Friday, September 20, 2013

How I Finish A Novel

Hi, y'all!

(practicing my Southern voice to make sure my novel is consistent)

Sorry about all the time I haven't spent writing blog posts recently.  I flipped creative writing into high gear with the Dragon Queen novel, and as a result it's nearly ready to go, but that took away from blog writing time.

I'm so excited!  This is going to be my best book to date!

I admit, I did write a post a few days ago, but it wasn't about writing and so I decided not to publish it.  It wasn't a bad post, really; it just wasn't about my primary topic, and I'm going to try to refocus myself on my primary topic: writing and authorpreneurship.

Well, and maybe a little humor too.  But just a skosh, okay?

Anyway, I'm headed toward being done with the Dragon Queen, and now, thanks to some pretty intensive experience I've gained over the past couple of years, I'm aware that I'm headed toward being done, if that makes any sense.  I thought I was nearly done with Cataclysm four significant revisions of that work before I actually was.  That one--version number 5--was what I queried with, eighty times, and in major part since I wasn't aware that I wasn't really done with it, I received thirty rejections and fifty instances of being ignored.  Now, I think it's a pretty darn good book, and were I to query it today I'd probably have better luck.

But I'm not planning to.

Will I query Dragon Queen?  Probably.  It's a different series, and a slightly different market, and it's worth exploring the option of professional publishing with it.

I just have to finish it first.

What does finishing entail?  Well, first you have to finish the rough draft, which is more difficult than it sounds in and of itself.  For one thing, it is a simple fact that you learn somewhere in your 50,000-hour apprenticeship to the craft (that most new novelists don't even realize they're doing) that the first draft is going to suck.  Writing stuff that sucks--well, it sucks.  Sometimes you just plain don't want to finish the scene you're working on, because you know it's not really working.  And some authors will tell you not to write it, but I won't.  Write it.  Let it suck.  Get it down on paper so you can....

Phase 2: have someone else read it.  Preferably, I add, it's someone who already knows it's going to suck.  My lovely bride is great at that for me; she'll read it and then gleefully and proudly identify for me the parts where I suck, and she'll also tell me the parts where I did great.  Find someone who can do that for you and you're golden.

Phase 3: incorporate the changes that come about both from your reader's comments and from your second reading.  This is, believe it or not, the fun part.  Like I said, I knew that the first draft of Dragon Queen sucked.  I knew the book needed to be longer than the 68K words that Scrivener told me it contained.  I knew that I'd worked the reader up to a plot arc climax, resolved it halfway, and then left the reader in a puddle of goo at the end.  I knew all that, but I wasn't certain how to fix it at that point.  Thanks to both the time between finishing and revising and the conversations I've had with my chief reader, I gained that certainty.  I've been spending the last couple of weeks fixing the problems.  The novel is now over 91K words, with much more text at the end to--um, to resolve things.  

I've written before about the novel "singing" to me.  It really seems that way, once I get it working.  That's why Phase 4 involves me printing it out and reading it aloud to my wife.  Yes, she already knows all the main plot spoilers, but that's okay with her (and thank goodness it is).  This phase is when you really get to make it sing.  It's the most important part, actually, because in reading the book out loud you get to hear where the difficult sentences are.  You get to hear where the voice is good, and where it's inconsistent.  You see exactly where words are repeated repetitively.

You get to feel the music of the writing.  And that, my friends, is why I write in the first place.

Phase 5 is all the other stuff, either writing a bunch of query letters or getting a professional editor and cover artist's help to get it ready for Indie publishing.  By that point, though, the writing part is pretty much done.

And that's how I finish a novel.



  1. Congrats on progress! I'd be curious to hear more about your querying experiences both with Cataclysm and with this novel (once you finish it!).

    Working on an outline for something new for me -- hoping to get a rough draft in November, but we'll see. ;)

    1. Awesome to hear, Mary! I did blog about my querying experiences with Cataclysm, but I deleted those posts after I heard an agent speaking about what it took to entice an agent to represent you. She said that agents look at blogging about the process as unprofessional (though it's apparently okay for many of them to do so) and will make them less likely to be interested in you.