Better Late Than Never

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When my upcoming second novel is published next week it will be almost a year late. An argument can be made that the delay was avoidable, but the process of writing The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow was such a valuable learning experience that I wouldn’t change how things ultimately panned out. It was journey with numerous bumps on the road, yet the obstacles I had to overcome resulted in a novel that I feel is even better than the one I had initially envisaged. In this update I want to give you some insights into the making of my new book.

The journey began in autumn 2017 while my first novel, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, was still competing in the third Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest run by the author, Mark Lawrence. By this time I had already made the decision that the book would no longer be a standalone novel but rather the first book of a series, so I began writing. Little thought was required on my part as to the plot of the sequel. The first book had a minor story thread that wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things, but served the purpose of providing background history for the fictional world, as well as one of my protagonists. Readers who pick up a copy of The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow will encounter a story that picks up this plot thread, and turns it into an epic adventure.

As with my debut novel, I began writing the story without the benefit of an outline. It wasn’t long before I hit my first bump on the road. The end result is that I scrapped what I had written and started all over again. A few weeks into the rewriting of the first draft, I realised that, again, I wasn’t happy with what I had written, though I wasn’t initially sure why. Things came to a head while writing a pivotal scene in which I eventually realised I was forcing the two protagonists to act out of character. Though I succeeded in writing my way out of the problem I still harboured concerns about the manner in which the narrative was progressing. A month later I knew that it was the ponderous opening to the story that was the issue. I decided to rewrite the opening chapter, which resulted in rewriting each subsequent chapter.

My participation in the SPFBO contest finally came to an end in early November and it precipitated a gradual deterioration in my mental well-being. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had been using my unexpectedly good showing in the competition to distract myself from certain life issues that had been weighing me down for so long. Once I no longer had the distraction I struggled to cope with day to day life until I decided in December to stop writing completely and take a step back from pursuing my author aspirations. Thankfully, I had befriended one of the few people to read my book, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, and having her to lean on helped me get through this depressing period.

By the spring of 2018 I was in a much better place psychologically, having managed to navigate my way out of the depression. Though I wasn’t yet ready to resume writing my abandoned work in progress, I began the task of preparing a revised second edition of my first book, which I had pulled from circulation at the end of 2017. Using the feedback I had received for the original edition, it didn’t take me long to get the manuscript ready for a summer re-release. While waiting for the big day to arrive I was tentatively able to get back into the habit of writing fiction again. I began work on a prequel novella to keep me busy until I felt ready to resume work on the unfinished sequel novel.

The release of the new edition of The Exercise Of Vital Powers came in July, and though it was not a bestseller it did outsell its predecessor on day one. I still wasn’t ready to go back to the manuscript for my sequel so for the next couple of months I continued to focus on promoting the new release. It wasn’t until October that I finally reached the point where I could resume writing The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow, and I took to the task in earnest. This was a really productive period for me. I wrote every day, making swift progress all the way through to the end of the year. My target word count of 125k words was well in sight, with my manuscript at the 90k words mark, leading me to believe that I could and would achieve a summer release in 2019.

Though the speedy progress on the manuscript continued into January of 2019, my announcement that the sequel would arrive in the summer proved to be a mistake. I should have known that I would jinx myself in doing so, and sure enough external factors slowed down my progress by diminishing the writing time at my disposal during February and March. When I came through this period I was finally faced with the problem of writing without an outline. The characters began to take the story in directions that I hadn’t intended for it to go, and it quickly became apparent that I would exceed my target word count. For several months the writing of the manuscript dragged on with no ending in sight, while a health scare requiring a hospital visit in September slowed me down further.

As expected the final draft breached the 200k words mark, and was eventually almost double the 125k word count I was originally aiming for. Though I reluctantly excised a number of superfluous scenes to reduce the word count, I was unable to cut the 50k words necessary to get the final word count as close as possible to 175k words. In the end, the unedited manuscript I sent to my editor was 220k words. Though that was much longer than I wanted, it didn’t change the fact that the story was better than I envisaged, and by the time my editor had worked her magic it was even better still.

I can now say, unequivocally, that I am immensely proud of The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow. Despite my assumption that it would be an easier, more enjoyable experience to write than my first novel, that didn’t prove to be the case, though all the hardships I endured to finish it were worth it. I have no expectation that many people will ever read the book, but I am confident that the few who do will be rewarded.

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So, now you have some insight into the writing of my upcoming novel. It is scheduled to be published on Monday 4th May in ebook and paperback editions, with the ebook presently available for pre-order from various online digital outlets including Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

 

Thanks for reading,
Ian

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