Kinless Book One of Two is entering the final stages of publication: format checks of a PDF before it goes live as an eBook and print book. So I thought now might be a good time to look back over the writing and editorial processes which led to this point.
The Beginning (2010)
Kinless started life as a 2000 word short that I subbed into a critique circle on a writing forum in 2010. The actual genesis of the story was a Channel 4 docudrama called ’1066′ about the battle of Hastings. The programme was a tad cheap and cheerful but it inspired the short about a battle.
Several of the critiques pointed out, quite rightly, that this was the start of a novel not a short. I kinda already knew this, but was trying to avoid writing yet another novel at the time.
However, when they are right they are right, so I bit the bullet and started writing the novel that the battle scene deserved, using a slightly unusual method.
The Beta Reading Stage (2010-2011)
Every couple of weeks I posted another 5000 words or so to the forum, which amounted to two chapters. After a while the forum moderators objected to an entire novel being posted in this way (for which I am thankful) and I started sending the two chapter chunks out via email to a select group of beta readers.
These readers were knowledgeable, experienced writers and helped shape that draft. As a for instance, one mentioned that gold did not melt at the temperature of a funeral pyre. I did some research, realised he was right, and a whole sub-plot of the story was born. There were many instances like this during the writing.
However, there were downsides to this method.
At about two thirds through the draft I realised that I had taken a wrong turn at around the halfway point. Now, I’m an experienced pantser and my normal reaction to such a problem would be to go back and rewrite from the mistake, fixing the problem as I went. But I did not feel that I could force my beta-readers (though they are lovely people and probably would not have minded) to reread twenty to thirty thousand words where a lot of the scenes would only have minor changes, so I forged on with the story as it stood, knowing full well that I was storing up work for myself in the next draft.
Therefore, I’m not entirely sure that I would follow this ‘chapter by chapter’ beta reading process again. But it did make the story a lot stronger. Swings and roundabouts innit?
The First Rewrite (2011-2012)
When the beta-draft was completed I collated all the comments and queries into a single document (I tend not to act on comments until the draft is complete. It’s much easier to work on a story in the round than piecemeal — in my experience) and started fixing everything.
Once that was done, I wrote an outline — I call it a timeline — which laid out every scene, whose POV it was in, what other characters were in the scene, and what happened, in a Who/What/Where/When format.
I know Pantsers aren’t suppose to write outlines, but I generally do when writing in multiple POVs because they are complicated things Multi POV stories and because of what I do next. What people think writers do usually bears little resemblance to what writers actually do.
Once the timeline was complete, I dismantled the story into POV arcs, which follow each individual POV character’s storyline.
Then I printed it all out and started retyping every scene, every line, every word. I do this for flow and because I want to individualise each POV character’s ‘voice’ and this is by far the easiest way to do it in my opinion. Writers who grew up with word processors tend not to agree, they may be right but this works for me.
By now it was well into 2011 and Firedance Books had been born. I was simultaneous working on ‘Tales of the Shonri: City of Lights’ and other people’s novels as either a book manager or a structural editor AND this as yet unnamed mainstream Fantasy novel. Most people were simply calling it ‘Drustan’ but that was just a working title.
As time wore on, I began to realise that ‘Drustan’ was going to be too long. I was struggling to keep it to 120 000 words which was the upper limit of what can be produced economically via POD printing. Then came the Firedance meet-up of 2012, which I have talked about here [http://firedancebooks.com/blog/?p=119], and as we sat around that delightful kitchen the decision was made to break the novel into two books.
It was a no-brainer really and, because I was using a 7-act structure, it was actually a pretty easy thing to do. A 7-act structure can be seen as two mirrored 3-act structures connected by the bridge of the mid-point of the story and any 3-act structure holds a 7-act structure within it. Therefore, breaking the story into two 3-acts plus half of the bridge, and then reforming that structure into two 7-act structures is a pretty simple process.
So that is what I did.
And was released from the shackles of word-count.
Using the timeline as a guide (which is why I created it in the first place) I reassembled the story.
Kinless book One of Two is 90 000 words plus change, and every one of those words is needed to tell the story. Kinless book Two of Two will be around the same length, so there was no real possibility of shortening the story without taking out entire sub-plots and character arcs.
Which I had no intention of doing.
Firedance Editorial (2013)
On January the 8th 2013 Kinless entered editorial with Firedance Books. Ren Warom was its book manger and now the work really began.
I’m not naming beta-readers or editors in this post because there are simply too many to mention, but Ren was my rock and my collaborator in producing this novel. Book managers deserve all the acclaim they can get, it is a very time-consuming task that requires the skills of a diplomat, an editor, and a maven of logistics. I say all this as a book manager of other Firedance books.
Ren sent the manuscript out to two structural editors (and did a structural edit herself) then collated all the comments and track changes into a single document and sent it back to me. This first structural edit was about any gross changes required. A lot of it was to do with clarity and ambiguity.
Because I tend to raise questions in the first half of a story and then answer them in the second [http://firedancebooks.com/blog/?p=435], the splitting of the book into two created a great many unanswered questions. Therefore, I had to answer most of these questions; sometimes this was as simple as changing a line, other times it required whole new scenes to be written.
Once I had completed the changes I sent the manuscript back to Ren and she sent it out to the editors again.
We use a two part editing process in Firedance, something which is still evolving but certainly worked for Kinless. In truth a structural edit could go through many iterations until everybody is happy, but it should be a minimum of two because by making changes to solve one problem the writer might well have created other problems that need to be fixed.
At about this time Ren, myself, Gary Bonn and Bill Sauer, started working up the cover for the book. My initial brief was way too complicated and Gary did a very good job creating an illustration that said all it needed to say, which Bill then used to make the final design. There was a period of sending the rough out to other members of Firedance, who commented that it was not very genre specific (which was when the sword was added). Other parts of the cover (the tagline, the ‘book One of Two’ (which was my idea to let readers know at a glance that this was a duology) and the title) were developed at this time and placed on the cover.
Once the second structural was dealt with in a similar fashion to the first, though this was more of a smoothing process to make the story flow correctly, the manuscript was sent to the copy-editor.
She again raised clarity issues in the first copy-edit, which again stemmed from splitting the book in two. I fixed those, which took some extensive rewriting of a couple of scenes and returned the manuscript to Ren, who sent it back to the copy-editor for a final copy-edit which got down the real nitty-gritty of style and grammar. Any style or grammar issues still found in the book are my deliberate choice, because no stone was left unturned by my extremely skilled copy-editor.
Once this was done, Kinless entered proof-reading and this is the process that is finishing at the moment in what is effectively the ‘galley-proof’ stage.
It’s been a long old journey to get from that initial dashed-off battle-scene short to this novel. Two years of writing and beta-reading, followed by a year of editorial.
But it was worth it.
‘Kinless Book One of Two’ is everything I wanted to say, everything I wanted to show, tight as a drum, no wasted words or scenes, a whole world created on the page, with strong characters and a solid plot. And it is all down to the largely unnamed group of editors and beta-readers who worked on it with me.
Nine beta-readers, two structural editors, one copy-editor, two proof-readers, and my book manager, plus the members of Firedance Books now scrutinising the PDF for any formatting flaws, plus Gary Bonn’s illustration and William Sauer’s design.
That’s a lot of people. But it takes a lot of people to produce a book worth reading.
So thank you all.