Creating a Story (from bones to tuxedos)

Secret Keepers by Charissa StastnyYea! The sequel to Eyes of Light is out…in ebook. The print version will be out in another week or so. Sorry for the wait. But I’m really excited about Secret Keepers. I absolutely love the story (and that’s saying a lot since I’ve read it a bajillion times). Some of my sisters have hounded me about why this has taken so long. Today’s post is a simplified explanation of all the writing phases so you can understand why.

Phase  1- Building the Skeleton

Writing. This is my favorite phase. Most writers would love to stay here and never leave. I wrote the Eyes of Light trilogy in 3 months. When an idea comes, it comes fast and hard. I worked like crazy to get the bones and joints down on paper before the story left me. Would I have let any of you read it? Absolutely not. It was crappy writing. It’s the story skeleton. In this phase, plots and characters are formed, and settings are explored. It’s my favorite phase because it’s so creative and makes me feel like a kid again…in my imaginary world.

Phase 2 – Adding Muscle

Rewrite. Once you have your skeleton, then you need to do a lot of work to flesh it out with muscle tone. You take each bone in your story and start forming scenes of muscle around it until you have a strong plot and characters that can kick butt in the literary weight room.

Phase 3 – Energy and Blood

Find those holes and fix ’em

Beta-Readers/Rewrite. When the story is strong enough, I give it to a few first readers to give me their honest feedback. This helps me find holes in the body of my story that I’ve become blind to as the creator. Those holes, just like a human body, will leak blood and life from the story, weakening it. So in this phase, you find your wounds and stitch them up. What do readers like and not like? What characters are weak? Where does a reader get lost in the story? When you figure out some of these questions, it helps the rewrite to be a lot stronger. Energy and lifeblood soar through the veins of the story when one finishes this phase.

Phase 4 – Skin Care/Acne Treatment 

Editing. Now your story is all fleshed out and blood flows through its veins. It’s good. You know your story’s good…but before you publish it, you need to make sure it’s not covered in literary pimples and blackheads. Editing is the skin treatment for your book. Love your skin–wash it, give it a cleansing mask, moisturize it, study it meticulously in your literary mirror and zap all the acne.

Nothing turns me off more than lots of typos and glaring errors in a book. I’m not talking about a couple errors (almost every book has those, even the most professionally edited ones). But nothing is worse than a book that has an error on almost every page. Even if the story’s amazing, I will knock it down in my rating because it annoyed me and wasn’t a pleasant reading experience. Grrrrrrr!

So love your book’s skin and make sure it shines. Editing can be a tedious and long process…but DO it. Read it aloud. Search and destroy overused words with Word’s Find feature. I have a list of words I look for; you can make your own when you start figuring out what you tend to overuse. Always use your spell checker (especially if you’ve gone back and made changes; I make most of my mistakes on revisions).

Final Phase – Going out on the town 

Publishing. If you have a publisher, then you can skip this phase (lucky you). Now is when you put fancy clothes on your story (a nice cover) and go out on the town and hope people notice your book.  To do this, you must format your story for both ebook and print distribution. Createspace is Amazon’s site for On-demand Print books. Their Kindle site does the digital version. Smashwords distributes ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, etc. Each site has its own rules and specifications that take a while to figure out–just like my hoop slip did for my high school prom.

Hopefully you have a better understanding now of why it’s taken so long to get Secret Keepers out on the town. The 1st phase of writing is the most fun, but authors go through all the other hoops because we want to get our book in a Tux or Evening Gown so people notice it. Just make sure not to skip phases, or your book will end up sporting a mullet and a cheesy Wisconsin tuxedo.

(I’ll be having a giveaway next week once I’m closer to having the print version ready; stay tuned!)

Char Signature

47 thoughts on “Creating a Story (from bones to tuxedos)

    • Promoting is a whole other beast in itself. I’m not qualified to tackle that subject until I figure it out better. I just wanted to show my one sister the phases I had to go through just to get it to this point. Selling it…that’s a whole different matter. Sigh. Thanks for liking the cover. I am quite happy with how it turned out. I just sent the print cover back to the artist to make a tweak on the backcover, and then hopefully I can get that submitted for review.

    • Yeah, I know lots about skin care with 3 teenage girls crying out each morning about another pimple on their face. I thought it fit well with editing.

    • Sorry it’s taking longer. I had to tweak the backcover and now it’s a wait until I can put it in Amazon’s cue to review. I’ll post when it’s finally available in print.

  1. Congrats, Char! I’m so happy for you. And I loved your breakdown of the writing phases. My favorite part is actually the ‘adding the muscle’ phase. The ‘building the skeleton’ phase sometimes leaves me frenzied and wild, just trying to get everything down. I feel like I can relax a little more in the second phase!

    • Yeah, the muscle stage is less wild, for sure. I like bones and skin care best. The phases in the middle I have to be in the mood to do.

      • Just downloaded my digital copy of your book. Will add it to my queue (which is sadly far too long…) It’s funny, because a book club I just became a part of has chosen a book called The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton for their next month’s selection. Similar titles but different subject matter. 🙂

        • Yes, I just added The Secret Keeper to my list to read, because I love Kate Morton. What I have learned is I should peek at existing titles out there before I make my title. Oh well. Live and Learn. And I know about the queue being too long. This month, Astrea Press is giving away 2 free books a day on their site, so I’m making my list even longer. Sigh. But I love reading, so I keep signing up for the books.

  2. You say it took you a long time, but I’m in awe of the speed at which you’ve brought the second book to market. You must be the faster writer, editor and publisher in the west!

    I’m not sure which stage of writing I like best, but reader feedback is always enjoyable and when you receive comments about particular scenes or moments you remember writing, it’s almost like telepathy when the feelings and emotions match your own. It’s like a Vulcan mind meld.

    Congratulations on book two and I’m sure your book promotion will go well. 🙂

    • Wow! Thanks, Justin. You should tell my sisters how ‘fast’ I am. They wanted this last September, and during the summer, I thought I might meet their expectations. But waiting on some great first readers and taking their much needed advise was worth the extra time (to me; hopefully others will think so too…crossing my fingers). It is fun to have some trusted readers give their feedback. Vulcan mind meld…I will remember that from now on; I like it.

  3. Love you’re writing analogy. I’ve never heard it put that way, but it’s so true!!! Congrats for finishing your sequel. It’s so much work, but I know it’s a huge relief to be done. Can’t wait to get it and read it. What will you work on next? Or have you even gotten that far?

  4. WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!
    Congratulations, Char. After I finish typing this, I’m off to buy it! I am so proud of you and what a great blog post. You really mapped out the process perfectly. So, there will be a third book then? Have you started on it? This is exciting stuff. I wish you many, many sales and new fans. I’m already one!

    • You’re awesome, Gina. Yes, the 3rd story has all its bones, but no muscle yet. Once I get the print version done and out, I can start concentrating on it. I’m very anxious to do so. It’s been on the backburner for a couple years.

  5. Congratulations! The book cover looks great and it doesn’t seem like the whole thing took that long. But then, I didn’t have to do anything. I hope you went out on the town to celebrate too!

    • Thanks, Jacqueline. It has seemed long to me though too, since I thought it was ready last summer. Thankfully, my beta-readers saved me from embarrassing myself and I rewrote a lot of the middle all during the fall.

  6. Congratulations – how exciting!!! And thanks for boiling down the process. Now when someone asks why I haven’t finished or when can they read my WIP, I’ll just have them read this instead 🙂

    By the way, I agree with the others – great cover!

  7. Woo-hoo!!! A much needed smile, yay!!!

    “Write fast, edit slow,” they say. I guess the writing is often the easiest part.

    Congrats, Char, I’m very happy for you!

      • You’re welcome. I am really sorry that it took me so long to get it read and reviewed. I had always planned to review it, but then I *really* wanted to because you were so nice to hand out not one, but two! codes to me. I told my mom-in-law about your generosity, and she said, “Now that’s a genuine soul.” I said that she is right. 🙂

        • Don’t worry about time getting to it; I have that same problem. I get so many free books from author sites and Amazon and it takes me a while to get to them. I try to put them in a list to read in order, but it still takes months to get to some and review. If I’ve learned nothing else from writing, it is patience. An author will drive themselves mad waiting and watching for reviews. Sometimes it’s better to just not look for awhile and go on with life.

  8. Congrats on the new book!
    And I love your analogy. I also thought I’d mention that the more books I write (OK, I’ve only written 3), the quicker the later stages go–my first drafts are getting stronger and my editing is getting faster.

  9. Congrats! Sooo excited for you! Awaiting the print version (i’m still not sold on the ebook yet…) i love the analogy you used for this post – it describes the writing process so aptly – unfortunately i’m still at the bones stage – or maybe i’m still here cos i don’t wanna leave? Hehhehee 🙂 thanks for the continued inspiration!

    • I didn’t like ebooks at first either (for about a year). But I’ve been finding tons of cheap or free books since then and now I’m reading my kindle like crazy.

  10. Congratulations! Looks like you work hard and that your hard work is well recorded. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope your enjoyed your visit. This is a great article, and since I always want to learn, I’ll be following your blog as well. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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