I recently passed the 100,000 word mark on my current writing project, which seemed like a good point to take a moment and review the state of my writing so far. I’ve been writing seriously (as in stories with a beginning, middle and end, rather than random dabbling) for perhaps three or four years now, resulting in two complete novels and two incomplete.
The Plains of Kallanash A 220K word behemoth (so it’s epic fantasy, it’s meant to be big, all right?), finished in first draft form in May 2013, left to brew for several months, critiqued in part on Scribophile (my online critique group) and currently with beta readers. I’ve set a deadline of mid-June for beta feedback, then I’ll do a final revision phase, with the objective of getting it to my proofreader by mid-July. The cover art is scheduled for early June, so after a final pass for typos in August, it should be ready to publish in September.
I’m already excited at the prospect of putting the book out there. Getting responses from readers is always the fun part of writing a book, especially if they get as swept up in the characters and their story as I was when I wrote it, and I’ve already had some very positive responses, which is always encouraging.
Unlike many first-time self-publishers, I have no desire to make a living from my writing. I’ve reached a stage in my life where I have enough money to pay the bills, and the leisure to pursue a hobby that interests and absorbs me, so getting the book out there for people to find and read and (hopefully) enjoy is the only objective. I’ll offer it at a low price for the first month (probably 99c), and then increase to a reasonable but not excessive price, considering the length (say $3.99).
What are my expectations? I’ve read enough of self-publishers’ experiences to know that the only way to sell large numbers of books is to constantly promote and to keep churning out books. I’m not prepared to do either of those. Promotion is soul-destroying and a huge distraction – I’d rather be writing. As for churning out more books – I do have more in the pipeline, but I can’t write fast enough to benefit from that. So they’ll go out when I feel they’re good and ready – maybe one or two a year, no more than that. Given all that, I’ll be happy to sell fifty copies in the first year. 100 copies would be lovely.
The Fire Mages This is 150K words of a completely different story from Kallanash, although set in another part of the same world. It’s a much more conventional story – teenage girl discovering her powers, a coming of age tale told in first person which might even fit the YA category – and in many ways (being my second attempt at a novel) is a much better effort. It’s been brewing for several months, but I recently reread it over a wet weekend and it held up pretty well, considering its first draft status. I shall soon start posting chapters on Scribophile for critiquing, and will hopefully be able to publish it in spring of 2015.
The Mages of Bennamore This is still under construction, the work that recently passed the 100K word mark. This is different again, another part of the Brightmoon world, but with elements from both Kallanash and Fire Mages (characters, events and artifacts), although it is a stand-alone novel. The main character is a forty year old woman, so I have no idea how any audience for the two previous works would take to it. I seem incapable of repeating the same formula. That’s the beauty of self-publishing, but if I wanted to build a fanbase and sell lots of books, this is assuredly NOT the way to do it. I’m almost at the climax of this, and it’s giving me a bit of bother, plotwise. Hopefully it will be finished in the next month or so.
The Incursors Sigh. The difficult eldest child. This was my first attempt at a proper story (rather than rambling screeds of backstory, only of interest to me), and it’s currently sitting, neglected and unfinished, at around 170K words. I love the characters and the story, but there is so much backstory (1.2 million words of it) that it threatens to sink the entire enterprise. I also have the problem that the other Brightmoon stories, written later, have cast certain elements of the world’s history in stone, so that The Incursors is now out of sync. I will eventually get back to this, because the setting and characters are my favourites, but it will be a mammoth effort.
Other ideasYes, plenty more, enough to keep me going indefinitely, should the fates permit. The Dragon’s Egg is another coming of age story, although with a difference. Axandrina is a direct follow-on from The Fire Mages, about the daughter of one of the characters and is yet another coming of age story. Plus there are several other less well formulated ideas swirling around in my disorganised brain. The nice thing about inventing an entire world is that there are always new places to discover, so I don’t expect to run out of material any time soon.