Editing one book while writing the first draft of the sequel is as close as I will ever come to time travel. But time travel I did, while working on the first two books of the Psi-Tech trilogy.
I confess that I am neither a plotter nor a pantser, but a mixture of both. A plotter has the whole book worked out before the actual writing commences and then she writes to the plan. A pantser works by the seat of her pants, writing to see what happens next. I often start a book with a strong scene that sets up a basic conflict. I usually have a vague outline in my head. I know the beginning and I have a fair idea of the end, but the middle is covered by ‘stuff happens’.
When I began Crossways, all I had on paper was the one page synopsis that I sent to my publisher and there wasn’t much detail in that.
My editing process basically goes like this…
I deliver my best version of the book, i.e. one that I’ve written, polished, edited, altered and polished again. My editor reads it and we have a long conversation. Had I thought about doing this? What about that? What’s the background to this? What’s Character X’s motivation for doing that particular thing at that particular time? How does Character A figure this out? We throw ideas back and forth and I go away to make alterations and (as it turns out in Crossways) a load of additions. Then I send in the edited version. The next editorial conversation is more finely tuned. I’m still not a hundred percent sure of the ending, you need to look at this. If that character is going to come to the fore in the third book you definitely need to deepen her character in the second.
You get the idea?
While developing characters and ideas for Crossways I was able to jump back into the first book and retrofit as needed because I was still editing. Also some of the suggested editorial changes in the first book had the butterfly wing effect and caused tsunamis in the second book.
Once I delivered the final edit of Empire of Dust to my publisher it was locked down tight.
The next edit stage, the copy edit, checks for things out of order, spelling mistakes, grammar, typos, clunky sentences. There’s no option to insert scenes, change things round and add or remove chunks.
In other words my time machine, used freely to travel between the now of my second book and the then of my first book, was taken away, locked in the basement, and powered down. From that point forward, whatever happened in the second book had to grow out of whatever had already happened in the first one. And the third book (at that stage still two years away) was similarly tied to what’s gone before.
Jacey Bedford is a British writer, published by DAW in the USA. She writes science fiction and fantasy. Her Psi-Tech space opera trilogy consists of Empire of Dust, Crossways, and Nimbus. Her historical fantasy trilogy comprises Winterwood, Silverwolf, and Rowankind. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, and have been translated into Estonian, Galician, and Polish. She’s the secretary of Milford SF Writers Conference for published SF authors. (www.milford.co.uk) She’s been a folk singer with vocal trio, Artisan, and has sung live on BBC Radio4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.