I have finally done it! I have finished my first novel! Hopefully soon, you will be able to purchase A Sinister Love and enjoy it yourself.
I started this journey about 6 years ago. I've dedicated endless weekends and getaways, nap times and nights to the pursuit of this goal. In that time, I've had 2 kids, moved, discovered that I have early-onset arthritis, and made dozens of friends. The rough draft was finished nearly 4 years ago, but the editing process has been grueling, fulfilling, time-consuming, thorough, and all-too-often side-tracked. Despite this, I did not relent. Despite the self-doubt that I would ever finish or that it was any good, I pushed through. Despite giving up TV, games, and really most of my free time, I pressed onward.
I'm stoked. I'm proud. I'm ecstatic that I'll be taking the next step to sharing my writing with everyone.
So, in the days, weeks, months (years?) to come, expect updates from me about my journey through the publishing process. I do not plan to stop writing, but I do plan to split my time between writing and pursuing publication.
Next on my writing agenda? I have a number of projects I want to pursue. In no particular order, the first is a sequel (or two) to A Sinister Love, which is still being brainstormed and fleshed out. Second, I would like to try to return to short stories once in a while. Third, I have a creative nonfiction story about a girl with cancer that I wish to tell, based loosely on my family's experiences. It is my hope that these do not take me 6 years to write.
In case you want to know about how I wrote the story, I'll tell you below. If you don't care, you can get off the train now and no one will blame you. But I am happy you were here to share in my victory.
So there are a ton of blogs and books and courses on "how to write." The topic is huge and includes grammar, style, plots, tropes, dialogue, and pacing. Because of this, I will not go into details here. I would say that the general rules I've gleaned are: 1) Know your audience. Write with them in mind, even if "them" is "you." If you enjoy reading it, chances are someone else will, too. 2) Don't stop. Write everyday. 3) Don't be afraid of editing. It is your friend. Erasing huge swathes of your novel is just part of the game. Think of it more like a chance to replace a flat tire with a brand-spanking-new one. 4) Don't stop. Write everyday. 5) Don't be afraid of critiquing. Not only should you critique other works (it can really help you out as a writer, too), but you should be open to the criticisms of others. That doesn't mean to make all their suggested changes; it's your novel, not theirs. 6) Read.
So, first, when I wrote, I tried to set aside an environment for it. For me, writing in public helps keep me focused, especially if I'm plugged in to some non-distracting music. What that music is changes according to my mood. It ranges from the soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi to Debussy to Metal. But most of the time I had to write at home. Keeping awake was a problem when at home, where being comfy leads to sleep.
When writing, I first outline. Then I wrote the first draft. That was the longest one to write, taking a good 2 to 3 years. It was not pretty. I even had a section that just said, "COME BACK TO THIS POINT AND FILL IN WITH HISTORY." After that, I went over it again, filling in holes, reworking dialogue, and generally working at the grammar. This, which I called my first draft, I was willing to have a select group of people read. I did so and got some general feedback. The second and third drafts were based partly on this, but mostly on my own feedback.
The fourth and fifth rounds of edits were the most important, I feel. I started taking my work with me, two chapters at a time, to a critiquing group that meets locally twice a month. It took me a year (I think) to get through the entire piece. My fellow authors were able to bring a variety of opinions and points of view to my work, and in good detail, highlighting what needed to be fixed (in both small and grand scales) and what needed to stay. I learned a lot from them, and got to critique their work as well. The fourth round of edits was mostly addressing their suggestions, and the fifth round was going back and tackling some of the major changes I personally realized I needed to make to the story after hearing their feedback. Then, after a brief read through, I made the last edits on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017.
...at least until a publisher or agent gets their hands on it.