Ryan Crown, Year One

Greetings, and welcome to my first blog post for 2015! As I am currently fighting the flu, I decided to forsake originality in choosing this week’s post topic, and go with the old standby for this time of year – the year in review (followed by a look to the year ahead).

This does feel like an appropriate topic, however, as this marks the end of the first year in my epic (and possibly foolhardy) quest to become a published novelist. My quest truly began back in July, when I was first inspired by a friend of mine, who was in the process of finishing her first novel, to finally step up and give it a go myself.

The six months that followed were intense, exciting, scary, and above all, enlightening. There were ups, and there were certainly downs. My first attempt at a novel came to a screeching halt when I hit a creative wall, realizing I had a great concept for a story, but no earthly idea how to proceed in turning that story into an actual novel. And so I took a step back, and dove head first into research.

Now I must admit that at this point, I kind of put the cart before the horse in a pretty big way, because I found myself focused much more on the publishing/marketing/platform-building side of things than on the writing craft side. I read all sorts of articles and followed all kinds of blogs talking about how to be successfully published. Which is all well and good if you’ve got a novel mostly ready to go, but I didn’t even have the beginnings of a novel at that point.

On the plus side of all this research, I was able to setup my own author website, and start on this blog. And despite some initial misgivings (mainly because I’ve attempted to maintain a blog in the past, with limited success), so far I have really been enjoying writing on this blog, and hope to continue to do so.

I also forced myself onto social media, setting up author pages on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter. And as of this writing I have 430 followers on Twitter! I realize that in the grand scheme of things this is a miniscule number, but for someone who is fairly non-social (and very non-social media) this is a significant accomplishment for me.

The down side of all of this author platform building is that it can be more than a little bit of a distraction from the main goal of this grand experiment, which is actually writing a novel. It would a terrible shame if I put all this effort into my author platform, then never got around to getting anything published.

The writing process itself has been a very eye-opening one. More than anything, I have discovered that 20+ years of casual/hobby writing, and more importantly strictly writing short stories, really does not prepare you for the much more monumental task of constructing a novel.

After the failure of my first attempt, I decided to take a more structured approach to my second. I put together a full outline and chapter list before I started writing, I did a significant amount of world-building, creating the history of the world and its societies, even making a map of the known world (which, to my surprise, proved to be an incredibly useful tool when it came to working out some of the specifics of my story).

With everything in place, I waited for November 1st to begin my novel, wanting to tackle NaNoWriMo. That proved to be quite the learning experience. Mostly I learned that I am not really NaNo material, and will likely not be doing NaNoWriMo again in the future. But while I didn’t even make it to the halfway mark of NaNo’s 50,000 word goal, I did manage over 23,000 words for my novel, which for me was a pretty big deal.

The down side, though, was that many of the chapters I’d outlined ended up being combined (as I discovered that too many of my chapter ideas did not have enough meat on their bones to make up a full chapter). I also realized that what I’d outlined was much closer to being a novella than a full-length novel. Even more importantly, I realized that the idea I’d come up with would work much better as the second novel in the series I had in mind, which meant that I needed to come up with a new idea for the first novel in the series.

Reached probably my lowest point (as far as motivation and self-esteem as a writer goes) in December. Post-NaNo I had to take a hard look at myself and my writing. The realization I came to is that I’m not nearly as ready to tackle writing a full novel as I thought I was. As much as anything, I hadn’t really understood just what went into writing a novel. When your background is short stories and film, you don’t realize just how complex a novel, even a short novel, really is (as a huge movie buff, much of the inspiration for my writing comes from films, but if you look at the narrative structure of a movie, it is very much a short story).

I will admit there was a moment when the idea of just giving it up as a lost cause did cross my mind. But I just as quickly squashed that thought, and reaffirmed my desire to pursue becoming a novelist. I did, however, readjust my expectations quite a bit. I know now that I have a very long road ahead of me, with a lot of learning still to do. And so I adjusted my plans for 2015 with this knowledge forefront in my mind.

The first decision I made is that I need to put my current story on hold temporarily, and shift my focus to book one in my series. The main reason for this is that too much of the current story relies on things that will take place in the first story, and only having the vaguest ideas for that story right now is going to hamper book two if I keep trying to push forward with it.

So it’s back to the drawing board with a new story – an appropriate way to start off the new year, I think. And this time, I’m going to approach the outlining/development stage of the novel much differently. I want to make sure that this time around my outline works for a novel, and not just a short story/novella.

The other thing I’m going to continue working on is the world-building for my novel series. Now that I have my map complete, it’s time to revamp and expand the history of the world and its peoples. I have to admit, for me this is almost more fun that working on the actual novel, because I truly love world-building. The trick, of course, is not to let myself get so caught up in world-building that I stop working on my story.

My final goal for 2015 is to actively move forward with the story series that I plan to publish to my blog (hopefully as a regular weekly feature). I have to basic concept for the series, and a working title – “The Fantastical Adventures of Simon Farthing.” I’m getting more and more excited about this series, and with any luck will be ready to start publishing chapters in the next couple of months. Stay tuned for further updates!

And with that I conclude my first official blog post of 2015. I hope everyone has enjoyed what I’ve written so far, and I’d love it if you joined my e-mail list – you’ll always be in the know when my latest entry has been posted. And feel free to follow me on Google+ and Twitter!


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