More of the same from me. I believe things are about to happen. I received an e-mail from my production coordinator and it seems my book is back in proofreading and I received a final version of my cover design that I signed off on.
I’m about .25% through my fourth and final book of The Summer Palace series and I’m working hard to get it a little more complete before the final edit of the first book begins and I don’t have time for much else. After five months, since I last saw my novel I fear I’ll be apt to change some things, but I have to force myself to leave it alone and trust that it is in perfect condition to print. The first round of proofs was not that bad, but I did find myself wanting to make changes again after five months of not seeing it it’s almost like seeing it for the first time. Still, I don’t know if the same proofreader will be going over my book and if the corrections and AA’s I made will appear in a brand new corrected document or the same doc with additional marks. Will another proofreader agree with the first?
This series is in many states of repair. Book one is being proofed, book two is on hold until the release of book one, book three is a WIP and the hard copy is in a box waiting to be reviewed. Book four, as I mentioned, is in the early stages.
At this point I can tell you how I prefer to write my stories having written a few and trying different methods on each. The first step (my favorite) is writing the rough draft. Basically, sequential scenes unencumbered by details and dialogue. When several ideas start to accumulate in my head I put caps (bare bones – ex: PAUL IS MUSTERED) in the scene and get back to it later. For The Summer Palace I used colored index cards representing the different characters and their scenes. Since then, I’ve created a separate digital file called SCENES and answer the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, HOW, WHY, WANT, and OBSTACLE* questions for each scene. It really helps the process by making sure each scene is interesting enough to hold the readers attention and it helps with the embellishing stage of writing. I like to keep track of the number of scenes and assign chapters at this point. After reaching about 100 scenes and watching the word count I read through and look for timeline errors and omissions. I am comfortable if the word count is in the 40,000 range because the first run through usually adds about 20,000 words. That’s a comfortable place to be because it still needs all the details and fact checks. My goal is about 75,000 words so I’m usually a little off the mark after the second go around. 15,000 words in a 60,000 something word document is not hard to reach. At this point I print out the doc and read carefully with a red pen in my hand. It’s a good idea at this stage to effect the changes and put it away. I have document boxes where I keep old MS’s and MS’s on hold or WIP.
I’m passionate about history and that’s where I find my inspiration. I don’t seek out historical events and work around them. I put my characters in a time and place and research what is going on around them at the time. There is an awful lot of history to be picked through you’d be surprised what comes up at the point of your particular interest. Certain issues pique my curiosity (ex. the terem, the hussars, 17th C Europe). Often times an event may be covered over and over again and one aspect has been overlooked and that’s where Historical Fiction comes in piecing together the puzzles left by documents lost or destroyed. It has to make sense. Sometimes there is more than one version of a story or someone’s name is unknown and a careful analysis can help to bridge the gaps.
I’m learning as I write and finding places I would never have known about. I have taken on subjects I knew nothing about and broadened my knowledge. Instead of reading about them (and I do read a lot) I write about the things I am most interested in and I hope those who choose to read my books agree.
*Novel-Makers Handbook by Diane O’Connell