A Little Bit of Context

- by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Today is the release of my fifth book, The Black Ship. I’m tremendously excited about it, as you might guess, and I’m very hopeful that my readers will love it as much as I do. But I didn’t always love it. In fact for awhile there, I downright hated it with a passion.

Hating a book you’re writing/have written is not uncommon among writers. There often comes a point where familiarity breeds contempt. But I want to tell you a little bit about the story of writing The Black Ship and why I happened to hate it so very much for awhile.

This was a very difficult book to write in the first place. I wrote it from a single point of view, which was something I had not done since my first book. There’s a lot to like about being able to switch pov and get scenes/people/plot from other characters’ perspectives, plus you can reveal information that the a single pov character might not be able to know.

On top of that, my main character kept trying to die throughout the book. Do you know what happens when your only pov character dies? So does the book. But I kept putting him in situations that made me sure he was going to die, and I did not want to resort to deus ex machina to rescue him.

And then too, most of the book takes place on ship, which means there’s precious little opportunity to move characters on and off the ship, or around in the world, or even introduce new characters. It makes for tough writing because you can end up with a lot of talking heads.

As if all of that weren’t enough, I had outlined the book for myself and 30K words in, I realized the rest of the book wouldn’t work as planned. At all. I had to rethink where I was going and how. I write outlines for books, and often don’t stick to them because as the story develops, I let it go where it wants. But this time, I didn’t have a clue where I might end up at and it worried me.

But at last I drafted the book. I revised it and sent it into my editor who sent back an extensive editorial letter. Almost all of which I agreed with. One scene in particular I needed to change because it didn’t work at all. I revised the book again, but I couldn’t make that one scene right. I restarted it from scratch about 8 times, I rewrote it at least as many times with different variations, but Could. Not. Get. It. Right.

At last I managed a decent fix, but I knew it wasn’t quite there yet and I asked my editor for her thoughts about what else I could do with it. By this time the thought of looking at the book even one more time made me want to drive pencils into my eyes. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a lot of ideas. So I jumped in once more. By this time, I was loathing the book. I could hardly bring myself to open the file, much less actually read it. But there was no choice. So once again into the fray.

Then finally, I had a moment of clarity and imagination, and I rewrote the scene. And it worked. The flow was smooth, the character development was right, and it worked. I sent it back to my editor and she agreed.

I did not read the book again or even twitch a page of it until the copy edits came back. At that point, I still hated it, but not with such a fever. The next time I read it was when the proof pages came back. At that point I began to like it again. I really do love these characters. They are snarky and funny and heroic and flawed. I like this story and I think it’s a really fun adventure. With a bit of the dark and gritty thrown in here and there.The Black Ship

So as the book launches today, I have fallen back in love with it. It taught me a lot–some of the lessons were terribly painful–and it made me grow as a writer. At some point soon, I plan to run a contest on my blog to see if readers can guess the painful seen. So watch for it. And if you’ll allow me to be a proud parent and show off the cover . . . . here it is:


  1. I like the cover.

  2. I like the cover.

    Is it about pirates?