*insert incoherent crazy-person noises here that portray every emotion ever* All right, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…
I will hopefully be publishing a book later this year. I have a front cover, a back-cover blurb, and I’m only $150 shy of being able to afford an editor. I still have to finish the draft I’m working on (#3), write an author bio, get a back cover, and then get my book to the editor, but I feel like I’m getting really, really close and there are so many emotions that come with that. This post will give you a glimpse of those emotions, a bunch of dates that are probably rather boring but I’ll appreciate having chronicled all in one place later on, and some information on House of Mages itself.
I started thinking up this story at 12:25 a.m. on May 10th, 2016, and it had a very different plot and plan from what it does now. So far it has been in the works for only a little over 15 months, which feels really weird for some reason. This is one of those things that feels simultaneously like it’s been so much shorter and so much longer a time than it actually has, and it’s really weird.
To begin with, the main character was an alchemy mage named Alark Meary and the basic synopsis was this: “Alark is a mage in a house of mages (a mage tower), and he starts to suspect the archmages of hiding something. Turns out they’re killing anyone who believes in Abba. Alark doesnt think this is right and sets about putting a stop to it, gathering other mages to his side. In the process he meets Abba.” (I wrote this on my tablet the night I came up with this idea, and I decided to leave in the grammatical error when I copied it, and I’ll probably do the same with the rest of these.) The plan was also for this to be a trilogy, and I had really cool titles for each one, and for the trilogy name: House of Mages, House of Thorns, and House of Elves, the books of the Mage of Thorns Trilogy. I’m disappointed I won’t have a chance to use those.
The other two summaries were, for House of Thorns: “Alark has uncovered a plot to kill all Abba’s followers, but now he finds that there is something much more sinister going on. The archmages are summoning demons to help them, and soon they’ll overrun Thesbia and from there all of Titania. Alark must rely on Abba and this will test his faith more than ever before.”
And for House of Elves: “The demons have been sent back to the underworld, the Archmages have been punished for their crimes, and Thesbia is at peace thanks to the elves who recently reappeared. So why does it feel like something is dreadfully wrong? As Alark seeks to find out he realizes that the elves may have something planned other than nationwide peace. They seek to destroy humans, creatures they consider an “inferior race.” Yet some of them seem friendly enough. How can anyone tell which are evil and which are not? A close friend sells Alark out, and his faith in Abba is tested once again.” (Ooh, I think this summary was when one of my two favorite characters was invented.)
I started the first draft that very day, with this lovely beginning:
Alark opened his eyes and immediately closed them again against the bright morning sun.
“Get up, ssleepyhead. It’s almost seven thirty already!”
Alark glanced across the room at Fidgeon, his roommate, still squinting.
“Wake me up again at eight.” Alark grumbled, pulling his soft pillow over his face.
“No. It’s Friday, remember? And that means…” He stopped, allowing Alark to finish the sentence.
“Altar.” Alark said, his voice muffled through the pillow. He lowered the pillow and sat up slowly.
“Theeere we go. Now, if you don’t get changed in the next five minutes were going to be late, so hurry!”
Alark slid out from under the covers and pulled off his nightshirt, puling his purple tunic over his head to take its place. He threw on his purple robe after that, then pulled on his black leather boots and grabbed his alchemy bag on the way out the door. He strapped it around his waist as he and Fisgeon hurried dowmn the stone corridor to the steps that led down to the altar room, where the mages assembled every Friday morning and every holiday.
They ran down the steps and slowly opened the heavy door that led into the alter room, quietly slipping into a back pew. Archmage Pagod was already speaking, and Alark recognized the sacred prayer, always spoken in Old Elvish, though elves hadn’t been seen in years. He assumed that they had been important in mageic history.
Like with the original summary, I left in all the tablet-keyboard typos. (And “mageic”? Why would you use that as a word, younger self? Just use “in mage history.” Then it’s an actual word.)
Eventually I cut this, along with the entire first and second chapter and rewrote them, because a side character decided to hijack the plot and make it all about her, instead, so… yeah. And then the plot ended up changing, too, because all of the plots mentioned in the summaries above decided to merge into one, which kind of derailed the whole trilogy idea. (I didn’t plan out this story ahead of time, so it took on a mind entirely of its own.) Now, though, I don’t think I could imagine it any other way. I certainly couldn’t imagine Alark as the main character at this point.
I continued writing at least a little bit until July, and Camp NaNoWriMo that month. My aim was to write 50k on House of Mages and 1k on another story I decided to work on that month, and I didn’t get anywhere near that goal. I only wrote 3,647 words on the two of them combined that whole month. Then I worked on it some more up until November and classic NaNoWriMo when my goal was to finish the first draft, which I did on either the 3rd or the 4th. I’m thinking it was the 3rd since that was the day I reached 50k on it, and it only ended up being a little over 51k, which is why I laughed when I found my original notes and saw I’d anticipated it being 80k-90k. The 1st was a lot of fun because it was my best friend’s birthday, and she was reading along as I wrote the story, so I decided to give her five chapters for her birthday… All ending with cliffhangers. I had so much fun torturing her with the suspense.
After I finished the first draft I set it aside until about December or January, and fairly quickly went through and used Microsoft Word to leave comments on spots that needed to be improved. I started the true second draft on March 11th, 2017, and that took until May 9th to finish. (It took me less than a month to finish my second draft?!?!?!) I waited until June 6th to start on the third draft, which is actually something of a rewrite. I read a blog post… which I now can’t find… that talked about how rewriting is a better option than revising. Not a huge rewrite, but literally writing it again from the original because then you can adjust the flow as needed and stuff like that, and I decided to try this method. A big reason I chose to use this method as opposed to classic editing (which I really have no experience in and therefore wouldn’t be doing “correctly” anyway) was that I don’t do well writing description into the story in the first draft (which is something I’m working on), so I felt like it would be easier to organically insert more description if I was writing it over again. It has helped a bit, but not as well as I had hoped, so that’s something I know I still need to work on in this story.
I’ve been working on this third draft since June 6th, so over two months, and I’ve only finished eleven chapters out of twenty-five. Obviously this is going a lot slower than the second draft (I should use that as motivation. “I finished the second draft in a month! I can totally handle this!”), but I’m getting through it… very slowly.
With this draft I’ve had a lot of issues with not liking the story. I think I worked on it a little too much all in one big chunk and got tired of it. I actually posted on Facebook on June 26th that said, “I want to watch my story go through a shredder right now… It’s not really that bad, but I’m tired of dealing with it. That’s terrible, I know, but I just want to be done with it for a while. I’ll probably set it aside for the next month and hopefully by the end of that I won’t be as annoyed with it anymore.”
Since the next month/last month was Camp NaNoWriMo again and I was planning on working on another project anyway, it was pretty easy to set it aside for a while, but when I came back to it after making my Camp goal, I was still annoyed with it. There was one section and the character within that section that I just was really not liking and I didn’t want to work on, but I finally got through that on about the 24th of July and got through two chapters that day and mostly pushed through that block.
Throughout this process, though, there have been instances in which I have wondered if I should really be trying to publish this book or if I should start with one that’s better even as a first draft, there have been instances when I’ve wondered if I’m ready to publish or should just give up and wait for a while. I’ve beaten all of these occasions, but there’s still that nagging feeling that another story would be easier or I shouldn’t be attempting this yet, and I know that they’re wrong, but they’re also persistent. (In case anyone was worried, I am indeed publishing this book in the near future.) I tend to beat those thoughts with the reminder that if I give into that I know it’ll just be a vicious cycle. There will always be a project that’s better-written than the one I’m working on, I’ll always wonder if I’m ready, and if I don’t do this then I don’t think I ever will, so I just need to push through it, and that’s what I have done, as best I can.
On March 21st (I was a ways through my second draft at that point) I got a book cover, which I was super excited about. It made the fact that I’m working toward publishing seem real for a while, and I was doing so much premature celebrating. It was awesome. I still really like the cover, but I’ve had it for long enough that the novelty of it (pun intended) has mostly worn off. That was also the day I finally settled on a pen name – R. M. Archer – since I kind of needed to know what name to put on the cover. That’s just a little important, you know?
I finally finalized my synopsis on April 19th, which I was happy about because I really don’t do well with synopsis writing, and I was happy to have one that worked.
So now I’m getting closer and closer to accomplishing the goal I’ve had since I was about twelve of having a book published, and it’s extremely exciting and it’s been quite an adventure. I’ve learned a lot about my writing and I’ve gotten so much encouragement from family and friends and it’s just been super cool. I’m really anxious to see this project completed and be able to hold my book in my hands with a gleaming cover and… it’s just going to be awesome when it’s completed and all of the hard work that’s gone into it has paid off.