My first effort at publishing was a success. How about that? That’s not something you hear every day.
My first novel ‘The Manse’ was not the first story I’d written. In fact, it was not even on my schedule to write. I had written eight or nine unpublished novels prior to this, and I only started to write ‘The Manse’ because I was given an opportunity to contribute a serial to a bi-monthly magazine. As I began to write it, I had a vague idea where I would take it, but I only wrote about five or six hundred words every other month. This, dear reader, is not the way to approach the writing of a novel, but it is how I started out.
After two years of episodes coming out in the South Australian CWA magazine, the editor asked for an ending. She and the readers wanted me to bring it to a close. At this point I had a pink-fit. In my vague plan, I had reached the part of the story where the characters had just become established, and the first major conflict had been revealed – and they wanted an ending.
Believe it or not, this was a God given opportunity. I needed to tell the whole story, and I was losing my outlet, so following inspiration, I contacted the editor and proposed that I would wind the story up for the magazine – which would be a very unsatisfactory, unresolved ending – if she would allow that I could advertise the full novel for sale. She agreed. Only one small problem remained – well a host of small problems actually: I had to finish writing the whole novel, then I had to figure out how to publish it. Find a printer, right? Oh, and I’ll have to sort out a cover, and I guess I’d better get someone to read over it to look out for mistakes.
I did it. I published it myself, two teachers from school read over it and found a couple of spelling errors, it had a very dodgy looking cover, and I advertised in the CWA magazine. Between that outlet and various church contacts, I sold all 300 copies in no time. I had readers coming and begging for a sequel – which I thought was silly, as I had no notion of writing a sequel. One reader said she’d pray until God gave me a sequel. I was annoyed with this statement and got to thinking about how there was no opportunity for a sequel. But wait, there was that young lad, whose father had been killed suddenly...
Ok, so I wrote a sequel, actually a whole series that has six published titles, and one unpublished one.
In 1998, through a contact I had in Christian Book distribution, I had the opportunity to have ‘The Manse’ and ‘Green Valley’ (the sequel) distributed throughout Australia and New Zealand. He gave me this opportunity on the condition I sorted out that cover.
I found someone who was slightly more knowledgeable about graphic design than me (still not a professional), and I had someone who said they’d worked as an editor with an American publishing company go over the manuscripts again. I made some changes, and the 1998 version was released, and began to sell like crazy. ‘Like crazy’ means I sold them in the thousands.
In 2003 I was contacted by a publisher in the UK, who’d heard about my work. This publisher eventually accepted the first three books in this series. They went through another editor and re-write, with a professional designer on the cover this time.
All good – right? I’ve sold over 8,500 copies of ‘The Manse’.
Last year, to celebrate twenty years in print, I dragged the manuscript out – the UK version that has now been edited and re-written three times – and decided to get it ready for eBook. My giddy aunt!!! The writing was in such a bad way, I can’t believe I’d sold 25,000 copies of the series, and have avid Heart of Green Valley fans.
Christian writing in Australia has evolved at a rapid rate. I guess when I set out, I had no clue, and muddled along with the opportunities God put before me. Thank goodness the readers over the last twenty years didn’t know what I now know. Head-hopping; author intrusion; rogue adverbs (which I really actually like very much); elaborate speech attributions; loads of telling and not nearly enough showing; and an uncanny habit of using explanation marks for just about everything! These writerly sins were a solid part of everything I wrote pre-2012 – that’s like about eleven titles.
So here I sit. I did tell my readers I planned to release all of the Heart of Green Valley series to eBook. I re-wrote and re-edited ‘The Manse’ for the fourth time (and I admit, I skimped on the final editing as the opportunities to exploit the title for return are not there as they were twenty years ago).
This week I opened up the sequel, ‘Green Valley’ and groaned. This had been edited by both the American editor and the English editor. Obviously they had no idea either. I had thought I’d just have to make a couple of changes here and there. You know, cull all the adverbs, simplify the speech attributions, and sort out POV. No such luck. So far I have worked on the first scene, and out of about a thousand words, I’ve retained about twenty. Another deep sigh.
But I have to do it. If I was to put it up in its current format, the critics would move on it like a bunch of sharks at a feeding frenzy, and point out all of the issues. This ultimately would affect my reputation as a writer.
So be encouraged dear writer friends. Look at the bright side. You have the information at your fingertips today. You know what the writerly sins are, and can easily look up how to avoid them. Get ahead of the program and learn not to do it when you first write, so that you don’t have to spend half your life re-writing.
2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the first publication of ‘The Manse’, the first title in ‘The Heart of Green Valley’ series.
To read more about Meredith Resce and all of her work, visit www.meredithresce.com