While Carol and I were editing this past weekend, I realized that I started writing almost eighteen months ago. I don't remember the exact day, but it was the fall of 2016. In that time, I have written three books, one short story, and have put a dent in my fourth book. By the time I have been at it for a full two years, I will most likely be almost finished my sixth book with a couple more short stories thrown in for good measure. I see a progression in my craft, and so can my beta readers, who have commented that my second book is even better than my first. One said they are excited to watch how I grow as an author and are looking forward to my tenth book in the series. It is very inspiring to have a reader want to read so many books in a world that I created!
To be honest, one of the toughest parts of writing for me is the research and developing the backstory because they take so much time and energy. I would be into book six if I did not need to worry about all the little details, but then the world would not well-developed, nor would the characters come so alive that they almost jump off the page. There certainly is some research while I write, but mainly I am trying to get the words on paper and move the story along. The editing process is where I am asked why this happens, or where did those people come from, and although I wrote it, I did not mentally go into that depth of detail. That little word 'why' has led to a four-page essay on the founding of Merceria for the first book. For the second book, it created the need for determining where the Mercerians came from before they founded Merceria. Filling in the where's and why's has helped to create a much more robust world, but has an impact on the length of time it takes for editing. A chapter can be done in under an hour, but other times it can take four or five hours, depending on how much extra research is needed.
Some research is quite fascinating, such as what did medieval people call a bathroom - garderobe. Other research can take me down a rabbit hole, sucking up hours of my time without a definitive answer. At this point, I just decide what I want the world to be, as there is either no answer or too many conflicting results, like the monetary and measurement systems. The backstory is a whole different matter. How can I determine what a knight wears if I don't know when they started wearing chain and plate? Or what do the people of Merceria look like compared with other nations, and why? Each question can lead to a rewriting of a section of a chapter, or the decision to keep it as it was written and add to the backstory.
At the end of the day, every time I add to the backstory of the world, I find myself imagining other adventures that happened either long ago, or far away, and the possible books in the world of Merceria keep growing!
Today I want to share with you how well the editing of 'Sword of the Crown' is coming along. We are on track for a mid-February release! I do find it interesting that even though I wrote it over six months ago, I still chuckle at the funny parts. This new book has quite a few humorous scenes, for Beverly is a character who tends to speak her mind frequently. When we are working on editing it, whoever is reading, speaks out loud, making sure to infer the right tone to the characters. We often have to stop for a chuckle break. For example, here is a small little preview for you. To set up the scene, Beverly, when she is sixteen, is MADE to travel with a chaperone to visit her uncle.
“I don’t know why you have to wear that thing,” her new 'best friend' said in disgust.
Beverly looked down at the sword strapped to her waist. “This?” she asked innocently.
“Yes, it’s not very ladylike. Why do you insist on wearing it?”
“Because my warhammer is too awkward in the carriage,” she said, smiling.
There is also an element of sadness at times, for many things have to happen to Beverly along the way to mold her into the great knight she becomes. Recently, we were reading through a particularly poignant scene, and Carol had to stop because she was crying so hard. I took over, but I must admit that it was hard to read, and I too had to stop for a moment or two to collect myself. It definitely was a hard scene to write, but you truly understand who Beverly is and what drives her after reading it. I look forward to hearing if my readers can figure out what scene I am talking about when we release the book in February.
This past weekend, we tackled editing chapters seven to nine of Sword of the Crown. Things were going along nicely, until we got to a section where a character had to go to the smithy, and Carol, who does the first edit, had changed the route the character took. I then explained that the smithy was in the basement of the Keep. Well, it was if the gates of the Underworld opened up! Apparently, she had not gotten that from the previous chapters, and did not feel that is should be in the basement, as the noble family lives in the Keep. I disagreed, and so as we have figured out from past editing conflicts, we went to researching on the web, to see what actual Keeps had.
This lead us to realizing that a map of the Keep and surrounding areas was needed, having us to looking at existing keeps and castles from the Medieval age. Then we started looking at what rooms would be in the keep, what the defenses were, and what the surrounding walls would be. Throughout the beginning of the research I was only half into it. I could not get past that my whole book revolved around the smithy being in the basement. Moving the location changed the whole flow of multiple major plot reveals. We stopped the research, as I needed to look at these areas in the book and determine if I could change them. After sharing them with Carol, she came up with a great idea. The scenes required one character to "walk down the stairs, and listen at the door to the smithy," so she suggested having the Keep on a slight rise as some of our research had indicated was normal. This would require the character to walk down stairs, then the smithy can be beside the Keep, so nothing changes really.
And just like that, the problem was solved! The smithy is now next to the Keep, so that people can sleep; we have a map of the village and Keep, and the story is still the same as I envisioned it!
I have to admit that watching somebody edit your book, with all the red lines and comments everywhere, can be hard to swallow some days, but I truly would not want anybody else to edit my book than Carol. She understands what I am trying to say, and stands her ground when she believes something is not working. Although we do have some heated conversations while editing, we have the common goal of sharing the best story of Merceria with the my readers!
This past weekend while we were working on editing 'Sword of the Crown' we ran into a bit of a dilemma that began with whom a knight would swear fealty to. In the land of Merceria, the king has been actively reducing the influence and power of his nobles over the past few years, so knights now swear fealty directly to the king, but in the past knights used to swear fealty to their liege lord. Carol asked the simple question of when did this change. This led us to a series of questions all about the recent history of the land, then what happened almost one thousand years ago, when Merceria was founded. I do have timeline of events, but Carol wanted more specific details! Some days it is tough when your editor is your wife; she can be relentless in pursuit of the facts!
We spent over three hours detailing past civil wars, how the different realms were founded, what happened to the ancient races, and so much more! It has become apparent that although my readers will most likely never see it in its entirety, the history of Merceria and surrounding areas is a tomb that I will be writing this week. I am already thinking about the different short stories that will stem from so many events in the history books!