Okay, whew. This has been a long time coming. I originally meant to put it up after January 15th so we would have an objective idea of how successful something like this is, but Harper Voyager has put out an update so I’ve no idea when they will get back to me. Although it is nice to know they will be getting back eventually. (I like that they feel bad about a two-month response time to something like 4500 manuscripts. One of my friends has been waiting on poetry for almost a year.)
Before I get any further with this, though, I’d like to note something pretty important: I had no interfering commitments. After finishing up work, I’d just moved back in with the parents, plus I’m not in a relationship. If you want to spend this much time all in a chunk, you’d better not need to play with your kids or make ends meet, etc. Let’s face it, for the overwhelming majority of us, writing will never be the primary breadwinner. It’s a nice dream and there’s nothing wrong with working towards it, but don’t bet on it at the cost of everything else.
As you can see from this, it took me 14 actual days of writing and 17 days to push out 70,004 words, which then got edited into 80,000 words that I threw at Harper Voyager in the hopes they’ll think this business is saleable. YA sci-fi with all the themes and a socioeconomic minority lead? Let’s see how that goes. (And yes, there was an actual reason the main character is urban poor. I don’t do that for the sake of doing it.)
So anyway, once you’ve decided you won’t be breaking any hearts or getting tossed out on the street by doing something like this:
- Have a real motivation. I find the chance to be published by one of the big six without first getting an agent very, very motivating. Since this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, you need to figure out what will make you do it. Is it the fact that you’re finally on break and this is all the time you have? The fact that you’ve had this story idea for a long time and now you think you’re ready to make it happen? Internal or external, make sure you have a reason to keep going that you won’t argue yourself out of.
- Be efficient. I took a break when I realized that sitting in front of a computer and trying to push words out was just getting things deleted. I needed to plan where things should go and reassess the middle of the story, and honestly I just needed a break from the damn thing. Once I got back to it, I did much better.
- Don’t write just for the sake of writing. It’s one thing to do it during NaNo when the whole point is to get those words out, but in this case I was writing to show other people. I’m not a long-winded person (I used to be, and the results depressed me too much to keep doing it), and the first thing I always ask myself when writing is ‘why would anyone want to read this?’ I will say now that I don’t think the results came out badly. Voice is one of my strong points, though, so the plot is likely weaker than I think it is.
- PLAN. I can’t say that much about good planning because, frankly, I’m awful at it, but I had the idea for this last year. So I knew exactly what I wanted from the setting, I knew the beginning and the end of the story down to the wording I wanted, I knew the characters and the voice I was going to write this with (although I did waver between past and present tense for an entire page). Where this will totally screw you over is when you get to 35,000 words and realize that you are out of ideas for where things should go in order to hit that all-important word count. Ooooops. Seriously, don’t just figure out point A to B, figure out what needs to happen in-between.
- Take care of yourself. Take walks, exercise, eat regularly: all these basic things. If you get a headache, get off the computer. If your wrists starting hurting, go do something else. I set Word so I’m writing light text on a dark background, which does help with the eyestrain, but it still took me around five hours to write 7,000 words because I took breaks every thirty minutes. Also, F.lux is awesome. I mentioned the mental side of it above, but yeah: health matters.
- Have fun! Okay, so it totally borders on tedious at times and that’s why that external motivation was so necessary for me, but still. This is your story, you’re doing it because you want to, you should enjoy it.
As always, discussion welcome.