Writing and Editing a Sequel – Lessons of an Indie Author

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

It’s been almost five months since my last blog post. In previous years that would have been a bad sign – an indication that I was distancing myself from my writing. Not this time. The last five months have been an absolute mission in getting this novel finished. And, with the last beta readers expected to send through their reactions in the next week, I’m ready to send Rebellion (Divided Elements #2) off to my editor.

This time – in between ‘finishing’ a book and releasing it to the world – is always strange. As an indie author, it’s where I transition from the creative aspects of the job to the management and marketing parts. Both are equally challenging and rewarding in part, and both are obviously necessary for maximising the chances of your book doing well. But, because they are so different, I find myself in a kind of breathing space between the end of one and the start of the other. Which gives me the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I have just accomplished (and what I am about to embark on) and share that reflection with you.

Is writing/editing a second book really that different from writing/editing your first book?

 

Hell yeah. It is radically different. Or, at least it was for me.

It doesn’t help that I have a mild case of sophomore syndrome (that is in a constant state of flux the closer I get to publication date).

It’s weird – it reminds me of my early twenties. I was never richer than when I was in my early twenties. I’ve never been poorer, but my disposable income has kind of stagnated. I earn more money, but whereas in my twenties I was buying cheap wine and tequila and eating $6 chinese noodles for dinner, now I’m buying better wines and better tequila and treating myself to tasting menus at nicer restaurants. My income has increased, but so has my taste.

Same with my books – I had more creative freedom with my first book (and more naivete and misplaced enthusiasm) but less skill. With my second book, I’ve started with more experience, lessons learned and skill, but less freedom and room for error.

The time frames have also been wildly different. I wrote Resistance (Divided Elements #1) in three years and took a year to edit it and bring it to publication. In comparison I wrote Rebellion (Divided Elements #2) in just under a year and took six months to edit it.

As I wrote in a recent tweet – I feel like my first book taught me how to write and complete a story (before Resistance I had started and never finished a lot of stories and screenplays) and my second book has taught me how to craft and refine a story. What I didn’t mention (hey, I was limited to 280 characters) is that in between learning how to write a story and how to craft a story, I learned a lot about my style. As a story engineer, as a writer, as an editor.

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So what did I learn?

Some key take away lessons for me:

  • My approach to story structure holds up under pressure. I used it both as a plotting tool for Rebellion and as a diagnostic tool when editing. I attribute my faster writing and editing time to it. It’s also the reason that, while a lot changed from draft 1 to draft 6, the key turning points didn’t.
  • Writing a second book almost locks you in to a commitment to your writing. Your first book you can pass off as the lovestruck murmurings of youthful naivete – a summer fling, a chance to tick something off your bucket list. Write a second book and you’re effectively saying to yourself, “this isn’t playtime anymore, I’m an author now.”
  • I still have things I need to get better at, but I know them now. And, as GI Joe said, “knowing is half the battle.” Knowing them means I can fix them. And I’m lucky to have a great support network of thoughtful and incisive critique partners, enthusiastic beta readers, and high-quality editors to both point out areas of improvement and help me beat them into submission.

In a word:

 

As a story engineer, I am: curious

As a writer, I am: searching

As an editor, I am: a perfectionist

 

What about you? How would you describe yourself as a story engineer, writer, and/or editor? Let me know in the comments and let’s all check back in a year’s time to see what’s changed 🙂

 

Image courtesy of Green Chameleon via Unsplash
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Writing and Editing a Sequel – Lessons of an Indie Author

Editing Your Sequel – Step 3

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Welcome to my blog series on how to edit your sequel. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on Step 1 and Step 2 by clicking their links. For those of you who are caught up, let’s dive into Step 3 – Identifying key themes and flaws

 

STEP THREE – IDENTIFYING KEY THEMES AND FLAWS

You’ve finally made it! Today is the day you get to open up your draft novel again ad start the hands on editing process. This week’s step comes with a few key ingredients you’ll need before you get started:

  1. A copy of your manuscript printed one-sided
  2. At least 4 different coloured markers – I love using Prismacolor dual-ended markers

Okay, let’s get into it.

The focus of step three is all strategic. We want to look at the big picture. That said, sometimes you’ll be reading and find a typo or turn of phrase that you can’t just let lie. I’m not some kind of editing guru nazi, I know that some itches need scratching – hence the four colours.

Colour 1 (I use green) – This is your theme identification colour, where you point out the major underlying themes emerging from your story (we’ll get to this later)

Colour 2 (I use blue) – This is your plot intrigues colour, where you highlight questions or points of interest that crop up in the manuscript and need to be resolved at some point during the story (more on this later).

Colour 3 (I use orange) – This is your copy editing colour, for things like “show don’t tell”, “maybe out of position, move to later in the chapter”, “check consistency of description in later chapters”, “would she really say this?”

Colour 4 (I use red) – This is your proofreading colour. Use it sparingly at this stage! For your ‘I can not move on from this dangling modifier!’ or ‘this word really needs to be this much better word!’ moments.

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Now that we’ve covered the rules – let’s get reading. Try to centre yourself as a reader (letting your draft rest for a couple of weeks will have helped this endeavour) and pick up your Colour 3 marker (because we all know it’s the ‘huh?’/’this needs work’ observations that will be easier to spot initially).

Keep your eye out for plot intrigues – in mysteries, they are the red herrings; in romance, they are the flirtations and hinted tensions; in scifi and fantasy, they are the unique world-building aspects; and in ALL novels, they are the hints of character and plot development – promises of future awesomeness to come.

At the end of each scene or chapter, reflect on the big ticket items. What major themes are emerging? For example, in the sequel to Resistance, my first two chapters identified the following key themes:

  • Anaiya not fighting her dual identity, but embracing it
  • Anaiya’s pervasive guilt and need/desire for redemption
  • Kane’s lessons (from the past and beyond the grave)
  • Impact of new relationship dynamics (due to events of Book 1)

As I continued editing Book 2, I noted the repetition of these themes and emergence of others. Halfway through this process I have a list of around 15 key themes that I can track throughout the novel – noting where they appear, how frequently, whether they escalate (or de-escalate, or stay the same), and how they manifest in plot and character arcs.

Sometimes you will find themes that don’t really go anywhere – that appear weak and unrelated to the others. These are your red flags – rework, rewrite, eliminate. Sometimes you will find themes that jump out as critical – the driving forces of your plot and character. These are also red flags – but good ones! – ramp these up, ensure they are clear and emotionally charged and central to the story.

Happy editing!

 

Image by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash

 

LIKED THIS? WANT MORE?

Discover the Divided Elements series now with award-winning Resistance (Divided Elements #1) and just-released Rebellion (Divided Elements #2). Available as paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

Divided Elements - Award-winning speculative fiction

 

Editing Your Sequel – Step 3

Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

*Brushes away the cobwebs* Hello! Yes, it has been quite some time since I last shared my angst and discoveries about crafting compelling fiction. For the veteran readers of this blog, you’ll know this is an annual occurrence – marking the shift from musing about writing to figuring shit out and actually writing.

But, today, dear readers,  I am back.

I celebrated the start of 2018 by typing the final words in Divided Elements #2. It’s crazy to think I actually drafted an entire 100,000 word novel in less than 12 months. I’m really happy with how the sequel to Resistance has developed and I’m looking forward to diving into the editing process to polish up this rough gem of mine.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be posting about this process – sharing my approach in all its glory (challenges, pitfalls, successes, frustrations) – particularly as it relates to editing a sequel.

Sophomore Syndrome

Sequels are tricky things. So tricky, in fact, there’s a whole turn of phrase to describe the inherent difficulties: Sophomore Syndrome.

Sophomore Syndrome (aka Sophomore Slump or Second-Year Syndrome) is the common perception that a second effort or sequel will fail (or has failed)  to live up to the standards of the first. It can plague books, movies, albums, sporting careers, academic achievements, and progeny. [Hahaha, just kidding – let’s not give middle children another reason to get all angsty (shout out and love to my middle siblings)].

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Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes the slump is just a product of expectations and time pressures. Think about it: Your first attempt enters the world clean; no-one knows what to expect, no benchmarks have been set, no context is available. And you’ve had all the time in the world, up until that first attempt, to hone your craft and prepare for the unveiling of your debut.

And then it’s time for your sequel. Now, everyone has expectations – of you and your work; the quality of your writing, the complexity of your characters, the nuances of your world-building. And they’re not just expectations that these will be merely as good as they were in the first effort – your audience wants to see growth, development, accelerating excellence; a failure to deliver on these will be seen as failure to realise the potential you so clearly presented in your debut.

And just as expectations rise, patience to see these expectations realised diminishes. Before anyone knew you or your work, there was no demand. Your audience didn’t know what they were missing. Now they’ve tasted the Kool Aid and they’re begging for more. Now. Right Now.

For indie/self-published artists, the pressure is a little less constricting – there are no agents, editors, publishing houses banging on doors, waving around contract clauses, to ratchet that anxiety up a little higher. But, still, it’s there – all artists know that no-one is going to wait too long for a sequel when there are other pretty fish in the sea to turn their attention to.

It’s not all bad news…

So, yeah, sophomore efforts are tough. The narrative arts have their own particular complexities – for instance, juggling stylistic and content consistency while being interesting, innovative and fresh (something I’ll cover in future posts on editing your sequels) – but, like all sophomore efforts, they also have their advantages.an

So before you despair about the challenges of the Sophomore Syndrome, I present the key advantages I gleaned from drafting Divided Elements #2:

  • Competency – This isn’t your first time at the Rodeo. You still have a lot to learn, but you’ve also mastered a lot of the basics. You’re firmly off your L-Plates and on to your Ps
  • No Blank Canvas – By now, you should have fairly well-developed characters, conflict, momentum and world-building. Plus, your first book should hold lots of little nuggets to flesh out, spin, turn inside-out in book 2. Winning!
  • Incentive – You know the end goal. You know the thrill of finishing a draft. You know the awesomeness of publishing and having total strangers say things like:
    “A book that would appeal to fans of dystopia (Think 1984, George Orwell) Resistance is an utterly thought-provoking and subversive book in this genre – Highly entertaining, poignant and brutal by shades, Divided Elements is an original novel, pushing the boundaries of this genre – and Mikhaeyla is surely a writer to watch out for.” (I loved this review – My readers are the best!)
  • Curiosity – Just like your readers, you’ve also set off on this journey of discovery. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be just as curious to find out what happens next 🙂

Where do we go from here?

Second attempts are tricky and satisfying in equal measure. If you’re drafting or polishing your own sophomore effort, why not join me over the next few weeks as I wade through the complexities of editing a sequel? Subscribe to the blog to get the posts delivered directly to your inbox!

In the meantime, tell me about your own sophomore issues/anxieties in the comments.

 

Liked this? Want more?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. 

RESISTANCE

 

 

Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…