The best thing about not knowing what you’re doing is you are willing to attempt feats you would realize were difficult to almost impossible.
In 2004, I started the first draft of what would become The Golden Rule Duology. Back then, it had the snappy title of The Two-Thumbed Hand. (I don’t know why I changed it.) The story concentrated on the Ors, one of the five races in the Photocosm setting I’d created. Up till then, the Sables (the myrmidons of the Dark Light) had been the focus of my efforts, but the Ors captured my imagination so much, I had to write about them.
The book originally began at the start of the second section of A Bright Power Rising. My original plan was to see the entire story through the viewpoint of AscendantSun and NoName (who were DayRise and SunSet back then) but their interactions with the (human) Mixies became quickly unwieldy to write. The Ors were alien to the reader, while the Mixies were alien to the Ors. Explaining things became quickly convoluted. The story quickly became an onion of aliening. I cried every time I had to cut through the layers.
The problem with writing the alien is you are merely three letters short of alienate. While readers might enjoy the alien perspective, emotional resonance takes time to establish. The readers need ‘rules’. They need analogies. They need to relate the Ors’ reactions to their own emotions.
To ease the reader into this world, the Mixies’ role was expanded into what became the first section of A Bright Power Rising. The Mixies’ society became fleshed out. In some ways, they, too, are alien but they are recognizably human.
The Two-Thumbed Hand eventually became The Golden Rule. It was so long, a printed copy filled two thick ring binders. My initial readers came back with three clear issues. It was too long, it wasn’t long enough, but the ending was really good. Basically, I needed to slow down the pace to give people time to adjust to what was going on, and at the same time not inflict an excessively long story on them. I needed to split it into two volumes.
The initial problem was how to end the first volume. I wanted to tell a complete story, but I had to do so in a way that readers would want to read the next book. The third part of A Bright Power Rising was the result.
My beta readers loved it so I was soon off to get it edited. The first problem was where to get an editor. I must have looked at about thirty to forty different options. It’s an expensive decision, not simply in the initial financial outlay, but in time and morale. Picking the wrong editor can set you back. I wanted someone who knew what they were doing and would be brutally honest with the book’s issues. Fortunately, I lucked out by finding Finish The Story and Claire Ashgrove in particular.
I worked very hard through the editing process. I wanted the book to be ‘right,’ Ultimately, while it was at times painful, I learned an immense amount and the book improved beyond all recognition,
I had the book proofread a couple of times by Finish The Story and by Proofed to Perfection. One of the things always missed in the debates about errors in self-published books is that one proofreader is not enough to guarantee errors are minimized. My understanding is the big publishers use multiple proofreaders per book. Whenever I read a proofreader claim to never miss a mistake, I raise an eyebrow.
Everyone I’ve read talks of publishing for the first time as exciting. It is, but it is also nerve-racking. If I had to do it all over again, I would have first published a short story first to get familiar with the publishing process on Amazon, etc.
I was very happy with the final product. During editing, I weirdly get less satisfied with them when I haven’t read them a while, but when I reread them and get back into the story, my confidence in them returns. Fortunately, once they are published (unless some typo/error crops up), I just let them go as my brain starts work on the next book. It’ll be interesting to reread A Bright Power Rising in a couple of years. What will I think of it then?
The one issue I would change in a perfect world would be the pronouns for the Ors, given their genderless nature. I would have liked to use something like xe/xem/xyr for them. But as an unknown self-publishing my own book, I decided this would create a barrier for readers who were unfamiliar with the terminology. I couldn’t afford to come off as being willfully obscure.