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Digitisation...Beyond the Buzzword...A Blog on Novel Writing...

The first novel I published was actually the third one I had "written".

I had always wanted to write a Danish thriller because I have worked there, on and off, for the last 22 years. I had also lived there for a couple of years in the early part of this century.

I got the idea in early April for an all-out chase across Denmark, starting in Jylland, then across Fyn, and onto Sjælland, before finally resolving itself back on Jylland. Of course it did not start out with so much precision planning. When I write, I am better at just hitting the keyboard and hammering away. A bit like this blog...

In the case of Tilda & Lærke, I wrote it at quite a fast pace (see writing history in photo). Averaging out at 2000 words a day through April and May, I usually hit the keyboard at 05:30am and got in an hour of writing before starting my job, and then coming back to it in the evening, with the process being compounded by weekends full of keyboard assaults.

The more I wrote, the more I layers I discovered in the story as the letters got arranged into words, sentences, and finally chapters.

As more layers appeared, I began to get quite attached to the characters I had created, trying to get into their heads, and filling out gaps in their back stories with the odd flashback, first person perspectives, or dream sequences.

Then I realised that I could enhance the story by bringing in characters from one of my other unpublished novels, North To Akureyri (since published for Kindle), which could fill an important gap, and maybe create a link to a future book.

The challenge here was that it started to over-complicate the novel, and it began to divert from the original idea; a one week game of cat-and-mouse across Denmark. So I cut back the ambition a bit, and saved the rest for a sequel...or so I hoped.

I broke the back of it by mid June...and then the hard work started.

I had a manuscript of around eighty thousand words, but I had not planned what to do with it after. So I started investigating the processes for getting a Publisher, most of whom said that you needed an Agent first. So then I started looking into Agents, and it turned into a chicken-and-egg game where it is difficult to get their attention if you are a first time author. It was like that old Young Ones sketch where in order to open a bank account you need a reference from your Bank Manager!

So June flowed into July and the vacation period, and the "book" was burning a digital hole in my keyboard. Then one day in the gym I just thought, "OK, I will do this myself and self-publish".

Then I dived into the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) process, which sounded easy, but opened-up a can of worms when it came to editing and formatting the original manuscript that I had written in Scrivener, then dumped into Pages. Once I had the hang of the KDP tool I realised, "uhoh, I need a cover." So I started looking around the book cover design market and then came to the conclusion that I could also do this myself with Canva, which had some good design templates.

So skipping outsourcing design to a professional, I insourced another digital tool to apply my own design. I knew what design I wanted. It had to be red and white because of the Danish flag, and I wanted a reference to sort sol as an analogy for a bunch of international assassins chasing each other over the country.

In parallel, I had been through a few dozen edits, to the point of going keyboard blind.

Finally, one Sunday afternoon, I was sitting staring at the Publish button on Amazon, with the sound of "Light The Fuse" by Michael Giacchino ringing in my ears.

I pressed the button.

Nothing happened. Then Amazon came back and said it might take 72 hours to clear their process. So I hit the gym, and halfway through a set of reps I got a notification saying my book had now been published!

It was that simple. Circumnavigating all these traditional ways of getting a book out. However, it was not the end of the story. Thanks to some early reviews by friends and colleagues, glaring errors were picked up, which had been driven by my lack of investment in a professional Editor. So I corrected those, eventually feeling confident enough to design a paperback version, again with Amazon. Thats a whole other story, but its also a whole different feeling when you actually get a physical copy in your hands.

So my findings from this journey so far are that for first time writers, you really can skip a lot of the traditional business processes in the publishing trade, EXCEPT the Editing. We "authors" can get too attached to our scripts, and go word/structure blind. So next time I will do it a little differently.

Meanwhile, I am hammering away on the keyboard to get a sequel out...

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