One year ago, as I sat looking ahead toward what 2016 would bring, my plans did not include writing a novel. I certainly didn’t even think of starting a second. Nonetheless, here I am at the end of the year, a couple of months away from releasing my first novel and getting ready to revise and finish my second.
For a long time, I’ve had story ideas floating around in my head. However, those ideas were actually for video games that I’d like to make some day. The desire to tell those stories, and to make the games that captured them, is what led me to study programming. Unfortunately, to create the games that I had in mind, I would need to hire people with skills that I do not possess and that would require money that I do not have. Last January, though, I realized that I could at least tell my stories by myself by turning them into books. Thus, my journey in novel writing began.
“How do I start?” I thought. “How do I turn these story ideas into complete plots, fleshed out characters, and vivid settings?”
I don’t have a background in writing. In college, I studied Mechanical Engineering, then went on to get my Master of Business Administration degree. I’ve never taken a creative writing class, and the only college English class I took was a technical writing course.
Utterly unprepared to write the stories that I wanted to tell, I found books on novel writing, plot structure, character development, and anything else that I thought I might need. I sprinted through these books in a matter of weeks. As I read, I also took notes about the characters, plot points, and settings.
In early February, I was ready. I dove into writing my first novel, The Azrael Initiative. I began by writing 1,000 words per day, then 1,500, and, by the end, I was pouring 2,000 words onto the page every day. Within two months, I had a rough (very rough) manuscript. I then spent the next several months editing, having people read my book, and tweaking it until I felt happy with it.
Once I had my edited manuscript, I tried to go the traditional publishing route for a while. Eventually, though, I got tired of waiting two months for a response that may or may not come. So, I decided to give self-publishing a try. The idea of doing my own marketing actually excites me, since I can use some of what I learned while studying business.
This brings me to where I am now, working on launching my first novel.
2016 has also brought a number of other great, new experiences. In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, where I wrote over 50,000 words in one month. That helped me get through most of my second book, Storm Raven, which I will soon begin revising. NaNoWriMo also helped me connect with other local writers through South Dakota Writes. It’s been a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally, to meet so many talented authors who live nearby.
Overall, it’s hard to believe how much I’ve learned and grown as a writer over the last year. Going into 2017, I look forward to learning even more, finishing my next book, and working on making every book I write better than the last. If I can learn and do as much as I did in 2016, it is sure to be a fantastic year.