Just under three months ago my debut novel, Air Awakens – the first in my debut series of the same name, was released. It was a process that began with Fictionpress, took me to querying agents (being rejected by all of them), and then finally led to me deciding to self publish my work, rather than trunk it. This started a whole new process that involved a lot of learning, and determination. A process that I outlined not all that long ago on the Live. Love. Read. YA blog as part of their musing of eternal dreamers series.
But, I’m not going to tell my story again today.
I’m going to focus on my books. How the process of preparing them for publication has changed and evolved and how the story has been refined since the early days of Fictionpress.
I posted the first chapter of Air Awakens on Fictionpress on August 22nd, 2013. I finished the first book at 124,074 words on October 5th, 2013. I was averaging writing between 2,500-3,000 words per day. I’d say this is a fairly normal, to slow, drafting speed for me now.
From there, I moved right into the next novel, and the next, and the next… Book five of Air Awakens, the last book in the series, was started on January 29, 2014 and I finished it just under five months later on May 19, 2014. Its final word count was 278,708 with 47 chapters.
When I decided to query, I was told that I had to cut down my manuscript. I went through and made some changes, trimmed some things, and got it to around 110,000 words. I foolishly thought this was enough. A good friend and mentor of mine gave the guidance that even for high fantasy, 110,000 words for a debut YA novel was too long for any agent to take me seriously. So, I went back to the drawing board.
The fundamental skeleton of the story remained the same. The characters I had crafted, the world, the events that happened to put those characters where they were when the reader first met them held true. Their transformations were similar. But, the tale began to have a very different feeling.
I stripped away, streamlined, I toiled and rewrote. I found ways to say things in less sentences without losing the meaning. I changed the way I approached my stories from everything it could have, to everything it HAD to have. And removed over another 10,000 words from it.
This manuscript was then handed to my editor, who performed a round on it and passed it back to me with a long list of grammar errors for me to watch along with her revisions. I made some more changes, gave it back to her. One more pass from her and then it was finished.
Or, well, “finished.”
I couldn’t stop touching it.
The first edition of Air Awakens ended up with more mistakes in the final copy than I would’ve wanted. It was my fault for messing with the process, for overestimating how far I was on my writing journey. But I still stand by releasing it. Real artists ship and it was time to get Air Awakens out there. (Though, that’s also part of the reason why a new edition is coming… but we’ll cover that later!)
But, I learned from my mistakes. I improved my writing, I *gasp* studied grammar again in a way I never had since school and tried to implement things. I really tried to heed each one of my editors changes, understand them. And, I didn’t touch Fire Falling after she’d worked her magic. I also added a final stage beta/proofer to hopefully catch any last mistakes and continuity errors. I hope that readers will see the results of these edits in the where the final version of Fire Falling is at compared to the first final version of Air Awakens was.
As my writing has continued to improve and change, my story has as well. The original drafts of Air Awakens rambled in places, got lost in others. The story has transformed from what it was to what it could be. Like ripples out from a stone thrown into calm water, the changes I’ve had to make because of my edits in the first book have gotten bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
Now, I’m practically rewriting the entire fourth book.
So I think it’s safe to say that my characters and story have evolved from those original Fictionpress days, just like I have. I think Vhalla is a stronger heroine than she was, a more self-assured one. Her journey begins still in Air Awakens when she doesn’t know who or what she really is, but only for lack of questioning. Fire Falling introduces the conflict of who she “really is”, who she wants to be, who the world wants her to be, and who she needs to be may all be different people. Fire Falling explores the world of Air Awakens for the reader, throwing in key histories and giving depth to the characters that we will follow for the next three books (at least, that way my intent).
By the end of Fire Falling, I realized when I began Earth’s End that I had a different heroine on my hands from the original drafts. While some key decisions remained the same, how she arrived at them needed to be very different. I’d say her growth, originally, was slower, and compacting it into one book was the right thing to do because it puts Vhalla in a position to take on the world when she finally arrives at war in Earth’s End.
The story that Air Awakens takes place within is far beyond Vhalla, she’s a player on a grand stage and her role was added at the start of the second act. I can’t say how. But I can say, I have every intention of writing a story that encourages readers to pay attention to the details. WHAT is happening to Vhalla is not the main story of my work. The main story lies in the WHY.
But, all will be explained in time.
I hope if you take a chance on the book you find that you enjoy it. That the story I am telling is as enjoyable on the superficial level as it is substantial in the deeper tale I am attempting to weave into it. And, if you don’t, I understand. As I’ve said many times before, there are always more books on the proverbial shelf.