After almost a year of thinking, planning, plotting, outlining, drafting, editing, revising and a whole lot of procrastinating, I finally finished my first novel.
In case you were wondering, those pterodactyl screams are coming from me.
I wrote the first draft of The Fair Queen between September and January, I rewrote it between February and May, and I completed my final edits a few days ago and sent my MS out to a handful of beta readers to read and give me feedback.
Excuse me while I curl up in a ball of utter dread waiting for my beta readers to finish reading and tell me how terrible it is.
I’m exaggerating. I hope. One of my betas has been sending me regular messages about how much she loves it and hopes I’m already working on a sequel (I’m not, just in case editors and publishers alter it beyond recognition and the sequel in my mind doesn’t match anymore, but the ideas are there!).
For those of you who are new around here, I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo in November last year. If you’re REALLY new around here, Nano is a month long writing camp where writers from all over the world get together online and sometimes in person (your local chapter will have meet-ups but you don’t have to go), and try to write 50k words in 30 days. I discovered it on Twitter at just the right time, by October I’d written about 15k words, so I worked on my outline, created a list of 30 scenes I needed to draft for my WIP, and joined in.
I managed a solid 35k words in November, which I am really proud of, it’s the most I’ve ever written and even though I didn’t “win” I felt so much satisfaction and motivation to finish my first draft, which I did in early January, with around 70k words total.
I took a couple of weeks off to refresh and recharge my mental batteries, before getting stuck into draft two in February. Then I discovered Camp Nano, a branch of NaNoWriMo that takes part in April and allows you to choose your own targets, but gives the same sense of community and support as the November version.
I set my target at 35k words for April, thinking I’d managed as much in Nov and this was just rewriting and editing. Well, do not underestimate the work it takes to turn a first draft into a neat and structured manuscript! I also had a week’s holiday in Turkey booked during April so I basically had to rewrite 35k words in 21 days. I managed about 32k words, which I was really pleased with, although I would have loved to win this time.
I spent May finishing my second draft, and completely rewriting the ending as I had realised it wouldn’t work the way I’d originally planned it. I was going to leave the book on a huge cliffhanger, with the intention of writing a sequel, but I found out that debut authors should always tie up their endings as they may not get a sequel if the first book isn’t a huge hit. So, the cliffhanger had to go, and I pretty much pantsed my way to an ending I’m happy with – one that ties up the story line of the book and brings the characters full circle, but still leaves a couple of questions and plot lines open for a follow up, without being too frustrating for readers (I hope!).
After I finished draft two I immediately started my third and final read through, formatting the MS and correcting any spelling mistakes I spotted, amending a few word choices, and probably delaying the next step to some extent. Then I sent it out to my beta readers. And that is where we currently are. Waiting for feedback. Watching the clock and biting my fingernails. I’ll let you know what they thought of it!
Almost as soon as my MS was winging its way to betas, I saw an email ping into my inbox about Camp Nano July. I really find NaNoWriMo to be the most motivating and inspiring experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a completed MS and a real sense of achievement, if I hadn’t come across Nano. So of course I’m going to take part in July!
I decided, instead of hoping my betas all have their feedback in by then so I could do a final round of edits before querying agents, I’m going to start working on a new novel idea. It’ll help me to get some distance from The Fair Queen before that final round of editing, hopefully making me more objective to any faults and flaws in the book. And if TFQ doesn’t sell and get me my first book deal, I’ll need something else to work on and submit! So, as of July, I’ll be working on a sort of modern retelling of The Secret Garden in YA fantasy style.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to in my writing life, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now for finishing what I started, and I actually really enjoyed reading my novel back through to check for spelling errors etc. I really hope my beta readers enjoy it too, but more than that I hope they give me honest feedback about the plot and characters and pacing and whatever else they have thoughts and feelings on. I definitely need a fresh pair of eyes to tell me what’s working and what isn’t, so I can make this MS the best it can possibly be before submitting it to agents.
What have you been working on lately? Will you be taking part in Camp Nano next month? Tell me all about your current WIPs and story ideas in the comments.