They say that hindsight is a great thing. But actually it’s not. It’s a cruel heartless beast that mocks me from my past, but that’s probably just me being bitter.
I have been an avid reader all my life and know what I like to read and while I wanted to be a writer and a writer of novels at that, I never contemplated writing anything that I would consider arty or deep and meaningful. I just wanted to write something good that would keep the reader entertained to the last page.
As you are reading this I have been writing for about seven years and like a lot of things in my life, I started to do it with no training, preferring to throw myself in at the deep-end hoping that whatever I lacked in coaching I made up for in determination and passion. When it came to writing I had little of the former and a lot of the latter. But despite this obvious deficiency, I was confident that I could create my own masterpiece.
Although I have written a few short stories, they never really did it for me. I prefer the length of a novel so I could get into the story more. The plot takes on a life of its own and as much as any potential reader, I enjoy watching it develop and follow its twists and turns as it winds its way through the chapters till the complete picture was revealed. A novel length also gives my readers time to connect with my characters before the climax.
There are now 3 versions of the cover for my first novel Under an Irish Sky below. Going left to right, their evolution is very much a pictorial view of the maturation of my writing ability, such that it is. The first incarnation of the cover was a poorly thought out affair altogether. It was a product of its time when I was going through a very painful break up. Like most self-published authors I was overwhelmed by the work involved in getting their multiple agent rejected work out in a finished product. But a broken heart wasn’t helping matters and this initial version suffered from a lot of ‘Feck it, that’ll be good enough’, needless to say, it wasn’t. However I am confident that one day when I am famous lauded author this version will be worth a fortune for the ten or so people who bought it.
Under An Irish Sky Covers 1 and 2
The second version, which was designed by The Book Producers, was a much improved effort but still had a jumbled feel to it that didn’t quite work. Before reprinting it, I re-edited the novel completely, including adding and deleting entire chapters in an attempt to make the story flow better. And in fairness the result was a far better read but despite my determination my efforts fell short once again. Of course now I realise that I was making the most common of mistakes – I was telling not showing. I was narrating my own characters rather than letting them express themselves. If I was ever going to make it as a writer, I knew that I would have to pick up my game.
Luckily for me, it was around this time that I met Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin who (probably feeling sorry for me) gave me some wonderful advice and because of her and her Inkwell reader who reviewed and critiqued my work, I eventually got my third novel in the John Morgan Series Fighting Back up to the required standard. However Vanessa quite rightly pointed out that if my career was to get anywhere I really needed to go back to the beginning and bring my first two novels up to scratch.
But that was more painful and difficult than I could have imagined and ended up taking two months. I assume that I am like most writers and haven’t read any of my earlier stuff in a long time. And to be brutally honest, it was an embarrassing read. While I still thought the story was great (well I would, wouldn’t I?) the quality of the writing was terrible. They were all the right words; they were just in the wrong order! Even now sitting here writing this, I am cringing just thinking about how rough it was.
Vanessa also pointed out that I needed professionally designed covers which would have a consistent thread across the covers of my books plus professionally developed covers that would reflect the more confident writer that I was becoming. She put me in touch with Andrew in Design for Writers, who after researching what my books were about and what I was trying to convey came up with a fantastic set of covers – the first of which you see here. I am really looking forward to seeing the completely new version of Under an Irish Sky on bookshelves soon!
So in a literary sense I am in the strongest place that I have ever been in. Through simple practice and guidance, the quality of my writing has improved enormously and I have developed a branded novel that should attract new readers. I really hope so as I feel that Ireland needs my character ‘John Morgan’. It needs someone, an ordinary guy without any specific set of skills, who stands up for the little person and helps to right some wrongs.
(c) Darren Darker