It's the year 1999. I'm 18, walking down the street with a friend of mine on the way to a pub in Canterbury, a small town in south-east England. I'm yabbering on about a screenplay I want to write: a fantasy romp with a hidden valley and explorers and princesses and swords and a wise old martial arts master.
The screenplay never existed but I did turn it into a ropey fantasy adventure called Evinden. It was very tropey and shallow, though the core story had some merit. It took me about ten years to write the first draft, in fits and starts.
Then it's 2015 and I've discovered Wattpad and I'm fiddling around with a weekly writing experiment called A Day of Faces. It magically, week-by-week, turns into a 90,000 novel. It gets featured. It wins a Watty Award in 2016. It gets over a hundred thousand reads.
I'm reminded of Evinden and think how easy it would be to dig it out, cut it up and publish it chapter-by-chapter. I wouldn't even have to write it from scratch! I could just do some light editing and be good to go.
I start re-reading my decade-old work.
It's terrible. But the story does indeed have some merit.
It's 2016 and I start publishing The Mechanical Crown, a total rewriting and reworking of the original. I don't realise that I'm committing myself - and my readers - to a three year journey from which there would be no escape.
It's 2019 and I've finished writing the final sentence of the final chapter. The story is told. There's the palpable sense that this is my Babylon 5. Three years of my life, writing in public, every week, to create what has become a 261,000 word, 760 page epic.
None of that would have happened without you, the readers. Never guaranteed or taken for granted, every single individual reader that stumbles upon my stuff and then actually dedicates a portion of their life force to reading it makes a direct contribution to the creation of the book. Writing on Wattpad has been the biggest productivity hack I've ever discovered and the writer-reader feedback loop is an integral element.
Let's talk some numbers, as of 29 August 2019, when I'm writing this long goodbye.
3000 people have started reading TMC. That's far fewer than A Day of Faces but that's OK: even one reader bothering to vote or comment makes all the difference in the world.
The book's had 19,000 cumulative reads across all chapters. There's 147 chapters, across 7 story arcs.
There have been 2100 votes of approval for the book. That is an amazing stat that makes me very happy: it indicates that people not only took time to read but that they also enjoyed.There are 702 comments across the entire book. That's 702 points at which readers provided feedback and made the book better. Sometimes it was line editing, helping me to spot daft typos or errors. Other times it would be an observation on the story that sparks an idea or a deeper thematic thought that could play out down the line.
67% of readers are female.
58% of readers are aged 13-25.
34% of readers are from the USA. 13% from Philippines. 9% from the UK. 6% from India.
The very first chapter of The Mechanical Crown was written on 24 October 2016. The final chapter was finished on 29 August 2019. It's 261,765 words long; that'd be 748 pages if it were a standard paperback.
These are all remarkable things. That I finished the damn thing is perhaps the most remarkable of all things.
What I'm saying is: thank you. I always wanted to be a writer, but it never happened until I started writing here and you started reading.
I'm going to take a bit of a break before the next book. Jump on the ol' mailing list at simonkjones.com so I can let you know what's up. If you haven't read A Day of Faces yet, go check it out. It's VERY different. And shorter.
Oh, and in the meantime? Here's a little gift for all of you hardcore TMCers: an interactive prequel. You can find it at simonkjones.itch.io/in-the-beginning
YOU ARE READING
The Mechanical CrownFantasy
An explorer, a princess, a slave and a sword. A belief that the world can be better. The Mechanical Crown is an epic adventure full of intrigue, mystery and romance. When Tranton Seldon becomes the first to cross the mountains in hundreds of years...