Now, when I say brief, I mean that I am just going to write, and it may turn out not to be brief at all…
So, now you know.
The story of how HEALER’S TOUCH came about really starts back in the late 1990s, when I was attending high school. I enjoyed a wide range of books, comic books, and cartoons that I watched on Saturday mornings and after school. In this sojourn back in time, the cartoon Gargoyles particularly comes to mind. I had also taken up collecting Robin III comics (from Batman fame, of course).
I was always well known for my horse drawings, but I had an interest in challenging myself to do better art, including drawing people. And so, I had a go at developing my own super hero. His name was Equus (of course… and I bet no one has ever come up with that idea before… Oh. Oh, really? Well, my guy was a good guy… and quite sexy with his shirt off; I was a teenage girl, after all).
I also penned a few stories about this character. I have no idea where they are… but never mind. He developed through stages, eventually getting wings (gargoyle-style) and a magic power…. He could shift life. He drained life to give life… Oooo… sound familiar?
I would read his stories to my friends at lunch times. They seemed to enjoy them.
Jump forward some twelve years, and I found myself writing fiction again.
Once again, I started with a male main character. It just seemed normal. His name was Alvaro, and he wasn’t all that special. I began to shape a world around him. And because I didn’t want to set my story in the real world, I was going to write a fantasy world. With horses. It had to have horses. I was watching lots of Western TV shows at the time (The Young Riders, The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, Deadwood…), and Westerns have
horses, and they were a bit different than the standard medieval Europe fantasies… so Western it would be.
And Alvaro was going to meet a girl and they were going to fall in love and it would be fun watching their relationship develop.
But what if the girl was the main character?
And, if I was going to write a fantasy, there should be magic. But I didn’t feel like doing all-powerful wizard-type magic… no. Limited magic. Just one power.
And then it came to me…
I’d “invented” a power once before… What if I lifted that “gift” from Equus and dumped it into this character Llew? Yeah… (and she still hasn’t forgiven me).
Now we were getting somewhere.
For some reason Alvaro was no longer cutting it as the love interest, so Jonas was born. It started with an image of a scene in a forest and Llew discovering that Jonas killed her kind… with a special knife.
Then I figured Jonas had to have a power to match Llew’s.
I penned a few chapters. I rediscovered writing.com (which had been stories.com when I’d first used it some 10 years earlier) and got a little positive feedback. Cool.
I’d always liked dabbling in websites, so I set one up and popped my chapters up there.
And then a friend let me know she’d read these chapters and wanted more.
And I kept writing. And I realised I needed a proper bad guy, so Braph came into being. And I kept writing.
And I discovered steampunk and liked it and wanted to add a steampunk flavour to my work.
In particular, the steampunk aspect seemed to suit Braph…
Another friend found my chapters and said he liked them and wanted more.
I kept writing.
I realised something was lacking.
I researched what made a good antagonist.
Braph developed. And with his development, so the story really took on a life.
By now, I was so in love with Llew and Jonas and the stories they had to tell, I was determined to finish the story. But it had to be a good story.
And so I studied story structure, deep POV, tension, etc, etc… and I wrote and edited and wrote again.
And I shared some chapters and got feedback and edited and wrote and edited again…
And then there was a manuscript competition; the prize a free full edit and possible publication… the deadline: a month out.
And so I wrote and wrote and wrote to finish the damn thing. And I submitted, knowing it wasn’t quite as squeaky shiny as it could be.
But then I heard about this new small publisher. They were looking for quirky stories and they didn’t mind looking at not 100% polished manuscripts. And I thought “What the heck, at least I might get feedback. Everyone gets rejected at first anyway. This seems like a good place to start getting some experience of that”…. also, I was still considering self-publishing. The big publishers scared me. But, I also had a young child, so doing it ALL myself was a huge challenge.
I didn’t get rejected.
In fact, they were keen.
But we waited to hear how I went on the competition before we moved on… and I didn’t win, or get 2nd, or 3rd (all were eligible for the free edit)… And so, I signed with a publisher instead.
And after a little editing, 4 months later, HEALER’S TOUCH was in the world.
This book that I had started writing in March 2009 was now in the world in January 2013.
As soon as HEALER’S TOUCH went to editing (October 2012), I began work on WARRIOR’S TOUCH.
I had begun HT with a plan that it would be stand-alone. Well, I had begun it thinking it was just a way to pass the time. But, once I got serious, I figured stand-alone was the safest option (because apparently that was the best plan for a new author who wanted to publish).
But halfway in, I knew Jonas had a backstory that needed told, but I didn’t have the skills or know-how to weave it into the current tale without knocking the whole plot off course. And so, I determined that he would need another book and some more events to explore his story.
I had the approximate ending for WT quite firmly in mind right from the get-go. I lay out a loose outline of events that needed to happen. All I needed to do was string them together.
That made the writing fairly easy.
Or so it seemed.
I was about 90,000 words in when I realised the story had stalled. I was sticking to my rough outline, but things were feeling BORING. And, several chapters earlier, Jonas had said this part of the story would be a waste of time…
He’d SAID it in an earlier scene… and I hadn’t listened.
So I sat down and wrote myself notes (I have notebooks and notebooks of notes that may or may not make sense and very likely are laughable)… And through these notes, I discovered what really should have happened… it made more sense, it would do away with this boring part… And, while it messed with some of my favourite scenes (sob!!), I realised I had to move
the location of certain events within the book… and that meant going back 50,000 words and writing to a new outline. At first, I tried just to change the story in a way that did away with the boring bit without doing away with my favourite bits (my darlings!). But it left inconsistencies and not so believable character choices…
And so, I finally admitted to myself that I really did have to make the huge changes I’d sensed needed made earlier.
And so I committed to them. I went back again.
I could still reuse much, but not all. And reusing still requires editing to smooth the way.
Then HT went on sale and got promoted by BookBub in February and finally people discovered it and wanted to read WT, but I hadn’t finished it and my son was dropping his afternoon sleeps, which was my writing time, and oh my gods! how am I going to finish this book that ten people want to read now, no, eleven, fifteen, twenty! Argh! Sleep, child, sleep!
Or… go to kindy for slightly longer.
Got my writing time back. But every day I was getting reviews for HT and messages on my blog asking when the next book would be out. And don’t get me wrong, I love it and I’m so excited that HT turned out to be the book I hoped it would be for many, but wow was that stressful! The pressure to get on and finish this book that some moments I thought was the best thing EVAH, but most of the time had so many DOUBTS, but I no longer had time to doubt it, I just had to finish it… but then the child was sick, or work needed me to work overtime, and we needed to keep in touch with family… and time commitments, time commitments, time commitments..!!!!
And then it was done.
WT has gone through almost as many changes as HT, with having a Prologue, not having a Prologue, having a re-written Prologue, then not having a Prologue again (it doesn’t have one now). And two characters cut… (ouch!). And a whole setting change for a really major part… Far out. What a ride. And it’s so hard to then make myself forget what was there and carry on as if all that never was.
I guess I really just need to read the whole thing through. Which is tough. I’m always finding bits to tweak and add to or cut from…
But it is at a point where the story can be assessed for itself. The rest is packaging.
Time to move on.
And so, I’m back to brainstorming for another book:
What needs to happen in this book?
What would I like to happen in this book?
How must it end?
What is going to keep people reading through the middle?
What do each of my characters (including nations) want to achieve right this minute? (like setting up the chess board) And how does each of these desires/needs affect each of the others?
What is the timetable for each of these desire/needs? How will they overlap? How will they clash? How will they evolve?
And that is the key…
These stories evolve.
I write, and I sit back and write to myself about what I’m writing and I figure out where the story needs to go based on what decisions the characters should be making at any one time.
I thought this time around I would outline the whole book and then I’d sit down and bust it out in 1-2 months and then edit, edit, edit and get it out asap…
But I just don’t think that’s how I work… yet. Maybe after a couple of more books. Maybe when I can afford to drop my part-time job and truly work on my writing full time… maybe then I’ll have the brain space to truly pre-outline. At the moment, I find that life gets in the way, derails trains of thought, and sometimes it is just better to have scenes written that I can then play with as required. When I wrote HT, I started as a childless wife who walked 45mins to her temp work, had decent lunch breaks and then walked much of the way home (but tended to bus up the hill at the end)… still… walking, lunching and walking/busing did leave a lot of daydreaming time. HT was built on daydreams. By the time my son came along late in 2010, much of the underlying details were pretty well fixed. And then he was a baby who slept really quite well. I still had a lot of thinking time.
Then he started talking…
WT was a hard book to write. Even now, while I have my time while Josh is at kindy and I’m not working, I feel like I’m being naughty if I sit and let my mind wander. I have it in my head that I MUST BE PRODUCTIVE. ALL. THE. TIME.
Of course, this isn’t feasible, especially not with the creative process.
So the challenge this time around is to continue to find that balance that I need.
So, for the moment, I’m “taking time out” to read more, and think more, and write myself through some idea. But I’m not ready to write, just yet. That will come.
It’s a lot of work.
It’s a lot of fun.
And the best bit, is bringing these characters to life in someone else’s head and heart.