Bringing Twelve Kings to a Close
I recently finished up the page proofs for Twelve Kings and turned them in to DAW Books. Pretty soon, the final version will be completed, which is essentially a product of taking my input, plus a proof-reader’s and folding all of those in to the final ms form. There may be one or two tiny back-and-forths between me and the production editor, small clarifications and the like, but that’ll be about it. In other words, my time working on the ACTUAL BOOK is essentially done.
Going through these page proofs was interesting. I put a lot more pressure on myself this time to make sure the story was solid all around. Not that I didn’t do that with The Lays of Anuskaya. I did. But I’m a better writer now. I’ve learned a lot. So in some ways I’m more able to dig deeper. And I did. This is by far the most amount of effort I’ve poured into a book to date, and I hope it shows in the final product. Anyway, back to the page proofs. What was interesting to me was just how dejected I felt as I was going through the final read-through. And I think it was because of the pressure I was putting on myself. I was focusing entirely on the negatives and ignoring the positives, because frankly, the positives had lost their shine for me. I love the book. But distilling a book down to its negative essence will bring any writer down. It certainly did for me.
But by the same token, it was nice to go through the process of copying all the comments I had to a marked-up PDF that I turned in to DAW. It went very quickly, and didn’t feel nearly so bad as my self-conscious mind had made it out to be in the read-through. The edits I was making were really quite small. A word here. A change to sentence structure there. Typos. Clarifications. Really minor stuff. The page I included above was the worst of it, and even that wasn’t really that bad. It just looked chock full of errors because I rewrote on passage several times. All in all, it was nice to see that the changes were minor, and that the book was ready to be wrapped up and turned in.
Does that mean I’m completely comfortable with it? No. I’m human. I worry there are still things I missed. And I also wonder how long I could tinker with the story. Probably forever. And as my tastes change, so would the book. That’s part of why I don’t want to take years to complete a book, for the simple fact that as I grow as a writer, my tastes and abilities will grow and change too. It’s a sad fact that for nearly all writers (badly paraphrasing John Lasseter from Pixar) we don’t so much finish a book as we’re forced to release one every so often.
There’s more for me to do with Twelve Kings, of course. I’m helping with the catalog and cover copy. I’m adding input where I can to the artwork and the cover design. But really, that’s mostly in the hands of my respective publishers, DAW, Gollancz, Brilliance Audio, and Droemer Knaur.
I’ll also be spending a lot of time in the promotional department, helping to push the book before release, spending a fair bit of effort in the few weeks around the release itself, and helping to tend to the book after the flurry of the initial release has died down.
So what am I doing now? I’m just wrapping up In the Stars I’ll Find You, my second short story collection that was part of the Six by Six Kickstarter I ran last year with Brenda Cooper, Martha Wells, Tina Connolly, Stephen Gaskell, and Will McIntosh. I have copy edits to fold in once I receive them from Marty Halpern, but once that’s done, it’s just the fulfillment, which is e-only for the short term. Later this year I plan to put out some physical copies for those that like ’em.
I also have a few short story projects that are coming out this year. My story, “Irindai”, is in the Blackguards anthology from Ragnarok Publications. And “Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village” has been turned in to editor Shawn Speakman for inclusion in the Unfettered II anthology. Both of these are Shattered Sands stories, prequels to Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. A third Shattered Sands story, “Born of a Trickster God”, will appears in my short story collection, and I’ll be writing one more later this year, all to help widen the world revealed in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.
Beyond that, though, I’m now full bore into Book Two, which is tentatively titled With Blood Upon the Sand. It’s been nice digging into the story again. I’ve essentially had to reboot where the story was left off at the end of Book 1 (made so much easier by all the effort I’ve been putting into copy edits and now page proofs) and also where I thought the book was headed. I cut about 50k words from the end of Twelve Kings before going through a massive rewrite after Beta reader feedback. So I have a decent idea where the book ends. And I know roughly where it starts. So now I’m plowing through the early pages, trying to find my sea legs again, hoping to make more consistent headway.
And it’s coming. I can feel the story developing in my mind each day I write. Pretty soon I’ll hit the muddle in the middle, and fight my way through that to the end. I’ve got about 67k written so far. I imagine the first draft is going to be something like 180k or so. Which means I have about 5 months-worth of writing to do for a zeroth draft, and maybe 2 more for a readable first draft.
It’s a long haul, but I’m really loving the world. I hope you do as well when it finally hits the shelves.