Today marks the release of the last book in my fantasy trilogy The Valerious Chronicles. The original idea for the story was sparked over fifteen years ago, whilst sitting on a bus through central Australia. Since then it evolved many times before finally being put together as a published trilogy of books. And in that time there have been many things I have learnt as a writer that changed my outlook on life. It has been a long journey, one that was difficult but fun. It was rewarding, daunting and trying. But I made it and now is the perfect time to look back and share my thoughts.
1) Don’t undertake something this big unless you love it:
Without fail the question I am asked the most is, how do you find the time to write these books? I work full time and write in the hours between my everyday life. At times it can be difficult to fit the writing in, but I have found that as I got further into the trilogy I was able to make time whenever I could. And the only reason I was able to do that was the fact that I absolutely loved writing.
Everybody has hobbies. We all have things we do when we get home and have a spare half hour. Whether it’s watching TV, reading books, baking, painting, playing games or sport, we make the time to fit these into our lives. Mainly because we enjoy them. Writing gives me the most enjoyment. It excites me. If it didn’t I would have never succeeded.
2) Start small:
I look back now and wish I had started with a single book. A trilogy was a tough project to begin with as a new artist. I have had the chance to speak with a lot of new writers and one thing I say to all of them is start small. Write a single book, or a novella to begin with. Write a blog, short stories, articles. Do anything to build your skill and learn the ropes first. I jumped straight into a fantasy trilogy and in a way bit off a larger mouthful than I was ready for.
I believe this is reflected in my writing, which most readers will noticed progressed and improved over the three novels. I have had readers say to me that the third book actually feels like it is written by a different writer. I think that this is a natural occurrence for new writers/artists, as with each piece of work we build on our skill. In hindsight starting with a single novel would have let me iron out some of those early creases.
3) You will always be critical of your own work:
It is hard for me to go back and read my own work without feeling I could have done better. I do not think I will ever be 100% happy with something I produce. That is not to say that I am not pleased with my books. And no matter how many great reviews and positive feedback I receive I will always doubt my own work. The key, I believe, is allowing myself to be comfortable with the fact that I will never ever be fully happy. I will always feel that I could have done better. In a way, if I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t be improving as a writer.
4) Success is subjective:
Let’s be honest, to become a household name is every writer’s dream. If you go out with the mentality that the first book you write is going to fill the shelves of every bookshelf from Sydney to Washington, then you are likely setting yourself up for failure. However, success can be defined in many ways. When I self published my first novel I did so with the goal of having a single random person in the world buy and read my book. I measured this by awaiting an online book review from someone who I had absolutely no connection with.
The day I received my first review from a complete stranger, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I had achieved what I had set out to accomplish. And the fact that it was a highly praising review made continuing my writing all the easier. I knew that by finishing the trilogy there was at least one person out there in the world who wanted to know how the story ended.
That allowed me to set achievable goals for each book. I never believed that I would become a New York times best seller with these books. But I was able to celebrate my success by having realistic goals. My long term goal may be to hit the bestseller list, but I will be doing it one small step at a time.
5) Publishing is difficult:
The world of publishing has changed so much over the last decade it is almost impossible to predict where we will be next year. It has never been easier to publish your books. Arguably as a result of this there has also never been more competition. The market, in particular eBooks, is overflowing with content and having yours noticed is an unbelievably daunting task. I am still amazed every time I see my books in the top 100 of an Amazon category. I think to myself, ‘How in the world did people find my book in the ocean of available books out there?’
I approached multiple publishers with Dawn of the Valiant before opting to self-publish. I have no regrets that I didn’t try harder to get traditionally published. I personally believe that I wasn’t ready to be published by a traditional publisher. I still consider myself a writer who is learning the ropes and hope that one day I will write a novel which a publisher will like and be willing to support.
However, I am under no illusion as to how difficult it is to find success in traditional publishing in today’s market. It is a combination of talent, the right idea, right contacts and luck. It can be depressing not hearing back from a publisher. You spend thousands of hours working on a novel, pouring your emotions into it and then do not even get a reply to say, thanks for sending us your synopsis. It would be enough to cause many artists to give up. But in the end it is all about what you have set out to accomplish. The answer will be different for everyone.
Writing these books has changed me as a person. I have a different outlook on life, a different opinion of myself and those who helped me along the way. I will always question the path I took, but I will be thankful for the lessons I learnt along the way. For now I will take a deep breath and celebrate. And I know it won’t be long until I set my next goal.