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MOTT: How to write a novel in two years and not lose your mind

June 18, 2019 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


"I'm writing a novel, because it's never been done before." - Father John Misty.

"I've made a terrible mistake."

That was the only thought running through my mind in January of last year as I sat in my apartment and stared at the wall of text in my computer. More than 180,000 words stared back at me, begging to be edited. I had no idea where to start.

My mistake stretched back to mid-2016. I was about to leave college and enter the professional mine-field that is the Canadian job market. As I pieced together my final assignments and started hunting for a new apartment, I had an idea to kick off this new stage of my life: I should write a novel.

I've wanted to write a novel since high school, but I always lacked the grit to see one to the end. I've had half-baked ideas and plots with no second acts that I couldn't continue past a few chapters.

But this time was different. I wanted to write about cults and obsession and pancakes; somehow these things seemed connected. I don't know exactly where the idea came from, but the more I thought about it, the more it started to come together and the more I liked it.

I wrote the first chapter and showed it to a friend, who said it was stupid. We aren't friends anymore.

I wrote another chapter and a strange thing happened: I didn't hit a wall. I wanted to write more. I wanted to see where the story was going. The plot had legs.

I left college and started working in Halifax. I spent my free time sketching out the world and the characters and where I wanted everything to end up. I wrote pretty much once a day. I had actual scheduled writing time, which is not something I ever thought I could discipline myself to do.

I moved to Saskatchewan for work in 2017 and once I was settled in, I kept writing. I chugged along until, right before Christmas that year, I wrote one word: End.

The work was done. I had the rough draft in my hands, which focuses on a cult leader who, while preparing for the final sacrificial rite of his flock, discovers a serial killer picking off his members. He has to find the murderer before he can complete the ritual. I had it all written down.

That's a pretty clean narrative, but it didn't feel so simple at the end. Every other day I'd look over what I had written and I'd want to erase it all, destroy my computer, and never write again. I second-guessed myself at every turn. I questioned if I could even finish my story, let alone find a publisher.

My self-doubts only continued once the rough draft was finished; now I had to edit the thing. I had to dig through it piece by piece like a forensic analyst at a grisly murder scene, desperately trying to weed out the countless grammar, character, and structure errors. I must have trimmed more than 30,000 words from the rough draft in the first edit.

Then, like the glutton for punishment I am, I edited it again, and again, and again. I agonized over the smallest verbs and nouns. I deleted, re-typed, and re-deleted words on a constant basis. I swung an axe into my manuscript and didn't stop until it was lean, scarred, and possibly damaged.

But novels don't find publishers on their own; you have to promote yourself. I contacted every major, minor, and obscure publisher I could find. I emailed everything from tiny plot synopses to copies of the entire novel. I got a decent amount of rejection letters, but most companies didn't respond.

Finally, in mid-2018, I got a lifeline. Beacon Publishing Group gave me a call and offered me a contract. After I picked my jaw off the floor, I said yes.

So here we are.

My novel, Fill the Chalice, offically comes out next month, July 12. My brain still hasn't processed it.

I have no idea what comes next. I don't know if I'll write another novel or if I'll move onto a completely different medium. All I know is that when you have an idea, no matter how strange, you've got to see it to the end.

You can learn more about the publisher, Beacon Publishing Group, here. Pre-orders are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.


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