Today debut thriller author Andrew Clawson is visiting to share with us his challenging road to writing, researching, and publishing his first novel.
From idea to publication
First of all, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Donna for sharing her blog with me today. Sources of information such as hers are vital to the publishing process, as they allow for like-minded individuals to gather and share valuable information that otherwise may elude us.
I recently published my first novel, A Patriot’s Betrayal. I had the crazy idea to write a book about seven years ago after finishing a particularly good novel (it was so good I can’t quite remember the name, but nonetheless). Naïve though it was, I immediately grabbed a pen and paper and began scribbling ideas for what my bestseller would be about. Two hours and rambling, scribbles, and quite a few four-letter words later, I realized a bit of research might be in order.
The first thing I did correctly was stop and think about one simple thing. What was I interested in that would hold my attention long enough for me to complete a 100,000 word novel? The obvious answer, of course, was history. I figured that I should take my love of history, toss it in a bowl, add a sprinkling of my writing skill and viola! We’d have that bestseller.
Needless to say, it didn’t go quite like that.
I’ve always been fascinated by the history of America, so I latched onto the biggest and brightest star the U.S. had to offer. George Washington. A few days of intense research and many cold beers later, I had the basic premise for my plot (sorry, no spoilers here). From that point onwards, I read as many books about George Washington that I could get my hands on. I read letters he wrote, speeches he gave, and as much trivia and minutia as I could find. From within this sloppy, gurgling pile of information I extracted the most interesting and unusual details about the man I stumbled across.
Now that I had a pile of neat information, I needed to mold it into something resembling a story. For that, I needed not only some main characters, but places for them to ply their trade of main “charactering”. As luck would have it, I was consistently running across events that occurred in the city of Philadelphia while I was researching Mr. Washington’s life. I lived only four hours from the city of brotherly love.
I was able to educate myself on one of the most interesting places in America. Believe it or not, there is more to the place than cheese steaks and booing Santa Claus. George Washington had left his mark all over Philadelphia, providing me with plenty of possibilities for my work of fiction.
You see, one of the things that I love about any book I read is when the author is able to educate and entertain me in one fell swoop. If he or she can incorporate actual places and events while weaving their tale, I believe the story carries greater weight and has more credibility than if they simply create non-existent architecture or artifacts just for the benefit of their story.
I bumbled through a first draft, which was flat-out awful. Not only did it take me over three years, but it stunk. Actually, stunk would have been kind. It was brutal. No description, nothing flowed, my characters were flat, and I never maintained point of view. The list goes on and on. I was neither a great or ground-breaking writer. I was a disgrace. And you know what I’ve learned along the way? Even if they won’t admit it, most writers produce terrible first drafts. They’re called first drafts for a reason.
So now comes the hard part. The part that separates the men from the boys, the true pros from the weekend warriors.
I revised. I cut. I crossed out. I swore. I screamed. I threw my worthless manuscript as far as I could and hoped it would never come back again. But I stuck with it.
The first revision may as well have been an entirely new book. I threw out enough garbage to get my card at the trash collector’s union. But I finally had a workable manuscript, something I could give to my reading group that they didn’t have to lie to me about being readable.
Two more revisions and hundreds of hours later, I was done. Looking back, I can point out two main reasons I was able to finally do this, to finish one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever set out upon.
One, by sheer luck, my day job transferred me to Philadelphia while I was revising the manuscript. Being able to walk in the very footsteps that my characters did was invaluable. There’s no substitute for first-hand experience.
Two, and this is by far the most important, was my stubbornness. When I wanted to throw my hands up and quit, when many people would have shut down the computer and turned on the television, I stuck with it. It wasn’t always fun, but I did it, and I wouldn’t change a thing. And believe me, if I can do it, so can you.
About A Patriot’s Betrayal
The last thing Parker Chase expected to find after burying his murdered uncle was a cryptic letter from the dead man. Parker realizes that his uncles death was far more than a robbery gone bad and soon finds himself pursued by the very men who killed his uncle. Joined by his brilliant ex-girlfriend, Parker fights to stay one step ahead of a shadowy organization hell-bent on silencing him forever.
Desperate to uncover the truth behind his uncles death, Parker learns that he was killed after uncovering information about a centuries old mystery involving America’s Founding Fathers.
Both the CIA and the police join the death-dealing cabal of murderers in a chase to capture Parker, who must run for his life while unraveling the greatest conspiracy in American history.