Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant Nikki Hyson delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to publication:
For the record, those two words still leave me in a state of dazed awe: Published Book. As a lover of words from a very early age, seeing my name on the cover of a book… just wow…
But you didn’t come here for the wow. I’m betting you came here for the facts. How did I turn a squalling, unwieldy, fledgling NaNo novel into something bright, shining, and ready to walk the stage with diploma in hand?
In November of 2012 I finished my third NaNo Novel. Like the first two, I loved every minute of it. The world building, the character developing, and the plot twists that came out of nowhere. In true pantser fashion, I even gave myself a cliffhanger ending that not even I saw coming. But that’s where it ended. It went on a shelf and I moved on. It’s what I did with all my stories (I have boxes of journals to prove it). Except, this novel, these characters, wouldn’t stay on the shelf. There was a quite decided “what if” hanging over it like a golden cloud.
I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, so I spent all of 2013 second drafting, asking a few friends to beta read, and polishing it with the help of a story coach. In the meantime, I wrote the sequel during NaNo 2013. Well, I didn’t make it out of Round One of the Amazon Contest. Still, two novels deep in the series, I started thinking about traditional publishing.
Over the next four years, I redrafted it twice with EJ Runyon of www.bridgetostory.com and wrote at least a dozen different query letters to over forty agents. Radio silence. Hmm. Give up? I nearly did. For a year, I stopped sending it out even though I’d written two more NaNo novels, rounding out the story arc and tying up the loose ends.
That’s when I finally heard the question that’d been nudging for a while. “Why not publish it yourself?”
There’s an easy answer to that. It’s terrifying! Having the final say on every word can be extremely liberating to most, but it also had me shaking in my boots. What if I mess this up? Of course, I was watching Batman Begins for the eleventh time. Why do we fall? To learn how to pick ourselves up.
All right then. Time to learn. I spent nine months learning everything I could about self-publishing, marketing, what to outsource (cover design!), and where I could cut corners (not buying ISBN and using whatever KDP gives you—for now, anyway). It was a crash course (thank you Chris Fox, Writing Gals, and 20BooksTo50k), but I learned enough to move forward—to plot a course.
On March 16th, 2019 I hit publish on my first fantasy novel, Second Door to the Right. On May 8th I published the sequel, The Forsaken Corridor. Currently, I’m second drafting the third novel out of my messy NaNo 2014 first draft. I hope to have it out the end of July. I still set aside time every week to keep learning, watching podcasts, and scrolling group feeds on Facebook. There’s always something to learn, some new direction to grow, and the words… they won’t mine themselves either. So, like Dory, just keep swimming. Just keep writing. Have faith. Keep your joy. Hope to see you on the shelf beside me.
After spending her teens hopscotching around the country, Nikki settled in Alaska and found it suited her. When she isn’t weaving spells with her words, she can be found snuggling with one of her senior-aged Labradors, walking in the woods, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book. She believes chocolate was invented by wizards, a good cup of Matcha can cure anything, and every maiden is just waiting to rescue the fair prince in distress. If only he’d stop to ask for directions. Visit Nikki on Facebook, Pinterest, or check out her books.