I started When Stars Die when I was fifteen–now 22. I had finished its sequel (a whopping 180,000 word monster) and decided my sequel needed a prequel. The book was once titled Croix Infernal, Hellish Cross. It had the same characters and similar plot thread, but the writing was juvenile as was the storytelling itself. So I put that on the back burner for a few years to pound away at its sequel, Witch Tourniquet. I eventually parsed that novel down to about 90,000 words many years later, but after Georgia McBride told me the plot had de-railed, I knew it was not going to work as a first book and that I needed to resurrect the prequel.
I called it Lady Tourniquet to match the Tourniquet theme. How did I plan to go about fixing this book?
For one thing, all the details that were lumped together in half the book of Witch Tourniquet needed to be sprinkled throughout the entire book of what is now When Stars Die. I took Georgia’s de-railed comment as a sign that an outline was a must for the revision of When Stars Die.
I went through and carefully outlined each chapter, making certain to note important themes, plot threads, twists, and even character development. I noted every tiny detail to prevent plot holes. I also took a lot of Georgia’s advice from Witch Tourniquet and used that advice for the revision. The most important piece of advice I ever received from her: Make sure SOMETHING happens in every chapter, whether that be character or plot development. So each chapter I revised needed to either develop character or plot in some way. Thus, I made certain to note what would develop each chapter, whether it be one or both. Once I had the outline, I sat my butt down and began pounding out the revisions, trying to keep with my goal of a chapter a day.
Once I pounded out the revision, I took everything I learned from Georgia to self-edit the manuscript. I chipped away at everything you can imagine: plot holes, needless sentences, poor sentence structure, awkward character interactions, ect. I constantly referred to Georgia’s advice because I had learned massive amounts about how to edit my own work. The outline, more than anything, was my most vital tool for self-editing.
But the book had to be cooked again, so I stuck it back in the oven for a beta reader, Mariah Wilson, to read. I knew she would finish it because she loved the new version of its sequel (and she only read half). I’m a bit bitter about beta readers. I find them, offer to read their stuff, and they start my book, but they never finish or have to drop out due to life. I also never learned as much from them as I thought I did. Especially having Georgia critique my writing made me lose faith in a beta reader’s ability to truly help, until I realized they’re beta readers, not editors. I needed to take care of the iffy stuff first before using a beta reader to take care of the excess dirt.
But apparently I’m a decent self-editor. Mariah never found anything wrong, and Raymond Vogel of AEC Stellar even told me I have a gift for self-editing. But it was all because of Georgia McBride. Without her, When Stars Die would probably be flailing around somewhere.
That was the basic planning for When Stars Die. I can’t even tell you how inspiration struck. All I know is I always wanted to write about the 19th century with nuns and a convent and have witches thrown in there somewhere.