Anyone that enjoys reading has usually thought to themselves at one point or another ‘hey, I should try writing a book.’ After attempting the task multiple times, I’ve now published my first cyberpunk novel, Absolute Knowledge. There’s just something about the power of books to impact you in a way that nothing else can quite match. Sure movies are great but haven’t you, at least once, thought to yourself that the book was better? I’ve enjoyed writing all my life, and I’ve also enjoyed reading. I remember the first ‘book’ that I wrote in 4th grade. It was basically a rip-off of Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda, and I remember the satisfaction of turning in my completed, almost certainly non-legible manuscript( ten pages or so), to my teacher Mrs. Rogers. I know it wasn’t any good or anything, but from then on, she let me write my own stories during our personal reading time in class instead of reading. Besides, I liked to read at home for fun.
Fast forward many years, and I started writing my first fantasy novel, the Ghost Syndicate, on Wattpad which made it to about 150 pages where it rests undisturbed for a few years now, it’s probably better to let that one go. I started another novel–science fiction this time in 2014, and called it Requisition. My heart wasn’t in it, and now the book remains uncompleted at roughly 200 pages, better to let that one go too. Finally, sometime in late 2014, I remember getting hit like a brick with an idea. What if thoughts were the only commodity? What if having your thoughts collected by a faceless ruler was the only way to earn a living and survive?
I set to work on a new fantasy novel, rigorously typing ten thousand words in one sitting with the help of a few cups of coffee, which if you’re planning on writing a novel and haven’t done it before, you should probably start drinking coffee. Things started to fall apart again like all the other times, but I didn’t give up, I pivoted my idea, and began crafting the same idea–a question really, into a science fiction shell. I’ve always been a good world builder, so creating the world that centered around my idea for a plot came naturally, and I was well on my way to actually finishing something. I’m glad I ditched the evil wizards using magic and enchantments to collect people’s thoughts to grow their own power. The resulting story in Absolute Knowledge with a cyberpunk genre shell is much stronger.
Wattpad was a tremendous resource for me as an author. I had the opportunity to have my work critiqued and improved on, people encouraging me on, and the chance to connect with other authors that genuinely wanted me to succeed. Best of all, Wattpad is completely free, but I’ve found their text editor is a bit finicky. I’d suggest writing on Gdocs or Word then transferring your work to Wattpad later. The only problem with Wattpad is that you can’t commercialize your work. If you’re going to pour hundreds and hundreds of hours into your writing, shouldn’t you have the opportunity to see returns from that? Finally, with a completed first manuscript of 115,000 words and a feeling of smug triumph, I began the beta reading and editing phase which helped me build the confidence that I had a quality story, one that people would exchange their hard earned money for.
I decided to launch my book through Kickstarter, and doubled my modest funding goal of $500. With self-publishing, you are completely in charge of every aspect of your writing, and you retain all of your rights. In my opinion, self-publishing is the best option for new authors. You don’t have to wait around for agents, and you can get going right away. In the end, no one is going to promote your work as hard as you will, and the crowd will still vote on the best books with their dollars. After my Kickstarter launch, I transitioned to Amazon where I’m actively working on promoting my book and working on writing the sequel (Absolute Knowledge is a trilogy after all.)
How long did it take to complete my cyberpunk novel?
In total, writing Absolute Knowledge from start to finish took me two years. However, I took a couple long breaks of a few months before getting back to work. The final, professionally edited version of Absolute Knowledge is just over 100,000 words and is 386 pages in print format. If I would have stuck with it more consistently and made it my primary focus, I probably would have been done much sooner.
My tips for others that want to write a novel
As someone that’s completed the process from start to finish, here are the best tips I can give you if you’re thinking about writing a novel.
- Wait for inspiration.
Don’t force your ideas, wait for a great idea, and write it when it comes. You may have an amazing new world brewing in your head, but readers won’t care unless you have a story that takes place in that awesome world. Many great stories begin with a ‘What if…’ question. When you know you have a good idea, take control and get started. You’ll know you have something worth writing when you think about it all throughout the day. When writing, I find myself thinking about what my characters are doing, what is going on in my world, and what I’m going to write about next. Let it flow naturally, and don’t force something you’re not going to enjoy writing.
- Do something every day.
It doesn’t matter what, just try to do something related to your book every day. If you haven’t completed your first draft yet, try to write at least 500 words a day, or at least further develop your book’s outline. Everyone writes differently, but it’s important to stick to it on a daily basis.
- Read and write regularly.
If you don’t read regularly, chances are, you’re going to have a hard time writing a book. Reading helps influence your writing and it also helps you identify what makes a book good. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself drawn to the same set of books even though you’ve already read them at least once. Analyze what you enjoy in the books, why they are good to you, and try to add those elements to your own work. In addition to reading in your genre, you should also write regularly in order to improve. Try writing some short stories as well and submitting them to magazines and contests as it can help with your exposure and make you a better writer.
- Don’t be too rigid.
You may have spent hundreds of hours detailing the outline of your story, mapping it out with excel or another application to keep track of the intricate subplots of your work, but if your characters decide to surprise you while you’re writing, let them. The last thing you want to do is stifle your characters or force them to do something because you’ve already planned it.
- Be persistent.
If you’re not going to be persistent, then it’s likely that you’ll never finish your book.
- Don’t be too critical when you’re writing the first draft, and don’t look back.
You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll have to change after you’re done with the first draft, which will undoubtedly be terrible. Just keep writing through the first draft of your book, and don’t worry about fixing problems other than plot issues until you’re done.
- Be prepared to pay for professional editing and a great cover.
It’s cliche, but people judge books on their covers. And if your book is full of typos and grammar issues, it’s not going to sell. If you don’t have the budget for everything up front, check out my Crowdfunding for Authors series that explains how to mitigate your personal risk and expenses, while empowering you to finish your work.
- Find something to get you into writing mode.
Some people need silence and to be alone, others need a dedicated space that they can push out a few thousand words of their manuscript a day. For me, I need to be jamming to my awesome metalcore (with a dash of electronica) playlist on Spotify for inspiration. Find what works for you, and stick with it while you write. Oh and coffee, you should probably drink it.
- Be prepared to work hard during the process, and after.
It’s hard work writing a novel, but be prepared to work hard once you’re finished as well. You’ll need to market your book to readers and look for opportunities, both local and online, to promote yourself and your personal brand.
- Above all, have fun!
If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be writing. When you have a story inside that you know you want the world to read, it’s a genuinely rewarding experience to write. Sure you’ll have some bad days, it happens to everyone. But if you really enjoy what you’re doing, it will be worth it. And how cool will it be to say that you’re a published author and hold your own book in your hands?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and now know that you are capable of writing a novel, whatever your genre is! I wish you all the best in writing your novel and encourage you to connect with other writers while you work. There are several great communities on Facebook, my favorite being the Scifi Roundtable which is geared toward science fiction and fantasy authors. We have some great discussions and you can always seek advice from a group of awesome people.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!