Update on the Codex Gigas/Devil’s Bible Book Project

Bookend of the Devil from the Devil’s Bible, purchased at the National Library in Sweden. Photo: Erika Harlitz-Kern

On this day, July 15, in 2015, I published a post on Book Riot that would take my life in a new direction. The post was titled 10 Things You Should Know about the Codex Gigas/Devil’s Bible. I chose the Devil’s Bible and the listicle format because I had problems coming up with an idea for a post, so I used to a simple format to write about something I already knew and that fascinated me.

Three years later, in 2018, my listicle about the Codex Gigas was one of the evergreen Book Riot posts that drew traffic to the site. If I remember correctly, that post alone drove about 90,00 views to the site during the year of 2018. When I left Book Riot in June 2019, the post had already racked up more than 50,000 views during the first six months of that year.

In the late summer of 2018, I received a cold email from one of the producers of the TV-series The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. They had read my post on Book Riot and wondered if I would be interested in filming a segment about the manuscript. I of course accepted and spent an amazing 24 hrs in the Czech Republic. We filmed the segment about the Devil’s Bible at the Broumov Monastery using a life-sized replica of this fantastic manuscript as our prop. The segment would later become part of the first episode of the third season of The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, and aired on the National Geographic Channel in March 2019.

All of these things put together made me realize that there is a bigger interest in the Devil’s Bible than I had thought. I also realized that there was no book about the Devil’s Bible available in English.

So I decided to write one.

I have been working on this book about the Devil’s Bible since the spring of 2019. During this time, I have researched the manuscript’s history and the medieval history of the Czech Republic. I have learned about medieval book production, the history of monasticism, the history of evil, the history of Heaven and Hell, and the history of the Devil. I have gone through the digitized copy of the Codex Gigas and taken notes on every single page of the manuscript to get to know it and its creator better. This task alone took me almost nine months. I have written a first draft, which made clear to me that there were parts of my book project that needed additional research. This additional research took me another six months to complete.

Finally, this week, I started writing the second draft of my book, a draft I thought I would have started a year ago.

My book about the Codex Gigas/the Devil’s Bible is currently a work in progress. I expect to finish the second draft sometime early next year. I would be surprised if I finish sooner, considering that the university fall semester starts again in August.

When I finish the book, there is still no guarantee that it will be published. The journey towards publication is a different type of journey from writing with other forces at work. It could very well be that no agent or publisher is interested in picking up my book. It is a reality I must be ready to face.

But even if the book never gets published, researching and writing about the Codex Gigas/the Devil’s Bible has already been fulfilling and rewarding because I have learned so much in the process. Not only that, I have created a university course about the history of Central Europe based on what this project has taught me. If that turns out to be the only outcome of this project then that is a good one.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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Writing the Second Draft

GetInline

First Draft

On June 7, 2016, I wrote a post here on The Boomerang where I announced that I had finished the first draft of the third version of an adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

Now I can make a second announcement:

I have finished the second draft of the third version of the adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

I started revising on June 14.

I worked on the novel six days a week. Some days for only a couple of hours. Other days the whole eight hours. It all depended on the amount of changes that needed to be made as well as my own state of mind on that particular day.

I write in long-hand in a lined Barnes & Noble refill journal, using a Ballograf mechanical pencil and 0.5 HB leads.

I type my long-hand manuscript in a Word document using Courier 12 points double-spaced. This way, my digital copy also becomes yet another opportunity for revisions.

I backup all my files on a physical external hard drive .

The first draft was approximately 131,000 words long.

The second draft is approximately 98,000 words long.

I made no adjustments to the narrative. I only cut out scenes that didn’t drive the story forward.

I added a new beginning to the novel’s second part.

It took me approximately six weeks to finish the second draft. I clicked on Save for the final time on July 29.

So what am I doing right now?

I have started the querying process and I’m trying to master the art of the synopsis.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

First Draft

In November 2001 I started writing an epic fantasy novel for adults. I spent the following years writing this tome on and off. I even sent it out to professional freelance editors. I participated in public readings. After revising the story I shopped it around to different publishers and in my naive and uneducated fervor I broke every rule there is when you submit a manuscript.

Of course the book didn’t get picked up. Partly because I didn’t understand the publishing industry, mostly because it just wasn’t any good. However, one of the rejection letters stated that even though they didn’t publish exactly this kind of fantasy, the world I had created was a compelling one, in particular the names of the characters appealed to them. (Probably because it was a fantasy novel with not an apostrophe in sight…)

This letter stayed with me when I put the novel to the side and instead focused on writing a dissertation in medieval history. The years as a graduate student are some of the toughest in my life. It literally was five years of blood, sweat, and tears.

Would I do it again? Hell no.

Would I have those years undone? Hell no to that too.

Why? Because those years gave me thicker skin, they taught me how to write, they taught me how to get published, they taught me how to research a book, and they taught me how to bring a book project to completion within a reasonable amount of time no matter what came at me while I was writing.

And as I neared the end of my graduate studies and as the defense of the dissertation was behind me, this fantasy epic reared its head again. I remember sitting in an office at a university where I was filling in for another teacher and I had a couple of hours to kill before I had to leave for the train.

The office was quiet. It was as if sound had ceased to exist.

And I began to write.

And I didn’t stop until I had finished a completely new version, using the first novel I wrote all those years ago as backstory.

This time around I was able to determine on my own that this wasn’t any good. I didn’t need to hire a professional editor or insult publishers to understand that I still wasn’t ready.

So I put it aside again. I worked on getting some kind of traction in the new place to where I had moved. I started freelance writing, I published research articles, I started teaching college history part time, I started tweeting, blogging, and I started to write short stories to hone my craft. I shopped those stories around. I got rejected but I also got enough encouragement from editors to know that, just like with my very first novel, I was on to something.

And then one day–in July 2015–the novel came back to me. And again, I wrote a completely new version, this time based on the second novel as well as the first novel.

I started working on this version in earnest in October 2015.

On May 23, 2016, I finished the first draft of the third version of the epic fantasy novel for adults that I began writing in November 2001. Two days ago I printed it.

GetInline

First Draft. Large font, double-spaced, 20k words too many.

So, will anyone want to publish it? I don’t know. What matters to me at this stage is that I finished it and it works.

However, when the time comes to shop this novel around, I think I might stand a better chance if I let this be the title:

The Girl Who Went in Search of Her Dad.

Even though the girl is actually a 25-year-old woman and the search for her father is only part of the story.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Seven Reasons the Mechanical Pencil is a Writer’s Best Friend

On April 23, 2015 I published the following post on Quirk Books’ blog where I declared my love for the mechanical pencil. Enjoy!

Seven Reasons the Mechanical Pencil is a Writer’s Best Friend

The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Charles R. Keeran’s U.S. patent for the Ever-Sharp pencil, also known as the modern mechanical pencil. Combined with Tokuji Hayakawa’s Japanese patent from 1920 for the pencil’s metal core, Keeran’s invention paved the way for the mechanical pencils we use today.

I have been using mechanical pencils my entire writing life. If you ask me, the mechanical pencil is a writing tool superior to any other. Therefore, in celebration of the anniversary of Keeran’s patent, here are seven reasons why I believe the mechanical pencil is a writer’s best friend…

If you’d like to read the rest of the post, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Book Riot

In May this year I became a Contributor to Book Riot. Book Riot is a blog that writes about books, books, and—I don’t know if I mentioned it already—books. For me this is a great thing that has happened. I love books and I have been a reader and follower of Book Riot and their other Contributors for quite a while. Book Riot does a great job and I’m honored to be part of their team.

Whenever I publish a post on Book Riot that is suitable for The Boomerang, I will write about it here and post a link so that you can read it too.

In the meantime, you are welcome to check out my

Book Riot Contributor’s Page

Book Riot Author’s Page

Enjoy!

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.