It seems like it has taken forever to get from the point of conceiving the idea to here - where I'm now just about ready to publish my first novel. In reality, it's been really quite a quick process relatively speaking. Some authors have been known to spend literally decades working on their tomes. All up, the whole process for this first novel has taken about a year to date, but I'm just a few days away now from hitting the go button.
Over the past year, I've not only written the novel but I've also had to learn how the entire process works towards the publish milestone. It isn't nearly as straightforward as I first thought, and there have been tears along the way. In some ways, you could argue I started at the end and worked my way backwards.
Probably the most significant milestone was the very first one - overcoming that initial inertia of actually converting the idea into action. Just sitting down at the keyboard and making a start was probably the most daunting part of the entire process. Why? That's hard to explain, but I think it essentially comes down to self-doubt, lack of motivation or just plain laziness.
Once I actually made a start, however, it was plain sailing from that point. The entire manuscript was complete in about 6 weeks. Of course, I use the word complete quite incorrectly, not that I thought as much at the time. With the benefit of hindsight, complete for me really only meant that the story was laid down and I had written all the chapters. Everything from that point onward was a process of learning how to become a better writer and making incremental improvements on the manuscript. There's a lot involved in writing and perfecting a novel. Here are some of the steps I took:
Friends and family
Brimming with excitement, I wanted to show off my masterpiece (another word used incorrectly at the time) and showed it to various friends and family members. The reception was positive and this did 2 things. Firstly, it gave me a confidence boost to continue. There’s nothing more uplifting to your ego than someone telling you just how great your writing is. Secondly, and rather unfortunately, it lulled me into a false sense of security. It made me think the manuscript was much better than it really was.
Before I started writing a single word, a very good friend of mine came over and we brainstormed some ideas. Lotti was actually going to help me with some illustrations for some of the characters in the book and it was the process of describing what they looked like that started to bring the overall story together. Not everything we discussed made it into the manuscript but this is where the world of Forestium actually came to life. With Lotti churning out some rough sketches, I set to work at the keyboard over the next few weeks and began writing the story.
Churning out the chapters
In the case of Forestium, the story developed pretty much as I wrote. There was no clearly defined end to the story right up to about two thirds of the way through. In fact, one of the problems I kept struggling with was what to write next and have to progress the story. The creative juices were flowing, however, and I eventually brought the whole things to a resolution and tied all the loose ends. I finally had a completed manuscript.
Selling my work of art
So thrilled was I with my masterpiece, I let my enthusiasm run away with myself and proceeded to contact literary agents and publishing houses. How could they possibly turn me down with such a work of art, right? That was a bit of a wake-up call as countless rejections arrived one after the other. Frustratingly, nobody was giving me a specific reasons. I can’t say I blame them. Some of them receive literally hundreds of submissions a week and it’s just not practical to engage with any one of the self-professed best-selling authors in any meaningful way.
Using a number of online resources, I found some total strangers willing to read through the manuscript. Some did it for free but others I paid for. It was at this point that I started to get actual feedback that was, shall we say, closer to the truth? This also did 2 things for me. Firstly, my confidence took a serious blow. What do you mean this bit is crap and that bit needs work? How dare you! Didn’t you see how well my Mum thought it was? Of course, I had been kidding myself up to this point. I don’t think I was prepared for some of the comments I received – constructive though they were. Although my ego was taking a beating, the second, and by far most important, thing to happen during the beta reading process was that I started to take the feedback and use it to improve the manuscript. I didn’t want to dwell on the ego bruising. If I did, I might never have progressed. This was the turning point. This is when I started to make real improvements to the writing as I slowly took each beta reader’s comments and fixed whatever the problems were. I did this over the course of several months and this resulted in a manuscript that was, finally, ready to be published…or so I thought.
Armed with my now completed work of art, I set about promoting the soon to be published works by engaging a number of bloggers and reviewers of this genre. The idea was to have some reviews lined up ready for the big launch. Several reviewers agreed but one in particular contacted me to suggest the manuscript might benefit from some professional editing before he reviewed it. This was a very polite way of saying that the book still wasn’t ready for prime time. After some constructive back and forth, I agreed and we have spent the past few weeks collaborating on making the final improvements. That process is just completing.
All throughout this process, I’ve been busy with a number of other activities in the background. These include engaging with an illustrator to produce the artwork for inside the book and for the web-site. Another good friend of mine has helped me to create audio clips for the various animals. I’ve worked tirelessly on this web-site and have been slowly adding to its functionality – including this blog. I’ve been researching promotional activities, like book reviews, book signings, press releases, promotional giveaways, etc. The cover art was commissioned and that should be ready in a few days. The ISBN numbers for the various version of the book (print versus eBook, for example) have been procured and I will be uploading the book’s meta data to the various book registry databases. The process has seemed endless and there’s still lots to do even after the book is published.
In hindsight the actual writing of the book initially was one of the easiest parts of the overall process. It has certainly been an education but I’m happy to have arrived at this point, as I will finally be able to call myself a published author.