My First Novel: The End is Near

Wastelander LayoutWell my fingers are weeping with joy as I am closing in on the end of my first novel, Wastelander: The Drake Legacy.  The book is a post-apocalyptic jaunt taking place 30 years after the nuclear fall of the United States.  A few more chapters and the first draft shall be complete! *maniacal laughter*

I‘m approaching the seven month mark and it looks like it will be living in 80,000 word land.  Depending on your level of writing badassery/experience you are either saying, “Damn, it took you long enough to write 80,000 words,” or “Damn, I wish I could write 80,000 words in seven months.”  Probably the former.

If you are in the latter category (I feel your pain), here are a few tips from an amateur cutting his teeth to help speed you along.

rewriting.jpgRewriting completely derailed my progress.  I probably spent at least a month of my time going back through what I had written, making modifications, and trying to ensure the story was chronological, plot holes were filled, and everything was hunky-dory.

The problem with this was the more I went back into the writing to fix it, the more issues I found and more time I spent living in the past.  Also, my addled brain had trouble transitioning back into writing the current story after spending so much time regurgitating what had already happened.  Re-writing is essential, but finishing the book first is more essential.

broken dreams.jpgOutside influences destroying my dreams.  Ambiguous sounding right?  My book is in a post-apocalyptic world and there is no shortage of television, movie, and books living within the same realm.  I would be watching or reading one of these mediums, see something that felt to similar to what I had written, fall to me knees and scream, “Now I have to re-write an entire chapter (or the whole book) or people are going to think I’m an unoriginal fool.”

Then I listened to a podcast on Writing Excuses about the The Problem of Originality.  While I will let you draw your own conclusions from these seasoned authors, my takeaway was, just write you own content and don’t stress what other people are doing.  Your writing style or viewpoint of a subject, even if the subject has been done many times, may be interesting enough to make you stand out.  Your own twist may be enough to take something unoriginal and make it something new and fresh.

lack of time.pngNot enough writing time, thus, all progress stopped.  During the seven months I’ve spent toiling away, my wife and I had a baby (check out his cuteness on my Instagram, and yes, his name is Thor), and I quit my job to be a stay at home dad.  Add to the onslaught the fact my wife is active duty military, so the bulk of childcare falls on my shoulders. Additionally, I work as a freelance copy editor and as the personal editor for another author.  Eventually, all of these excuses were enough to halt my progress on a few occasions.  There were weeks of time where no progress happened whatsoever.

The solution was to find ways to generate progress even if I couldn’t sit in front of the computer.  I’m talking about using my phone as a recorder while crapping on the toilet and talking through chapters.  Walking around with my son strapped to my chest and explaining to inanimate objects various scenes.  And orating while doing chores around the house.

This, from an outside perspective, made me look like a madman.  What was important is it kept my mind in the story.  It let me keep creating, even when I couldn’t sit down and devote keyboard time to it.  The result, was lots of audio clips (with interesting background noises) that allowed me to speed through chapters because I wasn’t creating, I was simply transcribing.

facts not opinions.jpgPutting too much stake in outside opinions during the writing progress.  That tasty moment when you break down, tell someone you are working on a book, and they say the most useless and counterproductive thing ever.  Or you decide to email someone a copy of your progress for feedback, only to have them not read it – or worse – tell you why it doesn’t work and provide no other form of feedback.  Then you are tempted to rewrite.

Asking someone to read and give their opinions on an unfinished piece of work is the same as asking someone to tell you how a sandwich tastes, but only giving them a single piece of bread to make that judgement.  Wait until you have finished your first draft, do a second pass, then send it to Beta Readers to give you feedback.  Then you can begin lamenting – but hey – at this point you’ve already finished the book so you won’t have to worry about rage quitting.

devil on the shoulder.jpgLastly, writing for other people and not writing my story.  My book is from the viewpoint of a broken vulgar man.  I’ve had one person tell me, “Only mysteries work written as first person narratives.” (False.  But let’s not get into it.)  I’ve had another person tell me, “Maybe tone down the language, it will turn off some readers.”  This is true.  It will turn off some readers.  But who cares?  I can’t imagine pristine vernacular is very important to the people who are surviving in my post-apocalyptic world.

Not every book is going to appeal to every reader.  Do we need to understand our genre and what the expectations are – absolutely.  Do we have to use a cookie cutter to replicate those successful books in our genre?  I don’t think so.  When I started listening to the naysayers and rethought my premise, my writing sputtered.  Once I shut out everything else and let my characters gain their voices, my writing increased in speed tenfold.

Good luck finishing your first books and crushing more of them!  Once I wrap up these last few chapters I will start posting some teasers from the book and share with you how crappy the whole rewrite, beta-reading, editing, agent finding (or not finding), and publishing (or self-publishing) thing goes.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

36 responses

  1. I’ve been seriously considering quitting my day job to be a freelance writer and novelist for about three weeks now. Of course, one blog post on the internet isn’t going to make me quit my job as a personal banker to hack away at a keyboard all day, but i definitely needed to see this. You are an inspiring human, and I think this is just the motivation that I needed to buckle down and do the damn thing with this book I’ve been trying to write. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you found something useful in all the mad ranting and thanks so much for reading. A quick word of caution! My wife generates most of our income, which allows me to raise our son, blog, write, and freelance. If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be able to stay afloat on just the freelance income (now if I was full time freelancing it, with no little boy to raise, the income generated would be much larger). I do know of freelancers who are able to swing it. As for writing, most of my author friends have secondary jobs to support their writing. While I’m not trying to crush your dreams, I feel transparency is important. Nothing says you can’t dabble in freelance, take little jobs to build your online portfolio, then consider making the switch. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck! And no matter what happens, I hope you decide to start writing – we all have a story to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the congrats and for stopping by to comment! I’m going to forget about it for a bit, and start the next book. Then I will come back with fresh eyes and tear my hair out all over again as I edit.


  2. Good stuff! Writing as a profession feels like either total silence or too much noise, depending on the mood of the internet that day. Doing it with a baby strapped on adds a whole ‘nother level of crazy! I can relate to it all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the encouraging words Meghan. You are right on about the Internet noise (mostly why I try to stick to blog posts on the craft of writing, but not my writing specifically). I love my little guy, but whew, you’re not kidding about it taking the struggle to new heights.


  3. Man am I glad I found you in the twisted mess of the world wide web. I enjoy you maniacal style of writing and blogging. Your first book looks amazing, I can confidently say it will be a purchase for me sight unseen. Just by the writing style of your blog and besides baby Thor needs to eat and I’m sure he didn’t cry when you began to read blurbs of this book to him…. keep blogging and writing. The world needs the quintessentialeditor !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words! Those are the kind of words that stoke the fires when those nuclear winters run a couple months too long. As I’m wrapping up the first-draft this month I will start posting some teasers. The manuscript still has an ungodly journey ahead (re-write, beta reads, editor, agent, publishing etc.) but I’m happy with the progress. I really like your blog page – I will have to snag The Tattered Remains. Thor needs good books.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Rolling the Dice and Creating Chaos « Quintessential Editor

  5. Pingback: Book, Blog, and Thanks « Quintessential Editor

    • Thanks! The end was farther away than I had surmised, but it’s much closer now than it was then. Hoping to put a bow on the first draft by the end of this month.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think your next book out to be a book on how to write a book. Seriously. You made me laugh at my own frustration (can’t we take ourselves too seriously sometimes?!) thank you, too, for reading my meager offering…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words. I need to write some books first and toss myself into the arena (build some credibility). Then maybe, if I find anything useful to say that’s somewhat original, then maybe I would try that out. Once my baby boy is in school, I would love to get my masters in Creative Writing and teach. Until then, I’ll be here with my computer, diapers, and bottles. Thanks for stopping by today!


  7. You blog rocks. As a new blogger, I am interested in your style and layout. What are you reading to help you design this or is it a purchased theme, it really is nice. Besides that, your son is adorable. I too am hustling my brain for new ideas to write about. I love blogging but it can get hectic coming up with content. Congratulations on the book, I want to be like you when I grow up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the motivating words! If Thor could mutter more than high pitched squeals, he would thank you too.

      I am overdue on a blog post about blogging – so look for one coming around today or tomorrow.

      As for the book, thanks! You don’t want to be like me though – the world needs the Chipped Cup like it needs muses singing in peoples ears.

      Happy reading, writing, and blogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was encouraged by your thoughts on originality and writing. I am currently writing a YA novel called “Truth or Dare,” in which the youth of a future, Utopian society play a game of Truth or Dare to solve a murder mystery. However, two chapters to completion I was sitting in the movie theater when the preview for a movie with a strikingly similar concept played. As I watched I felt my heart drop all the way to the sticky theater floor. The entire summer of writing had been wasted, I thought. How could I ever publish the book now? It would look like I had copied the idea from the movie. So my story sits with two chapters left to write because I felt completely derailed! This blog was good timing. Now if only I dare to finish my story!


    • I’m really happy this was able to give you a glimmer of hope. I’ve been exactly where you were – sliding along the floor of the sticky theater. Through the duration of my work, I’ve had to peel myself off of that floor a few times.

      I know the closer I get to the end of my book, the harder it gets. I think it may have to do more with closing the door on something I have grown very fond of and knowing the next steps for it will involve opening that door to others.

      Regardless, I hope you get those last two chapters finished up. I’m always looking for new books to read, and once yours is out there I will certainly scoop it up. Happy writing!


Leave your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: