I’ve had this blog for nearly 10 years now – my first post was in June 2006 and yes, it was a boring “Hello world!” article.
Back then it was mostly about videogames and gaming, but slowly morphed into a writing blog as I worked on my first novel. Some of you who randomly come here might not be up to speed on everything I’ve worked on and been part of, so this post is going to be a brief run down of the last five or so years. To be honest, it’s a bit early in my writing career (hah!) for a retrospective, so this is more to show myself I have actually been doing something all this time…
May 2011 – MAKING GODS
Making Gods was a short story collection I released on Smashwords initially, before I plucked up the courage to submit to Amazon in December the same year. For me it was a toe in the water, a test of the whole self-publishing process, both technical and philosophical.
The stories were written over the space of a year or so, and at some point (although I can’t remember the details) I decided to turn them into an ebook.
I was fairly proud of the stories in there, and still am today. Perhaps I should have had a few more in the book, as it’s a bit sparse, but it was never intended as a full release anyway. It helped me learn the processes involved in formatting a document for submission, the whole submit procedure on Smashwords and Amazon, and got me writing for more than just a hobby or interest.
It’s completely free now by the way, and you can grab it on all major ebook stores.
After releasing this, I did a few more short stories but what I was really looking for was an idea I could turn into a novel. Something that could ideally become a series. And that idea came to me with the mental image of a retired superhero working incognito as a night security guard to get away from a terrible event in his past. That’s all there was to begin with. What the event was, what his powers were, what the world he lived in was like I had no idea.
As I do, I left it to stew in my head for a year or so, before I started cobbling all my ideas together and finally pulled together an outline for a novel that would become…
January 2013 – POWERLESS
Oh yes, I bet you’ve never seen that cover before! I made this one myself (can you tell?) and released my great typo-ridden work on the world.
It had taken me a year in total to write Powerless. I wrote in the evenings and on my laptop at lunchtimes, while sat in the back seat of my VW Polo in the carpark at work. I was my own editor (hence the typos, and at least one plot-hole) but I was proud, not just of managing to finish my first novel, but also of the story. I didn’t want to write a ‘typical’ superhero book, and I didn’t want to set it in the USA. I had finally written my dark and contemporary British superhero book that had been stuck in my head for nearly two years.
And you know what? It sold 354 copies in the first year. I also got a 5-star review praising the story, and a 1-star review criticising the editing. And I can’t argue with either of those 🙂
Anyway, I was bitten by the writing bug, and after a brief respite, I had picked the story for the sequel. This was a slightly shorter book word-count wise but still took a year to write and edit.
July 2014 – KILLING GODS
I didn’t find Killing Gods easier or harder to write if I’m honest. It was a different book (no jumping between two time periods – so a more straightforward narrative) but had more groups of characters involved, so making sure the outline worked so no one group was overplayed or short changed was a challenge.
I also got some decent cover art for this (and for Powerless, which had its 2nd edition and a proper edit) from Harry Corr, a friend of mine at work who just happened to be a budding concept artist.
I dropped the price of the first book and kept this one high, as was the reigning wisdom at the time. And… it did OK. It was a slow start. Both books had petered out in terms of sales, but at least they were consistent.
Anyway, at this point I was done writing dark, grim stuff. I wanted to do something a little lighter, just for my sanity if nothing else! So I started work on an idea I had for a Sci-Fi novella, featuring two comedy characters I’d had rattling around in my head for a while. They had started out as an idea for a TV series (yes, I categorise my ideas early on 🙂 ) but then when I realised I didn’t have the cash or production company contacts to make it, I left them on the shelf.
At the same time I had been finishing off a group of short stories I had been working on to keep myself motivated during the process of writing Killing Gods. Realising the comedy book was going to take a bit longer to finish than originally planned, I decided to publish another short story collection – a decent sized one this time. And so was born…
March 2015 – THE RESURRECTION TREE AND OTHER STORIES
I was much happier with The Resurrection Tree and Other Stories than I was with Making Gods. For a start I had more stories in there, but I also had nearly 4 years more experience of all the elements of self-publishing. The formatting was better, the editing was better, I didn’t make the cover myself (Thanks Jo), and it all came together really nicely.
Now, I was well aware that short story collections don’t really sell, and that turned out to be very true. But that wasn’t the point. I had some good stories to get out there, and I also needed to keep my profile up with at least something released this year.
Luckily, after a little bit more work and planning, the comedy book finally came together. And the same year I released…
AUGUST 2015 – HIGGS & SOAP: GALAXY DELIVERY
I finally got these two daft idiots out of my head! Overall, I had good fun writing Higgs & Soap: Galaxy Delivery, having never written a completely humorous work before, and I have loads more ideas for possible sequels.
The only misstep I made was I went with making the cover myself again. This was after spending weeks trying to hunt down a suitable artist on all the major art and portfolio sites. I just couldn’t find someone with the style I was looking for. So, in the end, I went with someone who knew exactly the style I was looking for (me), however he was only fairly average as an artist.
Now, I have always drawn, and had been attending life drawing classes for a while, but I hadn’t tackled a full, finished piece of colour work in years. And it showed. If I do a sequel, I will either completely redo this myself, or get another artist to do both covers.
However, having done the cover, something clicked inside me. I suddenly got the urge to draw. Now, the plan had been to start work on the third superhero book after publishing this, but I got the crazy idea to polish up my art skills and try and do a comic book. It had been a vague notion for some years, but the cost of paying an artist was always prohibitive. But if I did the art myself, not only would I have full control over the writing, but also the visuals. This appealed to me, being the slight control freak I am 🙂
And so, in August 2015 I went for it. I knew some people were eagerly awaiting the third superhero book (Hello Tom! Hello David!) so I had the brilliant idea of turning what would have been a short story featuring characters from the books, into the comic. So I condensed the story down into 24 pages and started work on the art.
MARCH 2016 – POWERLESS: SOME KIND OF HERO
Now, it shouldn’t need to be said, but drawing is a very different beast to writing. During the creation of Some Kind of Hero I did get frustrated at the slow speed of translating what had been a fairly rapid writing process into the finished article, even more so than with novels.
With a novel, there are multiple drafts, but I don’t mind doing these, as each one is hammering the rough core of the work into the final shape. Even the formatting, and sorting the cover out I find interesting. But with a comic, so … much … time … is spent with the story essentially finished. The transformation of that story into the final work left me wondering whether I had done the right thing.
Maybe I should have stumped up the cost and paid an artist to do it for me? I could have written dozens more comics, or even finished book #3 in the time it took to draw this! There were many doubts in my mind. But, when I held that first proof copy in my hand, all those months later (courtesy of Comic Printing UK), it finally felt worth it. Not to mention, I successfully got it listed on ComiXology, THE biggest digital comics platform.
Anyway, in the end, I resolved to finally get back to writing full time. After all, I was missing it after spending all these months just doing art.
But then, this little nugget of an idea of two murderous schoolkids lodged in my head. And then I thought I could always do a slightly longer comic work, but in black and white, so less art time. And then, against my better judgement, these two ideas coalesced, and now I find myself making…
??? 2017 – THE MURDER CLUB will be released!
So, yes. I didn’t learn.
The story for The Murder Club is finished and edited after several kind beta-readers helped me out. I am currently 30% of the way through the art, and on target for a release this August/September (probably). I will be doing a Kickstarter for printing costs – I did the same for Some Kind of Hero – and I will be slowly building up on getting the word out that this exists as the year goes on.
And once this is done I am definitely going to finish book #3. It is already outlined, having been cut down from an unwieldy 180k words to about 125k (the same as Powerless) and with almost 1/3rd of the first draft written already.
So, there it is. My self-published writing career laid out in full! Feels odd in a way. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but I know I’ve made mistakes along the way. I’m glad I did it, but I can see now where I could have saved time and effort. But hopefully, I’ll use the knowledge I’ve gained to make things better for myself in the future.
Anyway, if you want more info on what I’m working on, you can follow me and donate on Patreon, where you can get exclusive WIP pages of The Murder Club, as well as other pieces of art and short stories.
So, let’s see what I can create in the next 5 years…