The process of Stranger Will: from done, to done, to really done, to seriously done, to “I’ve got to write another one?!”
This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb
As a writer, I genuinely appreciate Simon’s transparency here at The Write Place. Novel writing, if anything, is a constantly questioned process. From the simple fanboy questions of “where do you get your ideas” to the tricks-and-tips questions about how to get a novel published, the affirmation of mystery never stops. One thing a lot of beginning writers don’t accept is that there truly are as many appropriate responses to these questions as there are writers willing to answer them. The process from conception to publication (and then on to promotion and career strategizing, which are all-too-neglected factors of the equation) is rarely repeated from one writer to the next. There is no degree program on becoming a professional novelist. There are no tutorials. There is no work-study program. Being a novelist is wading through an unmapped feces trench; no one can really guide you through it, and only you know how much it can stink. As you can probably tell by that terrible metaphor, I am still in the process of becoming a true professional novelist.
For my novel, Stranger Will, the process was fairly straightforward, I think. This being my first published novel (to be followed by my second in November), I don’t have much of a frame of reference other than a close association with many, many writers who have been through this process.
- Stranger Will is finished. Well, what I thought at the time was finished. More on the flexibility of the term “finished” below.
- Sent queries to many, many agents and publishers. Received some feedback, a few requests for full manuscripts, but was never offered a contract.
- Put Stranger Will on hold while I wrote two other novels. Forgetting Stranger Will was surprisingly easier than one might think. I was at a time in my life where I had more ideas than I knew what to do with, so abandoning the first novel in favor of the second and third was pretty easy, actually.
- I learned about the necessity for a platform. At the time (this was back in 2004 or so), blogging wasn’t as common as it is now, so building a platform simply wasn’t as easy (not that it is easy now). I wrote stories for a lot of online lit magazines. I joined a few online writing forums. I wrote reviews and conducted interviews for various online and print magazines. Basically, the way I built a platform was to first establish credibility within the writing community and later leverage those relationships to extend credibility to the reading community. I don’t think these steps can be reversed; it would be hard to build credibility with readers if you don’t yet have anything for them to read.
- Cried for a few months because I finally realized what a piece of garbage my Stranger Will manuscript was at the time. Think of all those agents and publishers I already exhausted with that early draft. IMPORTANT: DON’T SUBMIT YOUR MANUSCRIPT UNTIL IT IS TRULY FINISHED. There are a finite number of agents and publishers out there, and none of them will re-read something they already passed on, no matter how much you insist it has been revised.
- Rewrote Stranger Will from page one (during this time, I was querying agents and publishers for my other manuscripts).
- Got a short story chapbook, Charactered Pieces, published (OW Press). I recognize this publication as both a product of my extensive platform building (I met the editor who published the chapbook while doing editorial work at Outsider Writers Collective) and as an extension of my platform. Charactered Pieces, in my mind, was mostly a way to get some attention for Stranger Will.
- Whored the goddamn ovaries out of Charactered Pieces. For an incomplete collection of my promotional efforts, go to the Charactered Pieces Blog Tour page at my website.
- Celebrated wildly as my friend and fellow writer, Richard Thomas, landed a book deal through start-up press Otherworld Publications. Shortly thereafter, I celebrated again as Nik Korpon also managed a deal. Both of these people I met through my earlier platform building (at writing forums). This is important, because a few months later…
- I got a book deal for Stranger Will from the same publisher.
Total time from conception to publication: about 10 years. Now, that may sound pathetic, but keep in mind that also during that time I wrote three other novels, two novellas, many short stories, reviews and interviews galore, and continued to build my platform. Maybe one day I’ll be “author” enough to only have to write books.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/17657816@N05/