Novel: But is it GOOD?

The day that I write this, I have crossed the 75,000 word mark on my fantasy novel. I’ve been writing it since early March, springing out of an idea that became the first couple of chapters that became part of my daily routine. Rain or shine, cruddy day or happy one, busy or laid back, I make it an ironclad goal to get in 1,000 new words.

Some days that means just fitting it in during my lunch break. Other days, I’m writing feverishly before I fall asleep or lugging my little Chromebook around while hauling the kids here and there. I’ve written two paragraphs while standing at the checkout counter waiting for a hairstylist to ring me out. I’ve endured a few questioning looks at my kid’s swim class when people saw “CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE” pop up on my screen.

It’s been a bizarre, breathtaking, and incredible experience so far. I never really thought, outside of NaNoWriMo, that I would actually write a book… but here I am. I have never, ever written a single piece of fiction this long. I’m on the edge of my seat, worried and wondering if I’ll be able to land the whole story in the next month as I aim for 100,000 words.

I haven’t shown anyone it yet. My wife has been remarkably patient considering how much curiosity she’s had over this novel, but perhaps she’s just glad I’m writing. After all, she’s been encouraging me to write books for years now. My daughter, the reader, is the most interested and keeps trying to sneak peeks at my screen. Not yet, I say. Wait until it’s done.

I’m having a great time doing it. I’m proud, in the good-kind-of-proud way, of what’s come out of me. Compared to my previous attempts at fiction, this one actually has more structure, flows better, and isn’t a mad-dash scramble to come up with crazy scenarios. Every day when I sit down to write, I honestly don’t know where the story is going to go. Oh, I have a general idea, but so very often the tale takes a turn away from me because it’s what needs to happen. It’s what the characters would do. I don’t fight it or force it, I just go with it and continue to ride the wave while guiding it in a loose way. I’ve been surprised countless times at what has happened — how a throwaway character became one of my main cast, how this fictional world has taken shape, how loose plot threads were resolved.

But while the experience of writing it is quite ducky, I’m gnawing off my fingernails because I can’t stop asking the question, “Is it good?” I think so? But I’m both too close to the material and too hard on myself. I hope it’s good. It’s not Tolkien or Martin or anywhere near the level of popular fiction writers today. There are many rough spots that need smoothing and reworking. I’m going to plan for at least two rounds of revisions before I even think about showing it to others.

I hope it’s good. I would love to entertain others as much as this has entertained me. But it might not be a book for everyone. There’s practically no fighting, for starters. I don’t think I’ve written a single fight scene in those 75,000 words. Not much in the way of romance or evil empires or children of prophecy, either. It’s a fantasy world, yes, but a much more grounded one than I had originally envisioned.

There’s no part of me secretly hoping that this will be a best-seller, but published? Maybe. Again, I have to see when it’s done. I have to do drafts and evaluate and have others read it to give me feedback. I already have ideas for a sequel, but that’s really getting ahead of myself.

I don’t want it to be good because the praise would boost my ego. I want it to be good because I want it to be good. I want someone to pick up this novel and be drawn into it, wanting to find out what happens next all the way through the final chapter. So I’m going to ride that bucking bronco of a story to the end, and hopefully then I’ll be able to look back and see a good thing standing behind me.

9 thoughts on “Novel: But is it GOOD?

  1. Pierre May 21, 2018 / 10:28 am

    Thanks for the update Justin 😀 Keep on the good work, (yes it will be good, I’m confident), we, future readers, can’t wait to put our eyes on it 😀

  2. Aywren Sojourner May 21, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Yay! Keep writing!

    Have you considered self-publishing? If nothing else, you can get it up in ebook format on Amazon or Smashwords. It’s not terribly hard to do (there are some formatting rules you have to adjust in your document), and it’s a way to get it out to readers.

    I’ve done that for several of my old fantasy novels years ago, and while you may never make bank on it, at least it’s a way to share.

  3. bhagpuss May 21, 2018 / 11:20 am

    Grats on making it this far! I’d endorse Aywren’s suggestions about digital self-publishing. The market has changed radically over the last few years and what was once a guaranteed way to empty your bank account and fill your garage is now a viable and potentially rewarding option.

    If you want to know if what you’ve written is good by traditional market standards, though, about the only way to find out is to submit it to a traditional print publisher, for which you will first need to get an agent – few publishers will even open unsolicited manuscripts these days, following a series of high-profile plagiarism cases in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Whether being good by mainstream/traditional market standards actually matters any more, though, is another issue entirely. A disturbing amount of what succeeds in the mainstream is really quite poor, not just aesthetically but technically. Your own judgment and that of your readers (when you allow people to read it) will probably have as much intrinsic value as anything a professional tells you.

  4. tithian May 21, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Self publishing on Amazon is really easy, if these guys can do it, so can you.

  5. graphiya May 21, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    Sub-creation is a taste of Heaven now. Can’t wait until you’re ready to share some crumbs with us.

  6. Syp May 21, 2018 / 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the notes all. Yes, self-publishing looks like it will probably be my avenue. I’ll pony up for a few printed copies just to give them to my kids. But I’m trying not to think of all of that until the first draft is done!

  7. Tyler F.M. Edwards May 21, 2018 / 4:56 pm

    Being a writer is pretty much always 50% “this is the most amazing work of art ever” and 50% “I’m a talentless hack.”

  8. melbrankin May 21, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    I used beta readers for my book and found them really useful. Search for beta reader questions on the web will give u a nice list of questions to ask them.

  9. Stropp May 22, 2018 / 1:11 am

    I think I’d avoid self publishing for the time being if you’re questioning the quality of your work. It’s too easy.

    I’ve read a number of obviously self-published works on Amazon Kindle and for the most part they’ve had good ideas but have been clumsily executed. Bad grammar, lost or confused plot-points, and even spelling mistakes. (I find that sort of thing takes me right out of the story.) If you self-publish you may not learn those valuable early lessons that writers going through the traditional route learn.

    The advantage of submitting and going through the traditional publisher route is that you get decades of experience to guide you which is invaluable for your first novel. You’ll have several editors review your work and provide fully objective feedback.

    And if you get rejected, that’s good too. It means you need to work harder.

    But there is one thing to remember about rejections. They’re not always right, they don’t always happen because your work is bad (sometimes it’s just not a right fit for that publisher, or they have filled their quota of that genre) and sometimes the slush pile reviewer just doesn’t have a clue.

    Keep writing, and keep submitting. I’ve heard that it takes around a million words, or ten novels, before you’ll get accepted.

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