“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ~ Stephen King.
It’s submission season here at Mirror World Publishing, so we’ve asked some of our authors to share their publishing journeys with you to give some insight into the submission process. First up is Karen McCreedy, author of the Unreachable Skies Trilogy, which is now complete and available in our virtual bookstore in ebook and paperback form.
Well, I’ve been an avid reader all my life, from Janet and John, through the Famous Five and onto Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and so on. I prefer to read science-fiction or fantasy – of course – but I also like historical novels and crime fiction, history books and biographies.
I’ve also always enjoyed writing. At school, I used something called a biro – you may remember those – to scribble stories. I didn’t show them to anyone, and the internet, thank goodness, hadn’t been invented; but writing was something I enjoyed, and if I got an idea in my head, the best way to stop it churning round in there was to write it down.
By the time I’d moved to London, in my twenties, I had a typewriter as well as a biro, and I bashed out a couple of pretty dreadful novels on it in my spare time. Fortunately, because the internet still hadn’t been invented, no-one saw them either, and the manuscripts have long since gone to the great pulping factory in the sky.
By the time I’d invested in a word-processor, I was ready to try a correspondence writing course, and that led to my first ever payment for something I’d written: an article in a mainstream magazine. Exciting! And encouraging enough that I invested in my first computer. I think it came with Word 6.0 – absolutely state-of-the-art!
Wind on to 2005, and my move to West Sussex, which was partly driven by wanting more time to write. I got a less-stressful job, a shorter commute, and a bunch of ideas. I’d also got a laptop, and the age of the internet was upon us. I wrote some online articles for a couple of websites, and science-fiction stories which nobody wanted.
Until, in 2009, two encouraging things happened. The first was having my name in a book for the first time, when my essay on British Propaganda Films of the Second World War was published in Under Fire: A Century of War Movies. The second was winning a runner-up spot in the Chichester Observer newspaper’s Christmas Story competition – and yes, it was a science-fiction spin on the festive season.
So I kept writing. Before I retired, it was sometimes hard to keep the discipline going, but then I’d sell an article to a magazine, or have a short story accepted for publication in an anthology, and that encouraged me to keep going.
Then I had an idea that I thought might make a novel…
It was an idea that started with what must have been a very strange dream. I don’t remember what it was about, or what I’d been eating the night before, but when I woke the words “He has no wings” were going through my head. So I grabbed the notebook I keep by the bed, wrote them down before I forgot them, and began to think about what they might mean. Which was how Unreachable Skies began to take shape.
Months passed. The plot was outlined, characters evolved, subplots surfaced – and I realised I had enough story to make more than one book.
It took me several years to redraft it and redraft again, till I thought it was finished and in a fit state to show someone. So off I went to the Winchester Writers’ Conference, which is held annually, and got wonderful feedback from two publishing agents on what was right with my first three chapters – and some constructive feedback what was wrong with them. Putting right what was wrong meant reconstructing the entire first chapter – and whatever that impacted in the following chapters – so taking their advice was a little bit daunting.
But I thought about it, worked out how to make the changes, and ploughed on through for another four or five redrafts. When I’d finished, I knew that the feedback had been right, and my final draft was much better than the one I’d thought was finished.
So that only left the small matter of finding a publisher. I didn’t want to go down the self-publishing or Vanity publishing routes. I wanted the validation of having someone else say: “Hey, we like this. We’ll pay you for this, and invest our time and resources in helping you put it out there.” So for the next 18 months I sent my manuscript round to publishers who might be interested.
The only encouragement I got was being shortlisted in Writing Magazine’s ‘Win a Book Deal’ competition in 2017, which was a real boost because for the rest of those 18 months all I got from publishers were variations on ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
And then I heard about ‘Mirror World’, a publisher looking for speculative fiction novels. I sent off my first three chapters during their September 2017 submissions window… and waited… till November, when they got back to me, and asked to see the rest of the book. Then more agonising weeks went by while they read that…
And they liked it! Just in time for Christmas 2017, I signed the contract – not just for my first book, but for the entire Unreachable Skies trilogy.
It was a great feeling, it made for a very happy Christmas, but an author’s work is never done! I had another two books to write, because my contract was for three books – the entire trilogy – not one.
So, I worked on Book 2 in among doing the edits, and publicity and proofreads and marketing for Book 1.
But all the hard work was worth it when the first volume of Unreachable Skies was published in August 2018. I can’t describe the feeling of opening a box of books which all had my name on the cover – I didn’t know whether to hug them, or roll around in them, it was SO exciting, and for me it was an ambition fulfilled. It’s been an amazing journey for me – and it continues as I work on another SF novel.
Thanks, Mirror World!