None Call Me Mother comes out tomorrow!
I keep talking about how much I’m excited about this release, and it’s all true. I have scaled this mountain.
There were times I doubted I’d make it. However, it’s here, and it’s good. One of the reasons I think many people become authors is that they want to write the stories they want to read. I have re-read all of this series in the past week and it’s my kind of story.
Anyway, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about some of the things I discovered while writing this series. This series, more than anything else I’ve written, changed my processes.
First and foremost, I screwed up at the start of all this. I’m a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants.
For the Edward stories, this works great. However, part of that’s because everything in those stories comes from the single window of the first person POV. The author can have a more limited view because both the character and the reader have that same limited view. We all expect certain things to happen off screen.
The Kreisens has a completely different structure. Yes, I want the character and the reader to have limited views, but for those limited views to mesh at the end required me to know everything behind those views.
I didn’t do this well.
I came close. I didn’t have to retcon anything important. I don’t see any huge plot holes, and neither did my editor. However, I missed opportunities for fun plants and hints in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I really regret. I also have great plot ideas that in the end I couldn’t use because to do so would have required major retconning I wasn’t willing to do.
So the first thing I will change the next time I write a multi-book story arc will be to either plot significantly (unlikely), or write all of it at once and release the trilogy (or whatever) in sequence with little need for change. A series is one kind of animal. A trilogy is another.
Second, my production process was flawed. Some of this was experience. I’ve gotten better at writing blurbs, for example. It’s its own craft and one I continue to practice.
However, I’ve never been pleased with myself in my original release of I Am a Wondrous Thing. A Lake Most Deep suffers from a number of issues, but that doesn’t bother me as much because it was my first book, and first books *always* have issues. Live, learn, get better.
But I Am a Wondrous Thing was book three and I just simply didn’t do a great job producing it. Of all my books, it had the most typos/mistakes. I would have made a much more active cover. It had the most extraneous words. The blurb wasn’t great.
It’s especially frustrating now because I see these things so clearly and at the same time I see a great story.
The good news about being an independent writer is I can fix some of these things relatively easily. Live, learn, get better, after all. I Am a Wondrous Thing made me do all three.
The biggest change was to add a verbal read-through editing pass. I now print off the entire book or short story and read it out loud (when the cats let me). While my editor does a great job, this pass lets me catch some things simply because I’m reading the page differently. Also, it helps me see words that aren’t necessary. Most importantly, I think, is it shows me when I’ve arranged a sentence badly, something I am wont to do. If I can’t read it out loud smoothly, then it needs to be rephrased or cut.
This one thing has dramatically improved the quality of my stuff, and I’ve done it with everything I’ve written ever since.
As part of the None Call Me Mother release, I wanted to make sure both I Am a Wondrous Thing and Brief Is My Flame matched.
So I did a verbal read-through editing pass on I Am a Wondrous Thing. It’s much stronger now, much sleeker. As I said, I didn’t retcon anything major, but I did add a few hints and plants that mesh better with the events in None Call Me Mother. In many cases, this was literally changing one word to another, even to the point of changing an “and” to a “but.”
Along the way, I also realized my method for novel organization had flaws. I like having a section where I can discuss the people who helped, things about the current book, and that sort of stuff. That’s why I wrote a Foreword in the first place. However, that gets in the way of the reader reaching the story. so I changed it to an Afterword.
All three novels now have the same internal structure on the electronic versions. There are some challenges to making that true for the print versions, but those will be completed by the end of the week, I think. All three will look and feel the same inside, except of course for the story itself.
Side note: This may or may not show up yet with existing readers by the way. There’s supposed to be an update feature with Amazon so you get the latest version. However, it’s not working on my copies, so I’ve sent them a message to ask what’s going on. Also, this obviously doesn’t change the physical copies. Keep those. They’ll be collector’s items someday.
In the past, I have put dates and locations on each chapter. I have also gotten feedback that this distracted the reader without really adding anything. Some of you will prefer having those details, and I will continue to make sure the time continuity works on my initial drafts, but they make the story ponderous at times.
A third thing getting in the way of readers were the wiki links.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the wiki is a great thing. For me, it’s a place to do my world-building, serves as my bible, and gives me a bunch of story ideas. For readers, it allows them a chance to really grok Shijuren. Again, my basic philosophy as a writer is to provide the content I want from those authors I love.
However, the links *in the prose* got in the way of some readers. Hence, I’ve done a compromise. The story itself has no links, but the appendices do. It’s all in the wiki, and you can go directly to it from the appendices, but there’s no link distracting the reader in the middle of a sentence.
Readers are, after all, what’s important in all of this. All of these changes are based on comments made to me by you guys and I haven’t even touched on my changes to my prose. I continue to work toward streamlined, faster prose because again that’s easier to read, but I also strive to produce the books well. I’m getting there.
But I have scaled this particular peak. As of tomorrow, The Kreisens is a complete unit, freshly touched up, and fully annotated in a revamped and improved wiki. Best of all, I love it.
What a great thing to be able to say.