I just received my first proof copies of One Regret from Blurb. I think they look pretty good at first glance, but I already found a few things on the cover I want to change. I've found it rather difficult to know exactly what a cover will look like from the screen, and there are some things one would notice once the design takes physical form that aren't so obvious on the screen.
I wanted to write a little bit about my process for books. There are four stages to each book I write. The first stage is the planning stage. I build my world, define my characters as best I can, figure out what the general plot is, figure out how the story is going to end and begin, and add some details about some of the things I'd like to happen between the beginning and the end. In some cases, such as for The Last Embers, I had a complete chapter by chapter plan for how the story would go before I finished this stage. For other books, like One Regret, the outline was much looser.
One Regret started with a basic idea: what if someone could use a part of a person's brain to send a short message backward in time to allow them to undo one decision they most regretted? It was a germ of an idea and, unlike anything in The Dragon Kaseraak series, it required a lot of world building before I began to think about anything else. What effect would the sending of the message have on the world around the people who caused the message to be sent? In this case, I decided on a strict line of causality, meaning that everything that could possibly be linked to the decision that was changed would also be changed. Specifically, the people who caused the message to be sent would, after the sending of the message, have no knowledge of sending the message. That led to a different problem: why would the people send these messages in the first place? What benefit was it to them? In this case, I decided that the part of the brain used to send the message was the only thing that survived the procedure. From that point, the entire structure of One Regret as a company flowed: they would be researchers who needed those cells for their research and had no other way of getting them.
Once that world was built, the rest of the book was a lot less well defined. I knew that there would be various episodes in which patients would submit themselves to the procedure. Generally I had some idea of the progression I wanted: each episode offered a different challenge to the main character and was a test to his commitment to the process. But the actual patients and their stories I left for round two.
Round Two is what most people would think of as a first draft. The idea is to write the darned story. I try my best during this process to not be so critical of myself, because the point is to get something down to work with. At the same time, I do find myself occasionally working my way into scenes and corners that just don't work, so it's not really a straight shot from start to finish. The general idea is similar to most people's first drafts, though: get something down.
Round Three is the substantive editing. That's when I reread what I've written and look for plot holes, for inconsistencies, and for opportunities to add additional material. At this point I'm not worrying too much about technical problems with grammar or typographical errors, because they may be in scenes I will rewrite anyway. I know for a lot of writers their drafts get smaller and smaller as they go, but mine tend to get a little longer as I see opportunities to expand on stories and subplots.
Round Four is the technical editing. During this time, I will create a cover for the book. After a once over for technical errors, I'll get a proof copy made, like the ones in the image above. At this point everything has been moved to InDesign, making substantive edits quite a bit more difficult. Depending on how things go, I will read through the book several times to try to find pesky typographical and grammatical errors. When I've done that so much that I can't bear to do it anymore, I will declare the thing a finished project, submit it to Blurb and the Global Distribution Network, and cross my fingers.
I'm happy with where One Regret is right now. I think the cover looks pretty good as is, and I'm hoping I won't find too many errors in the printing. If all goes well, it will be available for purchase here sometime in April!