Please welcome guest blogger, Pete Abela, author of WINGS, as he talks about unfinished drafts, the gift of time, and the importance of quality feedback.
The publication of Wings has been an exciting and proud event for me. I’d nearly go so far as to say it rates in the top handful of achievements in my life so far. However, Wings almost didn’t get published. It spent close to a year in my drawer as a half-written manuscript: unloved, ignored and forgotten. Today I’ll talk about how it got to that point and the sequence of events that enabled me to turn an incomplete and fault-ridden document into a published novel.
Although Wings is a work of fiction, it is heavily based on the story of two men I admire: my grandfather who was a WWII fighter pilot and my brother who is now a commercial pilot. I thought they had both led amazing lives and so I started writing Wings using the bones of their stories as the basis for the plot. I did not plan the entire book. Wings is the first novel I have attempted so I did not know how to go about it. I simply sat down and started writing.
I continued this process for many months, writing almost every day. I enjoyed the process of writing and seeing the story come to life. I enjoyed it, that is, until I came to a grinding halt. I woke up one day fed up and discouraged. I resented the process of writing and the time it consumed, particularly given I was unsure whether what I had written was any good. I wondered if I was wasting my time. Worst of all, I had no idea of the ending and did not know what to write next.
I decided to take a short break from writing. During my break, I read a book about stock market investing using the Value Investment approach. It got me hooked and I began spending significant amounts of time researching stocks and tracking my shares. Whatever time had been spent writing was taken up with my new interest. Wings faded from my consciousness and was soon forgotten.
It was almost a year later that I chanced upon Wings as I hunted for an elusive file on my PC. Out of curiosity, I opened it and began reading. I was surprised at the quality of the writing and read the entire manuscript in a day. Wings was much better than I remembered and I was immediately struck by its potential. Even better, an ending popped straight into my mind.
I was seized by a new burst of enthusiasm and finished the first draft of Wings within a month. I spent another month polishing it, then sent it to a publisher and prepared to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long.
“We like it,” replied the publisher within a week. “But it’s not of publishable standard yet. You can pitch it to other publishers if you like, but our recommendation would be to obtain a reader’s report.”
I took their advice and requested a reader’s report, which is a manuscript assessment by an accomplished editor. While I waited, I began writing a second novel. After six weeks, the report came back. It contained general comments about areas of weakness, as well as a specific example of where the weakness could be found in my manuscript. It was up to me to understand the comment and example and work out how to apply the feedback to the remainder of the manuscript.
The two major weaknesses were a lack of revelation of the character’s emotional response to major events and a scarcity of description about setting. They did observe that my natural writing style was lean and uncluttered, so they cautioned me against going too far with my descriptions and emotional responses. There were also some mechanical issues such as an over-reliance on “ly” adverbs and a passive writing style through the use of words such as “had”, “was” and “am”.
The reader’s report was an excellent initiative and assisted me to make the leap from “gifted amateur” to “polished professional.” The suggestions rang true and the fact that they used examples of my own writing to point out the areas for improvement helped me to grasp their suggestion and apply it to the rest of the novel. The fact that a publisher expressed interest in my work provided more than enough incentive for me to continue the process of refinement.
It took me a couple of months to rework the manuscript in accordance with the feedback. Within ten days of submitting Wings to Really Blue Books, I had an offer to publish. I’ve been floating ever since, although working very hard on further edits, establishing a social media platform and planning publicity.
On May 21st, the big day finally arrived. Wings became a published novel and I can now call myself an author.
It’s a great feeling.
Pete is an author from the city of Wollongong, just south of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia. For most of his adult life, Pete has been a left-brained computer scientist whose love of reading eventually led him to take up writing. Having surprised himself and those around him by getting Wings published, he’s now having fun dreaming up marketing strategies and publicity stunts – tasks he never could have envisaged doing ten years ago. He continues to stretch the boundaries of his right hemisphere and is now working to complete a second novel.
His left brain hasn’t been totally neglected through this process. Pete works as an IT Manager in order to help keep his wife and four kids fed and clothed. When he’s not working, reading, writing or enjoying the company of his family, Pete likes to sneak away for a bit of exercise – either tennis, soccer or a laborious run.
You can find more about Pete at his website and blog (http://peteabela.com). The blog contains a number of really bad jokes. You have been warned.
Like Pete on Facebook; follow him on Twitter.