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My First Novel: Not "The Life After"

The first novel I ever wrote and finished was called “Agatha.” It does make an appearance in “The Life After” and, with some edits, will appear free on this website. Why free? Because it’s not that good.

I spent about a year on “Agatha,” roughly from ages 19 to 20. I did a massive amount of research, gushed about it to my friends, and then attempted to find a publisher. I skipped the beta reading, editing, perfecting process. I just thought it was good enough.

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

I put the book away and, a few years later tried again. A vanity publisher offered to publish my novel for a fee of holywhatidonthavethatkindofmoney. At that point, I didn’t even know the difference between a vanity publisher and a traditional publisher. I just saw their name, thought they looked legit and crossed my fingers.

What I have learned since those days long past:

  1. Editing is Vital

Edit, re-edit, re-re-edit and don’t stop. Find a trusted editor to help with both content and structure. Don’t stop editing until you’re ready to publish. Even if you're a professional editor, which I am, you need an editor who isn't personally attached to your project. Sometimes, it's difficult for us to edit our own work because we are too close to it.

  1. Use Beta Readers

I am so grateful to my beta readers. They provided invaluable insight into what works and what doesn’t. It is important to have beta readers from a variety of backgrounds as well. For "The Life After," I had beta readers from all walks of life, but I focused on younger readers. As it is a young adult novel, I wanted to make sure my teen narrator had a teen voice.

2b. Use Sensitivity Readers

Does your book touch on any cultures, lifestyles or lived experiences that are not your own? If you are a writer of fiction, the answer is probably yes. In that case, it may be necessary to find a sensitivity reader who ensures the written words are respectful in the way they are meant to be.

2c. Use Positivity Readers

This is a term I just learned about. I frankly don't know how common it is as I haven't been able to find the term elsewhere. However, I can see how it would be important to a lot of writers. In essence, a positivity reader is one who only offers positive thoughts about your manuscript, no matter how crappy it is. The positivity reader gives you the encouragement you need to keep writing. Personally, I don't care for this for myself, but many people find it useful, which is why I included it here.

  1. Kill Your Darlings

It hurts when you become attached to a phrase or a scene or even a character who doesn’t work. I had an entirely different prologue that I desperately loved when I first wrote “The Life After.” It didn’t work for anyone but me. I had to axe it.

  1. Rejection Doesn’t Mean You’re Bad

I stopped trying to get published after getting rejected because I assumed that meant I was not good enough to be a fiction writer. I continued writing for pleasure, but it was just for me. Only when I wrote “The Life After,” and I felt really good about it, did I attempt to get published. Again, I was rejected and again I was defeated. I let it sit untouched for five years before giving it another shot. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I saw the flaws, corrected them, and had seven offers for publishing in the first month of queries. Those rejections hurt, but my pride got in my way far more than the rejections did.

I will be sharing "Agatha" here, but don't hold your breath because it will be a while - and maybe don't look forward to it. Truly, it's not great.

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