The History of How to Schedule a Death

How to Schedule a Death drops in 3 days. It’s the darkest book I’ve ever written. It’s also the first book I’ve ever written for an adult audience. Today I’m opening up all my old writing notebooks, blog posts, documents, and file folders. I’m scouring my notes for anything even remotely related to the project. 

Let’s see the history behind this amazing new thriller. 

  • November 16, 2015 A random scene appears in my idea journal after a writing session. It’s been 8 years so I cannot possibly tell you where this idea came from. Was it a writing prompt? Maybe. Was it a random inspired dream? Probably. All I know is the idea as it originally appeared was the first chapter of the book AS IT WILL PUBLISH (with a few minor editing tweaks) and an extra chapter. 
  • December 7, 2015 I opened the document again because I was hunting through my idea journal for a little inspiration. I liked it. I made a few editing tweaks to the first section and dropped the second section to a new page. I think, looking back, this was my brain telling me this second part wasn’t any good. I ended up working on something else (ahem: Fraun, probably) and forgot about this one. 
  • January 12, 2016 Digging in the idea journal I came across this again. I still liked it but didn’t see where it was going yet. I posted it on my blog. Response was positive. I realized I might need to revisit this one. 
The original blog post featuring what will, basically, be the opening chapter for How to Schedule a Death
  • February 25, 2016 I was part of an online Masterclass for writing. The writing group was encouraging me (and each other) to write summary and sample chapters of ideas. At the time, I was working on other things, but this was the one I came back to when it was time to turn in a summary and sample chapter. I wrote one. Looking at it now, I’m surprised how much stayed. The sample chapter (minus that second part I didn’t like earlier) is still the basic idea for the opening chapter of How to Schedule a Death. The summary is the basic outline for what will eventually become the back cover. The basic idea of the story was in my brain at this point, I just didn’t know how to get it all out. 
  • Late February 2016 I attempted an outline. It was really rough. Then I got wrapped up in other things, the class I was taking ended, and I moved on. 
  • June 8, 2016 Somehow, the idea fell into my lap again (likely I was searching my idea journal for inspiration). I open a new document and attempt to flush out the main character and antagonist. 
  • June 9, 2016 I attempted to use the old outline and the original chapters to write a few chapters. I think I wrote four before I lost what I was trying to do and fell off the outline. I got frustrated, thinking something must have been wrong with the outline. 
  • September 27, 2017 I did a daily writing prompt to write out a list of potential titles your brain would love to write. Hitman made the list. That, in itself, is proof to me that my brain never stopped thinking about this story and Regina. 
  • June 20, 2018 I pulled up that old document again and spent some time with it. I added another rough chapter and made a few notations. It’s pretty clear to me that I still loved the idea but didn’t see how to fix the problems with the outline. 
  • July 1, 2019 I have a note here that I opened the documents but I don’t see anything done to them. Likely this was me trying to come at it from another angle and not finding one. I’m persistent, obviously. 
  • May 2020 Found all of this stuff again. I see a few edits on all of the relevant documents but nothing overly helpful. This idea just wasn’t letting go. At this point I had a great summary, a sample chapter that I had written five years ago, and the start of an outline that was a little chaotic. I wasn’t ready to give up but I didn’t think I had the skill to really dive into fixing it. It seemed like a big, overwhelming project.
  • September 24, 2020 I draft a list of potential NaNoWriMo ideas and Hitman makes the list. This may be the first time the old title idea makes an appearance as the name of this working project. I think, by this point, I already knew this would not be the title. I just didn’t know what the title would be. I told myself that if the blog post generated readers who seemed as excited about this piece as I was, it was worth the time it would take to tackle this one. Readers latched on IMMEDIATELY commenting on many of my social media platforms that they were interested in Hitman being my NaNo project.
  • October 13, 2020 I narrowed down my two potential NaNo ideas to Hitman and one other idea, thanks in part to feedback from my readers. I told myself that if this was the project, I would give it everything I had even if that meant starting over completely. 
  • October 15, 2020 I reread everything I had written to that point and planned out all the important plot points for the Hitman project and fell in love with it again. I started to see the bigger picture.
  • October 17, 2020 While I was supposed to be planning out the major plot points for the other possible NaNo project, I distracted myself by rewriting the outline for Hitman. I manage to fix most of the major issues with the new vision in my head. 
  • October 24, 2020 I made Hitman my official NaNoWriMo project and posted some information about it on the NaNo website. I also adjusted those old character notes with a few things that the new vision demanded.
  • November 2020 I finished the first draft of the project (thanks NaNo) and wrote 50,000 words. I also knew right away that it was too short and was missing something. But, I won NaNo and put it away for the time being. I figured I’d come back to it eventually to do some editing.
  • January 2021 I took another look at the story. I add a lot more interactions between Regina and some characters. This won’t make sense until you read it but the entire side plot about the young woman who hires Regina was added LAST. The story is better for it. I can’t imagine the story without that plot line now. 
  • February 2021 I sat down with the editing pen for the first time with this story. I add a few scene descriptions but most of the main story remains intact. This is a good sign. 
  • May 2, 2021 I put out a beta reader call on my blog for Hitman (and other things) but deadlines for those other things were coming up fast and beta reading takes time. The project went out to a few people but stayed pretty quiet for a bit as they took their time getting through it and giving me some feedback. Honestly, this went to betas I had never used before (because it was not for young adults) and feedback was very slow. Part of this is on me, I was too deep into other projects to keep checking in. 
  • Late 2021 sometime I took another revision pass with Hitman. There are very few notes from this revision, which means I left most of it intact. 
  • March 17, 2022 I drafted a short list of possible titles. My husband, who hasn’t read the story, gets a full run-down of what I’m looking for and what kind of reaction I want. Then he reads the potential titles. Two stand out to him, but one more than the other. Fun Fact: This would end up being the title. 
  • October 2022 How to Schedule a Death heads to the real editor where it will eventually get two editing passes. Mostly, the changes were small (punctuation is my nemesis) but the process was incredibly important to making the story the best it can be. 
  • December 2022 Formatting happened. This is actually the first time I’ve EVER formatted a story fully before proofreading it. 10/10 recommend it this way. It’s my new process. Proofreading in the proper format makes it feel more real and helps you to find odd spacing issues. My formatting for this one included a GREAT page edge image (only available on paperback or hardcover) that really makes the chapters pop.
  • January 2023 Proofreading was easy this time around. The editor, as I mentioned, did two passes. That made my job so much easier. I don’t think I caught much. I changed a few spacing issues and got hung up enjoying my own book as a reader, so that was fun. 
  • February 2023 Back of the book blurb is done. It actually turns out to be almost word-for-word the synopsis that dropped on the NaNoWriMo website over a year ago. Only the cover left to finalize and we’re ready to head off to publication.
  • May 2023 The cover for this one was a battle. I think we started with three overarching ideas which netted about six variations to look at. My sister (who hadn’t read it), husband (who I think was reading it at the time), and I narrowed it down slowly and painstakingly. There were a few more tweaks to the designs we liked the most, which means I think we saw a total of maybe nine or ten variations. We ended up not being able to choose between two of the options. So, finally, I made the decision to have this be the first book I’ve ever published that has different hardcover and paperback covers. I still love the idea. 
  • June 1, 2023 I made a final read through (again) of the book. I made no notes. It took me maybe three hours. 
  • June 8, 2023 The ebook formatting gets a little adjustment after seeing it on an actual ereader. 
  • June 9, 2023 ARCs head out. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, they’re going well. ARC readers are LOVING this one. Ads and newsletter announcements started about this time as well, I think. 
  • July 2023 I read through it again. I don’t know why I did this one since the last one didn’t net any changes. I think I made myself think that because I read it too fast I might have missed something. I changed nothing. 
  • August 2023 Preorders officially open. I pushed them a few days early because the reviews coming in were really positive and I didn’t want to keep waiting. The newsletter went out with the preorder code and all was good. 

Looking back on all of these documents to find these dates and look at how far this little idea has come taught me a few important things that I want to share with all of you out there who are writing (or want to be).

  1. No idea is a bad idea. Some ideas might come to you incomplete, at the wrong time, or when you’re not ready to write them. But they’re not bad ideas. Write them all down and revisit what you have written down often. If I hadn’t written that off-the-wall writing prompt idea down in November of 2015 How to Schedule a Death never would’ve happened. 
  2. Trust your gut. I can tell just by looking back on my notes that there were times I knew this idea would be something but I just didn’t feel it yet. I once stopped drafting one scene mid sentence because I just wasn’t feeling connected to it anymore. As much as my gut knew this was a good story, I also knew something was wrong. I had to trust my instinct. 
  3. Be persistent. You never know when rereading something old will spark inspiration. You never know how much you’ve changed or how much the idea has changed. There were literal YEARS this little idea spent time just hanging out in my idea journal. I would open it, read it again, and think about it. I couldn’t let the idea go. I’m glad I never did. 
  4. Don’t rush the process. I’m a firm believer in taking the time you need to let the story happen. If I had rushed into writing this with the original outline, it wouldn’t be as strong. If I had never bothered to revisit it and see how I could flush it out, it wouldn’t be as interesting. Take time with the idea and let it develop into its absolute best work. 

Now we’re here. Three days away from the new book and still deep into other projects. I’m so glad I kept with this one. Regina deserves to have her story told. If you’re into dark thrillers, I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s been a long time coming. 

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