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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Throwback Thursday

I was talking to my editor today - she has a cold, so there was no wine involved. It was also 10am, so strike two for wine. She's reading the first two acts of Changing Nature while I sprint through the last chapters, and she had a couple of notes. When I'm done sprinting (which basically means writing my fingers off) - hopefully in about two weeks - I'll make some changes to the draft as a whole, then get the entire thing back to her by Halloween.

In my conversations with her I recognized a couple of things about my writing process, and this is where the Throwback Thursday part comes in. My first Marking Time notes were made in March, 2010, and I eventually published it in November, 2012. I was done sooner, but had to go through the whole agent-query process just to make sure my ego and confidence were firmly stuck around my ankles. The short answer to why did I publish Marking Time independently is that agents wouldn't look at a debut YA novel over 100k words long because publishers don't believe young adults would ever read something longer. The more honest answer is I had let the traditional publishing process steal my confidence. Actually, I'd just tied my self-confidence up in a nice package with a shiny red bow and handed it to strangers. With every form letter rejection the package got more battered and dirty - the paper tore, and the ribbon began to resemble something limp and dying.

A little background on me - I don't do insecure well. It's never pretty when it happens, and I learned early how painful it is, so I just don't do it. And yet, there I was, letting strangers decide if what I'd written was worth reading - not by reading it, but by reading a personalized form letter about it. A few were intrigued, a few even read the pages, but inevitably, the word count stopped them in their tracks. A very long and boring story short, the minute I remembered I'd written the book because it was time to put-up-or-shut-up, I learned everything I needed to know about formatting and cover design, and a month later, Marking Time was published.

So then began the year and a half-long process of writing book two. I have lots of excuses for the length of that one - marketing book one, kids, husband working out of town - you name it, I had an excuse like it. But the fact of the matter was I was scared. What if the lovely reviews I'd been getting for book one were a fluke? What if I hit a sophomore slump with book two? What if I'd used up all my wit and good dialogue with Marking Time and Saira was doomed to be boring? What if I was boring? I didn't say any of this out loud, of course, because that just looks like insecurity, which we've already established I don't do well. So I slogged along with what I thought was a good story, but was afraid to really test in case I was actually delusional and nobody had told me yet.

Enter Angela. My editor, who also happens to be my neighbor and one of my best friends in the world. She beta read Marking Time for me - probably every draft but the final one - and is a reader of the same books I read, so she clearly has good taste. She's also, I discovered, very, very meticulous. When she agreed to edit Tempting Fate for me, the insecurity didn't go away, but the fear of looking ridiculous with a badly-written second book did - because I knew Angela would never allow it. By that time I'd found additional support in the form of an amazing and wonderful online book club, where daily word counts made me accountable, and interesting paragraphs garnered praise. So at the end of the first draft of Tempting Fate I was sprinting. My goal was 10k words a week, and I finished that book breathless and proud.

So, book one - 2-plus years. Reasons for lollygagging - too numerous to count. Book two - 1.5 years. Reasons for delay - insecurity, uncertainty, and all the same reasons as book one. Book three - 3.5 months. Reasons for speed - the confidence that readers want this story, book two didn't disappoint, and the certainty of working with an editor who understands my characters, my style of writing, and my stories as if they were her own. And also a second book that was utterly clean and free from typos - a never-to-be-underrated thing in the world of independent publishing.

So how is this whole blog post relevant to Throwback Thursday? Because my evolution as an author is a little like looking back at the cringe-worthy photos on Facebook. The insecurity, the excuses for not writing - like the bad perm or the 80's wardrobe - are embarrassing, but they just aren't my style anymore.

Confidence in my story, my characters, and my ability to write a book I'd want to read are.

12 comments:

  1. I have enjoyed the 1st 2 books greatly. I read almost anything I can and enjoy trying "new to me" authors through the Kindle program. I plan to share these with my oldest son who is also a big reader. Love your comment about the chickens...I lost my fock of 24 to 3 raccoons back in the spring.....we had a vendetta as well.

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    1. Hi Angie,
      I'm so sorry about your chicken massacre - 24? That's awful! I hope your son finds something interesting in the Immortal Descendants series, and thank you very much for reading and recommending them.

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  2. Hi April!

    I loved reading both your books. I came across marking time by chance since it was a free eBook, and believe it or not, the book, even though long, was captivating. I like Saira's sarcasm. And the suspense in the book, well, I couldn't keep the book down and was yearning for more. So, I bought your second book. And believe me when I say I wasn't disappointed. Loved the blend with the history, a lot of free running and twists and turns. Maybe the 2nd book didn't have the heart thumping effect of the first book, but it was a very elegant read. Thank you for writing these books.....and I do hope you can complete the series with even more confidence. Looking forward for the next book(s) in the series....

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    1. Thank you so much for your very kind note - I'm so glad book two didn't disappoint, and I love your description of it as "elegant." My editor does, too. Thank you for reading the Immortal Descendants series, and for taking the time to write to me. I love reader feedback!

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  3. April,
    I enjoyed "Marking Time" so much (it was a free ebook) that I purchased "Tempting Fate" upon finishing the first book. You may have targeted the YA market, but you captured this senior's attention. I enjoy a well written story that is not filled with foul language and excessive sex scenes. I look forward to reading book 3.
    Thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your note, and I'm thrilled you've enjoyed Marking Time and Tempting Fate. I warn you now though, Changing Nature has more blood in it, but the language, etc. is still about the same. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

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  4. I agree with the two post above...I got Marking Time because it was free, fell in love and bought Tempting Fate....now I am drooling for the rest! And I am a "senior...59yo" and I love the fact that there isn't excessive foul language and sex scenes...and I love Saira's sarcasm and wit. And I can't wait to see if and when she and Archer will really get married or what ever...so waiting anxiously...

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    1. I'm not sure what you've been hearing, Veralynne, but 59 is most definitely NOT senior! Thank you so much for your kind note and reviews - they're very appreciated. And thank you for reading my books!

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  5. LOVED your books!!! And I love the fact that they were over 300 pages!!! :D There's nothing more disappointing than coming across a fantastic book and 150 -200 pages later it's finished.

    Truly looking forward to the 3rd book and I can't WAIT to lose myself in it :)

    Lili

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  6. Hello April,
    I discovered your books when I downloaded Marking Time free on Amazon. The cover and synopsis intrigued me. A couple weeks ago while I was healing from an ankle injury, I read it. I LOVED it. In addition to the plot, which was unique and fascinating, I liked that the book was clean (I don't mind violence but I dislike sex in YA fiction). I also really liked the conversation between Bishop Cleary and Saira about why people do bad things if God is good.

    I am planning to read Tempting Fate soon, especially because the Tudor era is one of my favorite historical eras and Queen Elizabeth is one of my favorite historical figures.

    I look forward to the release of the rest of the books in this series.

    I just want to say- I like longer books, so I was happy with the length of Marking Time. Also, I'm a writer (unpublished as of right now) and I thoroughly understand and sympathize with the feelings of insecurity and sophomore slump that you described.

    Thank you for making my injury recovery time more enjoyable!

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    1. Hi Melody,
      Thank you so much for writing, and for your very kind words about Marking Time. I'm so sorry about your ankle injury and hope everything's healing well.

      I look forward to your thoughts about Tempting Fate, and thank you, again, for reading (and commenting) on Marking Time!
      -April

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  7. Hi April,

    I am a reader from Germany and I just finished the first volume, which I got for free from Amazon. I actually LIKED that it is so long - I hate books that are finished too soon. I bought the second volume today and I am looking forward to it!

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