Novel: The end. Also, the beginning.

There came a point in my novel writing last week when not only I knew that I was getting near the end of the book, but it clicked in my head how everything was going to wrap up. Once that happened, I was full steam ahead, surpassing my daily quota of 1,000 words for much more. I wanted to see it done. I wanted to cross that finish line with my arms held high in triumph. Maybe that’s what happens in a marathon when you see the end come in sight — you get that extra burst of speed and power.

Last Wednesday night, my wife shooed me out the door for some peace and quiet to do it justice. So I got dinner, drove to a quiet place near some trees, rolled down the windows, and just wrote. After two hours, I got to write those magical words — “The End” — and took the above picture to mark the occasion.

I won’t lie. I really thought I’d have more of a strong emotional reaction, but instead there was just… deep satisfaction. I wasn’t writing this to get it over and done with, I was writing it because I had a story to tell and it was FUN to write it. Every day over four months (only missing two days in the process), I came to that screen and wondered what would happen next. Sometimes I knew. Sometimes I thought I knew, but the characters went a different way. Sometimes it was silly or sad or clever or dumb. In a way, it was like I was slowly reading this book as I was also writing it.

Compared to my previous novellas, this novel feels more mature. Not in its subject matter, but in the style of its writing. It’s just more complete, more competent, and more something that I would actually like to read if someone else wrote it. I recently went back to re-read one of my NaNoWriMo novellas, and I couldn’t get past the first chapter, it was such a mess.

So what’s this book? What am I ready to share about it?

I wanted to stay quiet about the specifics while I wrote it because I didn’t want any feedback or comments. It was mine and it was fragile and in development. But now I think I can open up to share this much.

The novel is called The Wonderlust Journal, and it takes place in a fantasy world where the land has started to knit itself back together after a previous apocalypse of some sort. The title refers to a widespread quarterly newspaper that serves to connect the people of this world and their stories together. It’s now the most popular publication in the world, and the lead character is a low-level roving reporter who is secretly hunting down a big story in order to make a name for himself (among other things). He’s a bit of a dork but he’s clever and determined, and that makes for a good mix.

There’s very, very little fighting in it. No assassins. One dead dragon. A most unusual marriage. What ended up surprising me is how… normal this fantasy world ended up being. “Normal” in the sense that it wasn’t as high fantasy as I had originally intended, nor as gritty and grimdark as the genre is going these days. It’s got likable people, some weird twists, a rivalry, and a coming-of-age tale of sorts. No matter what, I tried to put at least one new and interesting development or insight into each chapter to keep the filler down.

Since announcing the end of this first draft, I’ve had some people on Twitter and Facebook ask me what I’m doing next. Originally I wrote this to see what it would be. I had no idea if it would just be for me or if I’d try to get it out there. Now that it’s done, I think it might be good enough to share with a wider audience.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done, so my immediate plan was to take a week off from working on this, and then to start the second draft. I really need to go back through this whole book and smooth it out, improve the language and flow, add more dialogue, and most importantly, retcon some characters and other things so that they’d match what I ended up writing. I have about four main characters and I need to work on bringing out each of their personality traits and unique characteristics more.

My goal now is to revise one chapter a day for 35 days (since there are 35 chapters).

Then? I’m going to try to find beta readers. I don’t know what the process is there, but I need some eyes on this to give me feedback, find obvious flaws, and to let me know what they think without trying to butter me up. Once I get that feedback, I’ll go back for a third draft.

That will probably take me to the end of summer or beyond. It’s not a quick thing. If I get it really polished and decent and people tell me if it’s good enough to print, then I’ll start looking for an agent or into self-publishing options. This is all very new to me, obviously, and I want to do it right.

After that… another book. I have a sequel to The Wonderlust Journal in mind, but there’s also a different idea that I’d like to hack out one of these days, so I’m deliberating between those.

Anyway, thank you to everyone for encouragement for a project that you can neither see nor read right now. Worst comes to worst, I’ll just post this sucker somewhere if nobody wants to publish it, and anyone who’s interested can read it.

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8 thoughts on “Novel: The end. Also, the beginning.

  1. Aywren Sojourner June 19, 2018 / 9:37 am

    Woo! Huge congrats! Finishing a novel is such a fantastic endeavor, no matter what comes next. You did it! 🙂

  2. Pierre June 19, 2018 / 1:29 pm

    Congratulations Justin! 😀

  3. bhagpuss June 19, 2018 / 3:07 pm

    Grats! How many words did it come out as in the end?

  4. DDOCentral June 19, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    Congratulations on a finished novel. I would hire a real editor to help you proof-read and format the book.

  5. Syp June 19, 2018 / 3:56 pm

    104.5k in the end, at least for now.

  6. melbrankin June 19, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    Very nice! I think I did 3 rewrites before finding an editor which was probably too quick but I’m not sure there is a must do x

  7. melbrankin June 19, 2018 / 4:57 pm

    Grumble phone fail posted half way thru post!… anyway must do x rewrites. I found 3 books out of my first one which caused my first rewrite to spawn another writing fest. Whatever works I say. As for beta readers I found about 2 in 10 offers from people actually resulted in good feedback I could use so its worth getting a dozen non friends lined up to beta read if u can. Good luck with next steps and happy writing!

  8. Seraphgrim July 11, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    Congratulations on finally getting there! I have to imagine this was the hardest part. At least, I hope so for your sake going forward!

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