No one is born knowing how to write, publish and market a novel–it’s a huge undertaking that can be very scary. After publication, your baby is now out in the world for everyone to judge your creativity and your missteps. Ouch! In my experience many would-be authors shrink at the thought of publishing and give up before they even start. That’s a terrible thing. Instead of thinking about how imperfect the whole process may be, plunge into authorship so you can enjoy a gratifying and growth-inducing experience. You won’t regret it! First-time novelist Cristel Orrand, author of The Amalgamist from Raleigh, North Carolina, shares her experiences at taking this plunge. Thank you, Cristel!
From Cristel Orrand, guestblogger for Write from the Inside Out
With my first novel hot off the presses this month, and before diving back in to work on my second, I’m taking a hard look at what I did wrong the first go around, and what might make it a lot easier on you, me, and all the editors next time.
When I started to write two years ago, I was disorganized. I had only a sense of the protagonist’s character, and a need to write her. But I didn’t have an outline and not surprisingly, without it, the words came to the page in fits and starts. In early drafts, the characters’ motivations were at times unclear and about 75% of the way through writing the story, I still had no idea how to end it.
I spent the next few months in an author’s coma. Writer’s block was a black hole I hid in, waiting for the ending to come to me. This is a lot like waiting for the perfect job to fall into your lap; I won’t say it doesn’t occasionally happen, but the odds are staggeringly against it. Finally, I sat down at my laptop and refused to get up until I made headway, and I did, after only an hour so of false starts. Recharged with my characters speaking to me again, I wrote in a flurry for the next two months, ultimately arriving at what I felt was a damn good story where characters arrived where they both deserved and wanted to be. Through the recommendation of a friend, I began a dialogue with 1st Ride Publishing, a company dedicated to preserving the author’s vision, while supporting the author through coaching and editing, and ultimately delivering the final manuscript to market. They agreed to take on my book.
I then naively told the publisher my manuscript was 95 percent complete. Due to publication schedules, they wouldn’t start editing my book until three months later. In the meantime, I fell into a non-stop revolving door of editing. I re-ordered chapters and I deleted over a 100 pages. When the editing team started reading the final draft I presented, the first question was “where is the backstory?” Oh, you mean those first 30 pages I deleted? Yes, those.
What I know now that I didn’t know then:
1. PLAN. A timeline is not appropriate for every book, but at least make lists. What are the 4-7 things I want readers to know about this character? And then go back and check them off- did this chapter illustrate these characteristics? This also helps set the pace to keep your readers engaged.
2. WRITE. No matter what. Outlines, planning, a storyboard are all extremely helpful to keeping a well-paced, consistent and purposeful story. But if you don’t have these things, don’t let it stop you from writing. Add them back when you can and be prepared to edit a little more.
3. REFINE: As you develop the story, do go back and make that timeline (or list). What are the three things that happen to this character and does the stuff in between push the plot this direction? Don’t assume that because you know your characters inside and out that the audience does.
4. COLLABORATE: Ask for help and network. I asked my favorite authors how they did it (online and at events), and I asked all my friends and acquaintances. After searching on my own for publishers and agents, my publisher ultimately started with a friend.
5. EDIT: Don’t think a completed manuscript is a finished novel. Editing takes as much effort and time as writing and a good editor is as rare and talented as a good author. Do engage a really good editor and copy editor and be open to criticism. When your critical reader (the editor) tells you something isn’t clear, it probably isn’t. Don’t get defensive. A collaborative editing process will improve your book immeasurably.
And finally, read and review for others. A good author is generally a prolific reader. Readers’ reviews make or break a book. The writer’s craft is frequently a solitary one, but one that ultimately cannot be completed alone.
Cristel Orrand is an author of fiction, mini-biographies, poetry and is currently working on her first foray into historical fiction, set in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War, telling of a strange series of events and lively cast of characters, including the Rev. David Caldwell and Daniel Boone.
Cristel grew up in a military family, moving back and forth across the US, and living in Turkey and Jordan for several years. The Amalgamist is in part an acknowledgement of the gift of a childhood spent in the Middle East and the product of a perpetual dissident, who finally remembered who she always wanted to be.
She’s spent the last ten years working in federal and commercial IT consulting, where her degrees in French and political science have been of little use, but of huge importance to her anyway. She’s a mom, a project manager, a bibliophile, a writer, a history buff, a cook, a critic, a gardener, a storyteller, a cancer survivor, a caretaker, a scavenger and a pugilist, of a sort.
She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her artist husband, twins and dogs, doing everything she can dream up and cram into a day. Find out more about Cristel HERE.