When I first began writing novels I was driven by story. I just had to keep on writing. Before one story ended my mind was whirring away on the next, and the next. I will be the first to admit that my early work is badly written, I even had a website called badlywritennovels.com (the single ‘t’ was deliberate). I have left them, The Rising, 3 Phaze and Lagoon, in their original state. Why? Because I no longer write like that. To edit them now would require a complete re-write which I am not going to do as I have other things I want to do. I see them as a reference point, the writing swamp where I began the long journey to the writer I am today.
Later books have been lost: A world lies bleeding and a King of Kings have both disappeared into the ether. Characters from King of Kings however have surfaced in Emun of Mor, which was published by Vamplit Publishing until the publisher ceased trading. Emun is another book which I now give away.
Emun of Mor was the first of my works to pass through editorial hands. Later, it was read by a writer friend who made suggestions to help improve the story, some of these I implemented though not all as the story was becoming to linear. This process did lead to do something unthinkable before: I cut the story into pieces. Instead of being 150 000 words I cut it down to 80 000. Then I took a knife to it and began to prune the story further. Then I wrote in all of the story which I had left out to meet the original word count.
Now I had a story which I felt to be what I wanted so I invested in grammarly.com as a pair of digital eyes to help me weed out more errors. I must have gone crazy at some point as I put a sample on Createspace.com in the hope of some feedback. What I got was the most constructive comment that I have ever had on the internet. I have no idea who the person was but their advice was absolutely bang on. After making the required adjustments I ran the text, now sitting at around 95 000 words back through Grammarly and fixed as much as I could.
Then, more madness. I went in search of an editor. A real editor. I scoured the internet, searched site after site, blog after blog until I got a single reply. I have never been any good at blowing my own trumpet, I just do not know how to do it with open honesty. I had sent out simple emails to a number of potential editor who all replied with ‘read my site’. I had, that’s why I sent the email! What I was really looking for was a real down to earth person who understood fantasy and what makes it tick. That and a price I could afford.
Several months went by while I finished getting the text to my best when I got the reply from Stephanie Jane Dagg. She like the sample which she had read and wanted to work with me. I stared at the screen in utter disbelief, somebody liked what I had written (and wanted more). We negotiated a price which the good lady cut to the bone and then let me pay in instalments! Wow! And Wow again! Three months later it was all done. Edited, tweaked, edited again and then given a last once-over. There may still be the oddity that got through but I know that this time I need not feel ashamed about the final condition of my novel.
A couple of things remained to be done: the cover blurb, the cover and a synopsis.
For all of my other titles I did my own cover art but not this time. Having put so much effort into the text I was not about to throw it all away on the cover. It was then I discovered a hidden talent in the family. My niece, Sarah, is one talented girl. I sent Sarah a chapter from the novel from which I felt I could make a cover. When Sarah sent me the pencil sketch I was stunned. It was so different to what I had envisioned. So much better than I could have hoped. The next step was the ink over which highlighted some of the details lost in the scan of the pencil sketch. When Sarah sent over the final art I knew I had that ‘something’ different I needed. A cover which screamed ‘Young adult’ more than anything I could have ever scrape together.
The next item on the list was the cover blurb.
This is when you discover just how much knowledge your editor has about your story. Stephanie gave a set of guidelines: bullet points (she got to know my abilities real quick) to help point me in the right direction. It took me a couple of goes to get close before Stephanie stepped in and rejigged it all. I cannot thank the lady enough for all of her help. Now, all that remained was to write the synopsis. And it still remains to be done until this day. So I will not be approaching any traditional publishers just yet.
At the end of it all, what you end up with a better tool set with which to work. I no longer make the same mistakes I used to make (I make others instead). I have slowed down, become more thoughtful in my writing and walk through fights scenes and other events in my mind. I am more aware of what every character is doing in each scene and what impact simple things might have upon their futures. I savour the victories and consider the pain. I share in every success and thrill in the chase of dragons.
To all those who are setting out on the path to writing I cannot emphasise enough the importance of giving it your best. Never settle for ‘that’ll do’ when your best is what the readers deserve. Giving it your best is what is best for you as writer. You will grow faster as a writer the more respect your readers. At the end of the day it’s the readers who matter. We as indie writers will only do harm to our industry if we do not give it our best at all times.