seats to be saved. I’ll be in charge of setting the nooses or dulling the blades––did I mention Three Chop Nick?”

“Yes, you certainly did.”        

I figured at least whichever way I decide I wouldn’t live to regret it.

At least that’s what I go through in my head when I’m about to start the editing journey. I just completed my initial draft of book two in the The Black Trilogy series, The Ebon Monk. It’s a good one, or at least seems that way at the moment. I know once I go through it in detail I’ll cringe like I do with every other first draft I’ve ever written.

Until next time,



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