Finished my first novel

I finished writing my first novel last night. Finished as in it’s revised and polished. Wooohooo!

Took me four years, and there were times I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Did I really have enough of a story? By the time I revised, though, I did, and I ended up at 73,000 words.

Now I’m ready to dive into the next one. It’s one I started right before this one and set aside, because I was sick of the topic in one of the threads. I’m ready to have back at it, though, and it’s a relief to be able to shift focus to it. Ideas have been swirling for a couple of months, but I haven’t let myself work on it, because I wanted to see this one through to completion first.

I love writing. Love figuring out characters and breathing life into them. They feel like real people, and about a year ago, I even dreamed about my antagonist and got to interact with him. That was incredibly cool–although distressing, because there are some sinister things about the antag, and I wasn’t sure in the dream if he was going to hurt me or not.

Now I’m trying to decide whether I should write an outline for the next one. I just did an outline in my head for the current one, and the thought of outlining gives me hives. Still, I can see some advantages in taking the time to do it, even though all I want to do is start spilling onto the page of the next one. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll start outlining and writing at the same time.

Anyway, I know there are other people here who write, so I figured you’d understand why I’m excited and bubbling over a bunch of words on a stack of paper. :slight_smile:

Congratulations! The first time I finished the rough draft of a novel I was absolutely high. I was only 17, and it could never be published, but still. I wrote that. It was an incredible feeling. I never got around to the final draft, because I changed so fast as a person that I lost interest in the message.

I tried to be a creative writing major as an undergraduate but I couldn’t force the words out. Something happened and I just had this case of awful writer’s block for years. Then one day it started coming out again–and my husband got the first taste of what it’s like to live with me when I’m working on something. I lost interest in everything but writing. Sleep? Work? Food? Just more time keeping me from writing. When I get in those moods it just consumes me. We solved the problem by making him my editor.

I’m working on another novel now, that I haven’t touched in about two years. I’m in the process of transferring it from a notebook to Microsoft Word so I can really start hacking into it. On loose-leaf paper it’s close to four-hundred pages, and about two thirds of the way done. I think it’s got real potential to be something. I am in love with the characters. They’re like my children. I just want to take care of them. I must stay committed to them, help them find their way.

As far as outlines go, I write those if I get sufficiently far into something that it looks like I might actually finish it. I have a tendency to start things, go ten pages, skip to the interesting part and burn out. It wasn’t until I was 50 pages into my old novel and still obsessed with it that I bothered to put together an outline. The first draft for me is more about screwing around with a lump of clay and seeing if something beautiful comes out of it. It doesn’t get technical until later. Right now, I have no outline. I have no idea how my story is going to end. I realize I need to give the beginning more shape in order to get to the end, which is why I’m going through the trouble of converting it.

When I’m writing drafts I try to read good fiction. I haven’t read fiction in a long time, so I’ve been seeking out writers with a similar style to mine. I just discovered Chuck Palahniuk and I’m reading his novel Choke. He’s like J.D. Salinger on acid. I read his short story Guts a long time ago, which is equal parts disgusting and brilliant. My stuff isn’t as gross as his can be, but his narrators strike a chord with me and I write with a similar directness.

Any chance you’ll tell us what your story is about?

Thanks, Olives! Wow, you finished a first draft at 17? Really cool that you made it that far. When I was a kid, I’d write a lot of little stories, and I’d start a novel but only get two or three pages into it. I never thought about how much changing you do as a child and how that is one reason why it would be difficult to see a whole novel through, but what you say makes a lot of sense.

I know what you mean about not wanting to do anything else when the words are flowing. Glad that it works out with your husband being your editor. I found a crit partner last year who gives excellent feedback, and I think that helped me meet my goal of finishing this year.

Sounds like you do your brainstorming on paper. I too wouldn’t outline until I’m positive I’m utterly obsessed with an idea.

That happened to me with this one. When I was about 2/3 of the way through the first draft, I circled back to start my revisions. I couldn’t write the ending until I was sure it was built on a solid beginning and middle. Sure enough, I found some missing and incomplete threads. Once those problems were fixed, I could see through to the end.

I’m leaning toward outlining the first 2/3 of the next one. I don’t want to nail down the ending yet, since that’s what keeps me enticed as I write. Although with this one, I know what the ending to the major thread will be, whereas in the one I just finished, I didn’t.

I am such a slow reader, but it helps to read, doesn’t it? There was a time I was worried that I’d subconsciously copy someone if I read while I was writing, but I’ve found that’s not the case at all. Rather, I find it inspiring to read–reading makes me want to build my own stories and voice all the more.

I found Barry Eisler’s Rain series just as I was formulating my ideas for this one. My writing is nothing like his, but I was interested in espionage, and reading his books made me want to write too. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a signing not long after I started writing mine. I don’t usually go up to total strangers and bubble about how much I love their work, and I probably sounded like a star-struck teenager. He was encouraging and told me to keep writing, though–what a nice guy!

It’s about a woman with empathic talent who is recruited into espionage and has to decide how far she’s willing to go in the interest of national security.

So what is yours about, if you’re willing to share?

Wow congratulations! A long time ago I wrote a novel. Was was it bad! But it was fun and got me into computer science where my career currently is.

Good luck with this and future endeavors!

Congratulations, novelist! I have yet to accomplish an actual novel. I can write way-too-long short stories, and have novel attempts I still poke at, but no novel yet. It’s awesome you’ve done it!

Thanks, Khadaji and Savannah! :slight_smile:

Khadaji, that’s really neat that your novel lead you to your career.

Savannah, it’s a long road to write a novel, isn’t it? Keep going–I’m sure you’ll get there too in time.

Congratulations!!! What a rush that must be. I am probably better than half way through my first novel and sincerely hope it is publishable. It is a true labor of love for me, I have always written, as long as I can remember, but only gotten semi-serious about it in the last couple years.

Mine is about a small-time rock singer who is in a car wreck and ends up in a wheelchair; through a twist of fate, he ends up with a fan as his caregiver. It covers their struggles to get him back to health and falling in love along the way.

What an interesting subject. I don’t think I could ever write something like that because I would feel too ignorant on the topic. Even with what I’m writing now there are gaps in my knowledge-base that make me insecure with parts of the material. I am trying to just focus on the story for now.

My novel doesn’t really fit a category I can think of. It’s a love story, but it’s too gritty to fit that schmaltzy romance genre. The first half of the novel is from the perspective of a half-Japanese woman who has led a pretty sheltered, ordered life. She befriends a guy with a severe abuse history and a shitload of psychological problems–he’s basically like a kid with Conduct Disorder, only he’s a grown man. The ensuing chaos is a great challenge to her world schema. The second half of the novel is entirely in his voice, immediately following a trauma to her, and it’s really about him learning to cope with his environment in a more healthy way, with her need for stability as the catalyst. It’s odd, but I really I feel so much more comfortable in his skin. I don’t know why I’m better at writing men, I just am. My work tends to have a lot of sex and violence that are fundamental to the plot, so I don’t know if anybody would publish such a love story. But right now I’m trying not to worry about all that.

It’s true that if you read you might end up copying another author’s voice, but sometimes that’s a step in part of the evolutionary process. When I was young I mimicked a lot of writers, sometimes outright copied their stories. It wasn’t until I read Salinger that I found my own voice–but I started out mimicking him too.

I love writing so much. I’m pursuing other passions so I can bring home a paycheck, but writing is my greatest gift and greatest passion. Sometimes I hate calling it a hobby.

What you might want to do next is build up a website.

Go to either godaddy or 1and1 and you can get a small personal website for a couple dollars a month and a .com name for $9.00 year (at 1and1) and they have easy ways to get up a small site.

That way while you’re looking for a publisher you can print small parts of it and build up an audience.

Heady stuff, eh? What an incredible accomplishment!

Congratulations! What a gift to have it just pouring out so much that you don’t want to slow down to outline!!!

If you want it published, get an agent. That is the real foot in the door.

Thanks, Papsett . . . yeah, it’s a rush. :slight_smile: Keep going and you’ll get there too!

Markxxx, thanks for the suggestion. I do need to get a website up at some point, but I’m not willing to put my work up there unless I have a publisher and they think having a chapter or two up would be a good idea. Posting it on the internet could be considered publication, and I don’t want anything complicating first rights. Heck, I won’t even let most people I know read it.

Thanks, Zoe! Yes, I’m researching agents and will start querying in a few months. I’m aiming high. If I don’t make it with this one, that’s ok. I’ll just keep writing more until something sticks.

Oh, believe me, diving into this gave me heart palpitations too. I’m a civlian–can’t claim any first-hand knowledge of the intelligence community. I spent the first seven months reading all the non-fiction I could get my hands on. That convinced me that anything I could write would sound hopelessly inaccurate and naive if I tried to write about characters in a real intelligence agency. So I decided hey, I’m a novelist. I’m licensed to *make stuff up.*I created my own intelligence agency with its own tradecraft. I used my reading to inform my creation, but it’s not intended to be an accurate portrayal of any agency.

One of the things I’ve learned writing this is that you do not always have to write true to life. You do have to write such a convincing illusion that the reader stays immersed in what you’ve created. Did I accomplish that? Well, if civilians like my work, I will be pleased. If anyone in intelligence likes my work, I will feel honored. But who knows? First novels generally don’t end up published. This is the topic that drew me, however, so that’s what I wrote.

Writing someone from a different ethnic background intimidates me more than trying to write about a profession I’m not involved in. I thought about including a non-white character in the one I’m working on next. To pull it off, though, I think I’d want to interview people about their experiences and find a reader who shares the ethnicity of the character to tell me where I get things wrong. I may do that someday, but it’s more than I’m ready to leap into now.

Anyway, yours sounds interesting too!

Barry Eisler writes about an assassin, and in addition to the intrigue, there are threads about love and relationships. He writes steamy sex scenes as well as beautifully choreographed fight scenes. So I think there is plenty of room for romantic angles in gritty books.

I’ve heard some writers do that as part of their learning process. I’ve never actually tried. I found the voice for this one by re-writing the first chapter about seven times until I found a voice that flowed. And I mean complete re-writes. It was a gruelling process, and part of those first seven months when I was reading about intelligence.

Writing novels is very much a “don’t quit your day job” venture for most people. The average novelist earns far less than what I earn in the tech industry, and there’s that pesky mortgage thing to pay. But yeah, this isn’t just a hobby for me either. I’d keep writing, even if I were never published. But I’m certainly going to try to get published. Not because I think it’s likely that I’ll ever be able to quit the day job, but because I’m interested in seeing how far I can push my skills. That, and if other people fell in love with my characters, that would be magical. Good luck with your endeavors too. :slight_smile:

Your novel doesn’t sound like it’s out of the realms of the romance genre. I wrote a book about a corrupt cop and the abusive sado-masochistic relationship he has with a whore (who is, incidentally, guilty of multiple murders). It’s a romance. The romance genre is much larger, and much broader than a lot of people give it credit for. As long as there is a happily ever after between your two protags (and some will accept a happy-for-now ending), and a compelling love story, many, many romance publishers will accept it. I would suggest going to the bookstore and looking for other books in the romance section that sounds like it deals with similar themes or by authors who have a similar style and see who they publish with.

Not that you have to look to romance, of course. But I know how very, very difficult it is to find the appropriate home for your novel–so I also know that it doesn’t do any good to shoot yourself in the foot by writing off a very, very, very large part of the publishing industry (there are more romance novels published and bought every year than any other genre).

The thing about writing for a living is that it’s very possible to do it and make a living wage at it. But what some people don’t realize is that it’s a full time, 40-50 hours/week job that requires a huge amount of dedication and focus and resilience.

I understand perfectly. :slight_smile: I feel the same thing every time I finish a book.

It intimidates me too! But she just sort of materialized out of nowhere. I remember how surprised I was when this part of her character came out! One of my closest friends is 2nd generation Chinese, so some of her character is drawn from his experiences. Also, I wanted her spiritual perspective (Zen Buddhist) to be sort of endemic to the character, something she was raised with. This is really important because the book deals with issues like impermanence and equanimity. But a lot of it is really that she’s her own person, and some of that comes from her ethnicity but a huge part of it is just her personality. She’s basically just a person. I know I am going to have to do some work to get everything right. But for now, you know, just getting down the bones. I can’t tell you how awful I think some of this writing is… some of it is physically painful to copy down. I’m trying to just get everything down in one spot so I can really bring it to life.

pepperlandgirl, thank you for the excellent advice. You can’t imagine how much encouragement that brings me. Once I get more of a polished work together, I will definitely do some publishing research as you suggest. I think we just have to write what’s in our hearts and trust there’s a market out there somewhere.

Also, I intended no offense to the romance genre. I enjoy romances. I just didn’t realize the genre was as wide as it appears to be.

I do know some people who’ve gone full time with their writing, and it’s their only source of income. So yes, it is possible. Just that I know a lot more who still have the day job. I count no chickens until they’re hatched when it comes to finances. :slight_smile:

Yeah, I imagine that feeling never gets old!

Funny how characters have minds of their own, isn’t it? Sounds like your character fits perfectly with the story.

You can’t edit a blank page, as they say. Another good one is that novels are not written–they’re re-written. :slight_smile:

Writing is a lot like working with clay. If you shape something and it’s not quite right, you can reshape it. They’re just words. You can make more.

Congrats! Like a lot of us, I guess, I wrote a novel when I was a teenager, and it really sucked. Hope yours is better!

All that hard work – worth it now, isn’t it?

Oh, I didn’t take any offense. I just know that a lot of people have certain misconceptions of the genre, and some it is fair enough. I just don’t want to see people avoid certain agents/publishers/editors because they think their books won’t fit.

This is one of the truest bits I have ever seen written. My characters become REAL people, and once they reach that point, I literally cannot write them doing something they would not do! They hold conversations inside my head when I’m not writing, and they often lead me down paths I had not intended to travel.

I love them like family, and once created, they never leave me. I still find myself thinking about characters I created many years ago (and never finshed their stories).

If I could no longer write, my life would not be worth living.

Thanks, Baldwin!

Absolutely. :slight_smile:

Yeah, the one I’m working on next actually started as a vague idea about fifteen years ago. In my mind, I heard a siren and saw a man standing outside a building, watching a woman inside. The siren was connected to her, and he knew it, but she didn’t.

I had no idea what any of that meant, but it stuck with me.