My drafting process, explained.

As I delve into the editing stage of the draft manuscript of “The Wrath of the Iutes“, I thought I’ll reveal a little bit of the draft writing and editing steps I take to create one of my novels. It took me nearly a decade to hone the method, from the early days when “The Shadow of Black Wings” took 14 drafts and two years to write, to now, when an average novel in the “Song of Britain” series takes me little less than six months from plot outline to publishing.

Step 1: Plot Outline and chapter structure

I start with writing down the general plot; for convenience and speed, already at this step I will have the plot divided roughly into chapters, though most of them will not have titles. I tend to make this outline vague enough so that I can keep to it throughout the entire manuscript without changing too much. The biggest change that may occur between this step and the finished manuscript is splitting the novel into more parts than originally envisioned, as the story grows.

Step 2: Draft_0 – rough draft

What others call “First Draft” I keep in the file named Draft_0. This is the first version of the complete story, from start to finish, but with gaps in between. These are scenes, or sometimes whole chapters, that would bog me down too much if I tried to write them down at this stage, or that I haven’t yet fully invented. I leave brief comments in the outline, in places where I intend to go back in future drafts and fill the gaps out.

For a novel of about 100,000 words, it takes me about 3 months to outline the plot and finish this first draft. At this point I also have a rough estimate of the wordcount and chapter titles.

Step 3: Draft_0.5 to Draft_1 – fleshing out

By the time I reach Draft_1 – sometimes with a preliminary stage of Draft_0.5 – all the gaps are filled in. The new set of comments refers to things I picked up during the first re-write of Draft_0: scenes that need buffing up, plot points that need expanding upon, characters that need fleshing out, and plot holes and mistakes that need fixing. The end of Draft_1 is the stage at which nothing else needs to be added to the plot and character development.

This stage takes about 4-6 weeks, and is probably the slowest in terms of value added for time taken – but then, this is the bit where the rough stone turns into something resembling a diamond!

Step 4: Draft_2 to Draft_4 – text-to-speech rewrites

For the final couple of rewrites, I use a neat little free Word add-on called WordTalk. It uses Windows text-to-speech library to read the text in Word, using a selected voice – I prefer Hazel. In essence, it turns manuscript into an audiobook, which I find the best way to spot any roughness, errors and typoes in the text. I usually do two run-throughs like this, unless I feel things are still looking harsh enough to warrant a third one.

This stage shouldn’t take me more than a month, if I properly sit down to it.

Step 5: Draft_5 – Spellcheck, grammar check and PerfectIt

The very final stage of drafting is running the manuscript through Word’s checks and another plugin called PerfectIt – I had this one recommended by my copy editor, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s not free, and not very cheap, though if your editor charges by the hour, it will pay for itself in no time, since it saves a lot of mundane work in checking things like spelling consistency, punctuation, and house style.

This stage takes less than a week – shouldn’t take more than a good weekend, really.

Draft_5 is the one I sent to my copy editor for the final read-through, and Draft_6 – with all of the editor’s corrections applied – is the one used to generate the actual ebook file for Kindle.

So there you have it – six months from start to finish, which means that “The Wrath of the Iutes” will be on your Kindles in the summer, and should be followed in winter by “The Crown of the Iutes”, the last part of Song of Octa trilogy.

Plotting the draft, part 2: Volume 6, Sato’s POV

Hi Guys,

Volume 6 (which I have not yet formally announced – that’s for a future post) is coming along… slowly. I’m perhaps half-way through the first draft. Partly that’s because I was travelling again this summer, but partly, because it has the most complex and convoluted plot of all the books so far. At long last, things seem to be coming to a head in Yamato…

Earlier this year I showed you how I tried to make sense of the plot of “Chrysanthemum Seal“. I managed to fit most of it on a single piece of A5 paper.

This picture, on the other hand, shows a single plot-line of the next book (mostly POVs of Sato and Shoin).

plot6

The good news is, I already have Nagomi’s POV largely done and dusted. The bad news? Bran’s plot-line is not yet even touched upon…

Sigh. Maybe I should’ve stuck to writing novellas 😉

Plotting the “Chrysanthemum Seal” Draft

A peek into my creative process.

I’m finally wrapping up the first draft of the Chrysanthemum Seal, and immediately getting to work on second draft (there’s so much to fix already!) but first, I have to finally sit down and order the scenes around.

I managed to write this draft scene-by-scene in no particular order, as I felt it, with the entire plot in my head; but it eventually grew so complicated that before I could set the whole thing into chapters, I had to draw this: the order of events, as they happen in book-time.

Pixellated for spoilers :)
Pixellated for spoilers, of course 🙂

Oh, and the first person to suggest I should have been using Scrivener for this, gets banned 😉

Wattpad, iTunes and more

Seal CoverI have a bundle of publishing news for you.

First, a little celebration – over 13,000 sales 🙂 Last time I tallied up the sold copies it was eight thousand – it’s slowed down a bit since then, but it’s still a steady trickle, so I’m happy. The fifth volume of “The Year of the Dragon” is coming up nicely. The first draft is all but done – a mere month’s delay from schedule, which is not that bad, all things considered. Now comes the hard part – editing 🙂

In publishing news: I’ve been expanding my distribution channels somewhat:

First of all, I’ve been putting “The Shadow of Black Wings” on Wattpad, in weekly installments. If you have an account there, and you haven’t yet read my books, you can read the chapters for free as they appear, week by week.

Secondly, I managed to get my e-books on Apple iBookstore. You can buy and download them all from here, or by searching for “James Calbraith” on iTunes. Don’t forget, you will also find the audiobook of “The Shadow of Black Wings” while you’re there, to download for free.

Thirdly, if you’re based in Germany, you can now download my books from Thalia, Weltbild and der Club bookstores (as well as Amazon.de).

e-sentralThe books are now appearing in online shops all over the world. In Malaysia, you can find them at e-Sentral, in Spain at Casa del Libro, and in India at Flipkart.

barnes-noble-logoAnd lastly, my paperbacks are now all available at Barnes&Noble online bookstore, and the e-books should appear on the Nook within a few weeks.

That’s all for now – stay tuned! 🙂

70k

70,000 – nearing the end of the first draft. Finished all the main plots, just a few single POVs remaining.

This is hard work.

Got both maps made now and they look stunning. Waiting for the first of the covers now.

*

Standard rejection letters from Mic Cheetham, Wade & Doherty, Folio Lit and Ariella Feiner.

*

Did I mention my short story will be published in June’s eFiction mag? Would be nice to make the first volume published by then, but I doubt it will be possible.

Also: changed the blog’s name to reflect the new title for the saga.