Writing the Daughter of the Zel trilogy was hugely empowering for me. I’d always enjoyed writing and dreamt of having something published, but I never had the confidence to put my work out there.
Then, a few years ago, I was having a rather tough time personally, which led me to quit my job and move back home. Even with everything going on, I found myself with a load of free time I hadn’t ever had before.
As a distraction, I set myself the challenge of writing a novel in a month. I’d always wanted to do NaNoWriMo, but November was never convenient. Every day after work I’d sit down and type until my brain ran out of scenes. The rapid progress towards a final word count slowed towards the end, and I had to go back and carefully stitch together key scenes to make a complete story.
I had an idea for where the book was going and every time I wrote it felt like clearing space in my head. Making this mental room meant I’d get an idea for a new scene, usually when I was trying to get to sleep.
Now, like then, in the early days of a story, I get these rather annoying moments where I’m unable to go to sleep because of new phrases, places, people that pop into my head. There’s a process I’ve learned to follow by turning the bedside light on, writing the thought down in my notebook, and turning the light off again before immediately having another thought and repeating it. Eventually my brain lets me sleep.
I have found that the first draft is always shocking. I’ve come to terms with that. One of my betas recently said how she’d love to write a novel, but was worried it’d be awful. I explained the number of drafts my work passes through before she even sees a beta version. I hope this encourages her to get something down on paper. That’s the hardest bit.
Writing has been incredibly cathartic. It gave me something constructive to do when I was feeling pretty useless, and finishing the story felt like a real achievement. As soon as I finished the book, I realised it didn’t end there; there was more story to be told. I ended up going straight on to writing the second book.
My final draft was still rough around the edges and I got a variety of feedback. With my own network of friends and some contacts made through Twitter and Goodreads, I’ve now got a good group of beta readers, who all bring something different to the process (not that I wouldn’t love to find other betas to work with as well in future, if they like some of what they’ve read previously).
Getting positive feedback gave me the push I needed to finally publish. After everything else I’d been through, having my writing out there for people to judge seemed like something I could handle. I took the plunge and Daughter of the Zel was published in September 2017, followed in 2018 and 2019 by the second and third books respectively.
Putting my ideas down on the page or the screen is still cathartic, even though I’m now in a much better place. It allows me to process my emotions and turn negatives into positives. There are bad days, but amazing ones as well. It was worth putting the effort in, even if just to show myself that I could do it.
Phoebe Ritter is an indie author of YA fantasy. As well as the Daughter of the Zel trilogy, She has also published a contemporary fantasy short story. She is based in beautiful North Wales. You can find out more about her through Twitter and Goodreads.
Book Blurb: Raised on the border between Nevda and Zel, Efa has two certainties in life. Their country’s neighbours, the warlike Zel, are to be feared. Her touch will kill, so she can never leave the island. When Efa is kidnapped and discovers she is half-Zel, certainty will be hard to come by.
You can also learn more about this book and the author by following the Zel Blog Book tour. See dates and blogs below.