This post is part of the Creative Process series, in which I will whine, cry, and philosophize about my life as a fiction writer. In the worst case scenario, fellow struggling artists will be heartened by my constant failures. In the best case scenario, a best-selling novel just might be written.
I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but my novel is currently out for submission at various publishers. My agent just sent me the submissions list and I think it looks great. So, how did I arrive at this point? Good question. When I left for China, I had only finished a little over half of my manuscript. At first, it was hard to find time to write, as I was adjusting to jetlag and excited to be traveling. I also stopped in Taiwan for a few days to visit my relatives there for the first time in four years. While I had a lot of fun, I didn’t get any writing done, since my schedule was so dependent on others.
At last, I arrived in China. I’ll be continuing the AATA series soon with my escapades in the PRC, but for now, I’ll just tell you guys what happened with my book. My dad was extremely busy with work while I was visiting, so I ended up tagging along to his office and many business lunches/dinners. Each time, I lugged along my laptop and banged away at my keyboard while waiting for food. If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know that these are not my ideal conditions to write. I prefer to write first thing in the morning, before I’ve spoken to anyone. I also like to work in cafés, not noisy Chinese restaurants. But I didn’t have this luxury in China, and I was still determined to make my goal of 900+ words a day. Soon, I found that I was hitting 1500 words a day regularly while only writing two or three hours.
When I had two weeks left in China, though, I was only at 60,000 words on my manuscript. Since I had planned to finish the novel before my return to America, it was time for something drastic. I buckled down and what happened next was a miracle, because I still don’t know how I did it. I managed to finish my novel two days early, which ended up around 80,000 words. Surprisingly, that had been my target word count from the start. Considering that I don’t write on weekends, I averaged 2500 words a day. When my dad and I took the highs-speed train down south to Guangzhou, I holed myself up in our hotel room and made 3000 that day.
After this immense effort, I glanced over the manuscript, got a massive headache, and sent it off to my agent and Phineas. I expected quite a bit of editing/revising, which I hate with a passion. At that point, I was too close to my novel to judge it with an objective eye, so I didn’t even know if it was any good. I figured I’d wait for my agent’s feedback to start hacking away at my first draft. When I returned to Ann Arbor, I was really struggling physically. I’m normally good at adjusting to jetlag, but this time was particularly difficult. Within a few days, I found out what the problem was — I was simultaneously coming down with a bad cold.
Soon, though, good news came. My agent called and told me that she thought my manuscript was amazing. She didn’t think I needed to revise much at all. There were two words out of the whole thing she didn’t like, and that was it. In the end, the only revising I did on the first draft was to change a few names, make Phineas edit my Korean (spoiler alert!), and add to a few scenes.
If you’re a fellow author reading this, please don’t hate me. I’m sure that my potential editor will want me to make more changes. I should also add that I’m the type of person who subconsciously edits as I go along, so my first draft is usually fairly polished. The lack of revision was definitely a surprise to me, too, and I’m still afraid to look at my manuscript for fear that I’ll suddenly hate it.
Anyway, now the fate of my novel is out of my hands. I can’t do anything but try with all my might to distract myself. If I don’t, I’ll be constantly worrying. What if I don’t get published? What if I do? Fortunately, I have quite a bit of work to keep myself busy. Unfortunately, it’s rarely enough to take up all my time. Therefore, I’ve been enlisting Phineas to preoccupy me at all times. Right now, that means playing video games and watching Korean dramas.
How long does it take you to finish a novel? Do you usually do a lot of revisions?