Happy Monday, everyone! I'm pleased to announce that this week the Wicked Writers will be sharing our novel-writing secrets with you. How do we create a novel? Stop by each day, and I'm sure you'll see that all of us do things a little differently.
I started with an idea and the basic American dream to write a novel. Did I think it would be worth reading in the end? I had no clue, but I had read so many books within my genre that I had a clear concept of what was missing and what I would do differently if I ever created my own book. Those ideas percolated for years. I had a basic premise in my head, but no time, desire, or drive to sit down and write.
I had my opening line, one I’d honed in my mind for a while—“I open the door to find a body at my feet" - and one my inexperience in writing didn't tell me was written in a first person present tense style. I love reading books in first person myself, but I had no idea that the style of present tense I picked was frowned upon by professionals and a lot of the publishing industry.
I proceeded to write with a vague idea of where my story was going. My mentor, Supriya Savkoor, told me I had to know the ending before I wrote too far in—or else what was I writing toward?
One thing the business world has taught me is how to plan. You will never succeed in any venture without one. So I applied that same logic and planned out my entire book. Without knowing how other writers outlined, I just wrote three or four lines describing the action or plot motion I intended for each chapter.
I did what worked for me, and my novel quickly evolved. Once I had written the first ten or so chapters, I did something completely out of the norm—I threw my work out to the public for reader response. I had already joined two critique groups, two writing guilds and various subchapters, and two online critique sites. In less than two months, I had feedback from dozens of writers on my opening chapters.
I launched a Facebook Fan Page (not a traditional profile page, as this one is open to the public), a mere two months from typing "Chapter One" and much to my surprise, real readers loved my story. No one commented on the present-tense style that’s not yet in vogue among my peers. Instead, these readers were pulled into my story and the sense of immediacy they found in my writing style.
Opening myself and my work up to readers was the best thing I ever did. They helped me with character names (which became increasingly difficult to think up), tried to predict where I was going with the plot, and cheered me on while I churned out more chapters. Before I hit more than 2,000 readers through various channels of exposure (and that is just the 2,000 who spoke up and told me their thoughts), I found out I couldn't put more than a small portion of my book out for public consumption or it would qualify as being already published by some publishing standards.
So I formed two private reading groups with about 275 members combined. The first one was with writers (about 30 of them), and the larger group was readers of my genre, urban fantasy. Each set of eyes offered valuable input. It was an incredible learning experience, and I met some great people who became friends. These readers and writers helped me to shape my story; I always had my plan, but they helped me to see where that plan needed refining.
In less than five months, I finished my first 90,000-word erotic urban fantasy. In the end, my way to create a novel was a very unorthodox one, but I wouldn't have changed a thing. I found out last Friday that my book, Vampire Vacation, achieved second place in Dorchester Publishing's America's Next Best Cellar (yes, that is the actual name, I didn't spell Seller wrong) contest that was billed as looking for a “fresh voice in Romance.”
It was the most grueling contest I've been in so far, but I'm glad I did it. My book—which is not actually a Romance in the traditional sense of the word (and anyone who has read it would agree), but a combination of many genres—beat out more than 300 other much more experienced writers to get to the top. I'm thrilled my novel came as far as it did, and I think it speaks huge volumes on the path I've taken. Don’t let anyone tell you, “you can’t do that.” You'll never know unless you try.