My Novel Draft is Done! (Now What?)

Hi everyone,

In August, I talked about my progress in writing my urban fantasy novel and my plans to self-publish it by May 2020. At the time, I was at 46,000 words, and I was optimistic I’d get through my draft sometime in the fall, but I knew I’d need to carve out more time to focus on my writing.

Today, I am thrilled to be able to say I have already finished it! At 69,000 words, I have written my very first novel! I can’t believe it. (I’ve been doing happy dances all day.)

It helped me a lot to know that my alpha reader was patiently waiting to receive the final section of the manuscript after I’d mercilessly left her at a cliffhanger. (Sorry about that, Suzanne!)

For some reason, the last few chapters kept flowing—probably because there were exciting scenes for me to write, and I couldn’t wait to get into that desk chair so I could follow my characters to the final showdown.

Coming in at 69,000 words was also wonderful because I’d targeted for 70,000 words. So close! I’d like to have a final version that’s around 80,000, and that shouldn’t be a problem. One of my discoveries as I’ve gone through this process is that I write lean. Every time I tackle a new scene, I start with reviewing and editing the scene from my previous writing session, and every time I did this, I found I was adding more words rather than taking them away. This surprised me at first, because most of the writers I know tell me they have the opposite problem—they keep needing to cut things out. It turns out I have a tendency to focus on character, dialogue, and plot, while some of the nuances of setting and description are things I fill in later. (I know there will be some cutting during my self-edit, though—including all the flabby verbs and unnecessary words I have inevitably written. There’s a reason why Anne Lamott calls it the “shitty first draft” in her excellent book Bird by Bird.)

So…I’ve written a novel now. (And eaten some chocolate to celebrate, of course.) Now what?

It would be so lovely if writing a draft meant you were done. (Ha!) It’s only the beginning. I outlined this story fairly thoroughly, so I feel like it’s in relatively decent shape, but I want it to be the best I can make it rather than rushing it out the door. So I’m setting it aside for a little bit, and then I’m going to do some self-editing before sending it on to some beta readers sometime in November. I’ve already lined up a couple of folks who love the urban fantasy genre, but I’m hoping to get more readers, so I can get a broad set of opinions from my main target audience. I also have a sensitivity reader on board. My novel is set in a fictionalized Canadian lakeside town that’s modeled after the diverse communities I’ve lived in, and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job of representing some of the characters who have experiences that are different than mine.

Then it’s on to professional editing! One of the nice things about being a member of Editors Canada is that I already know a lot of super friendly, highly qualified editors, and I’ve already booked a stylistic/copy edit in February with someone I admire who edits a lot in this genre. I’ve also reached out to another of my fantastic colleagues (who is a Certified Professional Editor with the association) for final proofreading in April. The best editors have a tendency to get booked up, so I wanted to be sure to grab them early!

The other key action I’m working on is booking a cover designer, since it’s a critical aspect of a self-published book. It’s amazing to think about seeing my main character on a cover next year!

Is that all that’s left to do? Nope!

Sometime between now and when I publish, I’ll need to work out the logistical details, including setting up a publisher name, grabbing some ISBNs (which are free for Canadian publishers, hurrah!), figuring out distributors, and so on.

Oh, and I also need to settle on the final title!

Right now I’m not finding this intimidating at all. Well, except for maybe the title thing. (Although I may have changed my mind in a few months!) Instead, I’m looking forward to exploring the entire process and joining my indie clients and friends in self-publishing my work. I know this is the right approach for me, and I also think it will be a fantastic learning experience.

Thanks, everyone, for listening to me babble on about my book. I hope this summer has treated you well, and I wish you all the best on your personal projects, whatever they may be! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things are going as I get further along. (And if you happen to feel like beta reading an urban fantasy set in a small lakeside town that features a musician and her best friend, family challenges, quirky local characters, Buffy-like banter, and a ton of magical mayhem, then just drop me a line!)

Cheers,

Sue

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Thoughts on Writing My First Novel

It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Every time I felt the urge to write something, it seemed like the wrong time. I was too busy, or I’d stared at a computer all day and my eyes were tired, or I just didn’t have anything meaningful to say.

So my blog went dark.

But there’s another reason why I’ve been silent here. Whenever I actually managed to get into a writing mood, I made a deliberate decision to channel that creative energy into writing my first novel.

In my high school years, I played around with novel ideas and started a few chapters, but I don’t think I ever got past Chapter 5. Then life happened, and I left the dream behind.

This year, I decided I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from picking it up again. I didn’t care that I had a demanding day job and family obligations. I’d been carrying around an idea for an urban fantasy that was lighting up all the corners of my brain, and I needed to get it down before life happened again. The only question was whether I would have the staying power to achieve it. After all, I didn’t have a good track record.

It helped that I forced myself to set aside a weekly writing time. If I wasn’t going to be able to write during the week because my eyes were tired from all the computer work, then I was going to get my butt in the chair every Saturday morning and try to write one scene. One scene over the weekend, and I was off the hook.

So I wrote. And plotted. And bought Scrivener. And crossed my fingers that my idea wasn’t going to fizzle out. Was this a real book? Or was I just fooling myself? Had I lost any storytelling capability I’d ever had? Could I really fill a bunch of blank pages with 70,000 readable words?

When I reached 16,000 words, it hit me: This was turning into a real book. I started to get excited. But there was so much to still figure out. It helped that I’d come up with some plot milestones to write towards, based on Save the Cat. Without going from Point A to Point B and then to Point C, I don’t think I would have been able to make it. Even if things changed later, those story beats were beacons that helped illuminate my path forward. (Honestly, I have no idea how you pantsers do it.)

I kept writing. And reached 25,000. Then 35,000. I was at the midpoint! I had written half a novel!

Of course, then I had to figure out how to write the second half. Ha ha. The characters had changed the plot I had originally planned, and now I needed to adjust everything. My original ending wasn’t going to make sense. Now what? I started to be afraid again. Was this it? Was this all going to end up being a colossal waste of time?

Then the best thing happened. I went on vacation.

Suddenly my mind was freed up for two whole weeks. I had time to write, and think, and plan, and then came a wonderful moment. I thought of one idea, and then another, and then it all popcorned into a bunch of related ideas. Kernels of ideas everywhere! I scribbled everything down, and by the time I was done, I’d figured out the path for all the remaining chapters in my book. Hurrah!

Now I’m at 46,000 words, and I can say with confidence, enough to finally post this on my blog: I believe in this story. I LOVE this story. And I’m going to finish it. It’s happening.

And then I’m going to let it sit for a little bit. And then review and edit it. And get it beta read. And professionally edited. (Yes, I am an editor, but it’s a true fact that no one can edit their own work.)

I have a personal goal now to self-publish my first novel by May 2020. I can’t believe I just said that!

What I was realizing today is that I never would have made it this far without being part of this blogging community. Writing my creative communication posts was a labour of love that sparked the creativity in me, something that I had worried was dead. And reading all your comments gave me the courage to take this leap.

So thank you, everybody. I might be going dark again for a while, but I wanted you to know I’m still thinking of you. And I would like you to be the first to read the draft logline for my book, even though it won’t be out for a while:

On the verge of losing her day job, a grieving singer who desperately wants success makes a wish that magically turns her life around; but when the path to her dream gig goes horribly wrong, causing chaos in her hometown and hurting the ones she loves the most, she must face the truth of her family’s past before everything she cares about is destroyed – including herself.

Thanks again for being there for me. I wish you success in your writing, and I really hope to see you again sooner rather than later. (But not until I’ve finished this draft. Otherwise it will never get done!)

All the best,

Sue

To Blog or Not to Blog? What’s Coming for 2016

Have you ever wished you could clone yourself, so that you could do everything you wanted to do?

Yep, me too.

This is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging, and it’s amazing how much I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the fun of challenging myself to write creatively about grammar. I’ve missed the conversations I’ve had in the comments. I’ve missed the joy of discovering wonderful new posts written by my fellow bloggers (because I haven’t had time to read, let alone write).

But I’m happy to have had this break, because I’ve been able to avoid missing other things that are important in my life.

And I’ve come to a realization: With everything I’m trying to do right now, it’s just not possible for me to blog every week any more. In fact, I may only be able to blog once a month sometimes.

And that’s okay.

What do you mean, it's okay? I'm having a genuine Shakespearian crisis over this here...

What do you mean, it’s okay? I’m having a genuine Shakespearean crisis over this here…

Like me, you’ve probably run across a zillion articles that might as well have titles like

Start a Blog or Lose All Hope of Ever Selling Yourself!

Blog Every Day or Google Will Rip You to Shreds and Eat You!

Master Building Your Platform if You Don’t Want to Be That Kid Who’s All Alone At Recess!

What a bunch of hooey. (I love that word!)

I firmly believe that writing good, meaningful content is more important than racing on a writing treadmill to stay at the top of the hit list.

My initial goal in blogging was to share what I know about communication in a fun and informative way. I hope I’ve done some of that.

But I’ve discovered along the way that I have gained another complementary goal in blogging that’s just as important – to read and learn from my fellow bloggers and to share their words with others.

So I’ve decided to make a change in my approach this year. I’m still going to write creative posts about grammar, hold conversations about communication with other writers, and let you know about helpful writing resources. But I’m going to do it less often. I’ll be posting on a Monday if I have a post for the week. I’ll also be writing occasional posts about editing on my editing website.

In parallel, I’m going to make more use of Twitter as a tool to share words from other writers and editors.

If you’re interested in learning more about communication from people other than me (as well as from me, I hope!), I invite you to follow me at @dbwcomm. I promise to make it worth your while – no clickbait articles or promotional madness!

Thank you for being so supportive of my blog. I hope to see you here again before January is out!

Cheers,

Sue

A Status Update

Hello everyone,

Sorry for dropping off the map for a few weeks! Maybe there’s a blogging curse when you reach one hundred posts, because ever since I celebrated that milestone, I’ve been too busy to blog. It’s been a good sort of busy, though.

My freelance editing business has been going gangbusters, which is fantastic. Thank you to all of you who have supported me in this venture, especially those who have had me over for guest posts.

After constantly writing at my day job and editing in the evenings, I found I needed a break from my computer, otherwise I was pretty sure my eyes were going to fall out. Thus my absence from the blogging scene.

Secretary_at_typewriter

Ah, for the days of typewriters…

I’ve settled into more of an equilibrium now, though, so I should be back to writing posts (albeit less frequently) in the next couple of weeks. I’m currently planning out my series about Captain Comma and her crew. I’ve also been reading more writing resources, so stay tuned for another DBW Review, as well as a new Conversation Corner.

I hope all is well with you. I’ll see you soon!

Sue

 

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

One Hundred Posts, Three Quotes, and One Big Thank You!

I can’t believe Doorway Between Words is celebrating its 100th post!

100

Back when I started this blog in March 2014, I had a goal to write once a week. I managed to stick to that schedule most of the time. I even took up the gauntlet and wrote for twenty-six days in April during the 2015 A to Z Challenge.

What’s kept me motivated to write is my incredible community — all of you who have read, liked, and commented on my posts. I hope you’ll all still be with me when I reach 200 posts. 🙂

It seems appropriate that I have also just reached 300 blog followers. Thank you to all of you!

I have been remiss lately in posting additional thanks to those of you who have given me blog awards. I appreciate each and every nomination, even if I don’t always have the time to write up seventeen random facts about myself.

Here are some special individuals who have nominated me for awards in the past few months:

Alex Hurst, for her must-see Must-Read Blog Award

Lori MacLaughlin, for the Creative Blogger Award

Bradscribe, for the Liebster Award

Shawn, for the Real Neat Blog Award

Nimmi, for the Premio Dardos Award

I have also received a request from La Sabrosona to participate in the Three-Day Quote Challenge. I thought I’d share three of my favourite quotes that seem appropriate today:

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Mahatma Gandhi

I wrote about the importance of integrity and communication in Would Your Captain Be Proud? It’s still one of my favourite serious posts. When I write this blog, I feel like I can be me in all my forms — my serious side, my zany side, my scholarly side, my imaginative side. Thanks for making me feel comfortable being me.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

I have this one up on my sidebar for a reason. It reminds me that communicating involves more than one person, and that thinking about your audience is the single most important thing you can do when writing. You are why I am here. Otherwise I’d be writing to the coldness of cyberspace, and who needs that?

Just do it.

Nike

I dithered a bit before I created this blog. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t know what to write? What if it was a spectacular failure?

Sometimes, you just need to do it — take on those challenges and see where they take you.

This one’s taken me to a really great place. And I’m glad you were here to come along with me for the ride. 🙂

 

Love to you all,

Sue

 

Image by Kirsty Hall via Flickr/Creative Commons

Most Annoying Punctuation Mark: Poll Results

And the results are in! Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll on the most annoying punctuation mark. For several days, the comma had the clear lead, but then the semi-colon pulled up from behind, until they were neck and neck for a final finish! Here are the results:

Comma: 41%

Semi-Colon: 38%

Hyphen: 21%

Comma cartoon by Debbie Ridpath OhiImage terms of use

Some of you also pointed your fingers at other punctuation marks, like the ellipsis, the colon, and quotes. (And then there were those of us who freely admitted to abusing the exclamation mark!)

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions. I will now be retreating to my writerly cave for a little while to plan out this series, which will likely start with the comma. I look forward to the challenge of making punctuation rules entertaining!

 

Yours in punctuation angst,

Sue

Quick Poll: Most Annoying Punctuation Mark

Writing a series on how to deal with rogue words was a lot of fun, and now I’m thinking of taking on punctuation. I’ve already talked about everyone’s favourite, the apostrophe, in a few popular posts: Night of the Apostrophe Ninja, Separating Siblings With Apostrophe S, and You’re Not a Yutz. Now I’d like to see if I can make other punctuation marks fun to learn about!

keep-calm-and-use-an-apostrophe

To help me figure out what to focus on, I’d love it if you could let me know which punctuation mark drives you crazy:

 

Please feel free to share any of your punctuation horror stories below, and I’ll do my best to write some tips that will help!

***

P.S. For those of you who are interested in learning about how art books are edited, I have an interview with award-winning editor Grace Yaginuma this week on the Editors’ Weekly.