Honestly, it is like giving birth, figuratively. What took two and a half years of frustration, brain-wracking, ripping apart and starting over, and sitting glumly looking out the window has finally come to fruition: I am holding my own second novel in my hand.
My copies of the book are delivered about a month before general release. This is for marketing purposes. What this means to me is I get to run all over the neighborhood, waving the book around and whooping. It also means that I am only supposed to give my copies away to those who are in a position to promote it for me: book reviewers, book bloggers, newspaper columnists, etc. I am sincerely going to try to limit myself to these people this time around, instead of handing my book out to all my friends because I am so excited. I ran out of my copies of my last novel in about an hour.
Would you like to know how to go about writing a novel? Me, too. I don’t think I do it right, but I am willing to share my process, perhaps as a cautionary tale to others who hope to become novelists.
• Get an idea for a book. This is called a premise. In the case of Crossing the Street, I knew I wanted to write a story about the friendship between a millenial woman and a precocious little girl.
• Start writing the book immediately. Hope that as you develop the characters, whom you love, an excellent plot line will develop right along with it.
• Get stumped, because that plot line is absolutely not materializing.
• Put in some very dramatic and tragic stuff that doesn’t work.
• Send all of this off to your publisher and editor, who concurs that this isn’t working.
• Go back to the drawing board.
• Call up some friends for advice. They give great advice. But the plot line still doesn’t work.
• Call another friend who is a published author. She gives you a private seminar in plotting.
• But the damn plot line you are desperately holding onto still sucks.
• Email your editor for help. He basically shoots down the whole thing (rightfully so) and says that you are trying too hard. He suggests taking an online course in storyboarding.
• DO THAT.
• Spend about four weeks working on a storyboard for the book. Make some great progress after throwing out the dramatic and tragic stuff.
• Get stuck two thirds of the way through the storyboard. Write another email to your publisher asking him if he could just provide you with one little plot event to bring a climax to the book so that you don’t have to crawl into a hole to die. He generously does this, knowing he doesn’t want your blood on his hands.
• Finish the storyboard and heave a huge sigh of relief.
• Get writing. Realize that you are completely failing at show, don’t tell (you can look this up; it pains me to even think about it at this time).
• In a panic, you email another writer friend, and ask for help. Apparently, this email alarms her. She replies that you need to calm down and take a few deep breaths. Then she sends you a very confidential excerpt of her work in progress that gives a terrific example of showing, not telling.
• You read the excerpt and wish you could write like this woman, but you actually begin to understand what all the hoorah about showing vs. telling is all about.
• You go back to your manuscript and take out all the telling.
• Then you start writing all over again, showing the hell out of everything.
• You finally finish.
• Your publisher says, “I think you got it. This was a hard row to hoe, but we can publish this. Here are my editorial suggestions.”
• You rewrite the book again.
• The copy editor then gets the book. She makes her suggestions.
• You realize you used the word okay forty million times in the manuscript, and spelled it differently every time.
• You rewrite the book again.
• You are getting sick to death of these characters, and you want to murder all of them. Plus, you hate punctuation marks all of a sudden.
• BUT WAIT. The book is finished! You have a cover!
• Thank God you have great author friends who agree to give testimonials. Praise heaven for these folks.
• The day comes. A box of books arrives. You hold one in your hand and take a selfie.
• You thank heaven you have that Photoshop App.
• Voila! A bestseller (hoping and praying) is born. Almost overnight!
— Molly D. Campbell
Molly D. Campbell writes a blog from her pantry, often in pajamas. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award winner, winning honorable mentions in both the humor and human interest categories in 2010 and 2012. She’s the author of three books: Characters in Search of a Novel, Keep the Ends Loose and the newly published Crossing the Street.