Monday, August 10, 2015

Writing My First Novel and Why

OK, I'm about halfway through my first draft of my Science Fiction novel and I have to say it's an odyssey to write. I know; that's a bad pun.

I started to write it this last year, and when I got to 30,000 words, I thought I was close to finishing. Well, I then joined the St Louis Writers Guild and found out that a Science Fiction novel is about 75,000 to 150,000 words. Yeah, I sat there with my mouth open. I mean, who dares to count words in a book anyway? So what I had so far was that size of a novella and I didn't want that. No, only a full novel would do.

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to the 'drawing board' that happens to be my plot plan. I decided to morph what was going to be the second book and my novella into a full novel. So far, it's working out great.

So what makes me think I can write a science fiction novel, you may ask? Well, I knew there were people in my family who published a book or two in the past. The ones I knew of were history books and pamphlets for my home town's historical society. So I figured there might have been some talent passed down to me.

Some years ago, I got online help from a website that actively helped people in their writing. It was great. I got a good free crash course in how to write a story. From there I started to write some short stories. I also tried to write poetry prose.  I shared my stuff online on Scribd.com for free. So I kept on dabbling until I decided to write two Science Fiction stories. They were just long short stories really. I threw them on Scribd.com to see what happened. I had some readership, but not much in the form of comments.

At this point I wanted to do something more with my writing, but I didn't know what. I searched online for writing competitions. By then they were changing from free to enter to pay to enter. I was strapped for cash and skeptical of many of these sites. I really didn't know who was reputable. There are apparently a lot of scamers out there who will take you money and run. Anyway, a competition is only a measure of how good your writing is. It's not improving your writing. To do that, you have to read and write, a lot.

I tried my hand in article writing. Believe it or not, I actually was a writer, for a short time, with the Examiner.com. I realized it was too stressful for me with my migraines. Instead, I started my blogs. In my blogs I wrote essays. I practiced writing and editing my own work. It made me pay more attention to style (grammar), and it exposed my bad habits. I was also able to gauge my readership. I started this blog because I wanted to get back into story writing. So I used it to write short stories and figure out what works and what doesn't work based on readership.

Then I decided to take one of my stories and expand it into a novel. I wasn't even sure if I could write as much as a novel required. Well, long story short, I'm still writing it.

You may say it's taking me a long time. I have two jobs, so my schedule is tight. I have personal demons to overcome, and I'm doing that. The key here is persistence. It really doesn't matter how long I take on this first novel. It matters that I do it right. I look at it like learning tennis. Sure, you can pick up the racket and swing it and even maybe hit the ball. Will the ball go where you want it? Will you be able to return an ace serve? Will you be able to carry on a volley? Will you be able to slam the ball to a game match point? The answer is no if you do not take the time to learn your form. You have to learn fore-hand with its flat, top spin, and slice variations. Then the back-hand with the same variations. Then learn a first serve and then a second serve. Then learn how to position yourself on the court. All the time, keeping your eye on the ball. This is how I'm approaching writing a novel. Now, I'm learning the form. How to write the first draft. Then how to rewrite it. How to give it out to my beta readers and get their input. Then rewrite it again. Then get and editor to go over it. Then rewrite it again. Finally, submit it for publishing.

Yeah, that's a lot of work.  It's no small task, and it's not for the faint of heart. I guess you have to love writing to keep going. I used to be a computer programmer. In that arena, you make an algorithm. Then you code it. Then you correct for all the bugs and modify the application for your intended purposes. That's what you do in writing. You make your plot. You create your characters. You describe your environments. You write and rewrite your draft until it works. You test it on people's brains. Then you sell it to infiltrate the people of the world. Well, after all, books are just code for the brain. ;-))