Since I think this would be of interest to some, especially aspiring writers, I’ll be sharing my path that took me from nothing to a published novel.
Before everything started…
Long before I started writing with the intent of publishing, I tried myself at writing some fiction. My main motivation was that I liked creating fictional worlds and my main source of those worlds came from anime. At some point, I wanted to create my own world.
And so, I started writing a longer piece. I dashed out 10,000 words in two consecutive days. And it required me less than 10 hours. If I did that five times on different days, I’d have an entire novel. Of course, life wasn’t that easy. The manuscript I wrote was more of a rip-off of another work and the writing read like a protocol. I didn’t understand how the medium worked. That might have been due to the fact that I didn’t read very much. Even now I don’t read much. I certainly spend more time reading than back then but not in the amounts what you’d consider a book addict. I know, a weird thing for a writer to say.
But I had at least one strong point going for me: The vast amount of stories from anime I’ve watched. I knew exactly what kind of stories I liked and what not. However, that didn’t help me to put my thoughts down on paper. I didn’t even know how to come up with original thoughts. So, after my attempt at writing the first time, I gave up. That was indeed very quick and certainly won’t help you finish anything.
I discovered writing again…
Several years passed and I started exploring other creative fields: Making games, playing and composing music, singing, digital art, modeling/texturing and the list goes on. But long story short: After trying out literally everything there is, I discovered writing once again.
I was fast with the keyboard, could write coherent sentences, knew how to use language to a decent extent, and it would allow me to create fictional worlds in a manageable amount of time. And so I picked up writing once again.
As I’ve learned from the other fields I’ve explored, I would first do some research, take online courses and study the domain. One of the greatest advantages we have to our great ancestors is the vast amount of information we have access to.
What a writer back then discovered in the course of his entire life is now available online to anyone searching for it. And after I finished my studies on writing fiction, I tried my own projects. In fact, before I succeeded with my debut novel “Help! My Little Sister is Disappearing!“, I failed with ten others. I simply didn’t know what I was doing, and how could I? There were still things I needed to figure out for myself. Especially, I needed to figure out that vast information couldn’t possibly be all valuable or correct.
One of the pieces of information that didn’t help me at all was present in many online courses and the likes: The Three Act Structure. Depending on who you ask, it is either the holy grail and the only way to go or a pile of dirt sticking to your shoes. In the end, this structure means that there is a beginning and an end. And with that, a middle for obvious reasons. There are various add-ons depending on the person speaking such as: “The protagonist must have a flaw and at the end he must overcome it or fail to overcome it.”.
I don’t think the world is so simple that you can express it accurately with a few rules. There are lots of people out there claiming to have the ultimate method to become a successful writer; however, in reality, most people that attend such courses will never publish a single piece. Maybe because they were frustrated that the method of the course didn’t work and gave up. Who knows. But what I want you to take with you is the following: No matter what people say, they speak their opinion, not facts. Take what helps and leave what doesn’t. There is no universal answer, you need to find it yourself. And at some point, I found the answer of how I can finish a novel successfully.
The two most essential skills for me were self-awareness and problem solving. Life is just a long sequence of problems even if they’re “What do I eat now?”. And if you want to write a novel and don’t have one, then that is your problem. And self-awareness helps you to identify problems. Instead of fooling yourself into thinking how great that scene is you spend five hours on, you have to face the facts and rewrite it if it isn’t good. So, all well said and done, but how did I finish a novel exactly?
The beginning of the beginning…
I will probably write about the methods that work best for me in the future. But for now I’m just an author that has managed to publish a novel. That is perhaps the greatest hurdle you’ll ever take as a novelist. If you’ve published your first novel, you have proven that you can do exactly that. Nothing is more motivating that knowing that it can be done. I learned so much while writing my first novel that my current novel “Seeker” seems almost too easy. But now I’ll continue with what happened after I failed those ten other writing projects.
As for the idea, I just chose elements I liked in other works and made it more interesting with a little twist. For reasons of not wanting to spoiler, I’ll omit stating the idea and encourage you to read it yourself: “Help! My Little Sister is Disappearing!“.
My first light novel…
After I had an idea, I developed it a bit further and made sure that the overall story seemed fulfilling. I already knew that planing out the story in detail was something that ended up as one of the ten projects and the opposite, just writing and not knowing the end, didn’t work either. So, I settled with knowing the beginning and the end. I didn’t know anything in between, but I knew the great picture. And then I started writing.
For the first scene, I already had something in mind and just started. I wrote a lot of words in the first few days and then things stalled down a bit with days of not writing at all. That was the first problem that I needed to identify and solve.
Eventually, I made a realistic estimation of how long it would take until I could publish the novel. Of course, I had no idea, but I wanted it to be a short time span. Spending a whole year and loosing interest on the way for something that could be done in a quarter of the time was not very appealing. So, I settled for three months from when I started gathering ideas. But I was already behind schedule since I slacked of the last couple of days. So I just made myself little deadlines each day. A thousand words a day.
That sounded fairly reasonable. Especially, since I could write that amount in just an hour. An hour a day is something everyone can do, no matter how busy they are. And that’s what I did until two months had passed. I didn’t write every day and had to force myself to start writing on others, but when I started, I kept going and it was fun.
When I lacked ideas on the way, I would brainstorm some and eventually got there. I also didn’t write in order. I wrote the scenes I found most exciting first. The more time had passed, the more I knew about the story and then, finally, the day had arrived where I finished the manuscript.
The last spurt…
After that, it was time for editing. I was looking forward to it. But reading the first few pages, my motivation dropped quickly when I realized how much work there needed to be done. But I still continued. I had finished the manuscript, I had to see it through. And so, I continued reading and found that there were some parts that were in quite good shape. I made an editing plan of what I thought needed to be done and stuck to it mostly.
The deadline for editing was one month after. I spent a lot more than just an hour a day during that phase and especially at the end, I did nothing else than reading the manuscript for the billionth time. I knew it was nearly impossible to find all the errors but when the spotted errors became few, I concluded the proof-reading phase and formatted everything for publishing. That was perhaps the most exciting part. If you’re that close to the finishing line, you better make sure that you don’t forget to eat or drink. Which happened to me, of course.
In the end, I had published my novel. Did I manage to keep my deadline? Depending on who you ask. I officially ended the editing phase before the deadline, but I didn’t account for the proof-reading. It also took longer than expected to prepare for publishing and I already had planned on starting with my next novel while I was doing the last finishing touches. But nonetheless, I published my novel successfully and finally found something that I could imagine doing as a full-time job. That’s what I’m currently aiming for.
I’m counting on you for your support!