Michael Coward contributes to the writing community of Chattanooga with his debut novel, Outland
Cover by Eryn Garcia
While some may argue reading is a dying hobby, avid readers and book lovers will prove otherwise. Some readers are content reading, while some pursue the daunting writing career. Michael Coward, a local Chattanoogan, has dared just that.
Those who love the fantasy genre typically grew up on the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Michael Coward recognized the beauty of the novels, acknowledging the trilogy as a great story.
“A good story will make you feel good and keep you interested, but a great story will change the way you see the world and make you a better person,” Michael shared.
Any writer longs to make a great story. Michael’s debut novel, Outland, is his attempt at creating a great story.
“I wanted Outland to be a great story. I don’t know if I succeeded, but that’s not for me to decide,” said Michael.
Set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, Outland is sure to capture readers in its ancient magic and horrors of the desert land. With Outland being his first novel, Michael imagined he would be content with finishing and publishing just one novel.
“I thought I would just write one book and that’d be it, but it turns out that I love to write,” he shared.
It is one feat to write a book and another to publish one. Even upon completing Outland, Michael had still plenty of work to do. After a first draft comes revising, editing, and even rewriting the book. Once it is finished, publishing is the next step. Many coming-up writers, Michael included, release their new novels for free.
“At first I felt guilty even giving the book away for free,” Michael shared. “I’m asking potential readers to buy a 650-page book, read it, and trust that I stick the landing. Outland is a big book, and I want it to be worth their time.”
After discovering the ins and outs of the publishing process, Michael learned the dos and don’ts of the endeavor. For other writers, Michael shared with us some words of advice.
“Don’t think about publishing until your first draft is complete,” he said.
With writing, and any other hobby or skill, everyone has to start somewhere. Your first writing project may not be everything you would want it to be, but the act of writing itself is important. Developing your ideas and fleshing those ideas out is what makes the writing process so didactic.
“Give your readers a world and characters that feel real and then give them compelling conflict. It’s not easy, but the best things rarely are easy,” Michael shared.
Feedback is important for writing any book, and it is important to be able to receive and accept feedback. Once the book has been polished, publishing comes next.
“The publishing world is changing constantly these days, so when you’re ready to put your book out there, you’ll need to evaluate how you want to publish. I self-published with the goal to get picked up by a traditional publisher,” he said.
Whether you are self-publishing or are working with a publishing company, aesthetics is a major key to get readers sold on your work.
“No one is going to judge you for being self-published if they can’t tell the difference in your book’s formatting and a publisher’s formatting. It’s when they can tell the difference that you lose their interest,” Michael said.
Your published novel then needs an audience. Reaching that audience can be difficult, and a lot of writers reach to social media like other artists. However, for Michael, social media marketing was barely worth his investment.
“I’d rather someone read Outland because they read this Q&A or know and like me or because someone recommended it to them. So, for me, social media is really a means to an end to make those kinds of connections,” Michael shared.
With Michael’s work, Outland is far from the end of his writing career. His first novel contributes to a greater universe of his own imagination, and there are more projects in the works. Outland will have a related series called Ringlight, and with this series, an Earth-like planet has rings like Saturn. The warring life on this planet leads to religious turmoil.
“I’ve also started research for a project about big game hunting lobbyists hiring a geneticist to create a ridiculously threatening creature for them to hunt,” Michael shared. “Readers of Outland will recognize this creature; it’s sort of a prequel.”
These projects are still a work-in-progress, and publishing is a ways away. Working full-time limits Michael’s writing time, but lately, there has been some freed time.
“With a little more downtime lately, I’m hoping to make some progress,” he said.
Michael Coward is on social media, and you can follow his projects on his varying platforms. When he’s not writing, he enjoys helping other writers. His website can be found here and he also has a Facebook page. You can also check him out on Instagram.
Michael is currently offering specials on Outland. Hop over to his social media to learn more. Any audience for this local Chattanoogan is a great help to him. Writers and readers like Michael Coward encourage a writing community within Chattanooga, and with your help, that community can grow.