Welcome to an impromptu edition of Living the Dream. There’s a very good reason why I’m slipping this one in.
It’s done. Editing for the first instalment of my series of novels is finally complete… at least the third round of editing is anyway.
What makes this round of editing so special compared to the previous two? Well, the main reason is that I’m going to begin submitting the story to publishers this time. I haven’t the previous two times as I knew it needed improving. I don’t think it’s perfect now by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s closer to perfection than it’s ever been.
The original manuscript was something in the region of 320,000 words long. After the first edit, the length grew to around 325,000 words. Then I discovered that the length would be a massive stumbling block—most publishers won’t consider a novel of more than 70,000 words from a first-time writer. It was careless of me not to research such information.
The second edit came and went and I’d managed to whittle it down to just over 304,000 words. Good, but still a long way from what I needed, even after splitting the story up to make it a three-parter. Deleting bits of something you worked so hard on isn’t an easy task; however, I knew that I needed to get ruthless in the third edit.
Large chunks of the story were removed; some to be rewritten, others simply to disappear altogether. It took a while—a few months in fact—and the end result was that I’d reduced the length to under 271,000 words: that’s a reduction of 33,000 words from the second edit and 54,000 from the first. I’ve also taken care of some word repetition and crutch word usage along the way.
Its length is still immense. In paperback form, my guess is that the book would be between 800 to 1,000 pages long. I can’t recall reading a book as long as that before. Chances are that the length is still going to be too much for publication and I’ll have to do a fourth edit at some point. As a three-part story, I get the feeling that publishers might be looking at something closer to the 210,000 word mark. That sounds tricky to me.
Anyway, enough of that. I’m just happy that I finally feel the book is in a place where I can submit it to publishers. At present, I’m not going to waste time stressing over what happens from here.
I’m going to offer you all some information about my story that I’ve never shared before. I’ve been relatively guarded about the details unless divulging to friends. I feel now is a good time to be a bit more forthcoming about what the story is.
As you should have gleaned from the title of this post, the series is called The Escapades of William Hart and the first book is entitled Revenge on the Spanish Main. The series is set in the early 1700’s and follows the life and adventures of a young Englishman from the moment he arrives in the New World. He is an enrolee in the English Navy and has his sights set on a flourishing career.
When events conspire to quell that dream, William Hart must find new ways of becoming successful on the ocean waves. Along with his friends, Edward Connery and Enrique Morales, Hart is about to embark on a journey that he never would have envisaged as he realises what a strange, tantalising, and chaotic place the Caribbean is. He’ll come to discover that following the rules is not always the most righteous course of action.
The setting and the time period have always been something I’ve romanticised over. It was an absolute guarantee from a young age that I was going to end up writing a story about it.
The idea for Escapades was conceptualised sometime in 2010. I drew my inspiration mainly from a videogame called Sid Meier’s Pirates! Live the Life. Movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean had their role to play too, though this story isn’t a tale of the paranormal. I decided from the beginning that products of the ethereal wouldn’t be a feature in this. I’m not massively taken by things like ghosts, so I wanted to try and keep it as practical as possible.
As people do with any new idea they’re excited about, I got to work straightaway. I wrote the synopsis for Revenge and four other stories to come after it before cracking on with the story itself. It was going reasonably well. I managed to get the prologue written pretty quickly and things were chugging along nicely.
Then I just stopped. I don’t know why. I know that I started a new job in 2010 and that things in the relationship I was in at the time weren’t quite perfect. Whether they had something to do with it, I don’t know. I do know that I often made the excuse that I needed to be ‘in the zone’ in order to write and I never was.
So the years passed and Revenge sat there doing nothing. Every so often I’d revisit and add a page or two, though that moment of enthusiasm would quickly pass. It wasn’t until late 2015 that I finally decided to stop with the excuses and began working properly on it again. It had taken me over five years to write 344 pages. It took me six and a half months to write a further 1,214. On 17th May 2016, I finally finished writing Revenge.
I began editing pretty much immediately after. I finished the first edit on 21st August 2016. Then I started a second edit and finished that one on 17th November 2016. This latest edit I didn’t start until this year. It was sometime after my birthday in April. This one has taken longer than the previous ones, but then this one has been that much more intense and ruthless.
Escapades is a nautical adventure. It was brave of me to write such a book as my nautical knowledge is slim to say the least. I couldn’t tell you an awful lot about sailing. My inexperience in that field will undoubtedly show; however, what is more important about Revenge—and will indeed be more important about the succeeding stories in the Escapades series—is the human element to the story. These books are about William Hart and his friends. They’re about the journey that these people are going to take and the ways in which the journey will change and mould them as people. The stories are not a fact file about the different vessels that sailed in that period and naming each part of each featured vessel with painstaking intricacy; kind of like Clive Cussler does in his books. As much as I love Clive Cussler—hands down my favourite author—I could honestly do without his use of nautical jargon as the only things I’m interested in are the plot and the characters. I never intended to write this story like Cussler writes his, despite the loosely similar theme.
What I want to avoid is people seeing this as a ‘pirate novel’ just because of the setting and the time period. Revenge is not, I repeat, is not a pirate novel! Pirates are a feature within the novel and will be what at least one of the stories in the series centres around. The stories themselves, however, are not pirate stories.
Another thing I’m looking to avoid in the series is making the protagonist completely infallible in every way. In Revenge, I have to admit that Hart can come across as quite superhuman at some points and I will readily hold my hands up to that. He’s strong, intelligent, handsome, articulate, and a superlative swordfighter. He’s also extremely moralistic and courageous, which, altogether, paints him out as being pretty much perfect in every way. I can imagine that there are people out there who won’t much like how wonderful Hart is as, these days, everybody seems to like a flawed hero.
All I can say to that end is for you to be patient. Hart starts out as a wholesome boy with the best of intentions. He’s got a lot coming up in the series and, while I won’t give away too much, there are cracks enough in his personality in Revenge that they will widen and expose some rather ugly sides to my protagonist as the series develops. The story is as much about the environment affecting Hart as it is about Hart affecting the environment.
There are many things that I want to continue running into the books that follow Revenge: recurring/returning characters, plot developments, schemes and adventures, stories within stories, etc. It really doesn’t matter what happens as far as publishing is concerned; I will be writing the four other stories in the series regardless—plus one other story I planned recently that is directly linked to the series, but is a standalone. If the traditional publishing method doesn’t work out then I will, eventually, go down the path of independent publishing. These stories are not being written to stay hidden on a hard drive or laptop. I want them to be available for the world to read and that will be so—one way or another!
I’m excited—really, really excited—about the prospect of realising my dream of being a published author. I don’t care about money or fame; all I want is to see a book that I wrote with my name on the cover sitting on a bookshelf. Actually, no; I want to see my book in somebody’s hands as they read it from cover to cover, engrossed in every single word that their eyes see.
Revenge on the Spanish Main is ready to make its presence known and kick-start what I believe is an epic series of stories. It’s taken a long time to reach this point, but I knew it would come eventually. I was determined enough to see it through. All that remains now is to read it through and then begin work on the submission letters I’ll be sending out. I shall keep you up to speed with what happens from here. Wish me luck!
The first draft of the blurb to accompany Revenge on the Spanish Main
“It’s 1714. We meet sixteen-year-old William Hart—a dedicated, intelligent, and resourceful jack tar—as he sails to the West Indies for his first taste of Navy life in the New World. However, fate is to conspire against the young man and sully his aspirations.
A battle for survival soon becomes a fight for revenge. With friends Edward Connery and Enrique Morales by his side, Hart must overcome deceit, betrayal, and overwhelming odds to become the sailor he always dreamed to be and bring justice to the man who took everything from him.”