2015 - the Year of an Aspiring Author in Review Part 1

Despite the title of this blog entry I'm pretty much going to recap 2015 for a while, and maybe sneak backwards into 2014. You see it was late summer 2014 when I decided to give writing another go. I'd written short stories, articles and reviews (columns and individual) for years up to 2010 then had a head moment. I stopped writing completely for four years - stopped reading fiction too.

I'm still not much of a fiction reader even now although do read a lot of non-fiction. I guess something in me changed. Anyway so I decided to write novels; not something I'd done before. The fiction I'd written was all short length stuff. Not anymore. Now I was going to get seriously into long form.

So I wrote Adam's Death - a horror novel. Somewhere in there is a decent idea for a horror novel. It's in the Shaun Hutson territory as far as gore goes - maybe even approaching Wrath James White. It would need a total rewrite but it could come good at some point. I'm not going to get to it because of a comment I'll make when discussing novel 3 below. This was finished around December 2014 (revision and all) and ran to 100,000 words some of which should definitely go.

Anyway moving on. I then write a science fiction novel called The Day Before Tomorrow that, despite its title is not a time travel story. When the idea came to me I scrambled round thinking Frederik Pohl must have written. He hadn't. Something in the same rough ballpark but different enough to not put me off. 85,000 words later and it too was finished.

So we're now in early 2015 and I've written two novels. So I then take stock and find what? Well, I find I've written two novels and they are both crap. I mean it. They were dreadful. Okay, maybe I'm being a little harsh. The ideas were fine. I'd just not done a good job writing either.

So I put them aside, definitely not considering submitting either to agent or publisher; for which they should all be eternally grateful. But I did work a couple of things out. The first is I did have the dedication to start the process of novel writing and get through to the end. The second was I knew why the first two were bad and I had an inkling of how to make them better.

So armed with this I try again. This time the result was Mr. Stinky; another horror novel - length 96,000 words. This time, I think I got it right. The few folk who were kind (or dumb) enough to not run away screaming when I suggested they act as test readers seemed to think so. I got a few comments back, made a few adjustments and then started to submit it out and about.

It has had some positive feedback. One agent actually took the time to comment on the story and the characters which was really cool of her. Her email ended with a pass though but with a full reason. Horror isn't selling. Debut author horror really isn't selling. So although she enjoyed it she wouldn't be able to represent me.

This is the reason I alluded to earlier as to why I'm not going to go back and rework Adam's Death any time soon. Why bother if there's no chance of a sale.

We're now at the end of May BTW when this email arrives. I think it was about the 10th or so rejection for the novel but the first with any substance. now even if the other nine (-ish) had all turned it down because they thought it was garbage that one person said horror is a no go for sales convinced me I should not be concentrating on horror.

Not the best of news as I had two separate horror novels part written at the time (one had stuck and so I jumped on a second idea). Between them there was more than 60,000 words on paper. Maybe one year they would come to bear fruit but for now it was time to shelve them and think of something else.

The next day we were driving to Holland, to a town called Oosterhout which is a great place BTW, for a week's holiday so I had time to come up with something else. The week was well spent. Firstly Holland is a fantastic place to just exist for a week if you're anything like me. I like culture. I like architecture and like experiencing different places. So I came back full refreshed with creative batteries recharged.

And more importantly I came back with a notebook (Dutch word BT is notitieboekje) with seventy or so pages covered in notes. I had the whole plot - far more than I needed - detailed, characters, the lot.

So I started writing it early June. By the end of July one novel, an alternate Earth story called Against the Fall of Empire, 122,000 words in length, was written and revised to third draft. It flew out of me. I sent the fist submission for it out on July 27th. Four months ago I even had one agent request the manuscript of the whole novel. My first such request. You can probably guess how happy that email made me.

Nothing has come of it unfortunately. I've not had an email back so there is still hope I guess but I am imagining it is a lost cause now. It did make me think I was maybe getting something right with my writing. I got through the first stage. Go me!

I started writing the sequel to Against almost immediately. My Dutch notebook now contained far more plot, enough for books two and three and maybe four. So What Remains When the Dust Settles was underway. Only I thought I was maybe being a little irrational. You see, much as I wanted to carry straight on writing the stories of these characters and this world I'd created the logical side of my brain took over.

I am writing partly because I want to sell one or more novels to a publisher. I want to hold a physical book knowing it exists because I sat at this desk tapping these keys. So the more books I have written surely then the better my chances. So, painful as it was, I put the Against book 2 away (plot fully written down should the miracle happen and someone buy book 1) and I started a new story.

Details of that story and what followed will be in the next blog entry. I didn't want to make this too long.

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