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Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Broad Overview of my Writing Journey so far.

Part 1

Way back in the Spring of 2010 - my third and final year of studying for a degree in Classical Civilisation at Warwick University - I was struggling to write my dissertation. I mean, really struggling. One day I was so frustrated I wanted to cry and delete the whole thing because I thought it was utter, worthless tosh. 

Then I thought, do what two of your friends are doing, and write a story.  (Two of my friends have excellent novel in the works and I can't wait to read more of them). Refresh yourself and prove to yourself that you like writing and are at least passable in the art. 

So I did. I started a novel called "The Secrets of Nethiaria: The Magician's Book", originally intended to be a trilogy, but ended up being a single tome. I started it in March 2010 and maybe wrote about eighty pages between then and August 2012. (That including writing the beginning maybe about five times!) At a certain point, I got frustrated. The book wasn't going fast enough because I had very few opportunities to write, and I was feeling more and more like writing was going to be a definite part of my future, somehow. 

So, after a lot of thought and prayer, I asked my then-fiance during the Spring of 2012 whether he would mind me taking a year out of work in order to write and do some charity work. Bless him dearly, he said yes. 

So, from September 2012 I started writing in earnest. I gave myself a personal target of at least 2,000 words a day. I'm happy to say that, one or two 1,000-word days aside, I did write at least 2,000 words everyday. (My personal best is about 7,000 in one day. Safe to say I only came close to hitting that once more, at around the 6,000 word mark). 

One thing you're never told when you begin to write a book is how damn hard it gets after the honeymoon period. You start so well, the words are flowing through your fingertips like a gushing river being fed by Niagara Falls....and then someday it's like Niagara Falls dried up. Some days I was switching to YouTube every three or four sentences to watch Ellen videos. And yet other days it was like my fingers had to be fed energy drinks in order to keep up with my brain. 

But finally, in January 2013, I finished the first draft. Hallelujah. I then re-read, re-wrote, and edited a number of times, and finally I thought it was time to send to agents. 30 agents and 30 rejections, but I'll go into that in another post.  

I really, really enjoyed writing this book, and I'm excited to put it on Kindle this Spring. I wanted to write good, old-fashioned fantasy: epic quests and landscapes, good versus evil, and some kick-ass characters. I hope I achieved that! 

I should add, another reason why I started to write this particular story was because, after coming out of my Twilight-mania, (mostly thanks to my amazing friend, Jennie), I was so sick of seeing vampire fiction vampire fiction vampire fiction dominating the teenage market. I wanted to write something healthy, something where female characters were not there to serve their male counterparts' dark, twisted desires and obsessions. I wanted to write something that did not involve a love-triangle. I hope I wrote something in which, major evil character aside, the characters were well-rounded with bits of good and bad in all of them, because that's what human nature is like. 

Part 2

Almost immediately after sending "Nethiaria" to agents, I started work on my next novel, "X&Y". This I actually polished and put on Kindle before "Nethiaria", mainly because YA Dystopian fiction is a huge trend right now and I wanted to get in there before it blew over! 

This novel was inspired by a Year 10 R.E. lesson I was supporting a couple of years ago. (I was, and am now, a Teaching Assistant.) We were studying Genetic Engineering and it scared me that we have the technology to genetically alter children in the womb. It's a controversial topic that I won't go into here, but basically I was horrified at the thought of 'designer babies'. Thus, the logical conclusion (in my head) was to write a book about it, a book where society has gone mad on it. 

I also very deliberately chose to write the story from the point of view of a character who was from an incredibly wealthy and powerful family, because - correct me if I'm wrong - but I've not seen that done yet in YA Dystopian fiction. If I had written it from the point of view of an ordinary, poor character, it would inevitably have drawn comparisons with, oh I don't know, Katniss Everdeen? Katniss is brilliant but I didn't want to recreate her, and I don't think "X&Y" would have worked with a character from that kind of background.  

If you're interested, by the way, you can find it here!

I finished X&Y in about March 2013 and spent some time polishing and sending off to agents. Fewer, this time, but still rejected. But then I discovered Amazon Kindle, who provided me with the space to distribute my work to many people! (Again see separate post).

Part 3

After I finished X&Y, for some reason (I think it was around the time my husband and I watched the entire Harry Potter movie collection over a few weeks) I started watching loads and loads of interviews with J. K. Rowling, who is an even more amazing and inspiring person than I thought. This was around about the time that Amanda Bynes was in the news a lot, seemingly having a sad, strange breakdown in public - or, at least, the tabloids made it public. The inevitable commentary came through about child stars being ill-equipped to deal with fame and it coming to a head at some point in their early twenties. These two things in my mind combined and I wondered what it would be like to be a child star, not from movies but from books? This resulted in starting a story (as yet unfinished) called "Ladder To The Stars". I'm about 130 pages in but - confession time - I think it's going to go on hold for a while. I honestly have no idea where I'm going with it, or what the point of it is yet, and there are other stories I want to work on. 

I had a rule, when writing 'Nethiaria' that I wouldn't start another story until the current one was finished. I'm kinda breaking that rule now, but I think it's okay, as long as I'm kept accountable. It was immensely useful during my year off and kept me disciplined and focussed during the most frustrating parts of 'Nethiaria', but I've just had an idea for another fantasy epic which I am really excited about writing, and think I can complete a least a first draft of it before the summer. I haven't been this thrilled about the prospect of writing another story for a while now so I want to capitalise on this while I can. 

Okay. This is a huge post, and I'll be impressed if you get all the way through on one sitting, but it's been good for me to process and assess where I am now - plus, who knows? It could actually help someone. #dream.

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