This time last year I had started writing a story. A vague dream of mine has always been to be a writer, sure. But a novelist? That was new. It felt right, though. So I tip-tapped my way through the school year, until April 2017 hit, and I typed two very important words:
That was it. 53,318 words of a completed story, from beginning to end. For the first time in my life, it felt like I had the drive I’d need to become a big-boy author. I love my characters, the story felt true, and even when I wanted to give up, I surged forward! Because of this, I reaped the reward of completing a sci-fi/fantasy YA novel. A very important question occurred to me, then and there. What’s next? Sure, I’d read Stephen King’s On Writing (highly recommend it, puts writing wonders into words) but waiting a whole month to look at the manuscript seemed like way too long.
And it was.
I had to distract myself through other means of writing. I got into a new TV show, started making bullet points for other short story and novel ideas. Still, the book was itching at the back of my mind. I had to do something, anything! After two weeks of waiting, I gave in and started editing.
What I did first was read through the entire story and comment on the major errors I saw immediately. Whether it was the grammar or plot holes, I wrote down a big “WTF” in the margins then forged forward, not looking too long at the mistakes. This is key. I found that obsessing over certain parts while still trying to look over the story as a whole was counterproductive to the entire process. The flow of the sentences was cringe-worthy, and it pained me to move past them without immediate correction. I know what you’re thinking: MAP, that’s super obvious. I thought so too. But my heart was firmly against my mind on this one, as if someone was going to sneak up and read my story before it was ready, see that scene, and proceed to shit all over it before I had a chance to bring it to the final form.
This, of course, did not happen. No one will see it if you don’t want them to.
Secondly, I marked down the plot holes in a separate journal, then went back and fixed those glaring errors. There’s no point in fixing a chapter grammatically if you end up taking it out because the plot’s direction has changed.
Thirdly, and fourthly, grammar! Grammar is one of my greatest weaknesses in the fact that I hate conforming to it. Many years of writing have been spent avoiding these types of corrections. Not very conducive to success. I should also mention that I include sentence fluidity in the grammar section, because I have an addiction to creating long, complicated sentences that don’t make sense to anyone but me. So fixing them is a problem of grammar, as well. In my head at the very least.
Fast forward to September, and now, I have completed the edits brought to me by wonderful beta readers. This was edit number five. Beta readers, to me, were essential and so important to making the story stronger.
At this point, I feel like the manuscript is “done”, which I’ve heard is the point where you should be ready to query, and have agents tear a new one in your story! Is it weird that I’m excited for a professional to take the time to do so? Means they think it’s worth the critique.
In conclusion, writing a book is disheartening, thrilling, fulfilling and frightening all at once. But once you finish one? You’re finally not one of the millions who says “i’m writing a novel”, but you’re someone who says “I wrote one”. Concretely impressive instead of doubt-inducing is a great mile marker to pass in one’s life. Some people never get there, be proud if you do.