From Ecstasy to Agony

Writing my first two novels was sheer pleasure. The narrative and characters took shape in my mind and all I had to do was translate the mental images into words.

The only difficulty experienced was editing. Both Psychic Awakening and Psychic Dawn required extensive trimming. They were too long and contained characters and episodes that didn’t contribute to the momentum of the narrative. This was especially true of Psychic Awakening, my debut novel. I got carried away and ended up with a first draft that was well over 200,000 words in length. Even with extensive editing, I was unable to bring it below 160,000 words.

I didn’t experience the same problem with Psychic Dawn. Maybe it was the lesson learnt from Psychic Awakening, or maybe it was the story itself, but the first draft required minimal editing and ended up a manageable 110,000 words.

Psychic Mist, my third attempt at fiction, was where I hit a very thick and solid brick wall. The basic ideas were there when I started, but time and again I had to stop, rethink, and rewrite entire sections.

Two months have passed since I completed Psychic Mist and I’m still making minor changes to the story.

I have no idea why writing Psychic Mist was so stressful. The basic idea was simple enough, but the story did not develop and flow as smoothly as the previous two novels. I had to resort to outlining. This outlining proved of little use. Letting the story develop automatically — something that had worked nicely in the first two novels — led me to dead ends. Time and again I came to forks in the story line, decided to follow one of those forks, only to find that I had to retrace my steps and proceed down an alternative fork.

With the exception of Stacey, Sid and Pamela, the characters did not come to life. One early fork in the story anticipated a growing attraction between Stacey and Jeremy. In the current, and I hope final, version of the story, Jeremy remains only to underline Stacey’s problems with human relations and as a link to the character of Natalie.

Writing my first two novels was effortless. Psychic Mist was a nightmare. Literally.

Often I would dream of a continuation of the story, a short scene that took the narrative one step farther along. This scene would  loop around in my sleeping mind, repeating itself five or six times in one night. Upon waking I would discover that the scene I had dreamt was illogical and didn’t fit in the narrative.

In short, writing Psychic Dawn was stressful and mechanical, not something I would care to repeat. The Leanpub system I use to publish my e-books has little traction in the world of electronic publishing. I haven’t advertised my fictional works through social networks and sales are non-existent. One customer has purchased my first novel. No one has purchased my second or third.

Writing and publishing e-books was an experiment. In many ways I have attained the goals I set myself, the most important being to familiarise myself with the process of independent e-publishing.

I’ve now reached a crossroads. One thing missing from my experimentation with e-publishing is reader feedback. To obtain this I would need to spend more time pushing my novels through SNS and book review websites, with no guarantee that the time invested would generate feedback and sales.

The time has come to take a break from writing e-book fiction. For a few months I intend to return to writing textbooks and teaching materials — not as satisfying as writing fiction but practical and predictable. Sales are commensurate with the number of students taking my university courses and feedback is instantaneous.

Despite the problems experienced with the third novel, I’m satisfied with the result. The lack of reader feedback is regrettable. Compared with books in the mainstream of e-publishing, my efforts lack impact and development. I enjoyed writing them but I suspect most readers would find them flat and tedious.

That’s what I suspect. What I’d dearly like is confirmation of my suspicion.

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