On March 5th of this year, I set out to do something that in my entire life I’ve never been able to accomplish. I set out to write my own book, and with the added advantages of today’s technologies, I can write, publish and sell it digitally without any help of a publisher or book printer. That’s amazing.
The book is a spin off of a story I wrote about 13 or 14 years ago as a short story. I began the process with nothing more than knowing what I wanted to tell for my story, and my computer.
When I first started, I spent a few hours trying to figure out the best software to use that’d be helpful in writing my story. I ended up on Scrivener, an application specifically geared towards authors and writers to help them in a number of ways. I’m sure I’m only using it to 5% of its intended power, but it’s been infinitely helpful in my writing. I’ve used it to organized my characters, locations, plot lines, and a number of other things.
I also used it to sketch out my entire story when I first started. I’d known how I wanted to tell the story, so I used the chapter and scene functionality that’s built in to map out how I planned on telling the story, complete with estimated word counts.
What I found, as I began writing, was that I obliterated most of the estimated word counts that I was setting for myself. Which was a good sign, but also worrisome at the same time. According to what I could find, the average “first novel” was between 50,000 and 100,000 words. Kind of a large variance, right? So I shot a Twitter DM to @scottsigler, who has written some great SciFi books that I’ve read in the past, and he’s offered me some guidance. He suggested 80,000 is perfect for my first novel.
About halfway through I realized that my target goal was 80,800 words, almost perfectly what Scott suggested. Though as I wrote, I realized I was writing more than each chapter’s target, and knew I’d go over.
So here I am, 20 days after I set out to write my book — I finished the first draft this past Friday, a mere 17 days after I started writing. Take out the weekends where I didn’t write anything and I essentially wrote a first draft of my book in about a week and a half. I don’t know if that’s good, bad, or indifferent, but I did it.
I’m extremely proud of myself so far, but recognize that I’ve got a long way to go before I can sell the book online through any of the various websites that sell eBooks.
The next step, of which I’ve already started, is to re-read it myself. I want to go back through and make sure that not only is my grammar good (I have at tendency to write with too many commas, and when you’re typing 125+ words per minute, you make mistakes sometimes), but also that the story makes sense. I know it makes sense on a scene by scene and chapter and by chapter basis, but not as a whole. Reading through the whole thing like I’m an actual reader of the book should help me identify any spots that feel wrong, or confusing.
My first draft clocks in at 79,754 words, just shy of the 80k mark that Scott suggested. For just writing for a week and a half, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.
My task list for completing the project is quite intensive, a lot of it wrapped around finishing this here website, designing a cover, and having a professional editor take a crack at it (along with a second rewrite of my own), so I’m by no means hoping to jump the gun.
When all is said and done, I’ll consider my first book a success if I can sell 500 copies. Since it’s mostly free (except paying for the editor to review it, and for an ISBN), it’s not about the money or breaking even. It’s about doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, but never been able to complete.