27 February 2015

20 Steps I Took to Write a Book

Me, early in the book writing process...

I am feeling capable of anything right now, because I have just finished a novel. I even suspect I could have a coffee at 9 PM and sleep by 10:30 PM with the sheer force of my own awesomeness.

But, I won't. Instead, I want to explain why it took about five years. This is not an apology.

I've been writing steadily since I decided I wanted to be a novelist until today when I just revised the last paragraph of my 100,000 word science fiction story. I just feel like revisiting some of my detours.

1. Pretended to be a writer - I was not a writer. I was a librarian, but I had a friend who brought her work to the library where I worked and I decided to go undercover posing as a writer to help her overcome her fear of sharing her work. I failed.

2. Started blogging - I put more hours into Peevish Penman than I did writing my own work.

3. Published a poem - After blogging for a while, I was truly, truly ashamed. I met great people and suddenly realized that I had always loved the company of writers and I wanted to keep hanging out with them. So, I wrote about instant coffee, submitted it to an anthology and got a copy of the book.

4. Tried and failed at Nanowrimo - I'm a natural born quitter unless we're talking about something really unhealthy. During National Novel Writing Month (NOV), I started a story that proved one thing to me: I did not know how to write.

5. Read everything online about writing - Ask me about that one article you saw somewhere before. I learned about how writers make an income, how they organize and how they publish. If it was online before 2010 probably read it and everything in the bookstore and the library and then...

6. Organized a secret society for writers - Yeah, okay. Not the normal step six, but neither was my first accidental step into writing either.

7. Paid rent with writing income - I hit a turning point when I finally realized that I was spending too much time with my new hobby/obsession. So, I started looking for freelance work and within one month, I paid my rent, but not much more.

8. Scraped my nano novel and got software - Writing a novel was nothing like writing a term paper or anything else I had done. I knew I needed to be organized. I spent money for the first time on my hobby and it helped me realize that I still had no idea what I was doing.

9. Started building my platform - Twitter, blogger, author forums and eventually Facebook. I read somewhere that it was a good idea to make connections BEFORE I ever finished a book. It was hard. Did I call myself a writer? What was I doing?

10. Went to graduate school (In New Zealand) - Everybody needs a day job. For now, I'm a librarian.

11. Wrote a self help novella - It was a short work about reptilians and how to take over the world. Some people have actually enjoyed it, but for me, it was a learning experience. I had designed the cover as a joke, but then decided to give it some content. And put it up on Amazon.

12. Wrote a bit of Oz fan fiction - Yeah, the next one was fiction. I was still working on developing my own world for my science fiction novel, but I got side tracked with this project, because now I knew what I was doing.

13. Got a website - At some point, I knew I had to stop writing about writing and write about my writing. Two totally different things. I had taught myself a lot about building websites already and putting my skills to use I started my own site in 2013.

14. Failed to save half the book - Everything I'd learned was starting to come together and I'd nearly passed the 40,000 word mark when my software failed and I lost 20,000 words. But, I got back on that horse, because I was committed.

15. Had my laptop stolen - Now days I regularly save drafts online, because when I lost my laptop, I lost almost everything. It was like starting over, but the second time around, I was even more determined.

16. Started watching lots of documentaries - Although the story is science fiction, I watched a lot about ancient civilizations, because that's the sort of world my characters live in. They've been reduced to bronze age technology.

17. Finished the book - I was a writer. I had no doubts left. I started to revise parts of my story and actually enjoy what I was reading. When I finally read it, I could tell that at chapter five that my style had changed. I had gotten better. More readable. But, more than that, I never had writer's block. I had been doing what I was doing for too long.

18. Moved to Vermont - This has everything to do with writing, because there is nothing like -45 degree wind chill to keep a person inside and in front of their computer.

19. Revised the book - From the first day I started, I knew all about the world I was going to write about. I knew about some of the characters and what might happen in later stories. The time it took to develop their back stories, the history of the world they lived in and keep it all straight had been years. It took time to iron out the changes. It took a year.

20. Sent copies to beta readers and had a proof printed - It should be obvious why I'm excited about this. It's a novel. It's an incredible thing to start a series that you plan to be writing for the rest of your life.

I'm an accidental novelist, but it's one of the best things I've ever done. And I've been asked often whether I'll self-publish or look for a publisher. I've decided conclusively that I will self-publish without looking for a publisher, because it's what I prepared myself to do.

And so far, it's been really fun.

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