[And anyone else in early stages: finishing first book or taking first steps after that]
Before I believed I really could FINISH a book, back in the day I was debating how Half Blood Prince and then Deathly Hallows would go, I met a relatively large group of people that, like me, had writing aspirations. We had varying degrees of confidence in whether we could do it, and varying degrees of skill (stages where we were in our writing, mostly—most people called to write can develop the skill).
When one of THOSE people (my early aspiring writer friends) tells me now that they have finished, or are approaching the end of that first book, I am THRILLED for them. It is stepping stone that is hard enough to make, that once up, there is no turning back—a person who has written a book and has the call to write is truly a writer. And we've made this journey together.
So yesterday I saw a status message on Facebook from one such friend (one I met trying to prove JK Rowling was a Monty Python Fan), a woman on a VERY short list of women sassier than I am (the only one I know of running a competing Total World Domination Plan, though hers lacks the nudity, so I'm sure you'll stick with mine) but she is nearing the end of that first book. I thought maybe I'd offer some unsolicited advice, cuz you know... I like to tell people what to do.
You can be 'almost done' for a LONG time. It can linger and hover. I suggest looking at time periods you felt very productive in writing—whatever they are TO YOU. Is it a thousand words a day? A chapter a week? A scene a day? Different people think of their writing differently. But figure out your PACE at that time when you were already productive, and apply it forward. Choose when you intend to be done by and try to keep on pace to making it.
With CONFLUENCE, that pace for me was two chapters a month. I wasn't thinking in word count (probably because of that writing long-hand thing) but I figured if I could finish two chapters (about 30 pages) a month then I could finish by XYZ date. I had to change it once, because I spent August of that year traveling, but the last 7 or so chapters actually went FASTER. Whatever the case, a deadline helps most people keep on track—it will push you to write every time you are debating between writing and some other activity. Set a deadline.
Susannah asked me specifically about the blog. She'd put hers on hold because she felt it was distracting her from book-writing time. For book #1, I think that was the smartest thing she could have done. ANY distraction is like a giant wall in your way and you just need to concentrate on the book for now.
But back to the blog... THIS is something, that when you want to get blogging AS A WRITER (whether it is about writing, about your content, or a mix of stuff) you want to commit to doing it right.
I blogged about this last month and think the advice on HOW to do it well is still good (Be A Blog Slut). Until you are ready to do it right, I would hold off. Though I think when it can be committed to, it is VERY important.
First Readers and EDITING
I don't want to be the evil person to break this to you, but there will be SEVERAL rounds of this. I would identify or ASK first readers what their specialty is AS A READER. I would then divide them up.
Your FIRST first readers PLOT READERS should be the ones who spot places you need MORE or that seem INCONSISTENT, or that you're UNCLEAR. They are meta-readers looking at the big picture and the things they identify need to be done before the other stuff can really even be LOOKED at. (I am good at this, possibly because of my psych, so I spot places where motivation is unclear or behavior seems inconsistent)
It is REALLY NICE if you have experienced writers who can do 'scene by scene' letting you know what works, what needs work, and what should be dropped--but only let people do this who have either published, or read REALLY WIDELY IN YOUR GENRE—the people who know what they're talking about.
Some readers are good at things like PACING or STYLE—spotting where things slow down (the style of writing needs to shift a little, depending on the action, and it isn't necessarily easy as a writer to see than in progress.)
And finally, you need a Leanne... The Grammar Police is one way to put this... somebody happy to go through line by line with a red pen, but do this LAST, or you will need to do it AGAIN.
I apparently don't know what the hell I'm doing here, as I've only had limited success, but there is a LOT of help to be had. Take advantage of it. Read the AGENT blogs on the matter--the Nathan Bransford, Kirsten Nelson, Janet Reid variety. They have great advice--sometimes their preferences are different, which is helpful in that you see it is not a one size fits all thing, but on MANY things they agree--those things should ALWAYS be followed.
This is a skill worth developing because unless you know somebody you can sleep with to get in, 95% of unknown authors get their first work read this way (maybe 4% through a pitch session at a conference, which is even HARDER) and 1% through flukey things (this last appears to be the route I'm on... never have done things the normal way)
This is a marathon. I laugh when I think about how I thought things would go... query, get CONFLUENCE sold, and suddenly I'd have to quit my day job. I was actually worried about things like insurance and such. BAH! I am now a year after my first Query Submissions and have had 3 rounds where I was DEAD SERIOUS in thinking it was ready—I am back to thinking it isn't quite ready (book nor query).
So you HAVE TO in between, be working on that next book, but periodically there will be rewrite/query rounds built in. You will become a MASTER at multi-tasking (or serial tasking) I recommend thinking about things like Amazon because there are people HAPPY to give feedback on things like pitches and that first chapter or so (great people, for the most part)--and they are people who have DONE this.
When you are in this CYCLE though, you need to also be building your network and blogging is part of that. It helps because there is a ton of great advice, and it helps your name and voice get out there. I happen to think this is NOT a normal route, but my BLOG voice is why Elizabeth thought of me when her agent had a cozy project and she didn't have time for it. There are people looking all over, so every little bit helps, but I think every little bit ALSO requires some give. I wouldn't have my following if I didn't follow, comment... all that slutty stuff.
So I wish you (any of you in this early achievement stage) a HUGE amount of luck. It's a very long road, but it can be traversed