I’m very pleased to announce that from now on I will be a regular contributor to the Brit Writers blog. This is a new site, full of great posts by authors about everything to do with the writing process. Rest assured, I’ll still be posting here too, but some of my posts will be shared on both sites.
I was asked to introduce myself in my first post for Brit Writers, but what I wrote turned into an account of quite how long it can take to write a book.* This is my piece:
The Long Road
I decided I wanted to write books when I was 13. I kept thinking I should probably aim at a proper career, and made forays into art and pottery (that was my teenage idea of a proper career – ha!), libraries and then computing – but really all I wanted to do was write books.
I reached my mid 30s, life hadn’t turned out the way I’d imagined it would, and I thought, Why don’t I just do it? What have I got to lose? I found myself the only part time web design job in the country, reconciled myself to living on twigs and acorns for a year or so, and sat down to write.
That was almost five years ago. I had no idea quite how large an undertaking it would be. I said I’d give it a year. That’s how long I’d calculated my meagre savings could supplement part time wages. But right then the global economy went kerblooey, and my cost of living shot up. I had to readjust those sums.
I just about made it work (by doing lots of overtime), but by the end of the year I still hadn’t finished the first draft of my novel, Darklands. I continued doing lots of overtime, and found the means to keep going. There were times I despaired, and thought it was never going to work. There were of course times I thought, ‘I can’t write. What was I thinking?’
But I kept going, and after two years I had what I called the first draft (it was actually the fourth or fifth) ready to nervously hand out to my beta readers.
They were overwhelmingly positive, but the few criticisms and suggestions they had really helped me hone the manuscript into the best it could be. I spent another year on editing until I was absolutely satisfied with it.
I then spent a year collecting rejection letters from agents and publishers – a couple of personal, encouraging ones, but mostly printed slips.
I decided to look into this ebook self publishing marlarkey. I was dubious. I was wary. But in the end I thought, I’ve spent four years on this book, I might as well see if anyone wants to read it.
I published Darklands as an eBook exactly a year ago, and followed that up with a paperback earlier this year. I’ve spent the past year amateurishly dabbling in the dark arts of marketing (while also trying to write my new novel). This is possibly the hardest and most soul crushing part of the whole process. The book is finished. It’s available. It’s got good reviews. “Build it, and they will come,” right?
Wrong. Approximately 173,609** other writers of young adult fantasy are also attempting to promote their excellent five star novels. How do you make your book stand out from the crowd? That’s the million dollar question. I’m still trying to figure it out. If I hit on any great strategies I’ll keep you informed.
In the meantime what can we do but keep writing, keep striving to do the best we can, keep promoting, keep hoping…
Emma Woodcock is the author of Darklands, a young adult fantasy novel concerning parallel worlds, changelings, golems, a handsome but diabolical King, a shy and geeky protagonist, and some foul tempered unicorns.
* Apparently some people can write books in the evenings and at weekends. I don’t know how they do that. I could make myself sit at my computer when I got home from work at 7pm, but my brain would be mush, and all that would dribble out of it would be nonsense. Also, my partner might start to forget what I look like.
** source: I made it up.