In the mists of history, long before fire or android cell phones existed, I was 18, I had an idea for an Epic Fantasy novel. I started writing on a typewriter, got about half-way done, put it down, and didn’t touch it again for a VERY long time. Then, in 2007, my speculative writing efforts began again. That’s when I picked up the book, decided I had no clue about anything at 18 (either writing or life), and completely rewrote it--this time thankfully on a word processor. As I honed my craft, read dozens of writing books, and got critiques from writing groups, I then re-wrote the book from scratch once again. Then, after even more fine-tuning of the craft, I re-wrote it again. From scratch.
The book was called “Morphat” (to understand the name, see the “Spellgiver” tab on this website). Let’s call my very first version at age 18 “Morphat 0”. The version I finished in 2009 was Morphat 1, then came Morphat 2, then I finished Morphat 3 by around 2012. Five freaking years later. Please understand that by the time I made it to Morphat 3, there was not a single word of prose remaining from Morphats 0 and 1. And maybe a few scattered paragraphs from Morphat 2. These were complete rewrites, as my writing viewpoint became more a little more refined (let’s hope, anyway). In 2012 I began getting some editorial feedback. I gave it to two editors, and both truly loved it, though of course not without suggestions for improvements. But their enjoyment of the book and honest enthusiasm at its potential was much needed encouragement, and my first clue that I was on the right path (one of those editors Heidi Bell, had this to say about my book: “Steve is also working on an epic fantasy novel that is among the best unpublished manuscripts I've read.”, here: http://heidibellediting.squarespace.com/blog/2013/12/11/client-highlight-steve-rodgers.html)
But probably like a lot of authors, I didn’t feel confident enough to start shopping it around. Instead, in 2013 I put Morphat in a very dark drawer, and started writing short stories. In the two years between 2013 and 2015 I wrote about 24 short stories, and had about a dozen of them published (one of them twice). In 2015 I opened the dark drawer, blew away the cobwebs, coughed a couple times, and began working on Morphat again.
The perspective of time is a wonderful thing. I rewrote Morphat 3 and turned it into Morphat 4. Now I started giving it to other people to read, and began to collect feedback. And the feedback across the board was beyond encouraging. With one exception, the 12 people who have read the book have seemed to truly love it, and have indicated that if they’d bought it on Amazon, they’d be turning pages until the end. Sometime after Morphat 4, I took the original Morphat and broke it into two books, with the first book now 106,000 words and the second one 74,000 words (the second one will need some fleshing out before it’s finished). The entire series is called “Spellgiver”, and the first book is still called “Morphat”. I have approached my beta reading in stages, giving the book to a few people, collecting their feedback, making changes, then giving it to the next wave. Here’s the breakdown of people who’ve read the book:
- Editor 1: Loved it, small suggested changes
- Editor 2: Loved it, but major suggested changes
- Wife: Loved it, but I know family doesn’t count.
<End of phase 1, made many changes. Turned from Morphat 3 to Morphat 4>
- Little Brother (I’m in the big brother program): Loved it. He was 11 at the time, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. The book has some adult concepts, but his mom said it was OK. I gave it to him in pieces, sure he would put it down, but he kept wanting more, so I finally printed out the whole thing and gave it to him.
- Writing group member 1: Loved it, but suggested major structural changes.
- Writing group member 2: Loved it, suggested medium level changes
<End of Phase 2, made lots of changes based on feedback>
- Paid beta reader 1: Loved it, very enthusiastic feedback. Minor/medium suggestions.
- Paid beta reader 2: Did not like the book, not even a little. Interesting.
- Paid beta reader 3: Liked it a lot, gave 4 stars. Medium level suggestions.
- Paid beta reader 4: Loved it, seemed enamored by it, minor suggestions.
<End of Phase 3, made changes based on feedback. Much fewer than before, though>
- Paid beta reader 5: Absolutely loved it, minor suggestions. Said she would buy these even in hardbound, which she doesn’t do anymore. Asked when the next one would be ready.
OK so here we are. Because I doubt myself (constantly, and without cease) I wondered if all those positive comments from paid beta readers could be fake, just trying to say what I wanted to hear. But I don’t think so, because all of them warned me ahead of time that they’d be brutally honest. The last one has so many projects in her queue that she couldn’t get to mine for 3 months, and I seriously doubt that she needs any kind of dishonesty to stay in business.
So now what? Now I’m scouring it on paper one more time and then I finally have to admit that it’s time to send it out to agents. This is a step I think I’ve psychologically avoided for a long time, but it’s time for me to move on. I expect plenty of rejections, but I am at least confident that I’ve done everything I can to make this book the best it can be. I honestly don’t think I could’ve done anything else.
They say that you should take your first book and throw it away, then write another. And another. And by the fourth book, you’re ready to try agents. Well, I’ve done that, but with a twist. I thrown away complete versions of the same book, but kept the concepts and characters that I always loved. From the feedback I’ve gotten, it seems like the right choice, but only time will tell.
Sorry for the long “me” post. I’ll write about something else next time. Till then, cheers.