In honor of Indie April, I’ve asked self-published author Andrew McDowell, a fellow member of the Maryland Writers’ Association, questions about his debut novel Mystical Greenwood and lessons learned.
We’re both writing our second novels. And so, I wanted to take time out to consider what we are doing differently the second time around.
M.J. – Andrew, thanks for this opportunity to not only to talk about Mystical Greenwood but to also consider what you learned as a first-time author. I don’t know about you, as much as I’m tickled to death about my first novel, The House on Moss Swamp Road, there are some things I’m planning on doing differently with the next book.
The top of my lessons learned is what a developmental editor does versus a copy editor. This time around I hired a developmental editor first to make sure the story flowed well.
How about you regarding preparing your manuscript for publishing?
Andrew – Like you, the flow of the story is important, as is making sure scenes connect together not just sequentially but that they build upon one another. My publisher was also an editor, and she offered insight into areas where the story didn’t flow so well. They always say it’s good to have another pair of eyes look at your story, and that’s true from beta readers to both developmental and copy editors. It doesn’t mean you have to necessarily agree with what others say if you feel it isn’t true to your vision, but quite often their insight can lead to a better alternative, whether it’s one they suggest or one you come up with yourself. Preparing a manuscript in that regard is about working together and making the process smooth and compatible. Respect for others’ opinions is essential. I would also add this: for those who are querying, it is best to follow standard manuscript formatting guidelines so you can focus on the story first.
M.J. – If you could give a new writer hope, or tips, or a lesson learn, what would it be?
Andrew – I would urge everyone to believe in themselves and their work and to never give up. We all make mistakes because that’s life and writing. If you give up and tell yourself you’ll never be good and/or published, then you never will.
Even the authors of literary classics were once like those today – they started out with drafts, had to edit and then deal with rejections and criticisms. I have no doubt they carried doubts about their work, before and after publication. But their works are classics today because they persisted. Imagine then where authors like us could someday venture! And I will always pass on what my father told me: the important thing is to tell a story and tell it well.
M.J. – That’s an inspirational message, and I agree with your father. I’m sure he’s proud of the story you’ve told in Mystical Greenwood. Tell us about when you first decided to write.
Andrew – Would you believe it, when I first started writing the earliest draft of what would eventually become Mystical Greenwood, I was actually writing by hand, because at thirteen years old I wasn’t yet that computer savvy, so I hadn’t learned how to successfully type. I remember getting hand cramps as well as graphite stains (because I’m left-handed), but once I took a keyboarding class in high school (something I highly recommend all students do regardless of whether or not they’re interested in writing) that all changed.
I’m writing the sequel and other writing projects starting on the computer (only poems sometimes are first written by hand). This time I’m finding myself not so much writing in a sequence as I remember doing with the earliest draft of Mystical Greenwood but rather writing little bits that come to mind and trying to figure out how to weave them together into a narrative. It’s not so much that I want to do it that way, but rather that’s just how it is going.
M.J. – How far are you into the process of writing your second novel?
Andrew – I’m probably about a quarter of the way to a complete draft.
M.J. – Marketing, do you love it or hate it? How do you plan to market your next book?
Andrew – I hate it, no question. Right now I’m not thinking so much about marketing the next book as I am my first. I know I need to make more appearances and get more reviews.
M.J. – Did you have beta readers? Seek professional reviewers? Were they helpful?
Andrew – The answer to all three is yes. Early on I had beta readers, starting with relatives. Some feel family isn’t the best place to turn to for beta readers, but I disagree as they are you first foundation of support, and if someone is good at editing and proofreading, go for it! They gave me enough encouragement to keep going.
I was in a few critique groups who read chapters of Mystical Greenwood but never the full manuscript as for different reasons the groups were short-lived. It was good hearing their opinions. Finally, I paid author John DeDakis for a critique of the manuscript, which was worth it because he showed me what worked and what didn’t, and I realized I needed to do some more revising, which included moving scenes around in a different order and (eventually) having shorter chapters. It’s always beneficial to have another pair of eyes take a look at your story, to see what you don’t.
M.J. – Andrew, thanks again for taking the time to share what you learned. And now, let’s take a look at Mystical Greenwood.
Mystical Greenwood, Book I of One with Nature
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the land of Denú who has always longed for something more in life. His life changes when he encounters a gryphon and a mysterious healer. Drawn into a conflict against one determined to subjugate the kingdom, Dermot and his brother Brian are forced to leave their home.
A legendary coven must now reunite, for they are Denú’s greatest hope. In the course of meeting unicorns and fighting dragons and men in dark armor, Dermot discovers a deep, sacred magic which exists within every greenwood he crosses through, but his own role in this conflict is greater than he suspects. Can he protect those he loves, or will all that’s good be consumed by darkness?
Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Nook:
The cover art is available at Deviant Art
Andrew McDowell wanted to be a writer since he was a teenager. He studied at St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor with the literary journal JMWW.
In addition to his high fantasy novel Mystical Greenwood, Andrew has also written and published poetry and creative nonfiction.
Visit his website and blog at andrewmcdowellauthor.com to learn more about him and his writing.