Update 3/24/17: The serial edition of “The Two Magicians” described below has been discontinued. The new complete e-book edition will be released alongside the print edition on June 21, 2017. Both editions are available for order. Click links for details.
Isn’t that how it is with all compelling projects? You get into it, and you see the thing taking shape, and you envision what its ultimate shape might be, and begin to work your way closer and closer to that goal. Every inch of the way is both creative and necessary, even when you find yourself backtracking or revising the plan. You are in the early, inspired stages – challenged, entertained and motivated.
Mid-way, a feeling of serious determination, buoyed by confidence, takes over. The work feels more urgent. Setbacks may not be received in the same playful spirit, but you still recognize they are important – a chance to make the end result even better.
Next, the final product takes on firm parameters – you’ve decided what it’s going to take to be able to say, “It’s done.” The path is clear, but the road ahead is still so long. You have already expended a lot of energy. “The last two percent of the project takes ninety percent of the work.” That was a saying at a small design firm where I worked. As each drawing and report was assembled, the degree of detailed attention required to complete and check every page increased exponentially. By the time that once eagerly anticipated project was rolled up and shipped out, everyone was dead tired.
I have my own saying: “I’m so excited, I could just take a nap.”
In the case of The Two Magicians, my latest opus and 25-year-later sequel to The Time Dancer, it wasn’t the uncounted rewrites that nearly did me in. I loved going over the tricky time-and-world hopping plot, made more complex by the necessity of staying consistent with the first book. I owe a lot to several readers for pointing out the strong and weak aspects of the novel: Ashley, very early on; Frank, over and over again, poor soul; and Estera, who saved me from some serious continuity errors when I thought I was about finished. Each time I realized I wasn’t even close to “done,” I had a wonderful time going over the manuscript yet again. So much of the hard work had been completed; and now, with a beginning, middle and end, I could flesh out characters, add scenes and details. I found surprising connections and parallels to draw forth with new snippets here and there. Pure joy.
I had so much fun with The Two Magicians, in fact, that I wrote a very long book – longer than I expected or intended. And it was getting hard to be objective about it. Did it hold together? Would it hold the reader’s attention? And while we’re at it: how much was it going to cost to put into print, how much would it have to sell for, would anyone buy it? An idea came to me while I was taking a break from my own story to read a novel by Emile Zola. Zola is one of many authors of past centuries who published their novels in serial form before the complete bound books were produced. Chapter by chapter, the novels were released in monthly periodicals eagerly anticipated. Maybe if I could get readers to sample my novel a piece at a time without too much investment, they would want to keep reading. I could do this through my e-book publisher, Smashwords, and readers would have a chance to dip a toe into my magical universe before deciding if they wanted to take the plunge. An e-book serial! Nothing to it, right?
Of course there was a lot to it, but I embraced the new big batch of work enthusiastically. I had to decide how many parts to divide the book into, where each would start and stop, what they would be titled, and prepare all of the front and back matter, plus metadata, required for any book, including short and long descriptions and keywords, as well as details of pricing and release dates. It was a slog but quite useful, a chance to look at the novel from a fresh perspective. Each task required to create the eleven installments of The Two Magicians provided an opportunity to improve the plot and flow of the whole work. A lot of back-and-forth editing between the original manuscript for print and the serial parts ensued, but I was still going strong. The task of summarizing the overall story and each part of the story helped me tighten up the novel from beginning to end. The finish line was in sight.
And then I began to work on the – gulp – 11 cover files… No, make that 12 covers, because I wanted a unique cover for the series as a whole. The latest “greatest thing I ever did” was at risk of getting mired down in a new obsession. I’d spent at least two years writing the novel, on top of the 20-plus during which it gestated, and now I was just going to “knock out” 12 front covers? Actually, yes. It took a couple of weeks for me-myself-and-I to come to a compromise on the format, level of detail, and degree of digital difficulty that would be acceptable visually and practically. Then I kept at it day by day, front to back, back to front, until I had the whole series, even as I began to upload the first few installments.
I got it done and lived to tell about it – barely. Here are the covers for The Two Magicians E-book Serial. You can enjoy Installment 1 over the long weekend – it’s free! As for me, I’ll be napping.