Friday, March 16, 2012

First novel finished!

Thanks to Janet Reid's phenomenal Liz Norris Pay It Forward contest, I got the push I needed to get the novel done.  It's been a couple years coming, and I wanted to write the process down in case I ever wanted to come back and see what the hell took so long.

When I got RIF'd from my job in 2009, I decided I'd take some time, and try to write. I bought a laptop, made a little desk area in a sunny spare room, and over the next four months, I struggled to write. I learned things along the way, like the fact that I needed music on while I wrote. I worked best between the hours of 11 and 4 in the afternoon, but at night I could write for hours.  I learned that if I didn't know where I was going, I couldn't write a single word, and trying to force it with the butt-in-chair theory was a miserable failure.  I also had a bad bout with depression over being fired for the first time in my life.

The only way I could get past the writer's block was to go do something else for a few weeks. My brain would chew on whatever had me stuck while I did housework, or read umpteen books, or wandered around in a daze.

I finished the first draft early 2010. It came in at about 45K, which is too damn short for the mystery genre.  I gave it to a couple people to read, and they all agreed that the book had one really major problem.  I'd started with one case, and then switched to another one as the 'main case' and they kept waiting for the first 50 pages to be relevant, which ruined the next 100.

And I knew it was a problem. I did. But I couldn't figure out how to fix it, so I tried to ignore it.  I spent the next eight months wrestling with how to resolve it, until inspiration hit like a bat to the head.  I also took a creative writing course in the fall semester of  2010, intending to go back to school and get a degree in English.

The going back to finish school plans derailed when I got pregnant mid-semester.  And I got a job with a place I used to work.  And I started a writing group in January of 2011.  I wrote on the novel here and there as I could, but between preparing for the baby, having the baby, simultaneously getting let go from the new job, and adjusting to the new world order, it wasn't much. I also lost my writing desk in the spare room, as we turned it into the guest room, because the guest room was now designated baby's room. Luckily, laptops mean writing wherever you want.

I managed to get back to the computer regularly by the end of 2011, and started regularly pushing words out.  I was hoping to get it finished before my 32nd birthday on March 8th, but on Feb 28th, Janet Reid posted the contest for debut authors. And I decided I was going to go for it. Not because I thought I would win, (though hope springs eternal) but because I work better with hard deadlines.
I managed to get the final bits done by March 3rd, 2012.  I gave the final draft to my beta readers, begging for a quick turn-around time. All of them, fantastic wonderful people all, got it back to me by March 10th, 2012.  I spent the next five days almost constantly editing.  My husband and I lived off freezer food while I worked. I slept only 5 hours a night every night, because my most productive time was between 10 p.m., (after the baby was definitely asleep) and 2 a.m.

While I was waiting on the beta readers, I worked on the query letter that had to go with the finished draft.  It was brief.  QueryShark recommends a max of 250 words, and I came in around 170.

Right now, I'm theoretically ready to submit to lots and lots of agents. But I'm spending the next two weeks catching up on all the chores I neglected, in preparation for my mother-in-law coming to visit. Whee!