Well, today’s the big day. Gearspire: Advent goes live. This marks the end of a pretty long road for this book, and the first step on a far longer journey for me as a writer. I’m excited to release this story to all of you, and I’m definitely going to do my fair share of celebrating, but I also wanted to use this opportunity to share a bit about the trip that brought this book to fruition.
Before I get into it, this is not a “look at what I went through post.” That’s just silly as many other people have gone through much, much, more, and my own place in society (being a straight, white, male, American) means that as John Scalzi so adroitly put it, I’m basically “playing on easy mode” in comparison to many other people around the world. So did I struggle at times with this book? Sure. Do I consider that struggle “difficult” in the grand scheme? Not remotely.
Why am I writing this then? For two reasons. First, to show just how crazy and random a path I took. It might seem strange, but many author’s paths are surprisingly similar. You often can’t plan it, or predict it, you just have to go with it. And second, because while this journey was easier than many others, and perhaps harder than a few, it was a journey, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single book’s path to publication is a different one. While no two journeys are alike, I think in sharing our own experiences, we might provide touchstones for others who are in the midst of their own projects, and maybe they’ll glean a bit of hope, or see a way forward, through, over, around, or under obstacles that others have overcome. And if any person’s labors can ease those of another, then I think it’s definitely worth sharing.
What follows is Gearspire: Advent’s journey from the glimmer of an idea to the book I’m releasing today. It’s a long story, don’t say I didn’t warn you, and I may delve into different bits and pieces later, but here you go.
So, here we are. November 1st. as it turns out, today is an important day for Gearspire: Advent for more reasons than one. That’s because four years ago I found out about something called NaNoWriMo. And four years ago today I started the first draft. Yep, G:A started out as a NaNo project.
I ground through that month and finished a first draft. It was I think my 2nd or 3rd novel sized manuscript I’d finished. It was much shorter, much different, and much worse than the book today. The story wasn’t even called Gearspire. The official title at the end of the month was The Rescue. Pretty blah, eh? No two ways about it, the manuscript was a shadow of the story it would become.
Of course I didn’t know that at the time. I figured that the book was done. Huzzah! Time to look for a publisher. Much to my chagrin thinking back, I did submit it to one open call that year, which of course came to nothing, but wow, it was pretty awful.
Following NaNoWriMo, in early 2013, thanks to a fellow writer at my work I started meeting other writers, found an online critique group, and began learning of all the issues in the manuscript. Ah, there were so many. Throughout that year I continued working on the draft and wound up greatly expanding the story so that eventually I tripled its original size.
At the end of that year, through some means I don’t recall, I learned of a pitch contest for free book covers that a cover artist was running. I was lucky enough be selected and the artist (who will feature prominently later) provided Gearspire with its first cover. Around this time the story’s name changed over and would stick for the rest of the trip.
I kept writing and revising and around the middle of 2014 I thought that the novel was done. Again. Yay! During that summer, about the time I completed the draft, I participated in the 36-hour Sledgehammer Writing Contest (which was so much fun and I wish they still did them). Much to my surprise, I wound up winning, and thanks to the generosity of the contest’s sponsors I won a bunch of cool prizes including a gold hammer. If you want to read that story, and are will to drop me your email address, you can grab a copy of Give an Inch over here.
What does this have to do with the languishing Gearspire manuscript? As part of that contest, in the fall of 2014 I was able to attend the PNBA Tradeshow, and at that show a couple writing consultants advised me that I should divide my manuscript into a trilogy because it was way too long for a debut author. I think at this point it was like 225k words. Yeah, I know. Crazy.
This idea set me off on the next leg of my journey. Turn my novel into a trilogy! Rewrites, revisions, and critiques followed! Are you sensing a pattern yet?
By the spring of 2015 I’d just about wrapped up the first manuscript of the trilogy (now titled Gearspire: Advent) when my cover artist friend contacted me about a new small press he was working with. They were looking for new authors and he’d thought of me and wanted to know if I was interested. Um, yes, please. I submitted my novel, and they agreed to publish it! Huzzah! Again.
That summer went by in a blur of contracts (and lawyers), revisions, edits, and marketing plans. The book received new concept art for the cover (from the same artist as before). I even wrote an accompanying story for an anthology. Momentum was building. Right up until July 13, 2015. It was a Monday, the final edits were going back to the publisher that week, and then I got an email out of the blue that the publisher had folded up shop, cancelled all the contracts, and that was that. Gearspire no longer had a home. I won’t lie, it was a rough month.
I still had a “finished, polished” manuscript though, in which people had shown interest, and I already had some events planned that fall. So I hung on to the manuscript and went to the events. To a couple writing conferences to be specific. This is where I learned a very valuable lesson about myself.
Don’t go to writing conferences, and absorb a bunch of writing knowledge when you have a “finished” draft at home.
I attended the Writing Excuses Retreat followed by the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in back-to-back months, and collectively they broke my brain in the best possible ways. Every irritating issue I’d had with the manuscript glared out at me. All the things that didn’t quite work became incredibly obvious. In short, I realized the draft was not nearly done.
So, guess what? More revisions! So many more. New characters showed up, plots were swung around, themes were changed, and the manuscript grew to just about its final size.
Through the spring of 2016 I queried the novel a couple times without success, and by summer decided, the draft was done, I was happy with it. I wanted to put it out. The following months were consumed with all the pieces that are required to turn a manuscript into a book. And I feel like here finally, some threads came together. The book’s editor? A friend I’d met through various writers thanks to my writer friend at work. The cover artist? That’s right, the same one who gave the book its first cover in 2013. The cover designer? Recommended by one of the people at the publisher that had folded, but who I remained friends with.
The rest was just work. Grinding out edits, going back and forth on ideas. Changing the entire manuscript at the last minute from 1st person to 3rd person (yeah, don’t ask). Until voila. I had an actual real book in my hands.
Anyway, that is Gearspire: Advent’s story. It’s crazy looking back now on all the twists and turns, the ups and downs. It’s too random to take much away from it, except for three things that I believe in more strongly today than ever.
Number one, make friends. And no I don’t mean “industry contacts.” I mean, make friends. Not with an ulterior motive, not because they’re useful. Make friends because it’s fun having friends, and you can support each other.
Number two, keep learning. Writing is a constant improvement process. Every delay and bump was a bummer at the time, but each one also made the book a lot better. While it might’ve been cool to have the book out a couple years ago, it wouldn’t have been nearly the story it is today. In a weird way I’m glad it took this long.
Number three, keep going. Not every project you keep pushing on reaches a conclusion, but I know for certain that any project you stop, stays stopped. That’s not to say you drive forward endlessly. Sometimes you take breaks, or work on other things, but keep going. Amongst all the craziness of life, it’s one of the few things we can control. So I say maximize that and see what happens.