It may sound harsh, but the odds of you ever getting around to writing – let alone finishing – your first novel are absolutely positively tiny. And then, even if you do manage to get your novel written, the chances of getting it published are astronomically smaller again.
I am not an exceptional human being, and yet somehow, someway I managed to beat those odds. My debut horror novel ‘Slasher Sam’ was published this year by Darkwater Syndicate.
This is how I did it.
1. I had an idea
They say you should write about what you know, so I wrote a novel about a horror movie-loving psycho killer with a blog. But before you call the cops, I can assure you that I’m not actually a killer – just a blogger who is crazy about horror movies.
Whatever you choose to write about, make sure it’s a subject or story that you’re passionate about, or it’ll be even more difficult to sit down and write, which is what I did next.
2. I started to write…
For me, starting is always the hardest part (even starting this blog post was a chore, if I’m completely honest with you), but you must push on through your procrastination and self-doubt. To paraphrase one of those cheesy motivational sayings, every novel starts with a single word.
3. …and continued to write
I never gave up, and I never surrendered to the almost crippling self-doubt that plagued me at every turn. For motivation, I told all my mates that I was writing a novel, because I knew they would never let me live it down if I didn’t finish it. I also signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as extra motivation.
4. Then I wrote some more
Once my first draft was finished, I put the manuscript to Slasher Sam in a draw and tried my best to forget about it for a few months. When I returned, I discovered that what I’d written was absolute crap – but it was something I could work with.
I cleaned it up over the next six months, polishing, re-writing and binning some chapters altogether. I gave it to my brother and a friend to read; they both made suggestions, which I took onboard. Then I wrote some more, and edited it some more, before finally it was suitable for human consumption.
5. Then I sent it out to publishers
Even when I was done, a horrible little voice inside my head said no-one would ever want to read Slasher Sam. But I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from trying to get my manuscript in the hands of publishers.
After a few rejections, I quickly realised that literary agents weren’t interested in a horror novel from an unknown author in Auckland, New Zealand. I figured the same would also be true of the major publishers, so I concentrated on Indie publishers of horror and dark fiction.
Sure enough, these publishers were more receptive, and soon, a few even wanted to see the full manuscript. Eventually, about 18 months after I first began my story, I had an ebook-only offer from one publisher (which I very nearly accepted), before Darkwater Syndicate also offered to print it and put out an audio version.
[Looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have sent quite so many query letters out, because I was still getting rejections and requests to see the full manuscript even after I’d signed my first book deal; another very good horror publisher made me an offer about a month later, but I had to politely decline.]