It’s been almost two years since I’ve committed myself to realizing my dream of writing and publishing a novel. In that span of time, I’ve written a lot, which isn’t that much different than what I was doing before, but I’ve also learned a ton in my pursuit of publication. When I first decided to write a novel, that’s all I did for a few months. Every morning, I’d write 1,000 words or more and they’d add up. In three months I had my first 80,000-word novel in draft form. The moment I wrote the last sentence of my first novel remains one of the most satisfying experiences in my writing career. Finally, I had finished a novel. I printed the 300 pages for my wife to read (she’s always my beta reader), and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a stack of paper as I was at that moment.
Actually finishing a novel is only half of the process. Next, comes the seemingly endless edits. I like to let a story sit for a while and come back to it later for edits. I usually move onto the next project before I do any serious editing on a just-finished novel. This forces me to detach myself from the characters and the story and helps me edit more keenly. Characters become like best friends after you spend several months with them, and the story is your baby. No one wants to hurt their baby. The distance of time helps.
In the time since I’ve started this process, I’ve completed three novels, and I’m almost done with a fourth. I’m using the verb “completed” rather liberally because until they actually get published they’re not really complete. Maybe I should redefine complete to mean they’re in a state of wholeness in the sense that the story is there, but it may need to be redefined to get to the publication stage.
One thing that has helped me get closer to publication is that I’ve been engaged with the writing community. I’ve joined the local writer’s association, Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association (PNWA) and I’ve subscribed to Writer’s Digest along with many other websites that offer resources as well as communities for writers. I’m learning as much as I can about the trade from professional resources as well as other writers. This engagement has encouraged me to submit my writing for critiques and enter writing contests, both of which have provided invaluable feedback on my work.
I’ve also engaged agents. I’ve reached out to them and received feedback on my work from them as well. This has helped me determine what I need to do to better prepare my stories for publication. It’s definitely a work in progress. I’m not necessarily in a hurry, but I have my goals in mind. I’d love to have a long career as a writer. I don’t want it to become my day job, but I want to thrive in this creative outlet, which really is a sharp contrast to my day job.
The result is that I have four novels that are at various stops along the road to publication. Below is a brief description of each novel as well as where I’m at with it. As I progress on each of these, I continue to work on new things and push forward with new ideas. It’s important to keep working and focusing on the craft while keeping an eye on the things I’ve “finished.”
The Vanishing – Ella Warfield is no stranger to personal tragedy, but when her husband of over thirty years slips into the void of a rare form of dementia at a relatively young age, she finds herself struggling to survive. Alone, depressed, and fearing that she has failed her husband yet again, Ella concocts a murder-suicide plan to put an end to their misery, but her courage and unexpected occurrences threaten to thwart her plan as she comes face-to-face with her own motivations. The Vanishing is a story of survival and finding hope and strength when the odds are against you. This is my first novel. I’ve received several critiques on this book and I’m currently going through significant revisions based on the feedback I’ve received.
All Things Certain – Matt and Brad were the best of friends growing up but had fallen out of touch once Brad moved away for college. Now that Brad has returned to his hometown and reconnected with his old friend, Matt is eager to resume the great friendship they once shared a decade ago, but Brad has changed in ways that are unfathomable to him. Nothing embodies who Brad really is more than his friend Trevor, whom Matt summarily dismisses based on his own biased view of the world. The resulting conflict severs their friendship until a tragic event forces Matt to reconsider all that he once thought was certain. The topic of this novel is decidedly controversial but timely. I’ve received some feedback on it, and I need to make some adjustments. I’m getting additional critiques on this one before I send it out to more agents.
That Which Binds Us – By all accounts, Susan Baker’s youngest son, Tommy, has never been an easy child. Temperamental and under-developed mentally, he often withdrew from the world around him save for his mother, who became his best friend and confidante as he grew into a young man, but nothing prepared her for the violent crime that leaves him convicted of murder and facing life in prison. Believing he was wrongfully accused and convicted by a community hell-bent on blaming someone for the heinous crime, Susan puts her faith in a pedantic lawyer to get her son a new trial and overturn his conviction. Despite being estranged from her family for her support of her youngest son, Susan attempts to enlist them to support Tommy at his sentencing hearing, but the family dynamic proves too volatile resulting in a desperate act that changes all of their lives forever. I’ve entered this novel into the annual PNWA writing competition. The value of entering competitions is not just the potential to get recognition but also the critiques that you receive. I’ve also submitted this novel to a few agents and I’m awaiting their feedback.
The Weight of Regret – John Lambert left behind an unfortunate legacy when he surreptitiously abandoned his family over thirty years ago, but a near-fatal crash in a remote canyon in northern Arizona leaves him with a few precious moments to give his wife and three children some answers for his unsolved disappearance on a bitterly cold day in January 1980. As he scribbles out letters to each of them, he reflects on what he left behind and the reasons for his selfish behavior. Unbeknownst to him, the lives of his loved ones have played out differently in the intervening years, sometimes tragically, but the impact of his abandonment is never far-removed their thoughts even after three decades. As John clings to life, he resolves to make things right if given the chance to see his family again. This is the current novel I’m working on and it’s still in the rough draft phase. I hope to have the draft complete by the end of April and begin editing it after my beta readers take a look at it. Once I feel it’s in reasonable shape, I’ll submit for critiques.