Wow—it’s been a year.
I’ve been a published author for exactly one year today.
When I started this journey on October 31, 2017, I had no idea I’d be where I am today.
See, on October 31, 2017, Facebook popped up one of those “on this day” messages to me.
“I’ve had this idea for a murder mystery in my head about a coroner named Fenway. I think I’m going to sign up for NaNoWriMo and start writing it this month!”
That message was dated October 31, 2009.
Now, I’ve always believed that one day I’d write a novel. I majored in English with a creative writing emphasis, and I’ve taken so many creative writing classes that I’ve lost count. I wrote a bunch of short stories in college, and I started a novel back then too, but I wrote myself into a corner about 40,000 words into it. And I had obviously promised myself I’d participate in National Novel Writing Month—where you pledge publicly to write 50,000 words in a new novel in 30 days—and I never got past Chapter One.
When I saw that Facebook “on this day” message come through, it felt like a slap in the face. Had I really spent the last eight years doing absolutely nothing to make my dream of becoming a novelist a reality?
So right then and there, I made a promise to myself: I would write the murder mystery about Fenway the coroner, starting the very next day.
And here’s the important part of the pledge: I wouldn’t stop until I was done.
I wouldn’t stop to edit in the middle.
I wouldn’t second-guess what I was doing.
I wouldn’t stop until I was finished.
I signed up on the NaNoWriMo website, and started drafting my book on November 1.
The first draft of the novel was actually written in first person, from Fenway’s point of view. About 50,000 words into it—I still had a few days before the end of the month when I hit the goal—I realized the tone wasn’t right, and I didn’t like the way Fenway was coming off to the audience.
In short, I realized I’d have to completely rewrite the book.
But here’s the difference between what I would have done in 2009 and what I did in 2017: I wrote another 30,000 words and I finished the first draft.
I remember when I finished the book. I knew I still had to completely change the point of view and that I had a long road ahead of me… but man, I finished writing a novel.
After only forty-five years. Hah.
The next few months were full of learning how to make that novel ready for publication. I found an editor. I was friends with a great art director who designed my cover in exchange for a bottle of good bourbon. I discovered the fantastic books of Michelle Damiani, who graciously shared everything she knew about getting a book self-published. I joined the local Sacramento chapter of the NaNoWriMo organization and got really involved with their write-ins and events. And I found out about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, buying ISBNs, ebook formatting—it was a whirlwind of education about a whole different world. And on May 25, 2018, The Reluctant Coroner was published to Amazon.
I sometimes say that it took me eight years to write The Reluctant Coroner, but really it took me most of that time just to get off my butt. (Or rather, get on my butt, but in my chair in front of Microsoft Word, not on the sofa in front of Elementary reruns.) I obviously felt the process was rewarding enough to repeat it—the first draft of second book in the Fenway series was done eleven weeks after I hit publish on the first book—and I’ve kept going. In fact, I’ve just finished the first draft of the fourth Fenway book, and I’m supposed to get it back from the first round of readers in a couple of weeks.
Onward and upward! And I hope you enjoy the books I write in my second full year of being a published author!
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