Special Guest Post from Author B.K. Boes: Writing Process, Editing, & Finding an Illustrator

I’m very excited today to have author B.K. Boes guest posting. I had the privilege of meeting her last November at a writer’s conference and was blown away by her vision as an epic fantasy writer and her passion for writing. She agreed to sit down and share her process for writing, editing, and even how to find an illustrator. Regardless if you’re newer to this business of novel writing and publishing or more experienced, this post is chock full of great information!

Behind the Scenes of an Epic Fantasy  with B.K. Boes

In today’s world, especially in the independent publishing crowd, you’re going to hear a lot of advice about writing fast. And I mean super speed. I’ve met people who can crank out a romance novel or space opera first draft in three days. And that’s awesome. But it’s not me, and that’s okay.

Here’s the advice I’d give you: write the first draft as fast as you can. Take into account your life circumstances and priorities. I’m a homeschooling mom. I work part-time online. My husband is a minister in a local church, which means I host people in my home many evenings. I run a local writer’s group, and I teach a homeschool high school creative writing class. I’m also working on building my writing career.

I simply can’t pump out books like a full-time author. Or even a part-time author with no kids in the picture. And, again, that’s okay.

So, here I am, a busy woman with a full life trying to write an epic fantasy series. In the last five years, I’ve written the first drafts of five books in this series, plus a spin-off book or two. Currently, I’ve brought the first book in the series, Mother of Rebellion, almost to the end of its production.

My Process Start to Finish

Since I’m independently publishing my series (the benefits of which and my choice to do so could be another post all together), my process of bringing a book from conception to publication looks different than traditional publication. It will also look different from other indie publishers. It’s tailored to who I am. But, maybe you can find something helpful in it, so here it is:

  1. Idea forms. Write a few short stories with the main characters as protagonists. Do a crap ton of world-building. This step can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
  2. Plot out basic plot points, probably using The Hero’s Journey. This shouldn’t take more than a day or two. It’s not carved in stone. You can change it later.
  3. Write the first draft. This shouldn’t take forever. In fact, I suggest trying to get the first draft finished in less than two months. Why? 1) Your first draft will probably suck no matter how long it takes you to write it. 2) Your first draft will probably change. A lot. 3) Laboring over words/themes/pacing is better done in revision. So, give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. Just accept the fact that it won’t be close to perfect, turn off your internal editor, write the draft, and move on to revisions.
  4. If major changes took place between plotting out my book and finishing the first draft, sometimes I will take a day to replot my new story direction to make sure that I’m hitting all the correct markers.
  5. Write the second draft. For me, I have to fill out the story a lot. I write bare bones on first draft and then add in on revisions. Some writers overwrite on the first draft and have to cut a lot of material in revisions. This will just depend on who you are as a writer. It would be a good idea to start getting some feedback at this point via a writer’s group. Complete the second draft as fast as you
  6. Alpha readers. These are other writers or very critically thinking readers who can tear your story apart and help you put it back together in a better way. This will, of course, depend on how fast your alpha readers are. I have two, and it took them about a month. In the meantime, I took a step back from that story and wrote a first draft of another book.
  7. Third draft changes based on alpha reader comments. I look for consistency, pacing, world-building (enough/too little?), story timeline, character distinction, etc., and I bring the book up to the best quality I can on my own. The third draft for me might take a couple of passes. I might separate out the multiple point of view characters into their own word documents and edit one character at a time.
  8. At this point I would hire a developmental editor. More on that later.
  9. Fourth draft based on comments of developmental editor.
  10. Send off to a line editor. More on that later.
  11. Fifth draft based on comments by line editor.
  12. Send off to a proofreader.
  13. Sixth draft based off of proofreading.
  14. At this point, I’d send off to beta readers. These guys are going to read through your book and give you a reader’s perspective. They should be able to catch any last minute, smaller changes that need to be made.
  15. During the last few stages, I’d hire a cover designer and map illustrator. More on that later.
  16. Seventh draft based off of anything beta readers caught.
  17. Once I have my illustrations and cover, it’s time to send it off to a professional formatter for the print version of the book. You can also hire for the ebook version, but you can also do it yourself on Vellum (Mac) or Jutoh (PC).
  18. Finally! It’s time to publish!

Now let’s talk about some of the leg work involved in hiring professionals to help you make your book top notch.

How to Find an Editor

There are three types of editors I recommend.

  1. Developmental Editor. This is big picture editing. They’ll look at the structure of your book, plot holes, find inconsistencies or unbelievable moments, check for character development and consistency, comment on pacing, and look for overall themes. This is the most expensive type of editing. You can probably get away with not hiring a developmental editor if you absolutely cannot afford one. However, if you decide not to hire a developmental editor, make sure you have super smart and capable Alpha readers and get as many of them as you can.
  2. Line Editor. This is line by line editing. They’ll look for smaller scale craft of writing issues such as structure on a chapter, paragraph and/or sentence level. They will suggest better, smoother prose. They’ll help you make your voice consistent, and make sure that nothing is confusing for the reader.
  3. Proofreader. This is purely technical. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, mistyped words, missing words, and things like that.

Now, when I was looking for editors, I took it very, very seriously. I believe that if I am going to pay for these services, it better be worth it. The last thing I want is to get back my manuscript and find that I wasted my money.

Making a list of editors

  1. Word of mouth recommendations is very valuable. Network with other authors. Ask for their recommendations, and follow up if they give you an editor’s information. Begin forming a list of editors you wish to query.
  2. Research editors who specialize in your genre. Google is your friend. Legitimate editors normally have websites with testimonials, rates, guidelines, and lists of books they’ve edited. Add those that interest you to your list. Query them to ask for recommendations from past clients.
  3. Take a look at your favorite indie books in your genre. Often times they will credit their editor on the copyright page or in their acknowledgments. Add these names to your list and find their contact information.
  4. Gather a large list of editors. Really do your research. I had more than 3 dozen editors on my original list.

Whittle Down Your List

  1. Are they not affordable? Then mark them off the list.
  2. Do they offer a sample edit? If not, mark them off the list.
  3. When you look at the books they’ve edited on amazon/goodreads/etc, do you see a lot of comments in the lower rated reviews that specifically comment on editing? Mark them off the list. Don’t skip this step. This is how you confirm their track record.
  4. Send out samples for them to edit based on their individual guidelines. Are they unprofessional? Mark them off the list. Do they fail to respect you as the author in their edits? Mark them off the list. Do you have the feeling you won’t work well together as you communicate? Mark them off. Do they try to rewrite your story? Mark them off. Do they have hateful comments instead of constructive ones? Mark them off.
  5. Whittle your list down to less than 5 editors that you would be glad to work with and you think you can afford.

Which One to Hire?

This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I whittled my 36+ list of editors down to three or four, and I chose the cheapest one in the end. Your decision might be based off of something else, and that’s fine.

How to find an Illustrator

new leyumin-map-web-bw
Map design by NA Studios Designs, exclusively for author B.K. Boes.

There are two ways to get a cover. You can hire an artist to create original artwork (which is often times expensive), or you can hire a company like Deranged Doctor Designs to make you a cover out of stock photos. This is definitely the more affordable option.

But original art may still be needed for other things. I hired an artist to create my cover illustration, and I’ve hired NA Studio Designs to give me unique chapter headings for each of my point of view characters, create maps for my book, and create some promotional materials.

new patriphos-map-web-bw
Map Design by NA Studios Design, exclusively for author B.K. Boes.

The process of finding an illustrator is similar to finding an editor. The steps for making a list of illustrators or cover designers is the same, except you can add this: Search websites like DeviantArt and Carbon Made and even Fiverr. For maps, you can also check out The Cartographer’s Guild. These sites enable you to contact artists individually. You might have to query to find out if they even create artwork for book covers, but these are the places you can find some really great artists.

Tips for Working with Illustrators and Cover Designers

  1. If working with stock, it is VERY important that you make sure they have the licenses to use said stock photos. Also, I like to run a Google image search when considering buying a premade book cover to see if the image has already been used in my genre in a similar way on a book cover.
  2. If the artist isn’t professional and timely, don’t work with them. It’s a huge headache. And often times it falls through anyway. Your best bet is using someone with a track record and business already up and running.
  3. When hiring for map illustrations, you’ll have to give them a rough sketch up front. Research map making. Model your map after real world places so that the geography makes sense. Have a rough sketch ready to go before you query.
  4. Ask for recommendations from artists, just as you would for editors. Talk to previous clients about how smooth or not smooth the process was for them. You can find out a lot by just talking to people.

There is a lot to learn when planning to independently publish your book, but it is totally possible. And you can make your book indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. So, I encourage you to go. Write awesome stories. Produce top quality, professionally edited books. Put together beautiful eBooks and print books, and be proud of the product you’ve made.

Good luck, and remember, your process is yours. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. So find out what works for you and own it.

-B.K. Boes

B.K. Boes is an epic fantasy writer, working on publishing her first novel, Mother of Rebellion, the first book in the Leyumin Divided Saga. She is a wife, and mother of two. Writing has always been a part of her life, but within the last four to five years has she begun to take it more seriously. Since then, she’s written six books, and her first is nearly ready to publish.

You can find her:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/bkboes/

Twitter: @BKboes

Website (Still under construction): http://www.bkboes.com/

Instagram: bkboes