Yesterday morning, I wrote the final scene of The Realm of Silence, ending with those welcome and wonderful words ‘THE END’.
Not, of course, that the task is finished. I have a first draft, with plot threads still dangling, new ideas in the second half that need to be woven back earlier into the book, passages that make outrageous leaps and others that limp like a wounded snail — meandering, slow, and purposeless. The next task is a paper read through, and the book has been printed and is sitting waiting for me. I’ll make notes as I go this first time, but I won’t map anything.
That’s next. Story analysis. I’ll open the spreadsheet with my plot lines and all the other things I need to track, and I’ll read the book again, this time writing a brief synopsis of each scene and filling in the columns across the spreadsheet. Which plots were advanced? Which characters were involved? (And what were they called? — I have a bad habit of changing people’s names in mid-stream.) What is the hero arc for each of my protagonists, and how does it match the arc I planned when I began? If I’ve changed it, is it for the better?
Are the characters true to themselves? If not, how do I fix it? What about my secondary and background characters? Are there too many? Can I remove some, or fade them into the wallpaper? Are they real people with hints of their histories and personalities?
Once I have the storylines mapped, I can see what I’ve dropped or failed to resolve, or where an earlier hint or clue would help build tension. I go back through the draft, and use the spreadsheet as my guide to scrawl all over, giving myself instructions for the rewrite.
Which is just that. A rewrite. Scenes changed, expanded or cut. New scenes added. This is the point at which I add chapter breaks, because up until now I’ve only had scenes. Each chapter needs a lure to end on and a hook to start. I don’t much worry about length. A chapter is as long as it needs to be.
At last (and by end of January, all going to plan) I have a draft for my beta readers, and off the baby goes, out into the world, ready to face the critics. I hope.
My wonderful team of beta readers will have The Realm of Silence for February and I’ll be back working on it, making final changes in response to their comments, in March. It will still need a copy edit and a proofread after that, but I’m aiming at publication in late April.
Meanwhile, I have created a hero’s journey and character interviews for the hero and heroine of my next book, written a plot synopsis, and begun to write. I’m going to follow the same process that finally got me going on The Realm of Silence — a first cut that is mostly dialogue, then a second pass to fill in the rest of story and give me a first draft. I’m aiming at 60,000 words for House of Thorns, which is for a Marriage of Inconvenience line for Scarsdale Publishing. It’s due to them on 1 March, so the first draft needs to be done by 10 February. With 5,000 words on the page so far, I’d better get writing.