Of Cats in Peril and Sausage

This blog is about a cat… or maybe it’s cats. It’s also about how the sausage is made.

Make of those two metaphors whatever you wish.

I just turned in the manuscript for my first novel in the Eldros Legacy. It’s called Seeds of Dominion, which is the first installment of my series The Legacy of Deceit. I’m not going to talk about what’s inside it. That will come later. I want to talk about what it took to create it—a process which is, at this point, still going on.

Turning in a manuscript isn’t the end of the work for an author. It’s also not the beginning. A novel begins with an idea. That idea becomes notes or an outline or… something, depending on what sort of writer you are. Next comes the writing phase, which may or may not include beta readers and input from other writers. Once you’ve typed “The End” and have gone through your personal editing passes, then it goes to the editor.

That’s the milestone I just crossed—in this cake a hundred and fourteen thousand words that, I hope, I’ve strung together cogently. Now, the editor gets it. In this case, that’s Rob Howell, who wears a few hats around here. He’s the publisher of New Mythology Press, an imprint of Chris Kennedy Publishing, which is the house that’s publishing the Eldros Legacy books. He’s also our primary editor for the books the five of us turn in. He’s also one of the five founders, which means he’ll be turning in his own novels…. we haven’t worked out how his novels will get a second set of eyes, but you cross those bridges when you get to them in a project like this.

What happens now is that Rob will work his voodoo and send a sh*t-ton of red-lines back to me. It’s then up to be to go through and tighten up the prose based on that input. That doesn’t mean I necessarily have to accept every revision suggestion—I generally accept about 70% of the suggestions “as is” when working with an editor. It does mean I both should and must examine every suggestion. They spent the time, I better respect that.

In that remaining 30%, sometimes I’ll reject the suggestion but then rework the passage or dialogue or whatever so that it sounds or works better than it did. The reason I’ll do this rather than just rejecting it outright is because a reader picked up the book and hit a bump. For whatever reason, that bit of my prose hung them up. That’s always worth looking at… and it’s usually work addressing in some fashion.

That leaves about 10% of those revision suggestions that I reject outright. Why? Because, in the final analysis, it’s my name on the book and it’s my story. Please don’t think that’s ego… or at least, it’s not raging megalomania ego. Writers are creators who have to also be professionals. We’re always trying to hone our craft—or at least we should be—and so all the input we get on our writing should be treated as gold by default and rejected only with higher purpose.

An editor can’t always see your whole vision for a story. They are there to help you make your story better, no doubt, and you’re a fool if you don’t listen. However, you also have to make sure the story stays true to your voice, your passion, and your vision—whatever that is. It’s a tightrope act sometimes, with a significant amount of gray area bordered by subjectivism and opinion.

But that’s how it works… that’s how you end up with that finished book in your hands. There’s a lot more to it, obviously, but that’s the core.

I mentioned before that writers should always be trying to up their game. To quote Rellen of Corsia from Seeds of Dominion, “We’re always learning. We stop when we die.”  (See what I did there?)  Okay, okay, so I lifted that one from elsewhere. There’s nothing new under the sun…. Damnit, I lifted that one too.

Anyhoo, the point here is that the day after I turned in the manuscript, I sat down with Todd Fahnestock, one of the other founders, a hell of a writer, and a new friend. He is a strong proponent of a writing method called “Saving the Cat.” Look that up online. It has a deep history and is accepted as an industry standard in the film industry and a growing standard in novel-length fiction. Todd is also the author of Khyven the Unkilliable: Legacy of Shadows Book 1, which will be the first book in the Eldros Legacy…. And he knocked that m*****f***** out of the park. And in no small part because he utilized this Saving the Cat methodology.

Todd was generous enough to spend a good chunk of his day yesterday working with me on my overall story. The intent was to see how it matched up with Saving the Cat and were—even at this late date—to make any tweaks to make the book even better. With his help, I found a few places where I’m going to have to move a few bits around, amp up a few things, dial a few things back, and literally do everything I can between now and when the manuscript is officially done to ensure you have the very best book I can write.

It means doing work I hadn’t planed on—I’m about to start another novel—but the time spent crafting Seeds of Dominion even further increases the likelihood that you’ll love the book if you would have only enjoyed it before.

I—and the other four founders in the Eldros Legacy—are going to do everything we can to make sure every book you read from us is as good as we can make it. That’s our commitment… a promise we intend to keep.

So, I’ll be folding in the Saving the Cat method not only into Seeds of Dominion, but all subsequent novels. With this one, its getting applied after the fact with a serious effort to matching up the components. On the subsequent books (and all of my novels moving forward) I’ll be starting there.

Footnote:

Having said all that, I mentioned I was working with Todd Fahnestock. The projects we’re working on in the Eldros Legacy are a little different. His is more hero-based, action adventure, with a deeply compelling main character. It’s awesome, and it was unequivocally the very best book for Eldros Legacy to open up with.

The Legacy of Deceit storyline has a hero at its center, of course, but I’m shooting for more of a Game of Thrones / Dune feel to the scale of political and military intrigue with disparate players vying overt control of lands and magic. Balancing the input from editors, other writers, and one’s own overarching vision of a meta-story becomes an exercise in and of itself.

The bottom line is that a writer has to take all input for the helpful assistance it is meant to be while walking a razor’s edge of keeping true to one’s style, story, and intent.

The struggle, as always, continues.

Keep reading and writing!

~ Q

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