Here at Tickety Boo Press we are keen on networking. Michael Gilmour has done alot to promote Abendau’s Heir by Jo Zebedee so we like to reciprocate. Here’s his story so far.
“I began my debut novel, Battleframe, like every other author, staring at a happily blinking cursor on a blank screen. What sort of demented programmer designed Word with an incessantly flashing cursor? Like a dripping tap or some arcane torture it only stops blinking while you’re typing. How annoying is that! So under the lash of the cursor I began my personal journey of crafting my imagination into words. And that’s how Battleframe was born.
So other than my blinking overlord, what drove me to write? It was the story. Once I began, the only way that I could find out what would happen next was to write it. I think that readers sometimes forget that writers love to find out what is going to happen next as much as they do.
I initially wrote Battleframe as a series of episodes for a website that I was developing. Each article ended in a climax with the ambition of drawing the reader back to the website a few days later for the next exciting instalment.
This seemed to work on two fronts. Readers returned (which is always a great endorsement) and I had to get busy writing a thousand words every few days. Before I knew it, I had completed around eighty episodes and had the framework for a novel. In addition, the feedback from readers was awesome and caused me to select particular twists and turns in the plot. When I look back this is where my “problems” began, as like any worthwhile work of art my book became all consuming.
Writing is more than just putting words together on a page. I found that I was living, eating and breathing the story over and over again. I’d be sitting at the meal table with my family trying to gauge the weight of the salt shaker while I imagined it was some hi-tech grenade. I had to blink twice before I realised that my daughter had asked me to pass the salt and not the Tellurite infused munition.
One time I found myself at a church function and we were asked to draw a picture of something that made us feel at peace. All around the small group individuals had pictures of sunsets, flowers and dolphins. I had an intricately designed laser sniper rifle fully equipped with a back harness! It was clear that I needed some sort of counselling!
Every spare second I’d be either at the keyboard or dreaming up the next reason to be there. Speaking of dreaming. Each night when my head hit the pillow magic seemed to happen. Scenes played out in my mind as I spun an imaginary camera around a battlefield, an enemy base or the characters burying loved ones.
If you’re about to embark on authoring your own novel then listen to this warning. It’s very likely that you will become obsessive, fanatical and downright unpleasant to live with at different times during the writing. So whatever you do, when you finally get published thank those that have put up with you. You only have to turn the first few pages of my book to see a list of those people that helped me along my journey – they needed a lot of thanks.
So back to my episodes. The problem I found with them was they were a piecemeal mish-mash of material that had the makings of something interesting (the readers thought so anyway) but barely resembled a novel at all.
I recollect writing what I thought was a brilliant chapter where three alien beings made entirely of energy talked to one another as they looked out on the galaxy. It was a really serious, key chapter and I’d spent quite some time polishing it.
I read the chapter to my wife (always a wise move) and she burst out laughing and told me how ridiculous it all sounded. With a thoroughly deflated ego I went back and rewrote the aliens as an elderly man, a beautiful woman and a young university student (complete with skateboard). The only thing that is out of the ordinary about the characters is they have the unusual names of Wisdom, Creativity and Intellect. The chapter really seemed to work and was a lot more fun to write then glowing orbs of energy. Better than that, it passed the wife test….which is always a plus!
I often travel as a part of my business and as I live in Australia this means that I’m in the air for at least fifteen hours before landing at my destination. Prior to writing, I would don my noise cancelling headphones, assume the foetal position and pray for sleep to help me survive the long flight. I’m a firm believer that the best movie to watch while flying is the picture of the little aeroplane on the map…if only it would move faster.
The rigours of flying all changed for me when I started pulling Battleframe together. The flights meant that I had an uninterrupted, extended time to completely focus on my writing. It’s incredible how something as boring and tortuous as flying can suddenly become enjoyable when you have an opportunity to write. In fact, there’s a scene in the book where the characters have to travel a long distance and this was really inspired by my own experiences.
Most of my writing is conducted while sitting on the couch with my laptop resting on the coffee table. I’d put on some orchestral music (I collect movie soundtracks) and type away at the keyboard. I would never write in my study as that was the place I did my other work. For me, I needed the clear separation between my business and writing.
I often get emotionally involved while I write. There is a particular scene in Battleframe where one of the characters is trying to save someone (not giving away spoilers here). My wife came into the living room to discover that I had tears rolling down my cheeks. She thought that something terrible had happened and was relieved when I told her that something nearly did but that everything was OK now.
Being a writer is all about riding the highs and the lows of our stories. It’s being with our characters as they gaze at sunsets, run through the jungle and duck behind a rock to dodge plasma fire. The characters, setting and plot come to life in our imaginations and the words are just a mechanism to share the experience with others. The challenge for me was to select words that properly reflected what I was already seeing, feeling and experiencing.
It was at this time that Battleframe was finally at the stage where I could begin inflicting numerous readings upon my family. Let’s face it, every writer has someone that deserves to be punished with the early drafts of our latest masterpiece. I’ll never forget the evening when I reverently handed the first few chapters of Battleframe to my wife and eldest daughter. I was so proud of what I’d written, and despite this I humbled myself by providing them with a red pen to mark-up any mistakes they found (as if there would be any I thought).
About half an hour later I came back to see how they were going and to bask in the sunshine of their praise as they acknowledged that I had written something spectacular. My daughter told me that it was boring and she had stopped at page ten to watch something on the television. My wife had used the red pen to full effect, leaving a little bit of the original text in place.
I switched the TV off and explained to them in no uncertain terms that they couldn’t possibly be right. After about fifteen minutes of arguing I left the room in disgust, flopped dejectedly onto the couch and started to read their comments. I begrudgingly acknowledged one point after another until I realised that I needed to completely rewrite everything.
When you ask someone to read an early manuscript don’t make my mistake and justify your position. If you do this then they’ll feel bad that they’ve upset you and you’ll lose a beta-reader. Writers need people to bounce ideas off and get feedback on their work. More than that, the people you’re talking to need to feel that they can be as honest as possible. I still have a sneaky suspicion that my daughter was getting a little bit of revenge for all those school assignments that I suggested she rewrite.
I later passed on the first half of Battleframe to my twenty-one year old son who was studying Arts at university. I must admit that his feedback was absolutely brilliant. He approached the book from a completely different perspective and this caused me to write a number of chapters that provided some background to some of the technology and the characters themselves.
After eighteen long months and about twenty rewrites I finally held my completed manuscript. I assembled a number of beta-readers and provided them with a printed copy and a survey. The survey asked questions about the characters, setting and plot. It also highlighted particular key scenes that I was seeking feedback on.
Once everyone had finished reading the manuscript I invited the group around to my house to discuss it. Three hours later I had invaluable feedback. For instance, one of the readers was ex-military and he asked a number of questions about the ranks for battleframe pilots and how they were different to other military personnel. I had also backed myself into a corner on a number of plot points and after a bit of discussion I was able to pull things together.
Having a group of people beyond your family that can provide you with open and honest feedback is exceptionally important for the writing process. I would often discuss points with each beta-reader and come back to them with rewrites that helped address the issue. If you want to keep beta-readers then whatever you do, provide them ongoing feedback. Every beta-reader also needs to appreciate that it’s your book and that sometimes you may choose not to take on board their suggestions.
After all of the corrections and rewrites I was thoroughly sick to death of Battleframe. When I’m feeling like this it’s better for me to take some time out or risk making silly errors. I put the manuscript down and didn’t work on it for a few weeks. I just needed a break.
When I returned to Battleframe I was refreshed and eager to tackle the final read-through. While I did this I also searched for an illustrator who could capture one of the scenes in the book for the front cover. I spent hours and hours trawling websites like deviantart.com and made a list of the artists that I believe could best represent the Battleframe vision. I approached a number of them and finally settled on Sebastien Hue from Paris. He is an incredible illustrator that was an absolute pleasure to work with.
Once the illustration was completed I designed the rest of the cover and spent a large amount of time laying out the internal pages. It helped that I have a background in design and although not perfect (they never are), I was really pleased with the final look of the book.
After checking the Battleframe files about a thousand times I selected an online print-on-demand website, uploaded them and pushed the button to order the first proofing copies. A week later the package with the first copies of my book arrived. There’s been a number of moments in my life where I was overcome with joy; getting married, the birth of my children, flying an aircraft solo and now seeing my debut novel, Battleframe, in print. If you have not held your book then I hope that you receive this as an encouragement to keep on writing and if you are a published author then I hope you smile in remembrance of your first time. My wife recorded me opening the box of books and you can view this at michaelgilmour.com. I often watch the video to help remind me of the joy of seeing my own words finally in print.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading a few of the highlights and anecdotes from my personal writing journey. Since publishing Battleframe a few weeks ago I now have readers clamouring for book two of The Mindwars…..so I’d better get writing!
Since his early childhood Michael embraced the excitement and infinite possibilities of science fiction. Battleframe is his debut novel in the Mindwars series and is the culmination of a lifetime of adventures. He resides in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three children.”
Michael can be reached at: http://michaelgilmour.com