- Richard Haywood
Come back, no sod off…no but come back…
Gosh, it has been busy. I thought working full time, writing and having four dogs was hard but I don’t think I have ever been busier since leaving work. It’s been strange too, a really weird few months that has made me question a whole ton of stuff.
You see, I have a relentless nature. I focus on something, work out how to get there and then go, and I don’t stop until either my head falls off, my eyes start bleeding or I collapse in a puddle of my own piss. I had been working on The Undead for 4 years. It’s become the best-selling of its genre in the country. That in itself was an achievement but it wasn’t enough. I adore The Undead, I love it, I love writing it and I’m invested in the series, the characters, the stories and the world.
But I still wanted more. I wanted to be published by a certain publisher. I couldn’t say it before as it could have hampered negotiations but I think the truth, as ugly as it can be, is always the right thing. This particular publisher had given very positive feedback on The Undead. They loved it. They loved my work but just not the zombie genre. A suggestion was made to write new material so fuck it, that’s what i did. After post-apoc, my favourite genre is sci-fi. Low Tech, character driven concept sci-fi. I also love history so obviously time travel was the way to go. I wrote the time travel book for that publisher, I tweaked it, re-wrote it, tweaked, polished and worked on it until finally it was at a standard we felt comfortable for it to be shown to the publisher (without them knowing it was actually written for them).
I was shitting myself at that time, and it took so long for them to read it and come back. The first feedback was very strong. They loved it but as I soon learned, one person within a publisher lovin’ a book ain’t good enough. It has to go through stages and processes until finally they came back and said yes, we love it, how about a two-book deal. I was ecstatic. This was fantastic. The publisher then said “how does Rich feel about going through the editorial process””. There was some concern that because I had such a strong self-publishing background I might find it hard to work within the “editorial process”. I said nah, it’s cool, fuck it, I’ll do it, sign me up!
The contracts were sorted, that took time, the finite stuff was deliberated over, that took more time. I left work in March, wrote Blood on the Floor and then started working on The Undead Day Twenty while all this was going on. It was great. I had free-time and The Undead is growing all the time. There was more reader engagement than ever before, plus the series is doing really well on Audible so that meant engaging with a new audience of listeners in addition to readers. It was wonderful. Blood on the Floor went to number one in three charts. Amazon did a promotion on The First Seven Days which took it to within the top twenty of Kindle. The top twenty from something like 4 million books! These were the best days ever.
Then the contracts were signed and the “editorial process” began. My ego told me it would be okay. That bullish idiotic attitude of mine told me we’d piss it easily. So I charged on like a fuckwit going stomp stomp rarrrr and fuck me…oh my days…just wtf??? It is the one of the hardest things I have ever done. Seriously. I kinda knew the editorial process was a method of working on the book to get it polished and strengthened and I was really looking forward to it. All my processes within self-publishing were made-up as I went along. I wrote a book, the pre-readers said what they did / didn’t like and I changed it then put it out. How could it be any different?
It is not what I thought it was. It is wholly different. The publisher assigned an editor to work with me. The editor is an industry expert in sci-fi, English and literature. The man is a guru of books. He is Godlike in his knowledge and wisdom and the attention to detail given thereafter is molecular. It is staggeringly detailed. Every word, every line, every paragraph, every page, every chapter is analysed. Characters, character motivations, scene setting, direction, dialogue, the words used within dialogue. It is stunning the level these people operate at. It blew my socks off. I thought I knew what I was doing. I’d self-published and done okay but my ego is taking a mighty battering. Don’t get me wrong, that is a good thing. It’s made me think of things I would never have previously considered and the learning curve is steeper than a steep thing going uphill.
I write in a combination of first and third person present tense…as in it is happening now. I love that immediacy and sense of urgency. They suggested third person past tense. I tried it but my skills are pants in that area. I can do it but it takes time due to being so unfamiliar. So we trialled different perspectives, first person / third, past, present, all third, all present. Lots of chapters were re-written just to get that right. Then, once the perspective was chosen, the whole of the book had to be re-written in that style. The deadlines were tight too. This is a big company and I wasn’t going to start pissing about and miss the opportunity so it was head down and crack on with it.
I’d heard writers say before that the book you write is not the book that is published and I could never understand it. Now I do. Although to be open and honest, there is a huge amount of creative freedom given. But then these people are experts at what they do. They have the money, they can do marketing and advertising, they can appoint Godlike book guru’s who seriously know their shit. So the book I wrote is not the book that will be published. The story is the same, the characters, the generalised plot but how the story is told is completely different. It’s a fascinating thing and I’m still going through it now. We’re still in that process. There are bitter pills to swallow when the stuff you think you are good at is challenged, there is praise and there is criticism. The publisher had a few things they would not budge on. My level of graphic violence being one of them. It had to be toned down, that was fair enough. The Undead is a horror series. It is sold as a horror series. The time travel book isn’t. Therefore the audiences are entirely different. There were a few other “strict” rules but surprisingly very few. The rest was all down to, well I guess you’d call it creative discussion.
While that was happening, the new Undead standalone was also underway with a different publisher and that process had to be gone through with them too. The same attention to detail. The same heightened state of focus. This is a new story from Day One with new characters. I’m itching for it to be released. I saw the cover a week or so ago and it’s bloody brilliant.
So while I was head down editing and learning, and trying to pick the pieces of my shattered ego from the floor, The Undead was continuing to grow, and that has also been a very surreal and difficult period. I gave up working to focus on writing. I wanted to play with The Undead. Write more stories, engage with readers and enjoy the thing I had worked so hard on. I had ideas for loads of different things. A Facebook group called The Living Army was started by readers and that is growing all the time. I won a US based competition too. The Zombie Book of the Month, which is a very big deal within the zombie genre. Mark Tufo and Armand Rosamillia have both won it, so has the creator of The Walking Dead – so to gain such a thing was fantastic. The downside was, with the editing, I was back to the problem I had in the first place when I was working. I didn’t have the time to do anything with these things. That Zombie Book of the Month site gave me a month worth of promotion to a largely US audience of over 5000 members. I couldn’t turn that down but then I didn’t have the time to play. The lady who started The Living Army site took it on for me and is currently running promotions (thank you, you are a saviour).
The Undead captures people imaginations. It’s a big series and I have loads of people contacting me with all manner of proposals, suggestions and ideas from podcasts, emblems, video games, charity engagements, newsletters, books, offers to co-write, requests for writers to write in that world, character interviews, characters from The Undead to be used in other material and so on. It’s been fantastic and just uber staggeringly nice but fuck a duck I had to focus on the time travel book. Deadlines were looming. I was waking up to a dozen messages with proposals some days and each one required a full conversation. I had someone message me telling me to let them know, in advance, when Day Twenty was being released so they could tie in with The Undead thing they were working on, that I had no idea about. No idea at all. In the end I had to ask people to stop contacting me for a bit which is something I never thought I would do. The bad side to that was that a load of stuff got started that I couldn’t catch up with. Then it started to feel like The Undead was running away from me. Things were popping up relating to The Undead saying they were endorsed. I had no idea what I had said yes to or what I had endorsed. It was so strange, it still is so strange. The Undead has been a small thing really. A teeny weeny project that I have worked on everyday for over 4 years. I put every spare minute and penny into it. Now it’s like it’s all grown up and sodding off to travel the world while waving two fingers at me standing in the door looking forlorn and worried. It’s like it’s become a community owned project where the collective run it. Again, with the brutality of honesty which is sometimes very uncomfortable, there have been times when I have wanted to tell people to stop and to leave it alone….um, that’s mine…I made that. Can I have it back please? But then that felt petty and selfish. It felt child-like, like a kid throwing a strop cos the other boys and girls are playing with my toys. So I stayed quiet. Then more things happened with it and I tried to jump in and catch up but the next round of drafts started with the time travel book and another deadline and I lost any and all sense of anything (not that I had much to start with). Now I don’t know half the things that are happening with it. I just cannot keep up. I get notifications and updates mentioning all sorts of things and it’s horrible not knowing what most of them are, but then it’s also a nice thing, a lovely thing. I always wanted The Undead to have a bigger audience. Howie’s story is important to me. The values within those stories are important. Do the right thing for the right reasons. Be brave and have values. Be loyal. Be decent. As trite and twee as they sound they mean something, and now more than ever in our fast changing world. There is conflict everywhere and even our news channels, the news channels in our Western democratic countries censor and tell us what they think we should know. So those values are important. Argh! But then I made it. It’s mine. Give it back. No, go on have it. Take it….actually sod off I want it back. Um, no sorry, you should have it. Conflicting? Yeah a bit.
But anywho, I went on a date which was a nice escape for a few hours.(click for new post)
If you have ideas for The Undead then great, but please don’t be offended if I don’t reply at the moment and also, any views, opinions or subject matter given by an individual is down to them and sod all to do with me. I just write books. If I endorse something then I will more than likely blog about it, or post, or mention it, or say something.
I’m gonna go edit until my I collapse in a puddle of my own piss. Sorry for the delay in Day Twenty, will be on it when I can.