25 September 2014

The Eight Phases of Writing

If I divide my writing process into phases, phase 1 was reading the 'best bits' out to my wife and discussing plot and characters with my immediate family.
Phase 2 was handing a script to anyone who expressed the slightest interest and asking them for feedback. The most successful example I can recall involves an early draft of Technical Difficulties, my unpublishable SF trilogy. I gave a copy to a friend who was having health problems and found sleeping difficult. A week later, I asked him what he thought of it. 'Perfect' he replied 'just what I needed. I lie in bed with it and I'm asleep before I get to the bottom of the page.' I'm sure there's a market for a product that induces sleep without pharmaceutical intervention but it's not the best recommendation you can get for a novel.
Phase 3 involved writer's circle and writing courses, sharing my work with others who were interested enough to be helpful and kind enough to be gentle.
Phase 4 was a professional editor being paid to give my work a proper critique. This was the most important phase so far. After I got over the initial shock I began to recognise the truth in what he was saying and how my writing style was too distant and matter-of-fact. Also, my main character was a prat. I shouldn't have based him on myself. Another valuable lesson.
Phase 5 was realising that 250,000 words with a prat as the protagonist wasn't going to be salvageable and deciding to write something different and in a different way.
Phase 6 was working with an editor, polishing my work and sending it off to agents and publishers.
Phase 7 was doing the rounds, talking to agents and publishers. I was lucky enough to be able to do this and get a good feel for the state of the publishing industry and what opportunities there were for new authors like me. The conclusion I reached was disappointing. Even if I managed to get a publishing deal, this would involve a couple of year's wait to get my book out there. This was academic, though, as deals for new writers are few and far between.
So, I had what I considered to be a good book that had been well edited. Now what? Self-publish?
The whole self-publishing thing filled me with disquiet. I felt uncomfortable in the absence of someone knowledgeable and independent deciding that my book was worthy of being published.
In the event, I was fortunate enough to be able to become part of a publishing business. I saw an opportunity in the market and approached a best-selling thriller writer with my ideas. To my great good fortune, he agreed to become involved in the business and his extensive experience proved essential. To do it properly, publishing is neither easy nor straightforward, particularly if you want to have both print books and ebooks distributed widely. We needed a first book to try out our business model and I eventually suggested my own. My author read it and agreed it was fine. That was the best moment in my writing career. Phase 8 could begin.

Which phase is your writing in?

Do you recognise the process I've been through?

Please let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

If you share this blog or leave a comment, I'll pick one of you out of a hat to get a free critique of the first twenty pages of your novel. Now that's a risk worth taking.

photo credit: Eric.Parker via photopin cc