Below is parts of a note I wrote a while back, when I finished the first draft of my first novel. Some parts have been edited, but I thought you might like to see it, so here it is:
My first draft of the Supernatural tie-in novel, titled “You Shook Me” (yes, after the AC/DC song), has come to a close just shy of 90,000 words. My hope is to surpass 90k with the second draft, as anything less would make the book too short after professional editing.
Writing, and completing, the first draft of a novel has been a learning experience the likes of which I have never had in the world of writing. The first third of it will require some pretty heavy-handed edits and rewrites, as much of it was written years ago. Can you say adverbs?! I sure could. I shudder at almost all uses of them. My early overuse of them seems amateurish in comparison with the back half of the novel, and their near-complete disappearance.
I found an invaluable resource in the form of a website called Litreactor and its articles on style and form. One such article (this one, right here. Click this. Do it), and probably near the top of the usefulness scale, was written by Chuck Palahniuk (author of “Fight Club” among others). The article stresses the importance of “unpacking” your descriptions. A good rule of thumb is don’t use 10 words when you can say it in 5. This article contrasts that advice in a specific way. The essence of the advice in this article is to rid yourself of “thought verbs”. Don’t say “he knew”. Show how he knew. Illustrate it with words. Readers are smart. Draw them the dots, they will connect them. It makes the reading experience more enjoyable by allowing the reader to take part in the character’s thinking process, rather than being a simple observer.
There are a number of extremely wonderful articles besides this one which present a variety of ideas about writing and the process. Should all the suggestions be followed? Certainly not. But they are all worth considering on the journey to becoming a more complete author. The website also hosts a paid writer’s workshop which I am considering joining now that the first draft is done. This could help me hone my skills as an author while also helping me connect with other writers in the global community. Writing is lonely business and I hear that human connection is indispensable. Worth a shot! (**edit: I still haven’t done this**)
The most useful tool throughout this process, however, has been just DOING IT. Nothing has taught me more than that. I learned I am capable of doing it, of completing something I started. I am capable of weaving the tapestry of a story. I have my own voice as an author, which emerged and began to refine itself through the process.
And I learned the experience was worth the trouble, even if it is never published. There is one publisher licensed to publish Supernatural books and if they don’t like it or don’t feel I have enough credentials to be considered, the book is dead in the water. Self publishing is not an option, as I can’t afford to be sued by Warner Bros. (**edit for clarity: the book I have written is not “fan fiction” by definition. It is canon, and as such is subject to copyright law**)
For any of you thinking about undertaking a project like this, I say quit thinking and do! Take an hour a day and write what you can in that hour. You’ll eat, sleep and breathe your story. You’ll get to know your characters, and consequently yourself, better than you thought possible. And I daresay you’ll have a great time, too.
I know I did.