The Making of The Ninth Hunter

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I’ve recently published my fifth novel. It’s no longer an idea, a dream, a goal or (and I hate to admit this) a frustration. It’s a book. I can hold it in my hand and flip through all those pages—the thousands of words neatly printed, side by side, barely representing the agony I went through to get them there.

Now that it’s over, I can finally sit back and congratulate myself for making it. Because until publication day—the finish line—everything else is just one tiny step in an impossible journey. And no matter how many times you’ve done it before, it doesn’t get easier. Of course, there are elements of certainty that only experience can bring. Like knowing you have the resilience to make it through the drafting phase and various edits, but with that experience also comes expectation. Because you’ve done it before, you expect yourself to do it faster, you want your characters to be stronger and your plot to be a thousand times more intriguing. But realistically, every book is different and they can’t be written the same way.

If I’d gone into this book with that in mind, perhaps I would have saved myself a lot of frustration. But if I’m being honest with myself, there’s truly no point working within your capabilities. How will you ever grow if you don’t stretch yourself?

Where it all began…

So back on June 6th 2013, I started working on my humble little ghost story. I’d recently fallen in love with ghost stories and plots that moved away from the mainstream concept. Like Anna Dressed in Blood and the Graveyard Queen Series. I took inspiration from those stories and set to work on my own book, using the well known concept of ghosts and twisting it into my own unique mythology.

I didn’t want to write about ghosts of dead people who linger around earth until their unfinished business is settled. What if instead, ghosts were an extension of the human psyche? Ghosts of the living, who have the power to manipulate and destroy human lives. Wouldn’t they be far more terrifying?

I wrote extensive notes about world building and really focused on creating a strong main character with an intriguing struggle. Daniel Barrow, a young man with a sad past, who’s evolved into a ruthless ghost hunter. I fell in love with the idea of a character who could be a complete badass and a competent killer, but who also has a unique vulnerability. He’s done terrible things but ultimately has good intentions, and he’s fighting for a noble cause.

Out of all the characters I’ve written, Daniel instantly became my favourite. Although I can’t directly relate to the horror of his past, I think we’ve all felt trapped by some element of our lives before. And while he accepts his dark fate, it’s his ongoing struggle for identity that really brings him to life.

When it got tough…

I’ve drafted novels in as little as four months before, but this book, this neat little package of pages, took a whopping 2.5 years from concept to publication. And to be honest, I truly resented the time it took while I was stuck in the middle. But now that I’m finally at the end, I can see that it took so long because it’s far more than one novel. It’s an entire education. I learnt so much in the process of creating this piece, from the fortnightly critiques from the ever inspiring Ellenbrook Writers Group, the seven beta readers who pulled this book apart and helped me glue it back together, the professional content editor and the TWELVE rounds of editing it took to get to the finished product. In the process of writing this book, I became a real writer, and there’s a whole team of people who supported the process. They know who they are, and I’ll never forget their lessons!

Aside from the technical elements of writing, I had a few personal speed bumps along the way too. And I can assure you, dealing with a complicated mythology is hard enough when you’re spending regular time working on it, but any extended breaks you have, make it virtually impossible to remember your place and they’re a huge step backwards! So add into the mix, a year of living packed to the rafters with five adults and a baby (let me add, it was a beautiful distraction to be surrounded by family and to watch my niece growing into a little lady), a house move and six months of hideous migraines, I lost my place time and time again and there were days where I really didn’t know how this book would ever be finished. But I slowed down and stopped expecting so much from myself. Gradually life got easier. I chipped away and I called in encouragement whenever I needed it. I finally finished this book and proved to myself that being passionate about something is always stronger than any obstacle.

The result…

The Ninth Hunter ebook cover

Before I started this book, writing had always been a solo venture, but thanks to my writers group, I’m now surrounded by a wonderful group of extremely talented authors. These amazing people taught me how to use the English language in ways I hadn’t thought of before, they allowed me to understand how readers really think, they encouraged me when I struggled and were hard on me when I needed to be shown the truth. They’ve made me tougher, and wiser and one billion times better at doing what I love. And six weeks post publication, the response to The Ninth Hunter has been overwhelmingly positive. Every time I read a review that talks fondly about Daniel and his struggle, I smile and think, that’s my struggle too.

 

I’m A Writer, And It’s Time To Soldier On

743999b762023e24ec8c8912992be61eYears ago I saw a documentary on SAS training. During the interviews one soldier said when you feel like your body has given absolutely everything it has, you’ve actually only used 30% of its capabilities. That concept has stuck with me, reminding me that most battles are lost within the mind not the body and whenever I feel like I’m ready to give up, I quietly tell myself, I have another 70% to go.

This idea applies to so many things in life but when it comes to writing a novel, you really have to reach within yourself, pull out everything you have to give, and then some.

People often ask about the challenges an author faces. They’re curious about the daily hurdles, the hunt for inspiration and the motivation to continue working on the same project for years. It is hard but sometimes those three words aren’t enough to explain the enormity of the task. So I wanted to give you a snap shot. To show you the true magnitude of how deep we need to dig as authors to make it through some of those last obstacles.

I’m 2 years into my current writing project, The Ninth Hunter. And the truth is, this is the hardest book I’ve ever written. But it’s not the first time I’ve said those words and it certainly won’t be the last. Which is a good thing. It means I’m pushing myself, I’m learning and I’m getting better at this job every day. But momentum is everything in this craft and this is officially the longest time I’ve spent on one novel. Why? Mostly because of challenging and adapting life circumstances that couldn’t be avoided. All those hiccups dragged me away from the book and made it harder to keep my head in the game. And when you’re working slowly, your perspective warps and it’s easy to lose consistency with your characters and plot.

Despite the hardships, I powered through. Over two years, I submitted 24 chapters of this book to my writers group and received detailed critiques from lots of talented people. I went through their suggestions fortnightly and updated my novel every step of the way. I finally completely the draft. I read the book from start to finish and rewrote my female character. TWICE. I sent the book out to 6 beta readers. I evaluated their feedback and edited the book once more. Then I began my last edit. The final step, the search for spelling and grammar mistakes. The sense of completion drew near, and I was more than ready to let this book go. It had been a long journey, but I’d given everything I had.

Then I received final notes from a seventh beta reader and a couple of significant flaws were brought to my attention. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a crushing moment for me. Not because the feedback was harsh—it wasn’t. The review was honest and constructive but experiencing that shift from visible finish line to realising the marathon wasn’t over was a difficult moment.

At first, disappointment took over but within a few minutes I realised how grateful I was to have a friend tell me what was wrong with my book before I published it and got bad reviews. And I had no doubt in my mind where I would go from there. I didn’t work for 2 years only to ignore a problem and release work that could have been better. If I didn’t fix the flaws, all the time I’d already invested in this book would be wasted.

So today, I’m back at the writing desk. I thought I’d reached my limit but now the challenge has kicked in and I know I have another 70% to spare. Ultimately, this is what I love about writing. I love how it replicates life, throwing curve balls and forcing you to push yourself right to the edge. And to the seventh beta reader, if you’re reading this, you already know how grateful I am for your help. It’s too soon to say exactly how long it will take me to patch up the holes, but there’s no doubt this book will be better because of it. Thank you!