Until I began writing The Fire-Pit I never thought about what went into writing a novel. At the library or bookstore, if an authors’ name or a cover caught my eye, I read the blurb on the back. If it sounded interesting I took the book home. It was fairly easy to find an entertaining story.
The last eighteen months have been an adventure. Grab a camp chair and join me by the fire.
A great story idea came to me in the shower. Guess I ought to write a book.
Yep, that’s how it started. With an idea. Part of my idea involved a food truck. I spent many hours learning everything I could about food trucks.
I spent days creating my characters. I found images on google. I interviewed each character, asking 40 in-depth and probing questions. I learned a lot about them.
Despite being scared I was ready to write. So I did the research all over again. I repeated this process for six months.
There was a blog, written by indie author Donna B. McNicol, that I regularly read. She announced in July that she was super busy writing all of August’s blog posts ahead of time because of Camp NaNoWriMo. I remember eagerly following the link to discover what this camp was all about. Camp NaNoWriMo is where writers come together and for a month write like crazy. You can do anything, a novel, a screenplay, blog posts, non-fiction, newsletters, or research for an upcoming project. I decided it might just be the kick in the pants I needed to escape this research quagmire I’d fallen into.
I wrote every day for two and a half weeks. On day 17 my characters went on strike citing unsafe working conditions. They claimed boredom had almost resulted in several of them dying. They refused to come back to work until I’d watched a few action adventure movies. I argued with them. They won.
I spent all of September and October reworking my outline. When National Novel Writing Month rolled around I was ready to try again. I had new plot twists and new characters. Not all of my new characters liked my old characters. They weren’t very nice to each other.
I wrote all month and ‘won’. Which means I wrote 50,000 or more words during November. One of the prizes I got for winning was a half-price subscription for Scrivener. I plunked down the money. The program made it super easy to keep track of photos, character bios, location information, research links, and the book itself. I moved a couple dozen files into the program and got started again.
Another prize of winning was the chance to submit your book to a big-time publishing house. I was really excited about this. I sent in the first 1000 words of my book, a short synopsis, and an author bio. I just knew they’d want my book. How could they not?
Even though I wrote 50,000 words in November the story was only about half done. I wrote all through December. A week into January I finished the rough draft! I was so excited. I printed out the book. It took almost an entire ream of paper! I did a happy dance. Our fur kids looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Maybe I had.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know about editing before I began writing or I might not have started. Editing feels like taking your favorite shirt and cutting it into strips and using it to add sparkle to a bonfire. It hurts and you lose something. But then again — you get sparkles!
Someone I’ve known for many years helped me edit the rough draft. We spent months ruthlessly chopping entire sections. I was sad to see many of my new characters sent to the unemployment office. But it had to happen.
In March, I received an email form letter from the publishing house. They regretted to tell me that my book didn’t fit their current needs. I regretted hearing it.
Rewrites and More Editing
The person helping me edit was no longer able to help. Real life and family always trump everything else.
I rewrote the last half of the book. I began searching for a writing group. Previous half-hearted searches hadn’t turned up any that looked interesting. The real problem was that I was afraid. So far only people I knew had read the book. And while the feedback was positive I feared they were just being nice. This time when I googled Denver writing groups an interesting one turned up and they were accepting applications. I submitted one of my best short stories, nervously pushed the submit button and waited.
I’m a Blogger Now
I actually hadn’t expected to start my blog until after I published my book. But everything I read convinced me that it was time to start sharing and connecting. So I launched Jillian Lisa Pearl in May 2013. It’s given me a chance to put my work out for anyone to read. But I must admit it’s unnerving pressing the publish button. Will anyone read it? Will they like it if they do? Will someone hate it and tell me? Will I be able to handle it? Has my writing made anyone smile or laugh? Has it helped anyone?
Having a blog has also given me a chance to learn about marketing and social media. The things I’ve learned will be helpful when it’s time to market The Fire-Pit.
One Step Forward and One Step Back
A few weeks later I was a member of Denver Fiction Writers, a small group of writers who are very serious about improving their craft. If you are a writer but don’t belong to a critique group of some kind, find one, get involved, embrace the process. My writing has developed so much since I joined them. Something I hadn’t expected was that giving critiques would teach me as much as getting them. Every day I’m thankful for this group.
I felt like the book was almost ready. With a goal of publishing my book in November I asked if anyone in my writing group could read my entire book. A few members willingly did this. Through their feedback, I discovered that the book wasn’t ready. This news was crushing. I’d worked so hard.
A Community of Help
To the group’s credit, they were not only honest, they willingly helped me solve the snafus. Because of them, my other beta readers, and a very dedicated editor, The Fire-Pit will be amazing. Which is what readers deserve, a great book.
What I’ve Learned About Writing a Book
- It’s exciting and fulfilling creating a book.
- I have a lot to learn about a lot of things.
- It is a lot of hard work.
- I have to show up every day and I can never give up.
- I have to listen to and consider all feedback. Sometimes the critique I dislike the most is the one that helps the most.
- A quality book can’t be produced in a vacuum.
- Editing is painful. It also is how a book transitions from a rambling good idea to a compelling book that a reader doesn’t want to put down until they read the words ‘The End.’
My goal is to finish the rewrites by the end of February. Complete the editing and the cover design by the end of March. Publish on Amazon in April. I’m going to do everything I can to stay on schedule.
I can’t even begin to properly express how much it’s meant to me that so many people have helped make my dream of writing a book come true. So I’ll simply say thank you to the following people: Laurie, Jim, Leila, Erik, Robin, Bridget, Michelle, Rachel 1, Rachel 2, Carrie, Misty, Holli, Piper, Fay, Marie-France, Nikki, Debbie, Rita, Trista, and Karen. You are all amazing.