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So things have been busy lately. Not busy in the sense that I’ve got mountains of work done, am now half way through to publishing book two (or indeed that children’s book I was working on), but busy in the sense that real life has got in the way. New job, new home, and a new schedule that so far has left little time for anything else other than working and sitting in the sofa each evening, thinking about how much you should be doing with your evening time versus how little you are actually doing (LOTRO, I blame you).

That said, I have managed to get a couple of things done and will get back into the swing of working on projects evening and weekends soon enough. I’ve just organised another Goodreads Giveaway for the months of June and July and, feeling festive, have sorted out a Kindle Countdown Deal for the Spring Bank Holiday. Ironically in order to do this I’ve been shut inside fiddling with graphics and promotional material rather than actually sitting outside enjoying said spring weather, but so far I’m pleased with what I have planned. The phrases I’ve used to make the promotional posters come from the pages of my novel itself; lifted straight off of the New National propaganda posters that Arthur walks past on a regular basis.

Smile and the world smiles with you, read one. A happy worker is a happy person, read another. You have the things in life you deserve, proclaimed the next. And, would you know if your neighbour is housing illegals?

These posters will be released randomly in the run up to the Goodreads Giveaway I’ve organised, hopefully to rally up some excitement, so watch this space. In the meantime I’m hoping to break through book two syndrome, you know – something halfway between blank page syndrome and where the hell do I start syndrome. Don’t panic if you were expecting me to have already drafted book two by now – it’s all there, ready to go and planned on paper – I just want to start it right.

Except then I remembered that book two isn’t book two at all. I don’t need to worry about starting a new novel – it’s a series. And more specifically the second instalment of the series was always intended to be the second half of Logres, married entirely to Volume One. In fact, they’re not even separate: they should be the same book, just divided into two publications. Suddenly I don’t have to worry about new novel syndrome. Now I can just pick up where I left off – start a new chapter – without worrying about the final finished polished package.

Meanwhile I’ll keep working working, will adapt to my new routine and continue to anxiously await reviews from my read-to-reviewers, the people who are offering an honest review in exchange for a free copy of my novel. Yes, I now know I should have organised all of this before my release date way back in December last year, but I’m new at this book-writing book-promotion thing, and really I’m learning as I go along.

Five books ordered for Goodreads Giveaway!

The books are ordered, all five of them, ready for the giveaway and ready for me to sign. I’m still coming to terms with scribbling in books (I was always taught that defacing a book was hugely immoral), but I suppose that scrawling one’s John Hancock doesn’t really count. Then again, my ‘actual’ signature really can’t be counted as anything other than an irregular, scribbled mess.

Not so for my ‘author’ signature though – you know, the one you put in books – because I have been practicing on several scraps of paper to get something different than what I might scribble in a chequebook. Not that I expect anyone to forge said signature if I do include it in the leaves of my own book, but I’m sure that I once read somewhere that having an ‘artist’s’ signature is the thing to do.

What with my free trial of Amazon Prime, the books should all arrive via courier tomorrow; though I have experienced a certain amount of guilt as a result. It seems a tall task to print five copies of my novel, pack them up and then drive them over to their delivery destination in what is effectively 24 hours. I’m fairly certain that I’m not yet making enough sales for The Future King: Logres to be on the ‘print-and-stock-it-just-in-case’ list, so they’re probably being run off the printing press as we speak. With the novelty of being a published author still relatively new, I must admit that I am looking forward to handling so many copies of my ‘brain-baby’ at once.

In other news, I’m awaiting the moment when it’s appropriate to start spreading the word about my signed copy Giveaway on Goodreads (this will be a fairly labour-intensive task, I assure you), and have been struggling through writing the opening of book two (well, technically Volume One: Book Two, as Logres will be published as two instalments). It’s proving a challenge to get right. I think I’m going to have to accept that after all the polishing I did in the editing process of Book One, I can’t expect the prose for Book Two to be immediately as ‘perfect’. It seems I’m going to have to force myself to take my own advice, which is along the lines of, write and don’t stop. No looking back, no thinking it could be better, you can do all that later in your months of editing (which will inevitably take months) – just go for it, ignore that niggling in your head that it’s not quite there yet – ignore, ignore, ignore – until you get your groove back, get back into the flow of things, finish the story – only then can you go back and rewrite the whole not-quite-good-enough book (thrice, probably).

That said, it is natural to want to get the first few scenes absolutely right from the beginning so that you’re setting off at the right tone and pace. It’s exciting to be starting from scratch (despite the blank-page syndrome!), but writer’s block is still trying to unsettle me, and to top it all off a recent move means that I no longer have my old writing desk (everything is now done on the edge of a very cluttered dining room table).

But don’t despair, if you have read Logres: Book One and are looking for an indication of when Book Two will be on the proverbial shelves: the answer is soon, hopefully either the end of 2016 or near the start of 2017. To avoid the risk of getting myself into a George R. R. Martin-book 6-type scenario, I’m not going to promise too much too soon; but do keep checking back for progress, which I assure you I will undoubtedly post (probably in the form of word-count updates) as regularly as it’s worth.

In the meantime keep sharing The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book One with anyone you feel might enjoy it, rate and review it on Amazon and Goodreads, enter my free signed copy giveaway on the 1st of Feb, and have a good, creatively embellished week. I will probably be sat at this dining table writing, then rewriting, and tapping out notes for The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book Two.

Got to No.5 in Arthurian – and a tip or two!

So it’s over! My five day giveaway has come to an end, and downloading has gone quite well. Well enough for The Future King: Logres to shift up a spot and make it to number five in the free Arthurian charts on Amazon (see below)! Now that it’s no longer available for free, it’s been removed from the charts temporarily, and will probably be slotted back in much lower down until the paid sales start to trickle in.

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Giving away your work for free isn’t something that is instinctive, and given the amount of work and time that goes into producing a self-published book it is compelling to have readers actually buy your book, especially after launch. You’ve got to earn back all those hours spent working for nothing but the love of your craft somehow. However, the reality is that a reader is more likely to give less for the work of a complete unknown than someone with an established track record, so despite any reservations I had it suddenly seemed instinctive to take the plunge and give my ebook away for free.

The whole five day thing worked out well (Amazon allows you to supply your ebook for free for a maximum of 5 days out of every 90 days), as it gave me time to build up momentum and get word around. Despite my modest social media following I managed to top 260 downloads, which quite honestly is many more than I was expecting.

If you’re in the same boat as me and you’re considering promoting your book (particularly if you’re about to or have just released it), then I would definitely recommend offering it for free for a short period. Obviously I’ve yet to see what number of reviews my giveaway will ultimately produce, but the more people who read an unknown book (and hopefully like it) the better – it should result in increased circulation and future sales.

If you are considering a free giveaway with zero budget I suggest the following:

  • Prepare some eye-catching graphics that you can present across all your social media channels, a new one each day with a similar look and feel – sort of an e-flyer.
  • If you have WordPress or a Facebook page, spend an afternoon preparing all your promo material and schedule your posts in advance – they’ll appear when you want them to and will give you more time on the day itself for actual book promotion.
  • Ask your friends and family to reblog/share your posts to their friend networks – the more eyes that see your free ebook giveaway the better.
  • Make use of the Goodreads website (or equivalent). I’ve only recently joined Goodreads myself, but there are thousands of members on there who are all looking for their next read – and they all appreciate a free book! Spend time posting in forums to build up your contacts, but more specifically look for groups that have specific threads where you’re encouraged to post news of your new book or free giveaway – I did this and it really helped circulate my ebook and gave me a boost on downloads.
  • If you are on Goodreads you can create an event on your author page (good idea to set one up – just add your self-published book to the site, then declare that you are the author through your regular account – Goodreads will merge your account with your author account for you) and invite your friends. Send out as many invitations as you can, because the people you invite can also invite others to attend the event, maximising exposure.
  • Don’t let things rest for too long. If you’re running your promo for multiple days, advertise, share and keep posting on every single one of those days. Don’t have a day off. Eventually your deal will get noticed by people outside of your regular friend sphere, and someone might be kind enough to share it.
  • Make your offer very clear with exact start and end times, along with instructions on how use the offer. I found that a lot of people were having problems with the Amazon extensions. I was supplying a UK link, which meant that US or French customers couldn’t get the book for free because they were trying to make a purchase through the UK link. In the end I linked to those regions as well and detailed how to find the book when using a different Amazon site (you just change the site extension to your relevant region – e.g. .fr or .com).

Now that the free ebook promotion is over, I’m going to take a short break to a) apply to jobs, and b) continue with my other projects. Book promotion will have to be ongoing, but part of it is now a waiting game to see how those 260+ readers will take to TFK Logres and what sort of reviews they will leave (assuming everyone reads it!). I am hoping of course that they will love it enough to share it, but time will tell, so in the meantime I shall keep my head down and perhaps get back into writing book 2 instead.

Now to end with some more promotion as per my own advice. Though the 5 day deal has ended subscribers of Kindle Unlimited can still pick up TFK Logres for free, whilst it is now also listed at its regular price of £3.99. Still a steal for a 517 page book, no?

10 things I have learned whilst exporting to Kindle

  1. There are many more file types than I thought. .rtf, .htm, .epub… but it’s .mobi that you want. According to Amazon, .mobi is the one.
  2. Making your book available on Kindle isn’t as straightforward as it seems. A quick conversion of your .pdf, and then you’re done? So. I. thought.
  3. Actually, the above requires a) removing all formatting from your original Word document that you exported for print, b) keeping any formatting as simple as possible, c) exporting your Word document as a .htm/.html file, d) running said .htm file through a converter, e) downloading Amazon’s Kindle previewer, f) downloading Amazon’s Kindle reader because the previwer doesn’t preview well, g) realising that your document hasn’t exported quite as you would like and, h) running through all the former to try and suss out where you went wrong.
  4. Oh, and on top of that you’ll read all sorts of blogs and tips about what you shouldn’t do (i.e., forcing a certain font type on your text), but do them anyway, because firstly you don’t know how not to do it, and secondly ‘Normal style’ completely undermines any alternative fonts you have made use of in your book (who doesn’t like Garamond, anyway?).
  5. At several moments, in desperation, you will break from your formatting to look into companies and services which promise to do all the hard work for you.
  6. You will bemoan, ‘but I just want it to look like a book!’. Specifically your book, which you just spent months perfecting in print.
  7. It comes to your attention at some point that perhaps you should have sorted out your Kindle file first, before your book launch, but then you remember that Createspace and Amazon told you that it would be easy.
  8. Perhaps this is easy, you then think, as you export your book for the third time wondering why your TOC (that you made in Word, as you were told), still isn’t working. Why? Why?
  9. After downloading independent software to export your book to .mobi for you, you realise that it is the conversion itself that has broken your TOC, and that you could have just edited your .htm document in Dreamweaver in the first place to fix all the links and the formatting issues instead.
  10. You find random things in the block of your book text (like a hyphen between two paragraphs) and then think, God, has that always been there…? then don’t want to look to double check just in case it is (you’ll do it later, or forget, or a reader will find it for you).

The Future King: Logres, now available on Amazon!

Britain, 2052. In a world of war, disease and hunger the UK stands alone as a beacon of prosperity under an all-powerful ruling party. Life at new school Logres seems promising for fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar, and quickly she falls for the school’s handsome catch, Arthur. When Arthur’s rival, Lancelot, returns after a suspension, her heart is soon divided. Realising that behind the UK’s prosperity lies unspeakable cruelty, Gwenhwyfar sets off on a path to dismantle everything the government stands for. Suspenseful, raw and awash in a dystopian setting, The Future King: Logres is a story of identity and discovery against this backdrop, the second coming of the Arthurian legends.

The Future King: Logres: Volume 1

It’s out! It’s available to buy! Finally, after many hours of proofreading, formatting and double-triple checking my files, The Future King: Logres is live on Amazon (and also on Createspace). Soon to be released on Kindle, I thought I would share with you an extract from the middle of novel to whet your appetites.

She was knocked out of Arthur’s grasp in a second, pushed aside by one scrambling body and then another, and suddenly she was being carried along with a stream of faceless figures, fighting against them, trying to get back.

‘Arthur!’

A tear gas canister propelled past her, splitting the protestors. Someone pushed her hard in the back. Gwenhwyfar didn’t realise she had fallen until she was on the tarmac. Instinctively her hands flew up to protect her head. Someone trod on her leg, another person tripped over her stomach. The shouting was frightening. Grabbing hands pulled her up, and then another protestor was asking if she was all right, helping her away from the scene. When she fought against them they abandoned her.

‘Arthur!’ she yelled again, cutting through the crush. He was tall; she should be able to find him, and at the same time she half-hunted for Gavin, who was tallest. She daren’t jump to try and see better; if she did she would go down again, and this time she might not get back up.

She longed to take her mask off; it was hot and hard to breathe. They had been told to go to Marvin’s meet-up spot if one of them got separated, but with her phone at home she was scared to leave when she knew that Arthur was here somewhere, just a few feet away.

The crowd struggled the only way it could—back into itself. Gwenhwyfar waited, alone and small as the road around her cleared, but when the police charged in with handcuffs and batons she shrank away, knowing she shouldn’t linger. A sudden heat seemed to melt against her with the brightest of lights. Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the support of my family and friends, and I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has already ordered The Future King: Logres and who have supported me throughout this process. If you do buy a copy then I encourage you to leave a review on Amazon – it will help others decide if this book is for them and I would love to hear your feedback!

With TFK published I can now concentrate on other endeavours, and hopefully also continue writing Book II which will be the next in The Future King series.

Dragons, unicorns and ravens

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Finished! I have finished. Finally, my embroideries can sit side-by-side, ready for framing or for other kinds of presentation, looking smart and quite grand. Left, we have the Praed crest, a unicorn with crown; and right, we have the Mackworth crest, the raven’s wing and ermine. Traditionally, heraldry is interpreted right to left. Despite the stark colour difference between the two, I feel they go well together. This makes sense (as they are a considered pair), but I ensured that I used the same colours in my stitched interpretation wherever possible, whilst remaining true to the colour of the crests.

Usually it is the unicorn which is presented as the Mackworth-Praed sigil, as understandably, it is seen as the more prestigious of the two, but I am quite fond of the lesser-used raven’s wing, which seems to vary more due to liberal artistic interpretations. My interpretation is the more traditional presentation however, incorporating the pattern and colours also seen on the family’s coat of arms (which, by the way, will probably be my next craft related project).

As well as embroidering, this week I have been scanning slides taken in 1964 in Abisko, Sweden, by my grandfather. He was a keen conservationist and a great collector, collecting the moths and butterflies that he sought to conserve, and throughout his life he took many slides – around 22,000 of them. Some have come to me to digitalise, in the hopes that the National Trust may be interested in making use of them. It’s taken me four days to digitalise 200 slides – slides which (in these two boxes) consist of common to rare plants, reindeer hair, train stations and a dead lemming. These slides are all being stored on an external hard-drive, which I hope doesn’t crap out at one point or another because as of yet, I have no back up. Perhaps the thing to do would be to post up a few of the more interesting finds as I stumble across them – there are some lovely photos. The ones that interest me most, of course, are the photos of my family, particularly because the house that my father, aunts and uncles grew up in is also the home that I grew up in, too.

Before I scan 50 slides a day, I have been working on the illustrations for my children’s picture book. I thought I would share some sketches below (also viewable on my Instagram account):

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They are, as you can hopefully see, dragons! There are ten of them, and they are all doing the sorts of things that dragons would do in a children’s book. The plan is to sketch them all in their various positions and then compile them for the final drawings – this is my first attempt at a picture book, after all, so I’m still finding my feet. I usually only do separate studies of one or two subjects at a time, but I have, at least, got a strong sense of the style in mind.

Other than that I’m still waiting for news from my proof readers, and resigning myself to the fact that I will probably have to read my book (again) on paper to check (again) for mistakes. If I find any, you’ll probably hear about it here. Until then, or until the next part-time post!

Part-time post

By now you’ve probably sussed the title of this blog in that I’ve been absent for a couple of days. I’m not yet sure at which frequency I will ultimately end up posting at, but as long as it’s higher than zero I feel I will be doing well. I’ve been up to a lot in the past few days, though mostly it’s been the same thing, cutting my novel on paper.

As of yet I’ve no idea how many words I’ve lost, but the experience in itself has been surprising. How, after roughly five re-writes and several more proof-reads are there still errors? Not many, granted, but one missed missing word can be catastrophic enough if not caught – as can typos, punctuation errors – and even worse: whole scenes that just don’t fit with the rest of the narrative.

It’s easy to end up with a scene that doesn’t work, particularly when said scene was written afterwards and inserted in the hopes it would further develop a character. The scene in question continues something that has already been resolved, yet expands the issues raised and gives a good relationship boost to the two main protagonists. As a result it must either be cut or re-written (we’ll see how the word count goes). Three people missed it when reading through it, though one reader said they were just too caught up in the storyline to even notice the discrepancy. I suppose that’s why people hire editors.

And so begins the three-day process (hopefully!) of trawling through my corrections in Word. Each revision always risks new mistakes, much like some sort of wordy vicious cycle, but then I suppose that’s why people hire proof-readers, too. Not something that’s doable without a substantial budget, so I’ll have to make do.

In other news I have been embroidering a bit this week, my family crest for the name Mackworth (a raven’s wing with ermine, see below). This goes with the unicorn head for Praed, though often it’s only the unicorn head which is depicted for both. Heraldry is another one of my interests, and I look forward to seeing these two finished and framed next to one another.

Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015.
Crests for Mackworth-Praed, embroidered by M. L. Mackworth-Praed, 2015. Embroidered with two stitch types: stem stitch and couching, the stitch types used for the Bayeux Tapestry.

That’s all for now, it’s time to steam through this edit. Hopefully afterwards I’ll have a more realistic page count and can finish formatting and start uploading to Amazon. I will keep you updated on any progress. Until the next part-time post!

What I’ve been up to

Today has been busy. Impatient to get some idea of what my book might look like once it is finished, I have been fiddling about with formatting in MS Word. With no clue where or what to start with, I found a very helpful website (http://www.diybookformats.com/mswordtemplates/) and have managed to set my margins, my paper size, choose a font, and even make chapter dividers in photoshop which match the feel of my draft design for my book cover. Being an arty person, I am very excited by this small achievement (it looks really cool).

Less encouraging is my page count. Yes, I know my final draft is not yet done, and having carved through about fifty pages today I am fairly certain that it will end up being about 20 A4 pages shorter than it is now. In my new layout however, the book as it is (140,000 words) is close to six-hundred (5.25 x 8) pages. I had assumed that publishing your own book might give you greater freedom concerning word count, but after doing Amazon’s royalty calculator I have discovered that my novel would cost me 50p per book to print in the UK. Not the 30-70% royalties I had in mind!

Before settling on the decision to self-publish I did approach the crowdsourcing website, Unbound. Set up by writers Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, Unbound purports to let the readers decide which books get published through a process in which authors present pitches on Unbound’s website. These pitches then receive pledges (payments) from future readers. Only the pitches that reach their target (of about £15,000 from what I can tell from their FAQs [please do correct me if I am wrong]) get published.

It sounded perfect. But, of course, to avoid being swamped by endless pitches, Unbound do have a submissions process. Great for the works that make it through, but that means those works have (ironically) been chosen by the publisher. There is an eight-week wait to get to the top of the slush pile, so percentage-wise not many submissions seem to make it past the selection process (my pitch was one of them). Basically Unbound seems to be a publisher with the best of both worlds – no upfront costs to publish their chosen author’s works, because the readers (may or may not) cover that for them.

Crowd-funding in publishing still seems to be relatively new, and whilst exploring my options I did come across several other sites that seemed to adopt the same concept as Unbound, with the difference that any pitch is posted. So far however, these websites only seem to publish e-books with a much lower crowd-sourcing target (for one of these sites the target was £500 per book). Others claimed to be free, but with the surprise of pop up adverts in your novel when anyone reads it, and (let’s be honest) no author wants their masterpiece repeatedly interrupted by weight-loss ads.

Unbound was tempting for me, because at 50% royalties as well as a paid-for investment in your book concerning editing, book cover and proof-reading it sounded like the best deal. It’s worth a go if anyone out there hasn’t tried it already, particularly if you have a large social media following – it’s one of the things they ask you when you apply because the more followers you have the more books you’re likely to sell. It is discouraging to find that yet another creative endeavour essentially boils down to a popularity contest (or, you could argue, a large social network), but this is already endemic in many artistic fields and is hardly new. Followers = distribution = wider market = more sales. It is becoming the case in the fashion industry, with models with higher numbers of followers getting booked for bigger jobs. Free advertising makes perfect sense.

Ultimately, the author knows what will be a good fit for them, but unfortunately for us writers we’re not usually the ones who get to choose. I am excited about self-publishing though. It’s a challenge, a test to see if I can do it. Can I be editor, designer, agent and writer all at the same time? We’ll find out when it’s released. I’ve already announced my intention on Facebook, and though my social network is modest I’ve had encouraging feedback (and great encouragement). They’re probably just pleased that I’m finally taking the initiative to get it out there – I have been harassing them all with novel-related updates over the years.

I’m half-way through my revision. I caught a scene that referenced something that had already been resolved earlier in the book, so I think as editor I am doing well. I will post up artwork updates as I create them and closer to the release. In the words of most people everywhere, ‘let’s do this!’

The Knights of the Round Table

“His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
Sang Sir Lancelot.”

– The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Arthur. Merlin. Camelot. The legends of King Arthur and his knights are known in some form or another to the majority of the population, and have repeatedly been reinvented in television, film, and the written word. Personally I cannot pin-point my first encounter the legends, but assume it must have been through an older text, because when I first saw Jerry Zucker’s First Knight (1995), I thought they had misspelt Sir Lancelot (as far as I was concerned at the time, it should have been Sir Launcelot). It wasn’t until college that I delved deeper into the legends, after reencountering them through my studies of the Pre-Raphaelites (in particular John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott (1888)). First I read Tennyson’s accompanying poem (quoted above), and then I purchased Le Morte d’Arthur from my local Waterstones. After hunting the same store for King Arthur related books, I soon discovered my all-time favourites: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles, and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Each author’s interpretation of the legends is, of course, birthed from the same origins. But each is fundamentally and absolutely different.

What is it about the legends of King Arthur that is so expansive? You could tell a hundred authors or more to retell the legends in their own words, and no two versions would be remotely the same (unless of course they were talking, and intending to be the same). Of course, a writer’s different styles and preferences would affect any such project. But in the case of King Arthur, I think the legend’s richness is compound in the inevitable differences. There are dozens of stories within the framework offered, and hundreds of subplots countable from that. It is just so complex. Who do you focus on? Which stories do you tell? The list of the Knights of the Round Table at its most expansive runs to more than 150. The love stories are ever-changing and entwined. The quests are endless – the Holy Grail, the Questing Beast – authors need only take their pick.

My interpretation of the legends of King Arthur evolved from my own experiences and interests in life, metamorphosing into a hybrid of contemporary concerns and the raw essences of the myths. This modern reflection of the myths is set to span the arc of Arthur’s rise to power in a futuristic depiction of Britain. Book one has been written, and I have read Createspace’s lengthy user agreement and deemed it satisfactory. I am looking into the particulars of self-publishing, such as how to format a book and how to design your own cover. I can’t afford a graphic designer or a proof-reader or editor, so I (like many others) will be taking a risk and doing all of the work myself.

Perhaps it is a good sign that after all these years I am still not bored by my idea. I still believe in the concept, I still love the characters. I can re-read the first and last fifty pages again and again, and still find them interesting. Many stories of King Arthur hint at Arthur and Merlin retiring for the long sleep – destined to reawaken when Britain needs them most. I think this perhaps is one of the most attractive concepts in the legends – the promise of hope in the dark days to come.

The long haul.

When I first started my novel back in 2011, the first draft took me a total of six weeks. I had an idea I’d been chewing over since 2007 with one short attempt to turn it into something physical, but then, at the end of my university semester and with a long summer ahead of me, I dove in head-first and just wrote it.

How long is too long when working over an idea? Us artists are creatures of detail, and such proficiency bestows upon us great patience. Sometimes we get drawn into an idea too much, and find ourselves unwilling (or unable) to comprehend an end. Does such a predicament matter, however, when one is so engaged by an idea that it feels as if every day spent working on it is entirely new? Often it passes without notice; the minutes become hours, the hours whole days. You work, and you forget to eat, drink or sleep. You’re so enthralled by what you are doing that the pang of hunger or stiffness brought about by an uncomfortable chair can do nothing to hinder you.

I have done several drafts of my book up to date, and naturally each revision was packaged with the exclamation, ‘Eureka! This is it!’ and sent off to the most promising literary agents. Of course with each submission came a rejection, and I would soon succumb to the age-old problem of returning to your own work with eyes changed by time. It happened when I painstakingly drew Christopher Columbus’ ship when I was four. Then, it was a masterpiece! Now, not so much.

A novel, unlike a sketch or drawing however can be edited, and so I embarked on making it perfect. Each time shorter or longer, and every time (I would like to think) better, stronger. My very fast draft in 2011 was written with the estimate I would then spend about six months editing. Then it would be ready to publish. Of course.

Four years later I am on my… fourth? real, complete restructure and rewrite. I’ve read the blogs, I’ve seen the news. I know that most people’s first projects get shelved until they are rich or famous enough through other works to get them published retrospectively. Does it change things if I say that this isn’t my first attempt at a novel? My first idea has been shelved without much input, perhaps for another day.

I think, however, we all have some idea of what works and what doesn’t. We all read and we all have things which we can compare our own work to. My latest draft, I have decided, is going to be my last. I will make sure I am happy with it, and then I will move on. These days debut authors’ options are expanded by the possibility of self-publishing. Now our first novels can be released into the market as they are, as we intended.

This project is a series, or it will be when I’m done with it. After researching the available avenues self-publishing is becoming a real consideration. I have had interest for my idea from two reputable agents, including full manuscript requests and even one revise and resubmit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for them. But I now have a better book as a result, and am less anxious about getting it out there without the traditional route and safety net of an editor or publisher.

I have half my novel left to edit, and then it’s back to proof-reading. Then I think I’ll take the plunge. I’ll let my first novel be one of the ones self-published as it is, and as I intended.