If life is a journey, my life as an author has been a meandering one full of wrong exits, unintended pit-stops, and wrong turns. I should have bought a map.
Progeny was my debut effort as a novelist. When I first released it in December 2010 as an indie author, I believed I had created a wonderful tale worthy of sharing with the world. To this day, that belief holds true. However, my ability to weave a story far outpaced my skill as a writer. I might have told a good story, but I had not written a good book.
Close to a year after I published, a series of events opened my eyes to many of my shortcomings as a writer and helped spur me to improve.
In November of 2011, I had a wonderful opportunity presented to me. Someone in the traditional publishing industry wanted to read Progeny. Someone who could make things happen for this book. Naturally, I was quite excited and off the manuscript went.
All through the holiday season, I anxiously awaited a reply. And in mid-December, I received one: a polite ‘No, thank you.’
The individual and two of his readers had read the book and had a list of concerns. While they liked much of what was there, the criticisms offered were more than legitimate. They were spot on. Things about story structure. Things about character arcs. Things about trying to jam too much into one book.
Criticism, even when it is honest and good, stings. However, I did not get angry. I trusted what they had to say. They know the business. They know what sells. And Progeny, as it was in that form, would not advance beyond the group of loyal readers I had garnered.
But I wanted more than that.
I chose to treat the rejection as another opportunity. Few writers get such great feedback from experts this early in their career. So, I thanked the person for the constructive criticism and I shared that I was planning to do a true re-evaluation and rewrite of Progeny. Not just a touch-up, but a true rip-it-apart-into-tiny-pieces-and-put-it-back-together rewrite. I would axe chunks that did not work and write new ones that did. I would fix what I needed to fix.
I sent off the email without expecting to hear a response, so I was quite surprised when I received one. The individual sent me all of the notes taken on the book and asked to read the rewrite once completed, cautioning me that this was not something typically done in the industry. Gracious, I thanked them and got to work.
I made massive changes to the book. While the guts of the plot remained the same, much of the book was very, very different. Readers of the original will certainly notice the changes—some might be jarring at first—but I promise this: I have not changed what so many of you have told me you loved. In fact, I have added a bit more of that while extracting what bogged down the story.
Once I was done, I had the book professionally edited by Rose Jasper Fox, the sci-fi/fantasy editor of Publishers Weekly. She had some wonderful feedback and more changes were made. A lot. The antagonist finally felt ‘done’ to me.
Which brings me to now.
The original 40 chapters, 308k words is now 72 chapters, but at 265k words. Chapters are shorter, crisper chunks. I ended cutting about 75k of fluff, but added about 25k of new scenes to allow better character development. I do not miss what is gone and love what is there now. There are even five new chapters sprinkled throughout the tale.
The pacing is infinitely better. No more action scenes or conversations interrupted by three pages of background history. Story structure—something that I, as a novice, never considered—was a major focus of my rewrite. Dialogue is quicker and snappier where appropriate, but slower and deliberate when it needs to be.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Well, I want this letter to be a ‘thank you’ to the readers who have been on this journey with me from the beginning, and I want to promise you that the new version of Progeny is every bit the book you enjoyed the first go around, and more. To new readers…well, consider this a nice “behind the curtains” look at an indie author’s journey as he tries to make a name for himself.
Should you be interested in reviewing the second edition, either contact me here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d prefer to send out kindle copies, but I can swing a paperback if that is your preference.
If you would like to get a better idea of the book, check it out at Amazon. I’m up to 41 reviews there with a 4.7/5 average.
I would absolutely love to read and review your book "Progeny". I am unable to read e-books, but if you are willing to share a paperback with me, I would really appreciate it! You can contact me at my email address & I will send you my mailing information.