Ever since I was in grade school, I wanted to write fiction, and wrote a good deal of short stories before I graduated from high school, sharing some of them with classmates and anyone else who showed interest. Back then, I dreamed I would have written and published dozens of novels by the time I was 50. I’m past that age now, and haven’t published a single novel yet. I’ve published short stories and gaming adventures/supplements, but no novel. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in one’s path, and derailing large projects before completion, especially if you’re someone easily distracted, like I am.
In September of 2012, I decided that despite everything that stood in my way and everything I’d let hinder or distract me, I was going to concentrate on writing not just a novel, which I’ve actually done a few times, but a publishable novel. None of the other novels I’d written were publishable. So I dropped several other creative projects I’d been giving time to and focused on the novel, doing a bit of 3D art occasionally — as you may have seen posted here or on Facebook, Twitter, Deviant Art, or my DAZ Gallery — whenever I felt I needed a break from the novel. Sometimes the 3D art threatened to distract me, but I managed, not always without some pain, to nip new projects in the bud if they became too time-consuming or dragged out for too long.
It took about a month to finish a 20,000 word outline for the novel. About three months later I had finished an 80,000 word novel based on the outline. Then I read the novel I’d written, and it was rubbish. My spelling and grammar were fine, and the plot wasn’t too awful, but the characters were more like caricatures. Some of the events of the story didn’t make sense. I’d written better stuff in the past. This novel was not shaping up to be something I’d be proud to publish or expect anyone else to enjoy reading.
Even though the story wasn’t good, it had some good ideas behind it. So, okay, I rethought some things. I considered motivations for not only the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. A better story took shape, with more realistic characters, and I wrote the story anew. I thought it might be good. I sent it to some beta readers, and asked them to be honest with me.
Gladly, they were honest, and I learned that the story had not come across to them the way I had envisioned it. I studied what they’d said in their feedback, and thought I understood what the issues were with my second version of the novel. So then I began writing the third version of it. I’d originally written the novel from the point of view of a single character, but the beta readers had trouble with that character as the protagonist. There was no one other character whose viewpoint would provide all the necessary information for the story. So I chose three of the supporting characters and made them all viewpoint characters, giving each of them a story arc.
This made me dig deeper still into the motivations and backgrounds of these three viewpoint characters. I’d had ideas in my head about them, of course, but only the bare minimum of those ideas had made it into the previous version of the novel. When I inspected these characters closer, I discovered how much more interesting they were than I’d realized, and how much more interesting they were than the character I’d originally chosen as protagonist.
Switching to these three viewpoint characters and including their stories has made it necessary to increase the word count of the novel. It won’t be 80,000 words. It will be a duology — two novels, each with about 100,000 words. I’ve finished writing and editing the first of the two books. I’m feeling good about how the story is unfolding now, and I hope that readers will like it.
At this point, I’ve set the finished first book of the duology aside and will give it a read through in a week or two or more to see if I still think it is good. After that, it will be ready for another round of beta readers. I’m hoping for better feedback this time. As long as it’s honest feedback.
I still have to write the second book. I have the story for the second book written from the perspective of the original protagonist, so I have that material to work from. I’ll be converting that material to be told from the viewpoints of the three characters, and adding new material specific to them, as I did for the first book. So even though the first draft for the second book is not done, it is a good deal more than just started.
I’m planning on self-publishing my work. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to go the traditional route, but I’d like to see my debut novel published before I reach retirement age. 🙂 That being said, I’m wondering if I should wait to publish the first book of the duology until I have written all of the new material for the second book.
One option for me would be to make the first book of the duology available for pre-sale, and release it only after I’ve finished the writing for the second book. I’d still be editing the second book, perhaps. I could then also put the second book up for pre-sale at the time the first book was released. Do you think that would go over well with potential readers?
Thank you for reading all of this, and since you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll leave your thoughts in the comments below or on whatever social media site you might have spotted this post.
[Btw, I’ve changed the name of the teen girl viewpoint character shown in the image at the top of this post from Gabriel to Gabrielle. I hadn’t thought about Gabriel being a man’s name, and actually being pronounced differently than I was saying it in my head. Sheesh.]