Editor Brain Breakthrough

Many memorable moments make up my writing journey. One of the most important occurred Tuesday morning before drafting this blog (good gosh, what is it about Tuesdays?). I’ve always appreciated the magic editing adds to an existing story, but detailed self-editing too often eluded me.

No more.

I’m thankful I’ve reached this milestone and there are many reasons why.

Strange as it might sound, I’m grateful I took the long road to get there. It wasn’t the scenic route, but more a slog through the jungle.

The Road

The first glimmers of Ontyre worldbuilding surfaced in the late 1990s. In 2000 I commenced work on my first Ontyre novel, which ended up big enough to be five novels. Other, non-Ontyre works followed, bookending a long illness.

Pannulus 2020D

Pannulus. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

In 2015, I made a course correction. It was time to make serious efforts towards learning the craft. Too, self-evaluation led to a different fantasy focus. New maps. New worldbuilding. New writer.

It was, to say the least, difficult, as I watched other writers rush ahead, leaving me behind. They were self-publishing and I was, seemingly, languishing (yes, writer envy).

One benefit to writing for me instead of the market was I was prolific. There’s the seven-book Kovenlore Chronicles, four Pannulus novels, and a host of other shorter works.

I’m editing the first Pannulus novel right now.

What Changed

Last month I created my Targeted Editing Plan and performed a Novel Scan of Protecting the Pneuma Key. The plan was derived from a lot of excellent advice from a lot of people, but none one more so than Tiffany Yates Martin. From the plan I created a chapter-by-chapter checklist so I wouldn’t settle for making only easy changes, a problem in the past.

And then I procrastinated.

To be honest, I think I was scared. After all the years, all the effort, would my plan make the difference I needed? Would my eyes glaze over and it’d all end up a waste of time? After all, that was what happened during my light edits when I was more a reader than an editor.

Last week I blogged that I was ready to begin. It was me holding myself accountable, forcing myself to start. You know, like a hard slap.

I started with the bleeders first, as Tiffany called them, those I’d identified in the Novel Scan as having the most issues. The first chapter took two days because I getting a feel for my process. After, I read through the chapter.

It was editing magic.

“I did this?” Yeah, it was like that.

Yet, it still sounded like me. I hadn’t edited out my voice. Win-win.

There some learned tricks about keeping the chapter fresh while I worked on it, but I won’t go into that his week.


After that, one chapter per day fell as my confidence grew and I learned to be flexible. Each chapter was different, after all. I made it through three more chapters with similar results, but each day there was the nagging feeling I’d overlooked something.

Then, Tuesday morning, enter Tiffany Yates Martin—again. She’d posted on Writer Unboxed about adding microtension in—if at all possible—every paragraph. It was a topic I’d read about before, including in her book. That morning, though, it was what I was looking for when I needed to find it.

Editor brain screamed, “That’s it!” It was.

Protecting the Pneuma Key mood board. All pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Board: ©2022 CA Hawthorne

Protecting the Pneuma Key mood board. All pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Board: ©2022 CA Hawthorne

Breathing far too fast, I shot back through the four chapters I’d already done. Microtension was present in only about 70% of the paragraphs where it should’ve been included. I set to work and an additional miracle happened. The internals and metaphors I too often neglect were what came to mind where microtension was lacking.

More amazing, there was no significant change to the word counts.

There’s been one more change: how I see my writing. Is it my editor brain gaining strength? I think so, and that means it’s me crossing a threshold. In other words, a breakthrough.

You can’t imagine how grateful I am to all those who helped me along the way, including Tiffany Yates Martin.

Learning and adapting continue, though. I’m also learning Affinity Photo in tiny increments. Not long ago I made my first ever mood board. It was for Protecting the Pneuma Key. Last weekend, I made one for Case of the Deadly Stroll. I also want to learn Artbreeder.

It’s all steps forward, though this one felt like a leap closer to publication. Happy dance!


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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