Here is how our book went from an idea and became a realisation over two books.
Before I get into what Burn the Sky is, let me point out what it’s not. The start fits right into the point of view of a seven-year-old girl, but this doesn’t mean we aimed the story toward the young adult or children’s market. We aimed the story at mature readers. I wouldn’t suggest buying our book for someone under the maturity of a fifteen-year-old. Burn the Sky contains a third-person point of view with PTSD, and because of this reality, I’ve had a verbal comment from a friend: “I won’t let my ex-army husband read it.” Other subjects are murder, death, and very mild themes of child abuse.
Burn the Sky is our first novel, a joint project between my wife and me. I started the project in 2018 with the story I’m currently working on. The basic manuscript had a terrible two thousand-word prologue that didn’t set up anything except it was a cold nuclear winter.
After attending a writer’s workshop, the presenter/speaker said, “If you have a prologue, get rid of it. Nobody reads them anyway.”
Well, that stuck, and I began writing the untitled manuscript that eventually became “To Burn the Sky”.
I got hard at work, starting by adding a main character in a scene I had no idea how to set up, but continued writing chapter by chapter, or pantsing (I am not a plotter, so flying by the seat of your pants). Before I knew it, the untitled got its name and my wife, Amanda, began helping me with the story.
The two of us didn’t know what we were doing, and when I approached a new, small-time hybrid publisher in another state, we flew down there with the manuscript in hand. The feedback he gave me both crushed and gave me hope to be better.
Over the next few months, I tapped away on the keyboard, editing the same chapters repeatedly and getting nowhere. My wife once again offered her help. I was so determined to have a book with my name on it; I didn’t want to co-author. But Amanda was fantastic, adding her touches to the story, building characters, fixing scenes and just filling out the colour in the line art I’d created; I had to ask her to co-author. She was so thrilled that she would not become an author’s widow and would also put her name on a book.
I taught Amanda how to write on a professional level from all my YouTube and blog research posted by other authors or editors. I had many arguments with her about pronouns and how to massage them into the text to reduce the first person initial pronouns along with the simplicity of “I walked”, “I looked”, etc… Eventually, the two of us began writing on each other’s level.
By the time we’d begun what we had thought was our last edit, I once again contacted the publisher. He had on his to-do list to contact us regarding closing the contract. I told him I had 180thousand word book, and he said he only wanted about 80thousand for our first release.
Amanda and I went back over what would be act one and found it had a natural break. We gave it an ending, ran through another edit and hit the submission date just in time.
Our editor was stunned at how finished our manuscript was; she forgot to edit as she went.
One of the biggest mistakes we made for first-time authors was we didn’t market beforehand. Nobody knew we had released a book, and now we are playing catch-up. We didn’t have a Facebook group or page, no mailing list, no Twitter or Goodreads accounts.
We had three friends review our book, which became a slog to get more reviews.
The second mistake has a double-sided blade—writing to market. It can be a problem if you don’t get into the market at the right time.
Our book doesn’t fit a market or hit all the usual tropes of sci-fi or post-apocalyptic stories. I purposely wrote outside of the tropes in these genres. What we have outlined and written is non-conforming, and our reviews on Goodreads have reflected the originality of our writing.
We improved book two from the verbal feedback and written reviews. That added approximately 35thousand more words to build the world and characters and enhance the story arc. Book two had about a 50% re-write, and now, Burn the Sky duology is approximately 216thousand words.
So if you have a manuscript and you feel it doesn’t work for one reason or another, join a writers group, attend workshops, research and watch respected authors and editors on YouTube to learn their craft, and read books. Not every piece of information will help you; you can never write to every taste. Just write your story, have it proofread, and if you self-publish, please employ a decent editor to help you polish it up.
Feedback and reviews help you, the writer and soon-to-be author, to improve. Reviews also help promote books you love to other readers.
Burn the Sky was nominated last year for the Miles Franklin award 2022.
Book two, Burn the Sky: Redemption, is coming out end of July 2022. The pre-release link is here. Redemption will be released to the Wide network of retailers after launch.
If you’re still undecided, check out the reviews on Goodreads, and we can’t wait to read your review.