Today I’m joined by Daniel Parsons, a fantasy and horror author from South Wales who I met at last year’s London Book Fair.
So far, Daniel has published seven books, including instalments in The Twisted Christmas Trilogy, The Necroville Series, The Canvas Chronicles and The Creative Business Series for authors. He has been an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada and Australia. Plus, he was fortunate enough to see his debut novel become the fastest downloaded children’s book in America on Christmas Day 2017, four years after publication.
His comedy zombie story, The Dead Woods, has received extensive acclaim on the story-sharing website Wattpad. There, it garnered over 35,000 reads across 70 countries and was named one of the site’s Top Zombie Stories as part of a campaign to promote Hollywood’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie.
Tell us something about your books.
I write in a range of genres, like a lot of authors who publish independently.
Of the seven books I’ve published so far, one is non-fiction for writers, two are comedy zombie books, and the other four are teen fantasy. Perhaps that wasn’t the best choice from a marketing perspective because they all have different audiences but there has been a surprising amount of crossover. Plus, I’ve always read in a range of genres so it makes sense that my writing would follow the same path.
What inspires you to write? Who are your favorite writers?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer so finding inspiration has never been a problem for me. As a child, I read Anthony Horowitz and Terry Pratchett – spy books and fantasy adventures. I started my writing habit by imitating them. My early stories weren’t particularly original but I loved the process!
Nowadays, I source information from documentaries a lot of the time. The animal kingdom, technology and serial killers tend to be my go-to subjects for finding something that has never been explored from particular angle. The problem isn’t finding ideas – it’s curating them! There are always more I could write but not enough hours in a day to get them out of my head.
How do you start writing? Do you have a process or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
When I started writing with the goal of publishing something, I was definitely a pantser, in terms of my process and time management. That was fun but it took a long time to get anything done. These days, I’ve found that structure and discipline gets me to “The End” a lot faster, and I prefer it that way. The books get written and the quality is a lot better as a result.
Usually, my outlines come to about 3,000 words for an 80,000-word novel. As I have a day job besides writing books, I tend to get most of my daily writing done during my work commute, on the bus and in a café.
How has your writing process changed since you started writing?
My process now is unrecognizable compared to how it was five years ago. Back then, everything ran on inspiration. I mixed genres, dipped into chapters out of order, didn’t have any sort of official editing routine. Now, I’m much more linear and focused. That doesn’t mean the work is any less enjoyable. On the contrary, there’s a lot less frustration involved when you know the general order of your creative process and how long each stage will take.
Usually, I start with an outline, write the first draft all the way through and self-edit only once I have a complete first draft. Then I send the whole thing to my editor. I’m an over-writer so the editing process usually consists of removing 20% of my wordcount and distilling my wordiness into clipped prose.
How long does it normally take you to write, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
My first book took four-and-a-half years and I never published it. I call it my “training wheels” novel. Luckily, I’ve distilled that process into about nine months, from initial ideas to polished book launch. I’d like to compress it into four months if possible but I’m still working on that. In stages, the whole process looks a little like this:
- A week for coming up with initial ideas.
- A week for crafting the outline.
- Two months writing the first draft.
- Three months of self-editing.
- My editor keeps it for six weeks.
- One month of implementing developmental changes.
- My editor line edits for two weeks.
- I approve the final changes and my proofreader keeps it for a week.
- I send it to reviewers a week before the launch.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Definitely the first draft.
For me, editing is a necessary part of the process but it can’t compare to the rush of bringing the characters to life with all of their quirks and nuances. There’s magic in that first draft that doesn’t show in the outline, even if everything has been planned to the letter.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
Besides my author activities, I’ve worked for three traditional publishers so I really do value expert input. My editor and I work closely together for a lot of the writing process, sometimes even discussing ideas for future stories before I’ve written a single word. My reviews went up by half a star on average after he came onboard so allowing him access to my process was clearly a good idea.
Likewise, I spend a lot of time exchanging emails with my proofreader and cover designer. My audio producer also has a ton of creative input when it comes to the audiobook adaptations too. I really couldn’t do this without them.
I haven’t co-written a book yet but I’m tempted to give it a go.
Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share with readers?
I don’t have a universal tip because reading tastes are subjective. However, one practice that levelled up my writing was seeking out more original verbs.
Any writer can make a character “charge in and kick” someone. The ones who stand out are those who make them “bulldoze through a door and roundhouse” that guy. Originality is a lot more fun to read as long as you don’t use a million-dollar word in every sentence.
Anything else I haven’t asked you about?
If anything, I have to talk about series. This year, without a doubt, will be the year of the sequels for me. They are key to turning a great idea into one that makes decent money.
In my Creative Business series, I’ll be releasing Networking for Authors. At a similar time, I’ll be putting out The Wrath of Oberon, the final book in my Twisted Christmas trilogy. I’m particularly excited about the latter because it’ll allow me to produce my first full-trilogy box set which I think readers will love! I’ll miss the characters – they were the first ones I published – but it’s exciting to see what opportunities their final adventure might bring.
Thanks for sharing your writing process and tips with us, Daniel.