THE MAKING OF ‘THE STARS MY REDEMPTION’ PT. 2
Guest Post by Tony Healey
The Sci-Fi Adventure Novel ‘The Stars My Redemption’ is released June 1st in the Kindle Store.
I pulled something at the bottom of my back and took a few days off work. I took painkillers and tried sitting in an armchair but it was too painful. The only relief I could get was to sit up at the dining table as straight as possible. So, in pain and a little doped up, I started writing on my laptop. I’d had an idea for something involving an amoral character killing everyone on a spaceship. And a week or so prior to me pulling my back I saw that there was a local short story competition. There were no set guidelines on what they would accept, only a word limit.
Seeing as I had nothing better to do, I started to write. I finished ‘Frank’ in a day or two, then let it rest. I edited it (I’m not very good at editing myself) and submitted it, thinking nothing more of it. A month or two went by, and then I heard from them. ‘Frank’ had made the long-list of 40 from about 150 submissions.
I thought ‘Maybe I’m not as bad a writer as I thought.’
I published ‘Frank’ onto the Kindle, and after getting a few positive reviews I had the bug. I thought of ways I could expand ‘Frank’ into something longer, and I was still mulling that over when Bernard Schaffer started up the Kindle All-Stars and said that he was putting together an anthology of short stories based on the kind of anthologies put together by Harlan Ellison. I thought ‘I can do something for that’ and so sat down to write ‘Redd.’
After that, I truly had the bug. I started to plot a story that could make use of both ‘Frank’ (now renamed ‘Beast’) and ‘Redd’ as flashback scenes. At the same time I was reading ‘The Stars My Destination’ by Alfred Bester. I thought ‘What if Abe isn’t so bad afterall? What if he’s tired of everything he’s been up to, and is open to change?’ Using Alfred Bester’s title as a starting point, I decided I’d call the novel ‘The Stars My Redemption.’
That was how it started. At the same time I was very interested in the idea of serial fiction; releasing a story in parts, one a time, like they did in the old days of Sci-Fi. The tradition dates back even further, of course, to the works of Dickens and other such writers. So I decided to write the novel in 3 parts, and release them one a month.
I had mixed results. For one thing, I didn’t hire an editor. I edited it myself. Big mistake. Whilst readers enjoyed it, they picked up on the fact that it hadn’t been properly edited. Also, as I came to realise when I published part 2, serializing work like that is one of those things with an ever decreasing return. The further on it goes, the less people remember to come back for the next part. Also, they will only buy it when it is free. The only way to truly serialize something, I feel now, is to release it for free on a website. Whether that means text on the screen, as in a blog post, or something the reader can download is up to the writer. But that is the only way to do it really.
However that is not to say that serializing work on the Kindle can’t work. I’m writing an ongoing series of short ebooks, in episodic format called The Honeycroft Series. These are released as and when I write them, but the difference is that each episode is self-contained, with its own arc. It’s different to cutting a novel into 3 and serializing it. With Honeycroft they’re all individual episodes that make a bigger whole. I like to think of it as being like a TV season.
So before part 3 was due to be finished up and published, I dropped the idea. I took both parts 1 and 2 off and decided to finish The Stars My Redemption up and just put it on there as a regular novel.
It didn’t happen. I started working on other stuff. I wrote several short stories. As is always the case with me, I went from one project to another without completing anything. And all the while TSMR sat on my computer, sort of finished, sort of not.
I had the ending half-written, but it wasn’t working for me. And the thought of tackling it didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. You see, there’s another problem with serializing something that isn’t finished, and that is that you have to finish it.
Also, when you have a lot of time in between finishing up and releasing each consecutive part, you lose interest. That’s what happened to me. It’s been a long learning curve for me, the writing of TSMR. I now see that the only way to write a novel is to sit down and actually write it. Start from the beginning, and write all the way to the very end. Hit full stop on that last sentence, go back to the beginning and start your next draft.
That’s the work ethic I am adopting now, as I write my second novel. It’s a bit different to TSMR in that it is not Sci-Fi and is set in World War Two, but I am applying what I learned from the writing of TSMR to get it out in a timely manner.
So anyway, there I was with my unfinished book. And then Laurie comes along. She works with me in editing my short story ‘Burial’ and then on ‘Dark Orb’. She says ‘What else are you working on?’ to which I email her a list of unfinished projects. Some I’ve started, some are just ideas. Some are merely the dream of an idea.
After seeing that, Laurie emailed back with ‘Firstly, you need to get organised. Start something. Finish it. And another thing, what’s happening with The Stars My Redemption?’
I said that it was ‘resting’. But even as I typed that I knew I was lying to myself. It wasn’t resting. I was putting off working on it. I was being the worst kind of writer, a lazy one.
Laurie told me in no uncertain terms that I should be working on it, that there were people out there waiting to read it. So I set to work. I rewrote the ending, then did a few more rewrites. Then we started editing.
I think that what’s coming out of the editorial process is a good novel. I think it works. Come June 1st I am confident that what readers will get when they purchase The Stars My Redemption will be a professional, well-written and well-edited book that they will enjoy. I have now come to realise that writing the book is only half the work. The other half comes in editing it to a polished, high standard.
We’re getting there with The Stars My Redemption. I learned a lot writing it. A hell of a lot. And you know what, having been knee deep in this book for weeks now, I am really enjoying it. I know I’ve got a good book on my hands. I’m confident about it.
I know that if readers have as much fun with the book as I have had working on it, then I’m doing all right.
PART 1 appeared 05/25 at Apiary Society
PART 3 will be appearing 05/27 at JoshuaUnruh.com
THE MAKING OF ‘THE STARS MY REDEMPTION’ PT. 2