My first two novels, in some ways, were experiments. No, maybe that’s not the right word. Learning experiences comes closer to describing the processes and, in some ways, intent. Writing and self-publishing the first novel fulfilled the bucket-list task, the second proved to myself I could, and have a desire to, continue pursuing novel creation.
I like to say that life is about living*, a shorthand statement to summarize that I would rather try at something and fail than not have tried at all for the fear of failure. Believe me, I get that fear. I have been ensnared by that fear. It is paralyzing and debilitating, sapping the strength of the desire to try something new, fearful that others may reject the effort.
Writing is one way I counter that fear because I make many, many mistakes as a writer. On the surface that may seem like a contradiction, until realizing that growth is attained through mistakes. When exercising, muscles are torn down and built up. The Internet is filled with examples of famous success stories that are built upon failures. I wanted to learn the process of writing a novel, and to do so I prepped myself to fail repeatedly, not because I had no faith in my skills, rather that I believed in my ability to learn.
True self-publishing is great in that you do everything yourself, from drafting to developmental editing to content editing to layout to cover design to ISBN procurement and so on. Starting from scratch with Ingram Spark about five years ago, I have learned may lessons, enough to fill a book (there’s an idea). Now, as you patiently wait for the main theme of this post, I am in the process of one such lesson – the developmental editing.
If I were asked to pinpoint the most significant mistake I made in creating and publishing my first two novels, I’d state without hesitation they are too complicated. I tried to create a complicated afterlife environment as a vehicle to tell a grand story of temptation, forgiveness, and redemption spanning a century while addressing other heavy issues like abortion, depression, and communism. That’s a lot of stuff to cram into 160,000 or so words. I love the world I created, but cringe at the complexity. Lesson learned.
How could I have averted that? By engaging a professional developmental editor. When drafting my current novel, Leaving Darkness, I defined two changes from the start. First, the story would be simpler and the message more focused, and second I would engage another set of eyes, those who have done this many times before, to review the draft for continuity, story development, and just plain readability.
About two weeks ago I sent the draft manuscript to the developmental editor and three beta readers. I will likely receive feedback from the editor in two weeks, and the beta readers around the same time. For now, I wait and wonder. Is the story too complicated? Does it make sense? Is it fun to read? Is the message I want to convey received? I will summarize the results of the experience in a future post. For now, all I can do is wait.
*John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”