I learned at Stanford’s Writers School that writing a full-length young adult novel such as A Pirate’s Time Served is a three-step process. The first step is to capture your story. From previous posts you may already know that I began creating Bart’s Cove where the Schillings live on St. Croix while I was recuperating from a surgery. So I had the setting. Then came the characters. Since A Pirate’s Time Served is the third installment of the Enforcement Division series, I had the three principal characters, Jack and Helen Schilling and Bill Lama. Now all I needed was to flesh out the two teens who star in the book, Brian and Sarah Schilling and to create Bartholomew Roberts—Black Bart the pirate.
I wrote extensive biographies on each of my new characters to get them firmly in my grasp. Next I needed to identify the two teens’ epiphanies. Every character evolves throughout the book. In this case Brian and Sarah start out as spoiled New York City kids who are overindulged by wealthy parents. They are focused exclusively on themselves. Their lives revolve around their cell phones, like-minded friends, and the appearances they try keeping up. They end the story as legitimate heroes who have learned the value of respect, discipline, and hard work. What happens in between to get them to this end point is the story of A Pirate’s Time Served. By the time I had captured the story the book was around 100,000 words—way too long.
Step two once I had the story on paper (actually in my computer) is to tighten the manuscript. I removed every single scene, character, and word that wasn’t absolutely necessary. By the time I was done slimming down the manuscript, the story moved quickly and in a far more interesting manner. I also had my word count down to a more respectable 80,000 words.
Step three is to polish the manuscript. But first, you have to let it sit for a while to marinate. During this agonizing time I began researching my next book at USC’s School of Aircraft Accident Investigation. During the month-long waiting process I got a great start on my upcoming airport disaster book. Finally it was time to begin polishing A Pirate’s Time Served. The waiting worked. In many cases, things I thought were indispensible before now seemed less so. I also added some things that improved the clarity of some scenes. And I scrubbed the manuscript until I thought it was perfect as I could get it. Then I hired a professional copy editor who improved it way beyond I thought was possible.
Finally A Pirate’s Time Served is ready for publication. Things are going well as we wind our way through this preorder period. My publicist has booked me on 20 or so blog interviews. The book is getting some attention on Smashwords, Twitter, Facebook, Book Viral, and some of the other promotional mediums.
My last step is to hire a professional actor to begin reading the book for Audible.com so that A Pirate’s Time Served is available in all three mediums—paperback, eBook, and audio book.
So that’s how it’s done. This is not rocket science. The steps may seem complicated, but taken individually, they’re really pretty simple. For me, the hardest part is Step 2—tightening the manuscript. I’m sometimes hard pressed to cut things that I thought were so good earlier. I think, maybe it’ll get better with age. It doesn’t. That’s what the month of not touching the manuscript while it marinates does.
Last thought. Every author begins in exactly the same place and ends in the same place too. But what we do in between is a matter of personal preference. There’s no “right” way to do this. If you write a great book that people want to read and recommend to their friends and remember long after they’ve finished, then the author did it right.
Now that you know how I created it, you can see the finished product by ordering A Pirate’s Time Served on any of the popular eBook platforms or from Amazon and Audible. I truly hope you enjoy the book I worked so hard on.
Enjoy the day,