Tag Archives: Evolution of a Novel

Writing Your First Book

Image result for the many, wyl menmuir

There was an interesting article in The Guardian a while ago titled “How to finish a novel: tracking a book’s progress from idea to completion.” It’s about a go-getter named Wyl Menmuir and an app he used called WriteTrack (now known as Prolifiko) to keep tabs on his progress/set daily goals over his journey to write – and finish! – his first novel.

The original aim was to complete a 44,242-word book in 124 days.

Before we go on, I have to point out a couple of things. To begin, I first wrote about a similar subject when I created a Page on this site called “Evolution of a Novel.” I described how much changes in the years (plural) it takes most authors to write a novel. I cut and paste a single paragraph, the opening to A Father’s Son, from its inception in 2006 to its completion in 2012 to its published form in 2013, and the differences between drafts is pretty staggering. Why? Because time had passed and I could go in with fresh eyes at each new stage.

The fact that Tolstoy and Ondaatje each only took five years to craft War and Peace and The English Patient, respectively, is insane. Arundhati Roy, who took home the Man Booker Prize in 1997 for her debut novel The God of Small Things, will be releasing her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, next month. In case you lost count, that’s 20 years for her follow-up work of fiction.

My own second novel is scheduled to be published next spring. I began the first draft of The Immortal Flower in winter 2001. By the time it comes out, the writing/editing/publishing of that single book will represent 39% of my life. Ouch!

Second, since when did a novel fall under 50,000 words? Doesn’t that get tagged as a “novella” anymore? It’s my understanding that most novels – even in today’s age of hyperconnectivity – fall in the word count range of 80,000 to 100,000 words.

Than again, maybe I’m full of **** and **** because Mr. Menmuir ended up completing his novel in one year, 10 months and two days. In the grand scheme of things, I’d say that’s still pretty fast, especially for someone who’d never finished a full-length novel before.

The real icing on this gravy train of literary sweetness, though? Menmuir not only finished The Many, but he got it published. Amazing. But there’s more! He not only got it published, but he was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016!

I therefore say to all of you out there who’ve been sitting on an idea for a book for years: Go do it! If you need an app, download it. Otherwise, read The Guardian article I linked to above and then tell yourself, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Set aside a single hour a day at first – even 30 minutes in the beginning – and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you may be able to impress even yourself.

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Advice on Self-Publishing

Ah, yes. Self-publishing. Just saying those words is enough to send a tingle of excitement up the spine of many writers, especially if you’ve never published anything before and hope to make it big. We’ve all heard the spiel, right?

“I self-published my book on how to make origami out of spent fuel rods and made millions!” Ivan A. Hump, author of From Rocket Fuel to Rocket Fun!: Blow Your Friends and Their Minds at the Same Time

“In a dream I had last year, Toonces whispered sweet nothings in my ear and said I should publish a driving guide for cats. Well, the rest is history. I not only had it published, but it went on to become a New York State Times bestseller in just 12.1 seconds!” Anole Lady, author of Cats Don’t Have Opposable Thumbs, Dumbass: But They Sure Can Drive Good!


For those of us with experience in this area, the feeling of self-publishing is part excitement, yes, but mostly dread at the long, winding path ahead that is fraught with ghosts, ghouls and goblins.

The good folks at ScreenCraft (@screencrafting) recently posted a piece titled “Self-Publishing Your Novel: A Guide for Screenwriters.” They also wrote a nifty little piece called “Web Presence and SEO for eBook Publishers (or movie producers)” that’s got some swell advice, too.

Although I myself posted on the subjects of self-publishing and the evolution of a novel, you can never have too much information/knowledge/advice when going down the self-publishing road. Every little bit helps. Truly and for trues.

For anyone out there thinking of publishing that story or book or guide you’ve been sitting on for months/years, all the while collecting rejection letter after rejection letter from agents and publishers, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about going it alone. Contact me at harrisrh@gmail.com should you wish to learn more from someone who has fought (bravely, of course, and with real valour) in the trenches of this burgeoning field.

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