Jane Shand has always been an avid reader of fantasy and mystery and is an author of YA Fantasy.
She got hooked on fantasy after reading ‘Lord of the Rings’ at a young age and was determined to write books full of magic and adventure.
Her books always have magic, adventure, and some mystery. They are full of friendship and co-operation as well as danger and enemies. There will be a happy/satisfactory ending and some clean romance. Her books are all set in the same ‘world’ though on different continents and there is a thread/item that ties all the books together.
She lives in Hampshire, England with her family and two cheeky cats who would love to help her write.
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Jane as a Writer
I think I have always been a writer – or at least a storyteller! When I was little my dolls would go on adventures in made up worlds where often the Princess would rescue the Knight! When I was about eleven a friend of the family offered ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to us to read. That was when my true love for all things fantasy began. I loved the idea of magic, and it was all about escapism for me. I always made-up elaborate games for myself and my friends to play, or my toys, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to begin writing them. I wrote mostly for fun although I did try to get a novel published when I was about 22, but I had no clue what I was doing so of course it was rejected!
Then in 2017 I found Writing Magazine in a shop, read it, and was fired up to get serious about writing. I joined a short story course, and I wrote another novel and sent it to an agent and a small press. The small press gave me some valuable feedback. However, by then I had started writing The Shard and joined a novel writing course. With the help of that course I created a book I was proud of. After a lot of research into publishing I chose to self-publish and published The Shard in 2020 on Amazon. At this point I began to see myself as both a writer and an author and I hoped to make it my career.
In late 2021 I decided to take my books to all the other retailers too. I now have four books published with A Shimmer of Magic having gone live in November 2022. A Shimmer of Magic is the first in a trilogy (The Crystal Mages Trilogy), A Glint of Blades, book 2 is on pre-order and will go live in July 2023, A Glitter of Power, book 3 is written and self-edited. It will go for a professional edit in February and I will also be ordering a cover Feb/March ready for publication in Autumn/Fall of 2023 (I am hoping for October). I am deep into the planning/outlining stage on a new series set on the same continent (Escarnia) as The Crystal Mages Trilogy. This project will be longer and set in Methisti, a land just to the south of the Kinchere Empire. A land that is mentioned in The Crystal Mages Trilogy.
Writing with children in the house is not easy, though now both mine are at school I get plenty done after they leave and before they come home. But holidays are more difficult. Usually, we do stuff in the morning and then when they slink away to use electronics after lunch, that’s my writing time! It can be hard after the holidays are over to get back into writing morning and afternoon. But I always aim to write at least 1200 new words a day, five days a week. I take weekends off but not really many holiday days. When the kids are at school, I do the writing in the morning then after lunch I will do any admin tasks, or I may have a video or article on writing or publishing to watch or read. Or I might try and write a short story. I have had a few shortlisted and two cosy crime stories published. My novels are YA Fantasy, but that’s the beauty of short stories, you can explore a different genre more easily. I also do research for the next project in the afternoons.
Although my books are set in fantasy, made-up worlds, I still want them to be believable. So I research the climate, the types of plants and animals that might live in that type of landscape. I will also research the culture and it all influences my writing.
My first published novel The Shard took me almost two years to write, edit and publish, but since then I have brought the time down. It takes about 4 to 4.5 months to write, then anything between two weeks and a month for editing (allowing a week for it to sit in a draw while I work on something else) – this time depends on whether the kids are on holiday or not! Then I send it for a professional edit, to ensure I am putting out the best quality I can, and that can take 5 to 6 weeks to come back. Then a week or so on making any changes. During the professional edit I also commission a cover.
It was tricky planning it all out the publication schedule for the trilogy, as I wanted to ensure that I could put up an edited file on pre-order by the time the previous book went live. This is one reason why there is a bigger gap than I would have liked between Book 1 and Book 2 – it was all new to me! For my new project I will write and edit at least 2 books before I put anything up. This may mean a bigger gap until the first one comes out in 2024, but hopefully slightly smaller gaps between books ( or at least more consistent gaps!).
Plot, character or setting first?
I think the main character, or the setting come to me first. For A Shimmer of Magic, it was the main character, Elin. Although at that point she had a different name. Elin comes from the Danish meaning ‘torch of light’. Her people’s names are all based on Danish ones. She was based on a character from a previous book I wrote just for me, that kept haunting me, asking to be written about again. So I decided to use her in this project.
I planned to write a trilogy this time, something I haven’t done before. I decided I wanted a large empire, and I wanted it to be based in a climate like northern Europe. I chose to have Celtic influences here, but the empire would be influenced by Imperial China. The people’s names are therefore mostly Celtic in nature, and the ones who are descended from the invaders from oversees have a Chinese origin. I slowly built up a picture of the land, the culture and religions and the magic. Magic needs to have limits, so I made most of the magic users require a Crystal to channel their magic, though Elin, my main character is different. I also wanted a mystical land that had been walled away for a century or more where Elin would be from. I drew a couple of maps and made notes, and the plot began to form. I like to have a simple outline first and then I build it up to have the main plot points, the inciting incident, and the midpoint etc down. I base it on the structure from Save the Cat Writes a Novel and from K.M. Weiland’s books on Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arcs. I have found them all invaluable.
All my characters fill out as I write them, though I know their personality flaws and strengths before I start writing, and what they look like. I need to be able to visualise them. But other characters come to me as I write. My characters don’t take over, but I am not completely their master either! I like to think of us as a partnership as I write, and the story will develop and become richer as I get to know everyone. The basic structure and plot remain the same, but strengthen, become richer and get more detail as I write. Plotting gives you a blueprint and a direction but doesn’t constrain you. Or at least, that’s how it works for me. I would get completely lost without an outline! Once the first draft is done, there is never any major issues with it. I never have to do big re-writes. Most of the editing is small typos, grammar corrections (commas are a pain), adding in small details, and making sure characters and settings are consistent.