Planes Shifter: Darkening Skies
Planes Series #1
From 2012 to 2014, my main work in progress (WIP) was Planes Shifter, the first novel in my fantasy series. The sequel and third instalment are completed drafts, but in need of edits once I am content with the first book. Although I switched between a couple of projects, I’ve continued to return to this story. The oldest entries are at the bottom of the page and each post is an inside-look at my process.
I shelved this project in 2016 and ‘life’ got in the way of my writing in general from 2017 onwards. However, as this is my most complete project, when I see opportunities to submit manuscripts to publishers, agents, or contests, this is the one I submit.
I have now attempted to share this novel 8 times from 2016-2020 via these opportunities, and after taking such a gap from it, it’s going to be my next project to return to once my current Work-in-Progress is completed.
I began querying this project in June of 2016, and continued to submit to agents until December 2016. I received a request for the full manuscript, and while the agent did not take the project on, they gave me very useful feedback.
May 01, 2016
Having said last year that I wasn’t ready to make the edits I needed to; mostly fixing plot-holes that I’d written and re-written myself so deep into that I couldn’t see the sky any more, I may have picked this book back up on April 29th.
In March 2014, I completely re-wrote the story. My tale went from “girl travels to the city to take her place as queen” to “assassin-in-training discovers necromancy and a strange myth in her heritage.” This book therefore became titled Darkening Skies to differentiate it from the tale it began as.
I’m aiming to review the beta-reader feedback and see where that gets me.
April 16, 2015
I completed an edit, and it’s been sent off to a new beta reader – someone who doesn’t already know the story, so I can get a feel for how well the plot holds up.
January 7, 2015
After 4 months off, I’ve picked Planes Shifter back up for another read-through. I’m not sure if I’ll be re-editing it yet, or just trying to get a feel for what’s missing.
August 15, 2014
I reached chapter seven. In a month. If you can’t tell, that essentially means I forced myself to edit 55 words a day; and that pretty much caused me to lose track of the plot, alongside disliking the story. So, instead of forcing myself to continue doing something I dislike, just because it’s been a 36-month project, I’ve put it away.
After many re-writes and re-plots, four beta readers, two full print-outs and one sequel later, I think I’m at a point where I recognise I don’t yet have the ability/skill/understanding to fix the problems with this book.
I’m not quitting — I can see the potential, and my beta readers have always been positive about the premise and the story as a whole. It’s a decent base draft. However, I can’t yet edit it to a standard where I’m happy with it. I’m not sure if it’s a lack in my skills as an editor, or as a reader (i.e. identifying the problems) or I’m just in the wrong frame of mind right now (moving house/job base/getting pets) to read it.
For those who followed my stats in the left side-bar, the ‘completed’ details of this edit round were as follows: 26,810 words proof-read out of 89,615 (30% of edits compiled, half way through scene 17.)
So instead, I’m switching over to last year’s NaNoWriMo project — a modern re-telling of the Norse myth of Ragnarok.
July 20, 2014
After three weeks in the drawer, I’ve picked Planes Shifter back up — I’m about begin the read-through of chapter three, and so far, i’m pleasantly surprised by how well the timing and pacing is going (one of my key concerns during the re-write). Of course I’m only 10% in, so that could all change; but I believe a solid beginning is a positive start to any book.
June 27, 2014
On June 24th, I ‘finished’ the re-write Planes Shifter. Of course, because I’m me, I then spent two more nights tweaking it, increasing the word count by nearly 1,500 more words. However, it’s now “done” and I’m putting it in the “The Drawer” for a minimum of two weeks. I do have some check-list items that I know I need to fix; but will be easier to change and really see how much tweaking is needed when I approach the book from a fresh perspective.
I anticipate a read-through with tweaks in July, then a beta-read stage, and then a final big edit before submission around September/October time. This book is in it’s third year now, and it feels so much stronger than when it began. I’ve also become better at editing; at really changing what needs to change.
June 2, 2014
I just passed 52,000 words of completed prose in the re-write. That’s around 65% complete. The main blockage came free today. I’ve been writing up to and around the moment, throwing ideas into an ideas file until something clicked, and today it fell into place. I’ve completed 4 scenes, and am now re-plotting the ending [just adding in scenes to the “need something else here” places — not actually changing it much] and really enjoying how the character’s conflict is coming together.
One of my least favourite parts in every draft of this book has now been rewritten in a way that doesn’t make me instantly cringe, and it’s also opened up some new information to the reader. I doubt I’ll manage to complete it by June 14th, but July 14th is definitely plausible, and the end of June would not be impossible. Fingers crossed!
April 27, 2014
A month on from “my book is broken”, it’s still mostly in pieces.
However, I’ve got the first three chapters glued together, and I’ve lined up all the other scenes in roughly the right places. I talked through my outline with my sister-in-writing this morning, and she not only said that it worked/made sense, but that it was better (less confusing/more interesting) than when she read the last full draft.
So it’s in progress, and I’m enjoying the process.
With all the outline notes, chapter headlines with yes/no matrix and pasted scenes that will be re-written, it’s currently at 39,000 words. 14,000 of those are edited. My current aim for a “completed” deadline is June 14th.
March 23, 2014
People have been asking how the book is going, and my answer, honestly has been “It’s broken.”
I’ve never really understood why I’ve taken so many edits of the story — partly I put it down to it being a trilogy; and thus needing certain levels of foreshadowing that I hadn’t perfected, and partly I put it down to being my first attempt at editing a book.
Turned out I had 18 subplots mentions in the first 50,000 words alone; and that I’d tried to force in an element that I felt *should* be included because of the themes, but actually it didn’t serve the story. Removing that aspect, distilling my plots down – either discarding them for a “maybe in book 2” or “that can be merged” – and then re-working out where my starting point should be is taking time.
I know which key parts I’m keeping – most of which are from the original draft, although I want to re-word one particular event. The setting is the same and the characters are also mostly the same – I’ve removed some from focus [i.e. not sure if I’ll keep my third POV character as a POV one]. But actually, the story isn’t going to change too much. It’s just complicated to try and make things weave in together using what I have; rather than sticking a new element in to fix the hole [this is essentially what I’d done].
After a week of staring and many pieces of paper with coloured pens, I now have 5 subplots and a sixth one introduced near the end to leave a loose end for book 2 (but isn’t going to leave the book feeling unfinished).
I’m also awaiting feedback from beta readers on chapter one which will still be useful as I intend to keep that key event in; although it may be moved further into the story line now. The new story draft will definitely be re-titled, since the only real similarity is the city and the character’s names/back-stories.
March 09, 2014
The last three weeks have been interesting — but mostly an emotional hurdles track. I keep coming up against new blocks and have been struggling to actually get through the first chapter. Most of that relates to “perfectionism block” which I will one day write a post on. It’s the first chapter, and this is final big edit. Therefore, it must be perfect.
And of course, perfect doesn’t really exist.
*insert wailing and gnashing of teeth followed by floods of tears and insecurities*
But today I had a breakthrough, and the first chapter is now as good as edited. I’ll be sending it off to beta readers for specific feedback and that should allow me to ensure I cover all those sub-conscious things that we writers plant in readers minds in the rest of the story.
I’ve also been tweaking the query, which is something I actually love doing – distilling all the coolest bits into a short, sweet line or three.
February 15, 2014
I finished the annotations last night; fear settling against my throat as I realised just how much I have to change. This “line edit” requires cutting or merging 17 scenes, and writing 2 or 3 new ones. I’ve cut a POV character from 20 scenes to about 4. That’s a massive change.
But, having sat down this morning with my colour coded outline and some bullet points to follow; I’ve pretty much re-plotted the story and summarised each scene with a single quote from the POV character – showing the tone and emotion or main event of that scene. This also fulfils the “is this necessary?” part.
And I’ve realised just how excited I am to do the actual writing and rewriting. I’m not a fan of reading my work without being able to improve it as I go; but I now have perspective; and I’m loving this re-plotting stage.
February 10, 2014
Over the weekend, I edited over a third of the book. Which made tonight very difficult for my brain to understand. The day-job today was heavy going, and then I began reading a new book last night; so things have slowed down. But I only have 17,298 words left to read/annotate.
And that’s quite scary.
When I finish, I’m planning to skim-read each page for any notes that are a general theme. The “this line needs changing” can wait until I get to that line. The “mention this before now” and “does he have blue eyes?” or “make all mention of this power include blue lightning” need to be written down somewhere while I edit the whole manuscript – not just on that page.
But the idea of actually fixing the story is daunting. There were decent bits, and less decent bits; as you’d expect. Some pages covered in yellow and pink; with the odd hint of a green smiley face. Unfortunately, the pages with very little written on them/highlighted doesn’t mean they’re perfect. It tends to mean “so overwhelmed I have no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it – but it’s rubbish.” And the idea of having to face those with the pure purpose of “fix it” is a pretty big ask.
But I’ve found that I really love the story again; something I have doubted perhaps once every two months since its conception in early 2012. So here’s to reaching the end, where the potential can meet reality.
January 27, 2014
On Saturday, I opened up my manuscript, highlighters and biros in hand, and began to jot down anything that was good or bad, plot holes and “needs rewording”. It took longer than I thought to edit the beginning [hadn’t I spent around a thousand hours on getting the beginning right by now?], but now I’m six scenes in, the editing is a bit quicker. Of course that will change with the pace of the novel; as I reach less recently-tweaked scenes and the bits I’ve not read in months, but the process is in progress. 9,700 words checked. 81,800 to go.
December 28, 2013
I’ve completed the re-outlining and editing of plot, and tomorrow, I print. Then I’m taking a week or two off to work on Resilience, and then I’ll be ready to take my highlighters to this draft.
December 08, 2013
I have a completed plot-plan outline of Planes Shifter. Plot holes have been filled in and I’m just waiting for them to dry. I’ve sent the outline to three people (including one who knows the story) and my Other Half made fun of it last night; reading it out loud in silly accents which helped me notice a couple of minor wording errors.
So now I’m awaiting a “yes, the story/plot sounds coherent” before I print the beast and begin the final paper line edit.
Fingers crossed it all adds up.
December 02, 2013
I completed NaNoWriMo by editing 18,000 words of Planes Shifter. And then I hit a block.
You’d think in the last eight months that I’d have learned to sort the plot out before the rest, wouldn’t you…. but I haven’t, so I’m back to outlining the plot, and determined to remain doing so for a few more days. Because I’ve yet to complete an outline of the scenes that I like and doesn’t provide a) new plot holes and b) Entirely re-writing the darn thing.
So, hello. I’m back, and I aim to finish a fully-plotted and line-edited version by the end of January. Because I’m all about creating deadlines.
October 10, 2013
I sent the first six chapters to one of my beta-readers (who saw the second draft) a few days ago. Then I began the next novel: Kindling. I will return to the edits for Planes Shifter once I’ve finished the draft of Kindling (while that one sits for a while). The advice we’re given always says “finish one book and start the next while that one rests.” I’ve been working on the Planes series for nearly two years – I need a break now. So I’m taking it. You can see the progress I’m making on Kindling on the blog. I should be back to edits of Planes Shifter by December 2nd.
October 1, 2013
I finished editing the first six chapters of Planes Shifter, and immediately began planning my next story. I’m sending out those first six chapters tonight to a gamma reader and letting myself rest from the story. Since January 2012, I’ve not had a rest from this world. Even when I finished draft one, I jumped into the sequel a week later. I know the characters so well, and I know the world in which they live. And much like in real life, I just want a break. My (revised) aim was to complete the first six chapters, so that IF I get a request that leads to seeing a “partial”, then I have enough of fairly-polished work to show someone. And by then (i.e. after the convention where I’ll be talking about my story), I’ll have had a month off from it. Of course the road isn’t over, but taking a voluntary break to have a short celebration of all the work that’s gone into it is much safer than what happened in August – where my brain just shut down from it. I’ve also discovered that planning a totally different story has re-invigorated some of my passion for the Planes Trilogy and where it’s now heading (thanks to the re-write).
September 15, 2013
I’ve finished this line-edit of chapter five. About five minutes ago! It’s taken nearly a month, because I had to go back and sort some earlier occurrences. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough to now move on and finish the further 70,000 words. I also have a good idea of how I want my writing to look; and that’s helpful when I’m reading some bits I wrote a year ago, and some I re-wrote yesterday. I’m just starting to edit scene 22 of 94. It won’t be done by the end of the month, but maybe by the end of October. We’ll see.
September 3, 2013
I figured out what’s been stopping me from editing over the past month. I managed to write a book I wouldn’t have chosen to read. Yeah. Which made editing based on other people’s feedback fine, until it came to a line edit – where I had to read it. Therein lies my problem. Part of that was the way my writing style changed. Another part was down to the changes I added. And then there were my plans for books two and three ~ both of which are dark tales of the underworld. Considering my main character is an assassin who can travel between the world and the underworld, there’s very little death or darkness in Planes Shifter. And that just doesn’t feel true to the story. So I’ve come back to actual editing for the plot. I’m doing a lot of planning around the main factions and the places where key events happen. This matches their new purposes, and allows me to really get my head around the atmosphere for each of the key events. Fingers crossed it’ll make sense by the end of the week.
September 1, 2013
I’d planned to re-start the edits tomorrow; following a full week off (and a weekend either side). But between Friday evening and Sunday evening, I spent over seven hours driving, and my brain decided to entirely re-plot the whole damn Planes series in my head – including re-plotting book 1, where things should change in book 2, and ideas for the plan of book 3. However, I’m already behind in my plan to finish the line edit before the World Fantasy Convention. So I’m going to sleep on it, and tomorrow evening, after work, I’ll get all the plans out, and go through the five chapters I’ve line edited to see if I can sneak in a few very small hints ready for the changes that come about later on. Otherwise, I’ll have to see if I can add it to my other work-in-progress.
August 27, 2013
It was my birthday at the weekend, so I took a few days off from the book. Instead of editing my novel about a falconer, I went to a hawk conservation trust, where I took part in a flying demonstration and flew a harris hawk; which was amazing. I’ve reached Chapter Five on the edit – I’m nearly a third of the way through. Today is dedicated to cleaning the flat and editing, so I hope to finish this chapter by the end of the day. Fingers crossed I’ve passed the difficult bit now!
August 17, 2013
I took a break from editing this week. Although I meant to do some each day – it just didn’t happen. I’ve been feeling very stuck regarding my male main character’s scenes. They fall flat compared to my female character, and I’m in a perfectionist mode. This is the final edit before it goes to other eyes, to an editor. So I’ve been stuck. Today, I’ve begun reading it from the beginning again. I’m still not sure I would be drawn in by my beginning, which is a worry, but I like it. It feels like the words work. So, in order to get some momentum back and to remember exactly which information I’ve shared with the reader, I’ve begun from the beginning again – just reading until I notice an issue, and fixing it there and then. I’m aiming to finish the first two chapters and maybe start chapter three by this evening.
August 9, 2013
The line edit is in progress! I’m struggling a little bit as I wrote two new “first” scenes, so what was scene 1 is now scene 3, and they were each written about 6 months apart. This has made the flow of the beginning really tricky to maintain. I’m now on scene 5, which I’m having the same issue with, but once I pass chapter three, that will smooth out as the next newly-written scenes are around scene 65, so I should have (fingers crossed) a fairly smooth run until I hit them.
August 1, 2013
Draft 4.2 is complete at 109,303 words. I added five scenes and tried to edit some other scenes to flow to/from those five. I took a week off to get my thoughts together, and now I’ve got two deadlines approaching that are unrelated to my novel. I’m beta-reading two novels-in-progress for two other writers, and I’ve got an interview with S. M. Boyce to finish transcribing for the 9th. But I’ve finished Draft 4.2 and the line edit (named Draft 5) is ready to begin. I’m leaving my progress bar as it is, as I’ll only need to skim-read those sections to check I’ve added in the new bits now, so they’re mostly edited.
July 20, 2013
I’ve just finished the plot changes. It’s taken 14.5 hours, plus gaps for lunch and some cleaning, so I’m clocking in today’s editing at 12 hours. I now have an outline that matches the novel. I have a few scenes to join together (I melded a few) and then I need to double check the chapter distribution. as Chapter One has two scenes, but Chapter Eleven has eight scenes. I’m also pleasantly surprised at the results. On Tuesday I actually began re-writing the book from scratch, concerned I’d need to amalgamate books 1 and 2 because, as outlines, they don’t have enough substance. However, in bringing a few hints of book 2 into book 1, and removing the bits that really serve no great purpose to either character development or the overall plot arc, I’ve still got a novel that will like end up at around 95,000 – 100,000 words. To then add in the events of Book 2, which is currently a first draft of 80,000, I think I have enough substance to carry them through. With the story sorted, I can just focus on the line edits and then, hopefully, to sending it out to a final beta reader and soon after that, to a professional editor.
July 19, 2013
My breakthrough on the 14th was a relief. However, it also uncovered a clear distinction between the arc that begins in book 1 and the arc that ends in book 3. I’ve stopped the line edit to set up the three book’s beside each other and double check the full story arc. There are elements I need to remove and exchange, and I’m aware that I need to fix these issues before worrying about a bit of grammar in a sentence I may delete. I’ve also received some more feedback from my third draft, which I’m implementing as I work through these confusions. Thankfully, this is the first weekend I’ve had free to actually focus on the novel, and that’s what I plan to do.
July 15, 2013
I’ve completed my line edit of Chapter One. It’s now 8,867 words, and the manuscript has shifted up to 104,975. It seems that block I broke through on Saturday has let me get back to enjoying the story.
July 14, 2013
I spent an hour on the train yesterday trying to plot out book three. While reviewing the ideas for the third instalment and the journey my characters need to take in books one and two, I’ve managed to see how a plot issue of book one can be fixed. Thus, my line edit has halted in order to add in those aspects. Thus, although I’m not moving up in terms of numbers, I’m making progress, and since it was an issue that bugged from the day I began writing this story in January 2012; it feels good to be fixing it. Having already written a draft of book two, I’m trying to keep the focus on the arc of the whole story, not just each book, which is providing a little tricky at this point.
July 6, 2013
This week I began the line edit of draft four. This means I’m essentially looking at each sentence and seeing if it’s necessary, needs tweaking or confuses. I’m also doing basic spelling and grammar checks as I go. Most of the plot is solid, and at the end of this edit, I’ll be happy to begin editing the sequel, which I have a completed first draft of.
Since January 2012 when I began this book as “Wings of Skell”, I’ve changed its name, the plot, the main character, duel-perspective to multi-perspective, and obviously fixed a lot of major problems. As I didn’t begin this Work In Progress Journal back then, here’s the general timeline of the book’s life –