Old Friends, New Friends
The Dragon’s Fire Series spans 800 years in the first five books, and once I’ve finished Ten, my readers and I will have traversed sixteen centuries of Caledon’s history. The decades or longer between each title mean that, whenever I start a new story, I’m usually starting with a fresh cast.
But occasionally, a timeline overlap allows me to bring back a character I’ve worked with before. Joseph Callahan played a villain in Three, but stars as the hero in Eight. Adrian Zandor appeared in One and Seven (and Five, in a way). James Grenleigh has parts in four different novels.
Book Nine, The Apothecary’s Daughter, presented a perfect opportunity to include some characters from previous books, since the story overlaps with Book Three, Myrhiadh’s War. You’ll be seeing James Grenleigh, Myrhiadh Eathain, Andrew Bramston, and the Praeceptor, while Sara Keelan, a minor character from War, takes on the lead role. I’ve enjoyed working with some of my old friends again.
Reusing old characters can be more challenging than creating new ones. Old characters are set in their ways. Without a believable motivation for change, they need to respond the way the reader expects them to, regardless of circumstances.
The writer must recall the character’s mannerisms and individual quirks. A difference in time between stories might mean he is now a child or an elderly person. His history and future must connect to the current events.
James Grenleigh’s role in Nine is overshadowed by circumstances described in Three. I could never forget what was driving him, or he wouldn’t have rung true with readers. His relationship with Andrew Bramston, whom he has only newly met face to face, is a peculiar mix of friend and enemy. Leaders of nations recently at war and negotiating the joint ruling of a defeated foe, James and Andrew’s interactions require a distinct level of tension while still being cooperative.
But old characters are good friends. The writer knows them, and familiarity is helpful overall, even if they challenge the framework of a new story with their history.
Creating new characters is a complex process, but if they’re consistent and believable, anything goes. Sara Keelan had a seven-page role in Three—minor enough that I could shape her for Book Nine with only a few rules to follow from the earlier title.
Book Nine is available now, and it details the new adventures of some favorite characters. After that, Book Ten will see the return of several characters from previous books, and I’ll be throwing my good friends into some unimaginable situations. We’ll see how previously developed personalities respond when everything around them changes completely!
Stay tuned. I’ve got lots in store for Caledon yet!
Chasing The Dream
“Agents who reject your query seldom give feedback. If they provide comments, pay attention! They know what sells. Take their advice. Consider applicable rewrites. These might make the difference between a hard no or a request for the full manuscript on your next query.” (Play On Words Editing)
I'm a freelance editor, and I like to think I give my clients sound advice. So, when I got an opportunity to follow my advice, I took it!
An agent rejected my manuscript with a tip: the book’s too short. She also told me that if I edited the story to make it longer, she’d welcome my query in her inbox again.
A rejection, plus advice, plus an invitation to resend! Barring a request for a full manuscript, that’s about the best initial agent response a writer can hope for.
But I didn’t relish the idea of rewriting my book. Any skilled writer knows they can’t increase a book’s word count by adding a bunch of adjectives and adverbs and making their sentences wordier. Cass slammed the book on the desk, cannot become Cass grew very impatient and, with a vicious scowl, slammed the heavy, thick book on the polished, sturdy oak desk to show her immense displeasure with the dreadfully horrible turn of events of the day. If I do that to enough sentences, I’ll bulk my 61k manuscript up to 95k in no time, but it’s a grade-school way to accomplish the task. The words in the bulky example diminish the emotion and the action. They tell what’s going on rather than letting the character show it, and leave the reader floundering in a sea of turgid description that adds little value to the story.
I knew I had to add solid content to my book, but when you’ve already completed a manuscript, it’s hard to consider what might be lacking. You don’t want to add fluff. Tacking-on scenes accomplishes the same thing as the extra words in my sentence above. If they don’t belong, they’re just padding out a story that doesn’t need them.
I asked a few of my writer friends for advice, and the best response came from Sophie Draper, author of The Stranger in Our Home and House of Secrets. She said, “Think about your story—is it incomplete? Have you developed the story line enough—think emotional impact, consequence, mystery and clues… (add) a subplot or some relevant backstory. I’d go back to the drawing board and re-plot and then rewrite from scratch, employing some of my already written scenes, but rebuilding around my core story pitch.”
Sophie’s guidance showed me how to tackle the rewrite to grow the story itself, not just the word count.
However, fear was a big part of the process. Over a year ago, I completed the original story. I feared I wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around the plot and the characters to increase the content; I feared the ideas wouldn’t come.
But I had to start somewhere. I began by analyzing the story’s existing plot and brainstorming ideas that might fit. Scenes played in my head, and the plot and characters expanded. A finished story grew like a brand new one once I released my imagination.
By the end of my study, I had listed the main points of the existing plot and created a page and a half of new ideas and a subplot.
The next step was to weave those concepts seamlessly into the existing plot; reading the new version, no one should detect any added elements or question whether they were necessary.
The initial cuts and additions to the manuscript were difficult; I mulled over the changes for a week before I dared to start. Once I did, things flowed. I started having fun and didn’t want to put it down.
Adding brand new material to an edited and polished document gets challenging in places. It’s hard to apply my first draft attitude of “Write something; write anything; fix it later,” to a document I’ve spent a few hundred hours making as perfect as possible. I’ve had to wrap my mind around the idea that I’ll be adding material in many places, and messy is okay. I’ll re-edit.
This invitation to expand and resend has forced me to explore an angle of writing I haven’t tackled before: to rewrite a completed text to meet larger specifications.
I’m up for the challenge. My 61k manuscript is at 84k and counting.
When I started my self-publishing journey in 2016, I had much to learn. I did things that, in hindsight, I wish I’d done differently. But publishing was the process that taught me what I needed to know. Without doing, I wouldn’t have discovered my gaps in knowledge. If we courageously take the first step, doing is the best way to learn. And I'm still learning every day!
Most independent authors don’t have a lot of money. Money is necessary for self-publishing. Producing a book involves lots of steps, and some of them you can’t—or shouldn’t—do yourself. These steps cost money. Editors don’t work for free. Neither do formatters. Neither do artists.
Art isn’t cheap. While I was drafting my first titles, I communicated with several authors who had purchased custom cover art for their books—paying $800–$1500 for the privilege. Their covers were stunning, but my household budget didn’t have that leeway for one book cover, never mind ten!
Once ready to unleash Dragon’s Fire, I was delighted to learn that Amazon offered free covers. My glee faded when I saw how limited my choices were, particularly for the paperback, but I picked one from the selection and crowned Dragon’s Fire with it.
There’s a certain element of a dragon’s eye in that cover. The blue matches Caledon’s national color. It worked.
However, between publishing Dragon’s Fire and completing The Rose of Caledon, I discovered pre-made cover art. And what a discovery! It’s not free, but it was far more affordable than I had expected. I purchased a cover for Rose and contemplated how different my two titles looked. The artwork gave Rose a dramatic boost that Fire lacked.
So I picked out a pre-made cover for Dragon’s Fire and gave the book a much-needed facelift. I only sold about 50 copies with the blue cover, so I now refer to them as collector’s editions—otherwise known as Testaments to What I Did Not Know.
Cover shopping became my favorite sport. As each title followed the previous one, I delighted in scouring my favorite website for a suitable cover, though finding the perfect one wasn’t always easy. Myrhiadh’s War was particularly difficult, since few artists depict female archers wearing much more than bikinis. Shoving aside the obvious impracticality of going to war in a bikini, Myrhiadh was Zandorian, and showing skin beyond her face and hands was taboo. At last, I found a cover bearing a fully clothed female archer, and I grabbed it.
I continued finding covers for each title. Browsing the cover website and discovering a character is satisfying. Guardians’ cover was a breathtaking moment where Marcus waved his sword at me and said, “Hi.” Mystic’s cover appeared after I had missed out on a different one (someone else snapped it up.) The one I bought for Mystic is better than the one I lost.
I bought the cover for Ten three years ago from an artist I follow online. This pre-made cover was the most expensive I had yet purchased. I hadn’t started the book, but the images were perfect, and I have no regrets. I’ve struggled to keep the art a secret for so long, and I’m looking forward to finally sharing it with my readers! (Ten’s cover will appear in the back of Book Nine when it’s published—so only readers get to see the advance cover/title reveal!)
So here we are, with only Book Nine still needing a cover. I’m checking my favorite website daily to discover new covers as soon as they’re posted. Something needs to scream “Buy Me!” but so far, no luck.
The story specifics leave little room for flexibility. A Zandorian heroine rules out any character showing skin or wearing brilliant colors. The male and female lead in Nine have a platonic relationship; covers that show two characters are usually romantic. The heroine’s specialty is unusual. She’s pretty, but not glamorous. She’s well-off, but not nobility. These factors make me scroll past hundreds of covers, saying, “Nope. Not right. Doesn’t fit. It’s just not her.”
I’ll find her. Eventually. But this cover is the first for which I have contemplated purchasing custom art. I’ve even asked some artists I’ve bought from before for quotes.
The lack of a cover might delay the release of Book Nine; however, I will continue my diligent daily searching, and as the editing progresses and the hazy launch date looms, I may pursue custom art. The cover must fit the story and the rest of the series.
Book covers. Nine out of ten are ready. One to go!
The biggest challenge in writing The Assassin’s Redemption was to take a villain from an earlier book and turn him into a likable hero. Though Joseph carried the story, Aislinn became a heroine and an essential point-of-view character in her own right. The oldest of my series’ female leads, Aislinn is the only one to have a love-interest younger than she is.
“I choose my own friends.”
Age at the time of this story: 29
Physical Characteristics: 5’4” tall, 110 lbs, strawberry blond hair, blue eyes
The daughter of a shipyard laborer, Aislinn Rede had a happy childhood in Ampleforth until her father passed away when she was twelve. Left to the care of her Aunt Riona, a scullery maid at Caledon Castle, Aislinn joined the lowest class of royal servants in 1570. She spent long, hard days toiling in the kitchen and cleaning the stone behemoth that became her new home.
Five years later, Aislinn was promoted to become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Marguerite (Meg), and the two formed a close bond of friendship. Aislinn was Meg’s confidante and companion on every occasion and served as nursemaid to the prince and princess when they were born.
Though intelligent and quick-witted, Aislinn came to the castle with little education—a situation Meg set about to remedy. Over the years, under Meg’s influence, Aislinn gained knowledge of music, botany, astronomy, mathematics, history, and art through reading and conversing with her mistress.
“A scullery maid seldom becomes a queen’s lady-in-waiting, but the gods favored me. You’ll never find a kinder mistress than Meg, for she’s as tenderhearted as she is beautiful, yet as strong as an iron spear.
My tasks now are light compared to what they were. Instead of turning spits over blazing fires or scrubbing filthy floors, I spend my days caring for my lady and reading books, riding horses, or playing cards or chess. Amusements and pleasures abound. My place is usually reserved for titled women of breeding; I have the comforts of royalty, pleasant work, and no royal responsibilities. Why would any commoner give that up?
One condition of my employment is that I cannot marry, for the cares of a husband and children of my own would supersede the needs of my mistress.
However, I’ve met no one for whom I’d consider leaving the queen.
My time serving Marguerite has made me too fussy. I have met many excellent gentlemen, but my place as a servant sentences me to partner with a commoner of the lowest means. I’m not interested in a grabby, uncouth laborer who thinks he’s doing me a favor by noticing me.
Give me a gentleman in commoner’s garb. Someone with a skill that sets him above the others of his station. Then I might turn my eyes from Meg and her castle to consider a humble home of my own.”
“After all, what do ten days matter?”
Age at the time of this story: 35
Physical Characteristics: 5’7”, blue eyes, light brown hair
Marguerite is a French princess who comes to Caledon in 1575 for an arranged marriage to Prince Edward Grenleigh. Marguerite arrives with the promise of a yearly stipend to Caledon from her family in France for as long as she lives. This makes her an essential source of income for the Grenleighs and a valuable asset in the war against Langdon. But Marguerite barely has time for an exchange of pleasantries with her future husband before they marry.
Marguerite is intelligent and capable, fascinated by the sciences and mathematics, well-read and well-educated—characteristics Edward finds threatening. She has little in common with her husband and avoids him as much as she can. Marguerite becomes the mother of Prince James and Princess Katherine, and she does her best to steer their education and upbringing and to shield them from their father’s narcissism.
Marguerite has few attendants at the castle, since Edward sent her entourage home to France after the wedding. Her best friend and confidante is a former scullery maid six years her junior.
“Father arranged my marriage to Prince Edward of Caledon, but he never mentioned it to me until the details were settled. Father assured me that Prince Edward is handsome, but there’s far more to a husband than his looks. I was livid that Father would send me to a foreign land to wed a stranger.
In self-defense, I sought any information I could find about Caledon before I boarded the vessel that would carry me to her unknown shores. Not much exists in writing beyond myths: tales of gods and goddesses, dragons, kings, and a legendary stone, the Dragon’s Fire. To think I should become a princess of Caledon!
And one day, its queen. I’ve lost track of the line of succession for the French throne, but I’m a long way down it, and had resigned myself that I would never wear a crown.
As my ship approached the forbidding, mist-draped coastline, Caledon appeared everything I had read about in the legends. I could almost see the winged dragons soaring over the cliffs.
But now, facing the imperious castle carved into the rock high above the water, my courage fails me. What do I know of Caledon? Stories. Nothing more. Yet I shall be bound to love, honor, and obey the prince of this country whose customs I do not know and whose people I do not understand.
My entourage of ladies-in-waiting know how to cheer me when despondency pursues me. Knowing my little quirks and preferences, they seek ways to make me comfortable. So long as Edward proves a kind husband, with my friends at my side, I shall try to be of service here, and eventually, I shall be happy.”
“What sort of fiend would you make of me?”
Birthdate: February 12, 1561
Date of Death: July 11, 1603
Age at the time of this story: 26
Physical Characteristics: 6’2” tall, 190 lbs, black hair, dark brown eyes
The son of loyal Zandorian citizens, Joseph apprentices in blacksmithing under his father from the age of seven. Joseph’s mother passes away when Joseph is seventeen, and two years after that, Joseph’s father follows, leaving the house and the forge to his introverted son.
Joseph runs an efficient business, making a name for himself in Grymwalde and the surrounding countryside for having a solid mind, a skilled hand, and a gift for handling horses. His excellent reputation and his devotion to the Crown make him a fine catch for any young lady, but Joseph despises Zandor’s strict rules of courtship and maintains a state of contented bachelorhood. Joseph enjoys his humble home and prefers the company of horses to people.
As the war between Caledon and Langdon intensifies and Zandor awaits an opening to strike, Joseph shows his dedication to the Crown by signing up for army service. Far handier with a hammer than with a sword, his tasks are to shoe horses and repair weapons. Trusting that Zandor will soon win the war and claim the throne at Caledon Castle in Ampleforth, Joseph intends to return to his routine at home when the excitement ends.
“A more loyal servant of the Crown than I, you shall seldom see. I have known the Children’s Creed by heart since my lisping tongue could recite it. Rarely have I succumbed to the Failings; never have I broken the Moral Laws. I work hard, earn my bread, pay my taxes, and support the Crown in every endeavor.
And now I’m going to serve in the Imperial Army. A strange sadness filled me as I hid the key to my forge in the roots of the oak tree in the garden, and I scolded myself that I should dare to feel about something so trivial as home.
The Crown would be ashamed.
The army may prove busier than I prefer, with long hours and lots of people. But I should aid the Crown in its path to the throne in Ampleforth, and the army has no shortage of horses needing shoes.
One more night at home, then away to join the army near the border.
With any luck, the war will end soon. I have not yet departed, and already, I want to come home.”
“Be grateful I’m letting you leave with your head.”
Birthdate: November 3, 1550
Date of Death: May 5, 1603
Age at the time of this story: 37
Physical Characteristics: 6’0”, blue eyes, blond hair
Edward is the only son of King Sulwyn Grenleigh, who reigned from 1560 to 1580. Sulwyn is a strict father who gives Edward a rigorous education and drills into him the nation’s expectations of a king. Between the demands put upon him and the adulation afforded him as the crown prince, Edward becomes spoiled, resentful, and self-centered.
In his mid-twenties, Edward falls in love with a seamstress and carries on a secret affair with her until Sulwyn catches wind of his son’s indiscretions. Sulwyn arranges a more suitable match with a French princess—one who comes with a yearly stipend from her family to help fund Caledon’s wars.
Edward’s outrage knows no bounds, but schooled as he is in duty and protocol, he marries Princess Marguerite. During the first years of their marriage, he meets with the seamstress occasionally, but stops when Prince James is born, in 1578. When Edward takes the throne upon the death of Sulwyn in 1580, he presents to his subjects as a faithful, if disinterested, husband and father.
Edward and Marguerite never mesh, and in 1582, when Marguerite is pregnant with Princess Katherine, their marriage dissolves into one of complete political expediency. Marguerite moves into her own suite of rooms, and Edward becomes a recluse from his family within the castle.
His interest in Marguerite had only ever been the financial boon she provided to Caledon. At the helm of an extended battle with Langdon, his resources depleted and his forces dwindling, Edward is never far from defeat. His desperate desire to hang onto his throne becomes his focus and the driving force behind most of his actions for the rest of his life.
“Read. Study. Memorize. Ride. Fence. Sail. Then back to more reading and studying.
That’s my life under my father, Sulwyn—a stern and imperious man. He dictates that I must be constantly improving myself for the sake of the nation, and he insists on knowing my whereabouts and my activities at all times.
If only he would send me off to fight Langdon! He feeds every other son of Caledon to this blasted war. But I must stay safe within the castle’s confines, learning to rule the nation—assuming there’s any nation left when I take the throne.
My father doesn’t love me. He cares nothing about my happiness or my interests. I’m a commodity to be mined for the benefit of himself and Caledon. Like one of his horses, I am trained to a purpose and expected to perform without fault or opinion.
I am the crown prince. Certain comforts and privileges come along with that, I suppose. You’d think that the freedom to make some of my own decisions would be part of the package, but no. Father wants me to learn the theory of decision-making while leaving the decisions to him.
One day, when I have children, I will do better for them than my father has done for me. I will not be what my father is, I swear.”
Most writers suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and it attacks when sending query letters to agents.
Did I say enough? Did I say too much? Am I bragging? Are they going to roll their eyes and trash my submission? Why would anyone want to read my book?
That last question is the one your query must answer if you stand any chance of an agent requesting your full manuscript.
So pull up your socks and Sell Your Book! Polish your pitch until it makes YOU want to read the book. Send it to friends to see if it makes THEM want to read. Craft your bio to show yourself in the best light possible. Stay positive—even if you feel like you're wasting your time and should find a new hobby.
The worst thing the agent can do is say "no." Every debut author had their share of rejections during the querying process. Think about that. You are in the company of the greats!
So invest the time into crafting a confident query that screams, "You want to read my book!"
Querying would be so much easier if we could actually say that.
And while you’re querying, keep meticulous records of your process. List which agencies you have queried, and which specific agent you addressed your query to. Note whether you emailed or filled out an online form. Include the date you sent the query, and the estimated time you should allow for the agent to respond (or ignore you.) Track your rejections.
This way, you will avoid the embarrassing mistake of sending to the same place/person twice. You will know how many queries you have out at one time, and who you need to inform if you get an acceptance. You will also know when to cross an agent off your list and move on.
Don't trust your memory. After you've sent a dozen queries, and you're preparing more, and a couple are rejected, they'll become a blur.
Keep it manageable. Your book doesn't need to be on submissions at 100 places at once. I have my manuscript out at six to eight places. However many agencies you choose to query simultaneously, make sure you stay organized. Know where your queries are and when you can consider them rejected.
And finally, persevere. All it takes is one “yes.”
Most agents expect to see a brief biography in your query letter. “Brief” is the key—a few sentences are all you need. Don’t share your life details unless they relate to the story—e.g. you’re a brain surgeon and you’ve written a medical drama. Keep your bio relevant to the manuscript you’re querying and keep the focus on your writing achievements. Include your traditionally published works, if you’ve got any. Mention writing awards you’ve won if they’re notable and recent. If you don’t have literary accolades to share, say something positive about your writing experience and move on.
Self-publishing is writing experience, but it’s not an accomplishment that traditional publishing views as proof you’re a talented writer. So unless your self-published book sold a million copies within a year, don’t include details about your self-publishing endeavors, beyond perhaps mentioning that you’ve done it. Provide your website or links to your work only if the agent requests them. Keep the focus on the unpublished manuscript you're querying.
Be confident in your query. Don’t denigrate yourself or your manuscript. Keep everything positive. However, a fine line exists between confident and arrogant. Don’t stray into, “You’ve never read anything like my work,” or “You’re going to love my book.” Just present the story. Let agents make their own judgments.
Agents who reject your query seldom give feedback. You’re lucky if you get a form response telling you your work doesn’t fit their list. Usually, if they’re not interested in your project, you won’t hear from them. If they bother to provide comments, consider yourself blessed and pay attention!
Feedback can hurt, but don’t get upset. Agents know what sells. Take their advice.
Do you have to change your manuscript based on an agent’s remarks? No. But you’d be wise to consider applicable rewrites. They might make the difference between a hard no or a request for the full manuscript on your next query.
Three keys for querying: keep it Short, Relevant, and Positive!
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I queried many publishing houses about several manuscripts. Traditional publishers no longer accept queries from authors. To pursue traditional publication, writers need an agent.
So, I’m querying agents for a manuscript that isn’t part of the Dragon’s Fire Series. And I’m learning stuff along the way. Disclaimer: nothing in my posts is a guarantee that you will land an agent.
The quintessential idea I’ve discovered is to keep your query short. Most sites I’ve read recommend one page or less. I say less. Much less. Three or four paragraphs, at most. Agents are busy. You're part of a massive slush pile. They won't spend five minutes reading your query looking for the good parts. So make each paragraph count. Pitch your book. Offer a SHORT and relevant bio of yourself. Include anything else they've asked for. Close. Write your query so they can read it in about 30 seconds.
Don't waste space with excessive niceties. "Thank you for taking the time to read my query today..." "I'm sending you my manuscript because I'm looking for an agent..." Agents know you're looking for an agent. Your query on their desk is their first clue. Cut straight to the key points and convince them they want to read your book. Be polite, but don't waste words.
Your query is a business proposal. Keep it professional. Agents aren't interested in the book's backstory or how dear the story is to your heart. They're looking for material they can sell. Don't kill your chances with a "why I love my book" paragraph unless they’ve asked for one. If they ask, focus on how what you love about your book will make readers love your book, too.
Query one book at a time. Don’t offer the agent a smorgasbord of the sixteen manuscripts on your hard drive and expect them to pick. Query one specific title.
Don't expect to send off 100 queries a day. Each one will take time, energy, and careful attention to detail. It's best not to have your book in the slush pile at dozens of agencies, anyway. If one signs you, you'll have too many people to contact saying, "Never mind about my query..."
Maintain a steady querying pace, focusing on quality over quantity.
Preparing the first query is the hardest part. I needed several hours to fine-tune my pitch and my bio, choose an agency and an agent, and assemble my submission package. The next queries went much faster. Each agent wants something slightly different, but the bulk of your material can be pasted and tweaked. Follow submission guidelines and send each agent what they ask to see.
Wondering how to sum up your amazing story in a few short sentences? Start by identifying your protagonist. Share the inciting incident—what starts your story? Tell the main character’s goal and reveal what the conflict is.
For example, a short pitch for Dragon’s Fire might read: Princess Ciara of Caledon is named the Guardian of the Dragon’s Fire by the mysterious Mystic Order, but she has no clue what the Dragon’s Fire is or how to find it. Ciara’s search for the Dragon’s Fire brings unexpected powers into play, and she discovers that her most dangerous enemies are those she thought were her friends.
That’s an abbreviated version of what appears on the back cover of the book. Your pitch should equate to a back cover copy that entices readers to open your novel. Start with those four key points—main character, inciting incident, goal, conflict—and then polish your pitch.
Next time: what to include in your biography and how to handle feedback.
Sooner Than Later!
I enjoy working on two writing projects at once. This allows me to indulge in editing a book while drafting one, and the change of pace between the manuscripts is welcome. Editing can be intense and exhausting, though I enjoy it. Creating is fun and relaxing (usually).
At first, I started the next book while I was waiting on Beta reader or editor feedback on my current project. But last year, I got into the habit of writing a young adult fantasy that isn’t part of the Dragon’s Fire Series on Sundays. I called that weekly change of pace “Book Adultery,” and the manuscript, Small, is now seeking an agent. After completing Small, I started Book Nine while editing Eight, and I’ve finished the first draft. I’ll be well into the second or third draft by the time Eight publishes.
In the past, I’ve only written a few chapters of a first draft before launching the previous book, because I didn’t take Sundays as “creator” days. Having a draft finished is an unusual accomplishment.
What does that mean for readers? A faster turnout for Book Nine! If Nine is ready for editing when Eight launches, I might release it within six months of Eight’s publication. AND I’ll be starting the first draft of Ten while editing Nine.
I can't wait to write Ten. I promised to take the series out with a bang, and I can deliver.
Sooner rather than later!
Self-publishing the Dragon’s Fire Series is a huge undertaking. Independent publishers tackle every aspect of producing a book, unlike in traditional publishing, where a team handles the project. Between myself, my Beta readers, and my husband, I have a team, but it’s a small one.
The first step is writing the story. The idea in my head progresses to a fleshed-out novel in stages. First, I write a plot. Usually. Myrhiadh’s War never had a plot—it just spilled out over 33 days, and I finished it before I realized I had put little planning into it. The Rose of Caledon also didn’t have a written plot, because I’d been thinking about it for seven months before I started typing. The other titles have plots to guide the general direction of the narrative. (Characters invariably take over and change the storyline—Book Nine is currently not even pretending to follow the plot.)
The first draft is just me telling myself a story. Grammar and syntax are irrelevant—I want to get the ideas onto the page. Later drafts focus on plot development and character arcs. Some books only require two drafts before they’re ready for editing. Others need more. The Assassin’s Redemption had four drafts; The Mystic’s Mandate had seven. Beta readers help me during the drafting stage, looking for plot holes and character inconsistencies and making suggestions to improve the story.
However many drafts I write, the final one is a blend of drafting and editing, where I give the text a quick read-through for continuity and clean-up any glaring errors.
Editing begins once I’m satisfied that the story and characters are solid. The first editing pass is huge. Here I focus on style, wordiness, repetition, clichés, grammar, overuse of words and phrases, sentence length, diction, dialogue and tags, sensory development, and passivity. I pore over each paragraph and analyze every word. It can take four or five hours to work through one chapter.
The next editing passes are easier, but I keep working on the text until I can read it and find few things I want to change. This can involve any number of passes, but never fewer than four. During the editing stages, Beta readers help by reading for continuity and enjoyment, and pointing out details I’ve missed.
Next, the manuscript goes to my editor, who happens to be my husband. He’s a computer guy—very logical, and he does technical writing and editing at work. He never gets lost in the story, and he makes me account for every word I’ve left in the text. Medieval technology in a scene? I’d better be able to satisfy him that what I’ve described would work, or I rewrite until he is. Lapsing into too much retrospection and characterization (he thinks it’s boring)? I’ll have to fix the pacing. Missing information? He’ll catch it. Flaky characters, implausible situations, poor syntax or confusing sentences? If any have survived my scalpel, he’ll find them. Sometimes, he gets a hearty laugh out of my inadvertent mistakes.
After that exercise in humility, the manuscript gets a final check for continuity and to ensure that we introduced no new errors.
And then we format it. Formatting for publication is a tedious task. My husband excels at it. He sets margins, analyzes pages line-by-line, decides where to insert hyphens to perfect the justified words, and designs my covers to Amazon’s exacting specifications. I could not do this without him. (We buy the cover art and credit the artists in the books—we are not artists.)
After one more quick proofread, the manuscript and cover get uploaded to Amazon so you can read the book! By this time, I’m sick of it, but proud of it—and I’m always glad to hear how readers love it!
Readers buy it and read it in a few hours and demand the next one.
Which is fantastic.
If only I could write them as fast as people devour them!
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n