Wow, I can’t even tell you how glad I am to have finished — FINALLY! AT LONG LAST! — a full draft of Invictus.
It’s 179,000 words, 605 pp, which is (of course) longer than my maximum estimate a month ago — I overshot that estimate by nearly 20,000 words, which is probably about par for the course even when I try to allow for that. Given that, I guess it’s reasonable that I also overshot the time expected by 12 days.
I’m not interested — I’ve never been interested — in even thinking about traditional publication for this one. I don’t think it’s right for that. I think it’s perfect for self-publishing. Publication will be in 2023 sometime; there’s no way to handle all the revision and proofing and everything this year, not if I want to focus on Tasmakat right away, which I do.
Therefore, next steps with this manuscript:
–Set it aside for a good while because I’m tired of dealing with it and eager to get into Tasmakat.
–Re-read the back half and revise to clear out all the many boldfaced sentences, which all point at continuity problems, hopefully minor.
–Decide whether to get rid of one (very minor) character and the (somewhat important) episode in which she’s important. The way the climactic scenes developed, she’s probably not necessary, that episode is probably not necessary, and cutting both will probably smooth out the action. But I’m not sure. Reading it again after a break will help me decide.
–Trim. As a rule, I cut about 30,000 words, which is about 100 pages. (Yes, really, that’s about average for me.) (Yes, I wish I didn’t have to do that.)
–Send the draft to my first beta readers. I will want these readers to focus on big, big issues — anything about continuity, plot, or worldbuilding that does not make sense, anything that feels like a serious problem with characterization. I might see if Sharon Shinn has time and would like to read it, since the romance thread here is pretty strong and as she’s a romance author, I would like her take on that aspect. Remember, she’s the one who said plaintively about Keraunani, “Wait, can’t you show one kiss at the end?” Of course I needed a kiss at the end!
–Additional revision based on their feedback.
–Send to my best editorial beta reader (Hi, Kim!)
And by then I will have gotten a cover, set a publication date, and put it up for preorder. I want a spaceship cover, the exact kind that makes me roll my eyes because it’s so generic, but in this case as long as the artist will paint the spaceship black and put INVICTUS in red letters on the spaceship, that kind of cover is perfect. A spaceship on the cover declares This Is Science Fiction, which prevents people from thinking that it must be fantasy because I only write fantasy and then being surprised. I don’t want that.
If Invictus is still up at ~180,000 words after revision — which is fairly likely, because after I trim, I tend to add back in words during revision — anyway, if it’s still on the long side like that, I will almost certainly cut it in half and publish it as a duology with a cliffhanger in the middle. That is because:
a) it’ll be long enough to justify being cut in half;
b) the division point in the middle rises organically out of the plot; there’s nothing in the least contrived about it;
c) it’s obviously better as far as marketing goes to publish it as two books with a very low price on the first and a significantly higher price on the second. That way readers who don’t actually like the story haven’t invested much in the front half, while absolutely everybody who reads far enough to hit the cliffhanger will definitely buy the second book. Plus forever after I will be able to run sales on the first book to boost visibility of the duology and increase sales on the second.
The downside is that of course I would need a second title and cover. That’s the only downside, though. I think it’s fair to end the first book with a cliffhanger given that the second would be published the same day.