Ninety Day Novel?


September 1st, I begin a personal writing challenge: To write a complete, first draft of a novel in three months.

To keep myself motivated and focussed on my “authorpreneur” goals, I have joined a lot of writing Facebook groups and subreddits. I’ve started following authors on social media, listening to writer / author podcasts, and watching YouTubers talking about their writing process. I am immersing myself in “the write life” as much as possible, absorbing information, taking notes, and coming up with plans that I think will work for me.

The most helpful information was found in the 20Booksto50k® Facebook group, and on the Writing the Wrong Way podcast by Dr. Jonathan Ball.

20Booksto50k® is really technical … and I only grasp a little bit of it. My basic understanding is that the collective goal of everyone on that path is to write 20 books and become self-employed via their writing career. There are people who are both traditionally and self-published, authors who are seasoned and emerging, and lots of people willing to post information and answer questions from others.

They also share their income snapshots and details about the amount of money they spend on advertising for each new item that they release. I am no where near this level, but the information is good to have on hand for when I get there.

The most inspiring comment I saw in the group was by one of the Admins, who said to think of writing and self-publishing 20 books as your own masters program in writing and self-publishing. Don’t simply commit to the task, but elevate yourself to it. Your writing, your online behaviour, the way you present yourself is your brand and it should be consistent. Triple check everything, write and work on a schedule, upload often, share what you learn, and support other writers.

That comment really helped me kick myself in gear and got this website off the ground. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here and content that I haven’t published or shared yet, but baby steps are better than going nowhere.

Dr. Jonathan Ball’s podcast Writing the Wrong Way is something I’ve been listening to for over a year… Most of the episodes are lecture format, with a single speaker, discussing their writing endeavours and progress, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. He’s provided information about writing proposals, editing a first draft, and, of course, on writing. There have also been interview episodes with other authors and artists to discuss their approach to their craft.

I have pages and pages of notes from that podcast, I highly recommend it.

What do these things have to do with my writing challenge?

I start a lot of stories and have trouble finishing them. I have the idea for the ending (I never start anything unless I have a clear idea where it’s going to go), but the further into it I get the harder finishing becomes. It’s difficult to put into words … I want to write, I want to finish the story, but the idea of finishing fills me with overwhelming anxiety and existential dread.

If I finish, what do I do with it?

Other creatives have told me to try publishing. You have things that are complete, try reaching out to agents and publishing houses! Get your stories out there! I researched book publishers, agents, writing contests… but I don’t think I’m there yet.

I want to start at a smaller scale and share my writing online (to my audience of none) and try building from that. Build an audience, a brand, and then approach publishing after I’ve written a few stories to completion and honed my craft some more.

But that’s backwards! Technically, yes, but also no.

Through my immersion and research into writing, I’ve discovered that there’s really no wrong way to pursue writing as a side gig. Which is what I want to do.

Reading the stories of writers who started pursuing the life-long dream to publish after retiring, or becoming children’s book authors because of their own kids is so inspiring. People who have never written before have stumbled their way into writing communities, finished a draft, went through the long and laborious editing process, and put their books out there in online formats (Kindle, Kobo, WattPad, Inkitt), and share their success stories, and their failures, and they keep writing.

Those stories let me know that the publishing industry has front doors, back doors, side doors, and people flying in through windows on zip-lines to take the market by storm (or by force with some aggressive ad-spending). Before hearing these stories I thought that the only option was traditional publishing with query letters, rejections, finding an agent, and repeating the process until the book finds its niche audience. But I’ve learned that that’s not the case for everyone, and online self-publishing can be more cost effective while helping authors market directly to their audience so when they do release a physical copy people will actually purchase it.

Don’t get me wrong, an unlimited access to funds and time would allow me to take a very different approach that my current plans; I could quit my job, write every day, take courses, and it would allow me the time to write queries and proposals and reach out to different publishing houses. Or even be able to afford to self publish anything I write without having to worry to my current circumstance. But! I limited access to both funds and time. Quitting my job isn’t an option. Courses, self-publishing, and advertising are expensive, and I do not have a piece of writing (at this point) that I’m burning to see bound and neatly cover-wrapped, physically in my hands.

I’m simply not there. Yet. My writing challenge is an effort to get me there.

I haven’t written a novel-length story from start to finish in a while. If I had to guess, I’d say the last time I completed a piece of that size was ten years ago, either before or during my Red River College program. That’s an approximate timeline, I’m not 100% sure, and it’s a shitty truth to admit to myself. I gave up on this dream because I never thought anything would come from it. It was frowned upon by basically everyone I knew at the time. Writing was a guilty pleasure and nothing more. I have never pursued it seriously, or invested more than idle hours into it. And despite how many story ideas I’ve had since then, and how many half-finished projects I have laying around, it was easier than I like to admit to take an extended break. No one read my writing. Even if I asked. And time devoted to hobbies was considered selfish by everyone I told about it.

I set creativity down to pursue other things.

So why now? Why the fuck not? Even though I didn’t spend hours writing like I used to, I still wrote. Even though I didn’t finish stories, I still wrote. Even though I torched journals as soon as they were full, I still wrote. Why not now? All the inspiring stories I’ve read about people finally taking themselves seriously to pursue a creative side-career have re-awakened my passion for writing, and I think I’m ready to mute the negative voices in my head and devote time to something that makes me genuinely happy and see what comes from it.

My timeline for starting this challenge is deliberate. Three months. Ninety days. September 1 to November 30. From the beginning of fall, through the apex of autumn, and until the end of NaNoWriMo. Autumn is my favourite time of year, the colour changing, the earlier sunsets, and quiet indoor evenings are a perfect time to start this. October, Halloween, Samhein… all beautiful, dark, delicious delights.

I do suspect that I’ll run out of steam, or lose motivation, so ending this time period with National Novel Writing Month is also intentional. I have my story outline completed already, and by the time November gets here I will have the foundation of my story written down. Hitting a separate word count goal of 50,000 will (hopefully) come easier than it has in the past.

I’m going to set an initial Word Count goal of 100,000. Science fiction / fantasy novels typically fall in the 90,000 to 120,000 word range, and I have outlined a fantasy story. I should be able to do 50,000 words between September and October, and that will put me in a good position to write the second half of the novel during my NaNo race.

I am nervous! My anxiety is high simply thinking about trying to do this. But I really want to. I believe I’m ready. I need to get these stories out of me, in their entirety in order to reach Stage 3 of my plan.

Stage 1 – complete:

  • built a website
  • outline a story

Stage 2 – pending (where we are now):

  • write the damn thing!
  • post short stories on website while writing the damn thing!

Stage 3 – future Katherine’s problem:

  • Edit the damn thing!
  • Figure out a platform and release the damn thing!

My plan is a little rough. I have only been focussing on one stage at a time and trying not to overwhelm myself. I’m not 100% sure what’s going to happen when I get there, but I have a general idea and that’s enough to keep me motivated for the time being.

There will be a Word Counter to keep track of the overall progress. Time to kick this off with some backstage writing!

Wish me luck!

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