Monday, August 31, 2009

I Finally Finished My Novel ... Now What? (or So What?)

In the summer of 2005 I began what started as a short story about a boy going to college and working at a pizza delivery store. It was based in part on my experiences as a college student and pizza guy. The story continued to grow roots and branches until I realized I had the makings of something bigger. I continued working on my "novel" off and on in the following years, periodically writing poetry when I didn't have huge chunks of time to devote to prose writing.

I didn't mention this to many people. I mean, it seemed every writer had an unfinished novel they were working on, and they never seemed to have it finished. I didn't want to be one of those writers of the "Great American (Unfinished) Novel." I told my wife about it a few times, who nodded her head and replied, "That's nice," and then dismissed it when I had trouble telling her what the story was about. Who can blame her? I might have read a chapter or two over the years at some SAWC meetings, but other than that I felt I shouldn't talk it up if I didn't have a "finished" completed novel.

This summer, four years after starting it, I can safely say that I have a finished product, tentatively titled The Slow Constellations Wheeled On. Of course, finished is a relative term, as I expect to do some tweaking or overhauling of the story after having a few close writer friends do a critical reading of it. The ending was the hardest part I found. The closer I came to the end the more difficult it seemed to draw most of the loose ends to a close. I felt like I was trying to tie the end strings of a mop head together. When I did finish the last chapter, I printed the 247-page hard copy and read from the beginning, making notes of the character's names, fixing inconsistencies between details in the story, and looking for grammar and usage mistakes. Then I revised the whole thing on the computer.

Now what?

I read an article somewhere, and conversing with a writer friend about her own novel confirmed it, that the one thing I had to have in order to make my novel marketable is a "dust-jacket" summary of what the novel is about, so when someone asks me what my book is about I can have an answer for them. The following is a rough draft of what I think a good description would be. I don't want to be too specific in giving away details, and I don't want to be too vague, but I tried to describe it in a way that people could relate to its thematic elements.

"A coming-of-age story about Randall Spivey, a boy trying to survive the college scene in a small mountain town on his own in the absence of family support, balancing school and his job as a pizza delivery person, wanting to make it on his own yet battling the despair and loneliness that both pulls him to and repels him from his troubled life at home, facing hardships that challenge him emotionally and spiritually and bring him to the edge of the abyss."

The synopsis needs work, for sure. Eventually I hope to send my novel out to some recognized contests that offer the winner a publishing contract of some sort. I think I have something worthy of being shared with others. I've heard the hardest avenue to take is to send it to an agent. However, I am prepared for a future time when I realize that I will never publish it unless I go "vanity" and publish it myself (in which case it probably won't be published) and just chalk it up to a labor of love.

I'll keep you posted.


Deborah Wilson said...

Going 'vanity' - there is a lot of debate going on around the net concerning the pros and cons of self publishing. The good news is that many people are in favor of vanity - and some are even selling on-line, putting the book in pdf format and allowing download via credit card payment...

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving..:)

Deborah Wilson said...

Well, David, where ya at????

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...:)

btw - finally got up toward Asheville last week - snow was every where - vehicles stranded on the side of the road. Power outages, ended up having to rent a room at Black Mountain. lol

David Wayne Hampton: said...

Hey Deborah! I've been super busy this semester, teaching a class and having to read about 5 novels I've never read before. Hoping to get back to blogging maybe with the new year. Any spare time I've had this fall has been devoted to revising the novel (30 minutes here and there).

My kids were excited about the snow, and even in Morganton we have enough left over after a week to call it a "White Christmas." Hope you and yourn are having a Merry Christmas, and wish you the best in the new year!