Tuesday, January 31, 2017

You’ve Decided to Write a Novel. Now What?

By Mitch Reinhardt

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Writing a novel is a huge undertaking, but not everyone knows where to start, or what to do after that first draft is done. Mitch Reinhardt visits the lecture hall today to share his journey on going from idea, to publication.

Mitch grew up in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina and is currently a business analyst for an international software firm. An avid animal lover, he enjoys hiking, tennis, classic movies, and, of course, reading and writing. He lives with his faithful coonhound, Murphy, who doubles as a proofreader - when he isn't sleeping or digging in the backyard. Wizard's Key is the first of four books in The Darkwolf Saga series.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Take it away Mitch...

Since this is my first guest post and I wanted to share my general experiences as a first time author. It took me so long to write my first book. I wish I had started much sooner, but life has a way of intervening and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours to get things done. On that note, I want to say how much I enjoyed Drae Box’s post on finding the time to write. She knows what she’s talking about and she’s a gifted writer. I get up early and write for a couple hours almost every day before work.

So let’s begin with: You’ve decided to write a novel. Now what?

If you’re like me and never written anything larger than a twenty page research paper for class, you’re going to need help with just about everything when it comes to writing a novel. When you think about the amount of work you have to do, writing a novel may seem like a daunting task. Most authors write several drafts and follow that up with extensive editing and rewrites. It takes work. Lots of time and lots of work. But that story you have inside just won’t go away. It requires your attention. So where do you go for help? How do you get started?

Long live the internet! I’ve learned a lot from visiting forums and reading articles on author’s sites. In fact, this site has always been one of my favorites. I’ve been a daily lurker on this site for years, ever since it was The Other Side of the Story – anyone remember that name? I encourage anyone working on their first book to participate in Janice’s Real Life Diagnostics. I did and her tips put me on the right track.

There are other sites which offer solid advice and answers to whatever writing dilemma you may encounter. But you have other options, too. You can even supplement your online research by taking a writing class, if that’s your thing. You can join a local writer’s group and spend time with like-minded people, ask questions and learn from them. You’ll find that most authors are happy to share their advice and experiences with you.

While I was site-lurking and asking lots of questions I finished my first draft of Wizard’s Key. I just parked myself in front of my computer and typed away. It was an 118,000 word monstrosity that contained every error a wannabe author could possibly make; poor punctuation, run-on sentences (I still struggle with that one), jarring point of view changes, characters with no discernable flaws, telling and not showing, as well as the dreaded info dump. I think that manuscript should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for most mistakes in a written document.

For the second draft, I enlisted the help of a developmental editor who was also a wonderful writing coach. I needed to learn to write deeper and leaner. So after a period of re-organizing, plotting, and outlining, I wrote the second draft. I learned many things during this time and the book began to take shape at this point. For those of you who’ve written a novel or who are in the process of writing a novel (and I suspect that includes everyone reading this post), I’m sure you’re familiar with this process. For me, hiring a developmental editor was well worth the expense, which I found to be quite reasonable.

Next the beta readers went through the new and improved manuscript. And by the way, I LOVE beta readers. They’re worth their weight in gold to authors. Their fresh eyes notice inconsistencies and point out when something just doesn’t fit; like when a teenage character wouldn’t say a certain phrase or if the name of a place suddenly changes between chapters. Find some beta readers. The more the merrier! Start with friends and family who will give you honest feedback.

If your goal is to be traditionally published then you need to perfect a query letter and send it out to agents who work in your genre. Finding an agent can take a lot of time, too. Once you sign with an agent and polish your manuscript, they will present it to potential publishers. Hopefully, one will fall in love with your manuscript and offer you a contract.

However, if your goal is to be indie published like me, the next step is to find a copy editor. This will more than likely be your largest expense if you’re an indie author. It’s important to have a competent copy editor comb through your manuscript and weed out the errors. You really shouldn’t skip this step. In in my opinion, a copy editor is vital and necessary. When the copy editor is done have as many people as possible proofread your manuscript. This is a huge help as you put the finishing touches on your shiny new book.

Somewhere during this time I began searching for someone who could design an attractive book cover for me. I was lucky and found someone who had an opening and, from their portfolio, also had the ability to design the kind of book cover I wanted. He was also able to format the interior, which saved me some time and I was very happy with the end result. Don’t wait until you’re nearly done with your book to find a cover designer. Remember, they’re busy designing covers for other clients too.

A nice looking book cover is the first thing a potential reader will see, we all know that. If they like the cover art, then hopefully they’ll read the back cover copy or perhaps the first couple of pages. That’s when you can impress them and hook the reader. So don’t scrimp here. Your book needs to be attractive and professionally packaged. You can find many talented graphic artist types on the internet who will suit your needs for a reasonable price.

My final cost to publish was almost $3000. Even if no one buys my book I consider that money well spent because I stepped outside myself and learned so much while creating something I hope readers will find entertaining. That’s a great feeling, isn’t it? Creating something that didn’t exist until you decide to craft it.

To summarize, I decided to go indie and publish Wizard’s Key myself. If you choose to go the same route then you need to understand the amount of work involved. You have to find good editors who can help shape your novel as well as beta readers and proofreaders who will give you honest feedback. You will also need to find someone to design your cover. And, if you don’t have the software or skill set, you must find someone to format both your eBook and print interiors.These tasks take a lot of time.

The writing process is basically the same whether you’re a traditionally published author or an indie author. There really is no magic bullet or secret trick to writing fiction. As I mentioned earlier, it takes work. It takes imagination and the discipline to put the words down. Writing and learning to write is a journey and a process. My best advice for anyone is to embrace the process and enjoy the ride. The art of writing is addictive. Trust me, that’s a good thing. Keep writing!

About Wizard's Key

Finding a magical key was easy. Staying alive, however...

The dirt-encrusted key didn’t look like much, but when bullied teen Geoff inadvertently activates it, he is suddenly thrust into a strange and beautiful world. It doesn’t help that he’s accompanied by Sawyer, his chief tormentor at school, but there is a silver lining in that intelligent, compassionate Jane is also with them. Soon the three teenagers encounter evil orcs, majestic unicorns, dangerous trolls, and a mysterious elven druid who doesn’t care for humans.

Together, they must make their way back home before the new world they find themselves in erupts in war. Along the way, they’ll be tested to the limits of their endurance—and discover hidden powers deep within. But will those powers be enough to stop the ravenous werewolf that is stalking them?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound


  1. Thanks for the "fresh eyes" look at writing and publishing. And congratulations on your book! The cover is awesome! While unicorns, trolls, and elven druids aren't my thing. The story premise sounds intriguing. Best of luck on your continuing journey.

    1. Thank you, Marcia! It's an exciting journey, isn't it? I'm glad you liked the cover and premise, too.

  2. I have been following Janice since this blog was called The Other Side of the Story too! Great information here, Mitch! I'll definitely be sharing this with my followers and writer friends. Many of them are beginners and have been asking me questions about starting out. This post is a great resource!

    1. Hi Caitlin! So nice to chat with someone familiar with Janice's site from the old days! :) If any of your readers have more questions, I'll be happy to help answer them. Thank you for reading this post!