Ask Lyndsey: what does it take to write a novel

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

When I was working on my interview with Mark Lind last year, part of the interview was to pose a question for me regarding my writing. This is what Mark asked:

 

I’d love to know what kind of time and self discipline it took to sit down and write a book. As much as I’ve enjoyed making albums over the years my lifelong goal is to write Stephen King-style fiction. How did you pull it off and what words of wisdom can you share with someone like me that also wants to do what you pulled off? Did you self publish or did you find a publisher? What did you feel when you completed the last word on the last page of your first pass? And how about your final pass?
When you look at the big picture, the timeframe of finishing a book is based on your own personal dedication and self-discipline. I had big dreams of being a writer and I used to scribble many things down in notebooks but the ideas never went further than ten pages. It was not until the July 2007 when I developed a plotline and characters I felt I could stick with beyond ten pages. I started writing things down in a notebook then I moved to free-writing on the computer until the story started to naturally come together. I was hired to work at a school that fall, and my writing was pretty fresh and new, so I brought what I had of my manuscript along with me everywhere I went. I worked during my freetime, my lunch break and at home. I experienced writer’s block and a severe break in the story where my original plan did not sound right. My interest abruptly waned and I probably did not pick up the manuscript again until the following year.

After such a long break, it gave me the opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes and work out a different approach. Another year at school started and the pattern continued where I work isolate myself to work on the manuscript during breaks. By the beginning of 2009, I took a leave from work, enrolled in a couple classes at the community college to refresh my brain once again. During the spring semester, I spent all of my free time in the library, typing away. One day, before my 2pm class, I finished my last word. There is no explanation to the feeling you get when you write your last word. Is it like a sudden weight was lifted from your shoulders? Emptiness? Satisfaction? It was like a combination of all three. I guess it could be compared to binge-watching a show on Netflix, and finishing the series. What do you do next?

Revisions were the next step. Some of my writer friends told me to push the manuscript off to the side for a while. I gave it the summer. I had knee surgery and took the opportunity to enjoy the time off before I returned to work in the fall.

In the interim, I researched the book market as much as I could. I queried agents and patiently waited for replies. Of course, there were refusals, then there were some that gave me hope; some agents thought I had a great idea going and felt going to a larger agency would be beneficial.

My job began to be mentally draining. Working in education was proving itself to not be the choice for me. I wanted to get somewhere quick. During my revision sessions, I started to look into self-publishing options. I read blogs, author success stories and industry trends. Self-publishing nowadays is growing, especially with ebooks so it was worth a shot. I found a book printer, that offers a free ISBN, scooted on down to the county office and filed a DBA. My brother and I discussed starting a label and book distribution company, so we started Stingray Press and Media. If agents wanted to skip on my project, what I got out of their refusals was a book and (another) business.

Back to revisions. They are a bitch. The introduction was written five times until I was satisfied. I crossed out passages, even whole chapters and re-wrote chunks to fill in the gaps. I had the manuscript printed and bound as a copy so I can read it like a book and check for errors that way. I hired an editor and had beta readers offer opinions. When everything was looking dandy, I formatted the book, designed a cover and sent everything off to print. I am quite pleased and happy with my decision to go this way.

After I received the first shipment of books, that same feeling washed over me that I felt when I completed my last word. Even though there is more work to do, such as promoting and marketing the book, the time spent crafting every word is like raising a child and setting it off into

Some things to consider:

Research your genre. Read books from your genre of choice to get a feel of tone, theme, etc.
Write often. Even if its little blurbs here and there in a notebook. It helps sharpen your voice.
Your book is what you put into it and how much time you want to put into it.
Research the market. Something like Stephen King may be marketable, but it also may be hard. There is one Stephen King, and writing similar may be a difficult sell.
Consider self-publishing. If you’re creative and self-sufficient. Keep in mind, if you go the agent/publisher route everyone gets a cut of the book sales. With self-publishing, you own your rights and don’t have to cut up the royalty pie before you can pay yourself.
With self-publishing, you promote yourself, unless you hire a team of PR and marketing people. Save the cash and use social media.
Make use of Twitter chats. Search around on Twitter to connect with others. I take part in weekly young adult and new adult Twitter chats, which are hour-long sessions with other writers chatting about a topic using a hash tag.
Start blogging.

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