Taking notes on a trip down memory lane

Cover of Deadly Courtship by Jaycee Jarvis. Madi is holding a blade ready to strike, with a tiger-like cat looking menacing at her side.

I recently donated an “annotated” book to a charity auction because I’d noticed that these personalized books tend to be in higher demand than simple signed paperbacks. The idea is that the author goes through the book and makes notes in the margins about the text. Pointing out Easter-eggs, reflecting on the drafting process, and just sharing their thoughts about the work.

The auction did really well, which is wonderful, so I spent a few days making notes in a copy of Deadly Courtship and reliving the wild ride of writing that book. Depending on how you count it, I spent over a decade writing and rewriting the book that would eventually become the second Hands of Destin book (I technically started writing Deadly Courtship before Taxing Courtship, though I did a TON of revisions after learning more about story telling, and completing the first book in the series) It was challenging to parse out all the different edits and major changes I made, let alone figure out which ones were worth mentioning and when.

I don’t know if the person receiving the book has read the series before, so I tried not to give away too many spoilers, even though there are huge changes I made in later drafts that seem like they should be mentioned. The entire process was a journey, especially since I hadn’t read this book in its final form since I was approving final line edits on it over three years ago. It was really fun to revisit these characters and this world and pull back the curtain a bit on how they came to life. Madi and Jas are still a favorite couple of mine, and I love the way her fierce black-and-white worldview clashes with his persistent empathy and soft heart. I’m a character first writer, so staying true to the characters is an important part of every stage of writing for me, but how to frame the plot to best reveal and challenge those characters is something I was still learning when I first drafted their story.

For some of my notes, I worry that I took away a little too much of the magic and sparkle. Things like “this conversation originally took place at his work but I moved it here because of X” really reveal the nuts and bolts of writing. It makes the depth and realism harder to believe when the nitty gritty story choices are all laid out there. Storytelling involves a certain amount of magic, but it is also honed by craft, and I’m not sure how much readers realize the thought that goes into making a world come alive.

If you bought an annotated copy of a book, what kind of things would you want to learn? Would you want to hear about all my messy first draft mistakes? Would there be things you wouldn’t want revealed to preserve the magic?

Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.

Learn more about her around the web:

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