Cold Steel: The Good News and the Bad News (Spiritwalker Monday 35)

The good news: Cold Steel is finished, revised, and in production at my publisher, Orbit Books.

The reality: Production is a process that takes many months.

The book gets copy edited for grammatical, punctuation, and consistency errors, and then I have to go over the copy edits as well, at which time I can make any last line editing changes. For instance, I think I am going to have to cut the word “cocky” from one sentence. [Copy editing is good news, though, since a good copy-editing job makes the book better.]

More good news: After copy editing, the book gets “typeset”–that is, converted from double spaced manuscript format into the format seen in books. The interior of a book is designed, just as the exterior cover design is. Font, kerning, spacing and other graphic design elements are just as important for ease of reading and a positive aesthetic look even when it is just text. A beautifully designed text is a pleasure to read.

Several proofeading passes are made through the typeset pages to eradicate as many typos and errors as possible (although some will always slip through). The text must be converted into various ebook formats. A cover is designed, tweaked, printed. Marketing, orders, and distribution also have to be dealt with in the lead up to printing and the actual arrival on the shelves. And this accounting is just the quick, simplistic version of all the things the publisher does. (I haven’t even touched on how my editor helps me make this the best book possible, because that part of the process has already happened.)

The other thing the publisher does is schedule books a year or even farther in advance. While there are exceptions of faster turn around times, a novel that is part of an ongoing series is often published (on the shelves) about a year after the manuscript is turned in (sometimes a year after it is turned in with all final revisions). Even if a publisher is trying to hold open a slot, if the book comes in too late, they will then have to move the book to a later open slot because they need the time for production, and sometimes an even later slot because they have already scheduled books that have been turned in.

That’s what happened with Cold Steel.

Let me explain: I started writing Cold Steel in late February or early March 2011. My wonderful brother in law (my sister’s husband) was at this time dying of brain cancer (he died in June 2011). His death hit hard, and combined with some other life stressors (nothing life threatening) to make writing the book slow going. Meanwhile writing the last volume in a trilogy is always challenging because it is important to tie everything together in a way that fits with what came before as well as fulfilling–as far as humanly possible–the promise of the opening. For instance, at one point I wrote 150 pages of material I ended up cutting (for branching down the wrong story tributary) as I tried to figure out what approach to take to the story.

Note: Cold Steel is 227,000 words in final draft. The first draft was more like 270,000 words, but I cut about 50,000 words before I even turned it in to my editor. That doesn’t take into account the aforementioned 150 pages I had cut while in the process of writing the first draft. Naturally, my editor wanted more cuts, and she wanted revisions as well. So, all in all, I expect I wrote about 325,000 total words (give or take ten thousand or more) for a final revised draft of 227K.

Meanwhile Orbit was holding open a January 2013 slot, but when I could not make the March 1, 2012, turn-in date they had to move the book. The next available slot — and remember that meanwhile they have other books by other authors being turned in and scheduled — was June 2013.

So that’s the bad news: Cold Steel will be published on June 25, 2013.

As it happened, I finished a draft in mid April, revised it and turned in a preliminary draft to my editor in May, got revision requests in June, and turned in a final draft in late August.

However, the EXCELLENT news remains that the novel is complete, is proceeding through production, and is (I can safely say) the very best book I could write (with the aid of the always crucial comments from my various beta readers and the firm hand of my evil dedicated and mild-mannered editor Devi Pillai).

Cold Steel completes the Spiritwalker trilogy.

The other excellent news is that I have the best, most perspicacious, and remarkably patient readers, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

Therefore, from now until publication, I hereby commit to making a post a week (in countdown format) specifically about the Spiritwalker books and/or the Spiritwalker universe that may include answers to your questions, my comments about the writing process or the characters or the world, biographical vignettes, and (I hope) a few short stories. It will be tagged “Spiritwalker Monday” and will, I hope, mostly appear on Mondays. I’m also going to try to continue with more regularity my long-promised semi-regular world building posts, but I’m trying to not be too ambitious here.

That makes this post Spiritwalker Monday 35 (next week will be 34, etc).

Again, my thanks for your patience.

If you have any questions or a subject you would like to see addressed over the next 7 months, please let me know here or via email or on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook.

I will post the final cover as soon as I have it. Now I have to get back to work on my next project.