Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collection, There is No Wheel. In 2017, I'll be releasing a new superhero series, The Butterfly Cage. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Third Draft of Cinder: Book Four of the Dragon Apocalypse is done!

One month after announcing the second draft was complete, I'm happy to report the third draft has been powered through as well. This draft was helped by the sudden cold snap and the fact my wife had a lot of church events in the last month, meaning I had more time to focus on keeping my butt in my chair. The new word count is, I dunno, a lot. I keep all my chapters in separate files, and right now I don't feel like adding up all the totals. Something in the neighborhood of 120k.

Third drafts are interesting because, in some ways, it's the first draft where I'm actually reading the book. Draft one is pure creation. I'm not reading, I'm just dumping out the contents of my brain onto the page. Draft two involves a lot of judging what I've written already, but also a great deal of fresh creation. I lose thousands of words of what I wrote the first time, and gain tens of thousands of new words.

On the third draft, most of the big chopping is already done. I'm very unlikely to toss out a whole chapter or even an entire scene like I do in the second draft. While I do write new scenes here and there, for the most part I'm looking at stuff that has survived two drafts and paying attention to it on a more detailed level. Earlier drafts, I care mostly about big picture stuff. By the third draft, I'm tweaking words, rearranging lines of dialogue, paying a lot more attention to continuity and flow. The third draft is, alas, also the draft where I create some of the more insidious typos. Since I'm moving sentences around, I can sometimes turn a perfectly clear paragraph into incoherent babble. Which is why there's always a draft four!

Finally, I would say the third draft is the draft where I'm most in love with any project. With the first draft, I spend half my time feeling lost. In the second draft, I often experience outright despair when I slam into some of the stupid stuff I wrote in the first draft, and realize all the hard work I'm going to have to do to fix it. By the third draft, I usually feel like the book has pulled together. My characters feel like real people, the plot threads are braided together smoothly instead of tangled in knots, and I often find scenes that I completely forgot I wrote that I wind up feeling proud of. I don't want to create spoilers, but there's a scene late in the book involving Gale Romer sinking into the bay that I didn't remember, but it's easily one of my favorite scenes. Also, I was under the impression that I didn't have Jetsam Romer get off any funny lines in this book, the way he did in Hush and Witchbreaker. He still doesn't get as much time in the spotlight as Rigger, Mako, and Sage, but he did have one line I'd completely forgotten that made me laugh out loud when I hit it. Right now, I feel like I've written a pretty kick-ass novel, and a great conclusion to my saga.

That feeling will fade swiftly. The third draft can still surprise and delight me. The fourth draft becomes drudgery, since I'm now really focused on line-edits and fixing objections and problems my wise-readers tell me about. Of course, the fourth draft is a piece of cake compared to the fifth one. By the fifth draft, I'm reading the book out loud to really hunt for stylistic issues, and the work passes from drudgery into a tedious slog.

Fortunately, I've got a good track record for slogging. If things go as planned, Cinder will see print sometime in May.