Tuesday, November 10, 2020 03:22 PM
(Last updated on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 03:23 PM)
My Book Is Out!
 by Fëanor

I'm gonna do this like one of those online recipes, with the big long story up front and the stuff you actually want at the end, so feel free to scroll down to the bottom now; I'll never know.

It's November! November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to jumpstart your writing by giving you a challenge: write 50,000 words (the minimum word count for a novel) in a single month. That means an average of almost 2,000 words a day. It's like climbing a word mountain! It can be difficult, but it does force you to get words on the page every day - any kind of words! They don't have to be good, you just need more! And that's good. Before you can have a finished novel, you need to have a first draft. That first draft can be absolutely awful. Who cares? You can fix it later. But you need some material to start with or you'll never get anywhere.

Back in 2009 (oh, such an innocent time), I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo. Poppy, my wife, was pregnant with our first child, but she gave her blessing to my insane project anyway. I think she said something like, "Once this baby comes you certainly won't have time, so you might as well do it now."

One of the few rules for NaNoWriMo is, no actual writing before November 1st. However, you can take some notes or do a basic outline beforehand. So I started trying to work out what my story would be about. My original concept was that I'd have a pair of characters (a guy and a creature that couldn't really talk; sort of a Han Solo and Chewbacca duo) go on a series of adventures while travelling between different worlds or universes. But that just remained a vague idea and didn't really coalesce for me.

Meanwhile, of course, I was all caught up in the idea that I was about to have a son, and wondering what he would be like, and thinking of all the things I wanted to show him and do with him. And then I thought, well, why not make him the main character of my book? My imaginary future boy could be the hero. Heck, I could be in the book, too. It could be a story about fathers and sons, and about stories, and about everything that boys like - because of course one day I'd want to hand the book to the real boy, and say, "Here, I wrote this for you."

I held onto the idea of traveling between worlds, and decided the story would be split into nine parts, each one a separate adventure that the boy would go on, each one involving a treasure he'd find and a guardian monster he'd have to fight. Then I realized nine was really a lot, and I cut it back to six. There would be forests and monsters and magic and swords and pirates and anything and everything I could think of.

NaNoWriMo gets a little wild. I thought about the story all the time. Everything that happened to me, everything I thought of, went into the book. Bees were getting into the house somehow - they had built a nest in the wall - so that went into the book as a magical bee curse. I had a dream about being attacked by some creature - maybe a demon - and I had to cast a spell on it to stop it right before it got me. That went into the book. "What about a giant octopus?" I thought. And I answered, "Sure," and that went into the book.

And by the end of November, I'd done it. In fact, I had more than 50,000 words! But what I didn't have was a finished book. I was maybe a third of the way through the fifth part of my planned six parts. I'd gotten my boy, Hunter, onto an endless stairway leading down into darkness. And for quite a while, I left him there.

My son, Griffin, was born. I poked at the book on and off over the following years, rewriting the beginning over and over. I finally got Hunter down those stairs, and further, and on and on. At last, I finished the book. It was huge. I started sending query letters to agents, trying to sell it. I aimed high - my first query letter went to Neil Gaiman's agency in New York. And they asked for a sample! And they liked it! They asked for the full manuscript!

I've been writing books for as long as I can remember. When my brother and I were kids, we'd write and draw little stories on printer paper. Are you old enough to remember that paper that had holes down either side so the printer could feed it through? Those bits were perforated so you could tear them off after. Yeah, we used a lot of that paper. I remember I wrote a sci-fi/mystery story called "Space Case" where these two brothers solved crimes together. One of them got his arm shot off, but it was okay, because it was immediately replaced with a bionic arm. I wrote and drew comic books about a ninja who could shoot flames out of his body. Later, when I was in my Ancient Egypt phase (we all had one of those, right?) I wrote a big fantasy epic where this group of aliens from different worlds became reincarnations of the Ancient Egyptian Gods. That one I actually finished. I also wrote a vampire novel that I don't think I ever finished, although I did get all the way to the final battle. I wrote poems and short stories. I wanted to be a writer - a published writer. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted.

So, when I got that request for my manuscript, I thought, this is it! I made it! It's gonna happen! This agency was old school, and wanted you to send them actual paper in the actual mail. At this point in time, my novel was called Doors to Other Places. It was over 600 pages and almost 200,000 words. So I bought some extra ink cartridges and some extra paper and a big box and I printed the whole damn thing off and I mailed it in. And I waited. And waited.

Well, I never got any response to my manuscript. I'm pretty sure the intern who requested it moved on to another job and whoever took over after just wasn't interested.

That was pretty crushing. But I kept going. I kept sending out queries and getting back rejections. After quite a lot of these, I finally did a bit of market research and realized that my book was not Young Adult, as I'd been presenting it, but really Middle Grade - meaning, it was for tweens and Harry Potter fans, not for teens. And I also realized that it was way, way too long. First-time novelists are pretty unlikely to sell a 600-page novel, because who's going to make that kind of investment in some guy they've never heard of? Plus, Middle Grade books are supposed to be pretty short in general.

So, I went back to the drawing board. How do I break up this gigantic book? Well, it was already split into six parts - why not just make each part its own book? Easy! Except now I had the opposite problem: a lot of the parts were too short to be standalone books. So, I'd have to flesh them out. And while I was at it, maybe I'd change the genders and sexual orientations of some of the characters. And rewrite the beginning again. And then rewrite it again. And change the vocabulary level and narrative voice throughout. And add an entirely new character and storyline...

So yeah, that took a while. And meanwhile, I kept sending out queries, trying to sell the now much shorter first book in my series. And right around the time I finally finished converting my one massive book into six much more reasonably-sized books, I got what I'd been waiting for: another request for the full manuscript.

This was really it this time! I was going to make it!

So I emailed the file (because that's the way every agency does it these days; I still can't believe that first place I contacted wanted paper in the mail...), and I waited. And waited. I was sick to my stomach almost every day. Which isn't that unusual for me, really, but still.

A month went by. Then two. And I realized, it's not happening. And it's not going to happen.

It was 2020 now, eleven years since I'd started writing these books, and I was tired, and I wanted to see one of them published, damn it. I wanted to hold the book in my hand. And I had a couple of friends who'd successfully self-published (hi, Dan and Neil), and managed to convert that into a sale to a publisher. So what the hell?

So I asked my brother if he'd be up for making me a book cover. And here we are.



So, here it is. The first book is now called Tree and Beast: A Stranger World Adventure. You can buy it on Amazon in real, actual paperback format. Or you can pre-order the eBook, if you prefer that format (that version comes out later this week). I plan to sell the book on the Google Play store, too, and whatever other online bookstores I can manage to get it on. I can't wait to get my copy, and hold it in my hands.

I'm doing a promotion, too! Since it's November, the eleventh month, and it's eleven years since I started writing, the first eleven people who buy the book, in any format, will receive a personal gift from me! Just email proof of purchase (a screenshot of the Amazon "thank you for your purchase" page will do fine) to feanor AT feanorsworkshop DOT com, and I will send you ONE or BOTH (your choice) of the following:

  • A picture of my dog, Lady. She's cute.

  • A poem written by me, on a subject and in a style of your choosing (or I can choose for you if that's too much pressure).

I really hope you like the book. Theoretically it's for kids, but really it's for anybody. It's been a labor of love for me, and I want as many people to read it as possible. Send the link to your friends! Send it to your enemies! Let them borrow your copy! Buy it for everyone on your Christmas list! Once you do read it, please leave a (five star, I hope) review on Amazon. I would really, really appreciate that.

Also, keep in mind, this first book has a bit of a cliffhanger ending, and the more people who buy this one, the sooner I'll release the second one. So really I'm just trying to help you.

Thanks. I love you all.
Tagged (?): A Stranger World (Not), Books (Not), Meta (Not), Tree and Beast (Not)

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