An end and a new beginning

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.



I’ve finished A Baron for Becky and done the first edit. It’s 46,800 words, and what I thought was going to be an epilogue turned into two more chapters, but it’s done. Once I’ve transferred my hard copy markups to the electronic copy and created book files, it’ll be off to the beta readers.

To celebrate, here’s another excerpt. Becky is reading a letter from the Duchess of Haverford.

Ah. Here is what she was looking for. She read quickly, her smile broadening. But this was perfect! Hugh would be so pleased, and so would the girls. And Miss Wilson the governess, who had come as a favour to Becky and Aldridge but was anxious to begin her promised retirement before the first snow.

She began a reply; she wouldn’t be able to send it until she had spoken to Hugh, but she wanted to waste no time.

A footfall behind her warned her an instant before her husband’s hand came over her shoulder and snatched up the letter.

“Hugh!” she turned awkwardly in the chair, and looked up into her husband’s stormy face. “Hugh? Is something wrong?”

His angry expression was fading to embarrassment as he read the first page of the letter, then turned to the signature. “The Duchess of Haverford?”

“Yes,” Becky asked. “Who did you think it was from?” She knew perfectly well what he thought. How could he?  She had given him no reason to doubt her!

“I… uh…” Embarrassment was now uppermost. He covered it by glaring at her. “Why is the Duchess writing to you? Does she mention Aldridge?”

It hadn’t occurred to Becky until this moment that they never talked about Aldridge. Never. He was supposed to be Hugh’s best friend, and had, in his own way, been a good friend to her, but in this house he had ceased to exist.

“She says he is still wearing a black-armband and3dc6b2efdd327ed0c495004f157561ae is enjoying the sympathy it wins him,” she told Hugh.

“That sounds like Aldridge.” He almost smiled, but then frowned again, looking down at the letter he still held.

Becky took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Calm. Stay calm. “I wrote to the duchess to ask her if she would find us a governess, Hugh. Miss Wilson only came for a short time, and it has already been three months.”

“Oh.” Embarrassment was winning. Good. He should be embarrassed to think so ill of her. “I… can we start over, Becky? Can I go out and come in again and just pretend this never happened?”

They should talk about it. She shouldn’t let him just brush it away. But she could never stay cross when he was smiling at her, begging her with his eyes. She smiled back and nodded, and he tiptoed to the door with ostentatiously large steps, trying to make her chuckle. Which she did, just to please him.

Moments later, he poked his head around the door again. “Becky, my love, I’m home.”

“Hugh, how lovely. You’re early.”

“I finished early, and could not wait to see my lovely wife.”