On Writing My First Novel, Pentecost
After writing several non-fiction books, I decided to make the leap to writing fiction in November 2009. I had been held back by my own brain for many years but I finally committed to finishing a novel.
These posts represent my journey in chronological order, so I hope they help you on your own path to writing your first novel. In them, I share my progress as well as lessons learned along the way.
You can buy Pentecost and the sequel Prophecy on Amazon and other ebook stores -click here for more details.
Novel started at NaNoWriMo, 2009
Oct 21, 2009: Creativity bubbling, waiting for NaNoWriMo to explode: Lots of ideas, ready to start! Working title is ‘Mandala’.
Nov 1, 2009: Day 1 NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) : I haven’t planned enough, my mood song for writing
Nov 6, 2009: Day 5 NaNoWriMo and lessons learned : my heroine is kick-butt, I’m writing fast but badly, I’ve bought the novel URL!
Nov 12, 2009: Day 11 NaNoWriMo , writing on the train, and meta-docs
Nov 19, 2009: Day 18 Nanowrimo: moving house killed my word count, you can’t edit a blank page, dialogue helps to sort out a problem – get the characters to talk about it
Nov 27, 2009: Day 26 NaNoWriMo: I made the mistake of printing and starting to edit (ouch), started using ‘Write or Die’ which helped word count, started writing fight scenes (so difficult I did a podcast with fight scene guru Alan Baxter later)
Dec 9, 2009: NaNoWriMo roundup: I’m learning a lot, I’m an outliner, I want to model success in the thriller genre
The first draft: I start learning the craft of writing
January, 2010: My goals for 2010 include completing the novel by end of 2010. I start learning from the professionals beginning with James Rollins on thriller writing. I also discover Outlining and it makes a big difference to the plot.
March, 2010: I learn about writing for high stakes like Dr Who, how writing is more like an emerging sculpture that involves hacking away at the block of stone before making it to the fine detail, and how mind-mapping can really help with writing scenes.
April, 2010: I can’t decide on whether to use a Prologue, so I research How and When to use Prologues, I also update you on the novel progress at 40,000 words. Mind-mapping, listening to rain, joining a writing course and learning a lot.
May, 2010: My dialogue sucks, so I share tips on how to improve it!
June, 2010: I update my goals at mid-year. I will now finish the novel, get it edited and enter it into Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in Jan 2011. I also learn from Scott Sigler how to become a NY Times bestselling novelist. Here’s my video update including breakthroughs in plotting.
Editing, Rewriting and Cover Design
August 2010: I get into editing in a big way, rewriting the whole novel scene by scene. Why do we read fiction and why do we write fiction? I ponder the meaning of it all! I also write the ending of the novel and share some tips from pros on Twitter.
September 2010: As part of the rewrites I go on a field trip to research shooting guns. I also discover and explain why you need a professional editor before your book BEFORE you submit it to anyone (especially for a first time novelist)
October 2010: I am about to submit my book to my editor, and discover it’s important to read your book out loud before you submit it. I suffer a crisis of confidence and talk about what to do when you think your writing is terrible. I am also ready to start a marketing plan and I need the book cover to get this moving, as visuals are so important. I work through cover design options with Joel Friedlander, TheBookDesigner.com and we come up with several options which over 500 people vote on and also leave 135 comments on. It’s a crowd-sourced event!
November 2010: The votes are in and the cover for Pentecost is finalized. I love it and it wouldn’t have happened without the blog audience, so thank you! I do a video interview with Joel Friedlander, my Book Designer and we go through the options and discuss why this is a great cover.
I also get my Editorial Review from Steve Parolini, the Novel Doctor. In this article, I reflect on how it feels to get the feedback and what the rewriting process is like. Then I interview Steve (audio and video) and he explains what an editor does anyway – brilliant tips for all authors here.
I also launch a Facebook page with free chapters of the novel so people can start to actually read something Please come and join it here => Facebook/PentecostNovel
December 2010: A personal post on copy-editing and beta-readers, oh the pain of editing!
Launch of Pentecost
Feb 7 2011: Pentecost is launched and available in print or as an ebook. I did a whole load of interviews and guest posts all listed here. I also made a book trailer as below which actually got quite a lot of attention. During launch week, I got to #1 on Amazon.com movers and shakers as well as ranking:
# Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #370 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
* #4 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Fiction
* #5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Religious Fiction
* #62 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction
#96 in Thrillers on Amazon.co.uk.
During the launch week I was pretty overwhelmed and tired as well as excited and happy, so I posted this video about how it feels to finally have your book out there. It’s an honest view!
In this podcast audio, I discuss the various aspects of the Pentecost launch with indie author Zoe Winters. What worked and what didn’t including free aspects and paid advertising.
You can now buy Pentecost in print or ebook format – click here for all the details.
May 2011 - I receive the first royalty cheque for Pentecost and on the same day, the book shoots up to #277 overall on the Kindle store. 3 months in and it’s still in the bestseller lists for Religious Fiction & Action-Adventure. Exciting times!
I’m also interviewed on The Hopkinson Report, a marketing podcast on How to write, self-publish and market a religious thriller that kills on Amazon.
I start working at The London Library which really helps my writing process for the 2nd novel, Prophecy.
July 2012 – Over 40,000 books sold, and I sign with a New York literary agent.