My book is finally finished! The last round of self edits is finally complete and I am so proud of what I have accomplished. It has been a long road from the end of 2017 until today, and it has been full of twists and turns, peaks and valleys, victories and frustrations. And it has all been worth it.
Here’s three lessons I learned while writing this book.
A Book Grows Like a Child
I began the first draft of my novel in November 2017 during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo is a writing challenge where you write 50,000 words in one month. I had taken part?in it two years prior in 2015 but decided not to let the world see that book. But I digress. So I wrote my 50,000 words. Then I thought: ?Great! Now I will proofread, make some minor changes, and my book will be ready!?
After my edits, my book went from 50,000 to just under 49,000, which qualifies as a novella. But I was still proud of my story, so I carefully constructed a query letter and began sending it out to agents. I got a lot of standard rejection letters saying ?this is good but not for us.? Well, at least they said it was good, right?
But that made me step back and get some beta readers. Beta readers are people you get to read your work before it is published. They tell you what works, and what doesn?t with your book. This was an enormous step for me. The suggestions I got back from a few of them really made me take a deeper look at my work. That resulted in me writing and rewriting, adding, taking away, and changing things over the next three years. It was a slow, methodical process. Each round of edits took months because I would take my time doing just a few pages a day and at the end of each round of edits, I would put the book aside, sometimes for months, to let it rest so I could come back to it with fresh eyes.
That process resulted in two huge scenes being added, which meant I tweaked all my other scenes or rewrote them completely?so the entire book connected from start to finish. I also changed the name of a character, and?the entire arc of who she is. That lead to her saying something in a scene that became the new title for my book! The old title was ?The House on Horace Street.? The new title is much shorter and really goes with the theme of the book. Sorry, but the new title will not be given here! You?ll have to wait for the cover reveal! 🙂
So through that process, my book jumped up by over 17,000 words and is now 65,533 words! That moves it from the category of novella to a full novel. So this entire 3-year process has been worth it for that alone.
Rejection is a Good Thing
I never in my life thought I would say this as a writer, but it is true. You may remember back in 2018 that a small, new independent publisher wanted to publish my book. I was over the moon excited! My book would be out in? the world. Then that small publishing company fell apart before things even began and I was back to square one. That was a tremendous disappointment.
But it was also a turning point for me.
I had gotten more feedback on another beta reader, who I honestly thought had forgotten about my book, and there were some excellent suggestions. So, I went back to the drawing board and did more edits. It took my mind off my disappointment and led to all those wonderful developments I mentioned earlier.
But something else happened: I decided to self publish my book. I had done extensive research on self publishing in 2016 because I was curious about it. So I dug more and saw what I needed to do to have a polished, top quality product. All of that research has armed me with the knowledge I need to begin this next phase of my journey, now that my book is?finished.
Another great?thing that came out of all that rejection? If my book was?published back then, it wouldn?t have its great new title, and all the crucial scenes that make the book a page-turner would never have seen the light of day.
So, I?m thankful for all the rejection and setbacks.
My Writing and I Grew Together
While I was editing my book, I was also writing short stories, pieces for my blog, articles for a few writing websites, and story concepts for projects that may eventually become books. So even during those periods when my novel was resting, I was always writing and reading.
My writing has grown so much over the past three years. To be transparent, I sometimes wonder if my stories are good enough. This book has really been an exercise in believing that my story is worthy because it deals with a woman who is haunted by the ghost of an enslaved girl.
The thought is always in the back of my mind: will people want to read this? Especially black people? Because many of them are tired of reading anything to do with slavery. I, however, am in awe of how my people have survived that terrorism. And I wanted to provide a narrative where a black woman gets to own the land they enslaved our ancestors on. That was important to me.
Over the years, as I poured my heart and soul into this book I realized?with the help of some dear friends?that my story has a place in this world. There are millions of people out there, and among them are the ones who want my story. When I understood and believed?that, my confidence grew, and I got in touch with my authentic writer?s voice because I was no longer afraid to tell the story I wanted to tell.
So What?s Next?
Well, normally I would save for an editor. But publishing a book is expensive, so I am relying on my two journalism degrees and an online editing tool to help me catch anything I may have missed. So the next step now is getting my book cover designed, getting the interior layout professionally done, and then using an online publishing service I found that not only prints the books, but distributes them to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and about 50 other retailers!
But it takes money. So I am stepping out on faith that now that I have done my part, the Universe will meet me in kind and provide the funding.
So stay tuned, my faithful readers! I am aiming for my book to be published in time for my 50th birthday on August 29th!