Improbable Press
Cart 0

Writing Your First Novel: 5 Things You Need to Know

Kameo Llyn Douglas Rare and Wonderfully Made

By Kameo Llyn Douglas

Kameo Llyn Douglas on writing your first book

The absolute first thing you need to know, from someone who has just turned her first book, Rare and Wonderfully Made, in to her editor:

  1. It's possible.

I am really an ordinary person, like with a day job and a dog and dirty laundry and I wrote a book. At 58 years old. This is astounding to me. People who write books are sorcerers, experts, miracle workers, not middle-aged women who eat too much ice cream out of the carton and still manage to let dishes pile up in the sink.

  1. You can write a book a couple hundred words at a time.

Literally. 300 words was my daily quota and some days I dragged the words kicking and screaming through the bloody tips of my fingers, until they were flailing around on the screen like dying fish, gasping for some kind of meaning and relevance.

"There aren't any instructions to follow"

And the next day there they were, stinking and ugly. And I just kept piling them up, one on top of the other until there were so many that the law of averages guaranteed that there had to be some good ones in there somewhere. Eventually, I was able to see some that were a little bit shinier than the others and I dug down and pulled them out. Word by word, I winnowed and shaped and trimmed them until they made themselves into a book! I don't even know how it happened! It was like the shoemaker and those elves!

  1. You may have to do some weird stuff to finish the book.

I did some really weird stuff to make it happen. They included kneepads. Also, you can never have enough binder clips, sticky notes, highlighters, scissors, colored pens, and rubber bands. I used the entire living room floor.

There aren't any instructions to follow and so you won't know what to do. That's the way it's supposed to be. Don't worry about it. It's your book. You do you. Don't let anybody yuck your yum.

  1. Inspiration is highly overrated. So is talent. What really counts with writing is hard work.

You can't wait for the muse to drop by. You have to invite her in. Actually, you have to send her an invitation, write her an invitation, which means you have to write. She passes over houses and flats and coffee shops, listening for the sound of tapping on keyboards and pens scratching on paper. She gets curious. She stops to see what you're up to and reads over your shoulder as you're tapping and scratching, and the next thing you know, she's making suggestions!

Holding Your Own Book in Your Hands
Books With Bisexual Characters
Do you believe in ghosts?

And lo and behold! That paragraph about the swimming lessons and the locker room has written itself. But you had to get ready for her. The only way to get ready for her is to keep your fingers moving so she'll hear you when she floats by.

  1. You need to pay attention to the habits you're making as you go.

I wrote a loooooot of words in coffee shops. I loved it. {This was the fault of a certain commissioning editor whose name shall not be mentioned *cough* Atlin Merrick} I walked through the door, and I didn't even have to ask. I was a regular and the iced latte and sticky bun, or the mocha and triberry scone, or the qahwat ahwaziyada and baklava were ready and waiting for me.

But I live in a neighborhood where turnover is high. I lost two favorite coffee shops (sticky bun and scone) during the process and it completely messed with my process. And then Covid appeared and there weren't any coffee shops at all.

Armies of ghost-eyed coffee shop writers had nowhere to go. I'd see them on the grass or at the chess tables in the park. There's a beautiful cemetery with benches close by and they extended their hours to accommodate all of us displaced and hurting souls. Without realizing it, I had trained myself to write in coffee shops. My writing behavior was under coffee shop stimulus control. And when the shops were no longer available, I lost my trigger. Coffee shop time was writing time. It took me a long time to structure up myself another cue. Now, when it's time to write, I make my own coffee, put on classical music and sit at the desk in the black chair. Checking Twitter and writing email is only allowed at the kitchen table.

Kameo Llyn Douglas is the writer of the forthcoming Sherlockian novella Rare and Wonderfully Made, publishing with Improbable Press in 2021. Meanwhile enjoy the latest in our 221B series, Darcy Lindbergh's just-published canon-era romance, The Watches of the Night.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published