In 2013, I began writing. I was stressed out, flustered, and just needed to escape. What came out was a very dark story that somehow managed to portray hope. The plot has enough tropes to make the reader feel comfortable, yet enough novelty to keep interest. The world? Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.
Even now, I think the story is good. Keyword there is STORY. The writing?
Oh. My. God.
It wasn’t bad, or anything, but it certainly wasn’t good. The word choice, stylistic options, and overuse of common “ticks” (a bit, though, etc) was just very amateur. This is why BloodLust was NOT the first novel I released. While the story is one of my favorites, it needed to have a little cosmetic surgery, and I’ve done a doozy on it.
Now, the introduction to the iliri has flare, substance, and rhythm. It reads like a novel should, not some stuttering babble coming from a self-absorbed bimbo. The story is a gripping coming of age novel from the perspective of a domesticated humanoid in a world where metal is rarely available in pure form. Iliri are used as cheap labor, considered to be inferior to humans and little more than animals. Imagine if dogs evolved to walk on two legs and talk. Now imagine how they’d feel about their collars and being owned.
And the story had a life of its own. Book 1 quickly turned into a four book series. The story took hold, grew, and became something epic. To this day, I’m not positive if it will culminate in 8 or 9 books, but I can tell you that I know exactly where it’s going. Sadly, I keep finding that what I THOUGHT was a single book ends up being two. I had to re-write book 5 twice, because 350k words might be a bit much for ONE book, but the plot needs to END when the pages do. Evidently separating them by location was NOT a good idea if too much happens in one place.
So, I got to learn about pretty much everything while living in the fantasy world. One of my biggest problems is describing the iliri in a way that makes it clear they are NOT vampires. They’re predators who are complete carnivores. There’s a few other hints I drop throughout the series, foreshadowing the “big reveal”, but I also know that 95% of people won’t even notice, but it’s all to keep the reader from associating my beasties with something they have probably read a lot more about.
And yet, now that I’m well into editing the second book (which will release in June) of the series, I can’t help but see how much I have learned by writing so many novels. At book 6, I dropped half of my personal ticks. At book 15, I finally figured out a good method of deep third POV. Around book 20, my dialogue tags began to feel seamless and invisible (see One More Day). Now, nearing book 40, I look back and just cringe at my novice mistakes – then fix them! It means that book 2 will probably have more than 60% re-written. It will also be so much better because of it. The world will have a chance to come alive because I, as an author, can finally get the hell out of its way.
And none of this could have been possible without the skills of a damned good – and very patient – editor. Her remarks come back with laughter and cheesy jokes. When she discovers a new “bad habit” I have (such as mistaking whether to use a period or comma around the quotes) she trains me, making her job easier in the future. Often, this results in some pretty intense discussions, a lot of ranting, and a few tantrums, but in the end, I’m so much better because she stands her ground and MAKES me fix it. Yes, the choice is mine, but bad grammar is just bad.
And today, rolling my eyes at myself, I’ve realized that even a good novice author is still just that. Experience really does pay off, so I’ll keep on writing the books, and hopefully my fans will keep on enjoying them.