Many years ago, I wrote a middle grade story about a boy named Brave and a girl named True. I’d always dreamed of seeing my work up on the shelves, and when a small Australian press published my book, it was an exciting moment for me. Unfortunately, that’s as far as things went. Without much-needed promotion and marketing, the book was swept away, down the Amazon “river,” and I didn’t have the time or bandwidth to build a raft to save it. 

But the story of Brave and True never left me. As time went by, I kept thinking of ways I could improve it and the different directions I could take it in. It grew more complex in my mind, and I realized that if I wanted to dive deeper into the story and give it the kind of nuanced layers it deserved, I’d need to rewrite it for an older audience. 

I’ve always relished a challenge, so I got the rights back from the small press and picked up the Brave and True concept again, ready to turn it into a series for YA readers. 

Finding the perfect editor

I knew that transforming a middle grade book into a young adult story would require a big rewrite. I also realized that because I’d lived with this concept for such a long time, I had to get fresh eyes on my new manuscript. I needed someone to spot where I was going wrong, edit away inessential fluff, and point out where I needed to add more detail. I could’ve asked a friend, but even an author friend wouldn’t be able to approach my book with the same scrutiny that a good editor would bring to the table.

It’s always a risk to trust a stranger with a story so close to your heart. I wanted someone who would get me, someone who loved fantasy stories as much as I did, who was younger than me but wouldn’t be scared by my ancient ways. In a nutshell, I was looking for someone who could relate to me as the kid who would rush home to grab a snack, curl up in a comfy chair, and put my nose in a book. 

Since I intended to write the series for the US market, I would also need an American editor with a keen sense of language and who wouldn’t be put off by the fact that I lived at the other end of the world! 

It was a tall order, but I was determined to find the perfect editor. 

Three books Jasmine Gower previously worked on
Some of Jasmine Gower's past projects

I searched through Reedsy with a narrowed-down list of requirements and landed on Jasmine Gower. After much emailing back and forth, I was confident she would be a good fit for my book. Despite our age difference, she’d grown up reading some of the same fantasy books I had. She was exactly who I needed to help bring my story to a new audience. 

A new main character?

At first, I found the editing process nerve-wracking. It was like turning in an assignment to a new teacher and I wasn’t sure if Jasmine would “get it.” Would she understand 13-year-old Brave’s quirky sense of humor? Would she be able to follow the transformation in 17-year-old True’s bossy nature as she goes from entitled brat to shapeshifting warrior? Would she understand the world I’d built, tree-by-tree and magical-creature-by-magical-creature? 

My worries were put to rest after I received the first round of developmental edits. Jasmine’s feedback was so thorough that I knew she had an in-depth understanding of these characters who, let’s face it, had become like friends. Suddenly, it felt like I could ask any question, no matter how bizarre, and she’d understand the implications. 

One key thing Jasmine pointed out was children’s books (including YA) tend to have heroes that are a few years older than their target readers. When I was writing for an MG audience, it made sense that 13-year-old Brave got the most page time of the pair. But now that I was aiming for a teen audience, it became glaringly obvious that 17-year-old True’s point of view disappeared three-quarters of the way in. I would need to rebalance my story to center True as a strong and vital protagonist.

It seems obvious now, but I’d spent so long with the story that I didn’t spot this until Jasmine pointed it out. I was so grateful to have that bigger picture. On her advice, I added more chapters from True’s POV, giving readers greater insight into her life before she entered the mage academy and the parental pressures she experienced as a young woman growing up in a conservative, wealthy family. The extra complexity fleshed out the novel beautifully and made me love True even more. 

Endings are hard

I struggled with how to conclude The Dangers of Being Brave & True. With the need to turn this book into the beginning of a series while staying within the word count expected of a YA fantasy book, I found it hard to create a satisfying ending. Jasmine took all my tangled threads and unwound them with her structural advice and practical suggestions. Contrary to my beliefs, she told me that the book actually needed more breathing room to smooth out the pacing and that standard word counts were more suggestions than rules.

Part of our work to open out the book was adding more detailed descriptions throughout, but the other part of it was, in Jasmine’s own words, “more wind-down time after the final battle to wrap up some loose ends and give the characters more space for emotional closure.” This kind of cool down, while challenging to write, was essential for the satisfying ending I was after. It was absolutely what I needed to hear. I dove in and added chapters that dealt with Brave’s reactions to his new surroundings and what life might be like for my protagonists in this strange new world going forward. 

Adding these moments gave the reader space to take a breath and pause while opening up possibilities for the future. That easy-going, slower pace wrapped up the threads of the story nicely and left readers with a wonderful conclusion while still allowing me to hint at the excitement to come in the rest of the series. And it seems like readers are really enjoying it! 

A positive review for The Dangers of Being Brave and True

Since I self-published The Dangers of Being Brave & True last year, I’ve received so many reviews that have truly warmed my heart. Although the process was a learning experience in itself, one thing I could be completely confident about was the fact I had a really good story, a well-balanced structure, thought-out characters, and an immaculately proofread manuscript. With Jasmine’s help, I feel very proud of what I’ve created and now have the determination to write the next five books in my series.


This book was made with help from Jasmine Gower

Professional editor on Reedsy