This edit was a pretty significant milestone in my career. I believe, if I can remember correctly, that I have been through thirteen professional edits prior to this one. Those edits, taught me quite a lot and were like mini college courses. So what's the difference this time?
In all those edits, my novels were edited as genre fiction. In my former novels, one of the problems I encountered was that readers felt like they had been dropped into an Excalibur test, which was not my intention. Since I had no problem reading these hard sections (and that is significant because I am dyslexic and have problems reading nearly everything), I couldn't understand their problems. With "The Owl from Oblivion", which is the deepest novel I have written thus far, I finally determined the cause of the disconnect.
The problem was that I was trying to write literary fiction in a genre novel style. Genre novels have their own pacing requirements and rarely have time to be contemplative on any situation. One must move on to the next plot point before the reader gets bored. If the author has some deep insight into a character, it must be condensed down to some prescient bullet points, perhaps resulting in an impactful line, then fly away to the next plot point. When trying to grasp for deep philosophical meaning or a trait of humanity embodied by the character, especially with respect to foretelling how that trait will likely impact the plot, the reader, who is streaming along at warp speed, feels that their speeder has just hit a tree on the Star Wars moon of Endor.
More than discovery that my natural writing style is literary fiction, not genre fiction, the pieces in the puzzle (and in my confidence) fell into place when I realized that many of the more endearing children's books are a kind of literary fiction written for children. Children are always trying to figure out how the world works. They haven't been alive for very long. Some things they learn are very confusing. The reason they are confusing is that in a world where it seems like adults have all the answers and therefore "every question has an answer," for some questions, there are no answers. "That can't be right" the children would think. A literary fiction novel shows them that yes, it can be that no one knows the answer to all questions about life, even ones that can be so simply stated. Further, it shows where these questions fit into different kinds of people's lives and how just asking the right question can change the world. One does not need an answer to affect influence.
So with this edit, I received the affirmation that I indeed understand what literary fiction is and can actually write it. But even more revealing was that perhaps there is considerably more to this style, in terms of questions or philosophical ideas pondered, than I knew. Below I quote a section out of the editor's style guide that they wrote to help guide me in writing this book:
In a very succinct way, the editor has crystallized the nature of literary fiction for me. And it has set a task list of to-dos beyond the numerous grammar fixes required: further things to think about and ways to carry the characterization of the characters even further by entwining them in these fundamentals of literary fiction.