One of my resolutions for 2022 was for Chris and me to finish a full draft of the final book in The Shadows of Freedom trilogy. Well, New Year’s Eve found us rewriting some aspects of the last scene. It got down to the wire, but we made it: we finished the full draft before midnight struck!
Birthing a book is a magical, frustrating, exciting, amazing work that requires much patience and perseverance. It’s a real challenge to go from nothing to something. It’s also simultaneously so exhilarating to transfer something that has played out in my mind into words for someone else to see. There are certain scenes in this book I’ve carried with me for a long time; I couldn’t wait to write them!
The best part of finishing a first draft is that, even if that initial version is quite rough around the edges, it’s much easier to edit something that exists than to create from nothing. The hardest part is over!
So maybe you’re wondering: what’s next? What are the steps from the first manuscript to the finished product? Here’s what the process looks like for us!
- Initial edit. We wrote the first chapters of Book Three a full year ago! I hardly remember them! So Chris and I will individually go back, rereading them and checking for grammar, punctuation, plot, etc. Sometimes I fall into the habit of reusing the same phrases over and over again in the scenes I write (like characters always furrowing their brows!). So we look for repetition and also to improve the overall diction, flow, and style.
- Elite team review. We have six people we send the book to for review—a few family members, a close friend, and a developmental editor. They give us critical feedback. Did you like the book? Did you find the ending fulfilling? Were there any plot holes? Would you change anything? The wonderful aspect of this review is that it gives us a wide range of perspectives: younger and older, male and female. Each person brings his or her own gifts and talents to the review process. For example, we have a family member who is an artist! Her input has helped tremendously when it comes to details of Amanda’s painting. These are the first sets of eyes to read the book. It is so fascinating to hear their thoughts!
- Second edit. After the elite team’s feedback we create a “to do” list of edits that we need to make. Sometimes they are simple; other times they are more extensive. For A Nation of Tyrants we had to add a whole new scene to the ending! Chris and I work through the edits and create a second manuscript.
- Book cover. At this point we feel confident enough in the book to create a book cover. We use the company Ebook Launch for this step. There’s always been an image in one of our heads for each book cover (always something related to one of Amanda’s paintings) and it’s so amazing to watch Ebook Launch bring that vision to fruition! Once there is a cover created things start to feel so real!
- Legal items. We have to assign an ISBN to the print and ebook versions of the book as well as generate barcodes. We also apply to copyright the book so no one can challenge us as authors. (Interestingly, Amazon didn’t accept us as authors for In the Shadows of Freedom when we first uploaded it! We had to send Amazon a picture of our official copyright document!)
- Line editing. We send the second manuscript to another editor who does a line edit and proofreads. This is editing with a fine-tooth comb! When he is done, the manuscript is now fully prepared for publication!
- Formatting. We have a publishing software called Vellum, which formats the manuscript so it appears correctly in the print and ebook versions. I really enjoy this step: Vellum gives self-publishers the ability to shape the overall style of the book, such as the font, what information appears in the header, and even what symbol we use for scene breaks. Vellum will generate the PDF and MOBI files we need for publication!
- Street Team review. Once we have files of the book ready for publication, we send it to our “street team:” a dedicated group of readers who are interested in reading an advanced copy of the book. They can let us know if they spot any errors (sometimes formatting can cause issues) and they help spread the word about the book right before publication, especially by leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
- Publication day! I upload the files and book cover onto Amazon and Ingram Spark (a book publisher that distributes hard copies of the book to major chains like Barnes and Noble as well as other bookstores and libraries).
That’s the process in a nutshell! We have a resolution for 2023: publish Book Three! We are so excited to share details of this book with you in the upcoming months. Let me just say: the writing of this final book in the trilogy brought tears to my eyes. I hope it will touch your heart too.