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  • Nichelle

Update #2 on H&L (My First Novel)

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Last I left you, I had just finished my first draft of H&L (you can read more about that here) and we were going to “let the draft rest” for a while. Well, turns out I wasn’t exactly ready to let that draft rest, because a few days after I posted that, I picked the book back up again.

I did a full read through and made some edits (cutting a few scenes, adding a few scenes, making minor sentence changes). Since H&L was my first completed novel draft, I’ve never truly edited a story at this scope and it’s been... interesting. I’ve had a lot of moments of feeling like the best strategy would be to toss the whole thing in the trash (although I think that’s probably not logically the best choice). The main goal of this round of edits was just to make the novel better than it was before.

I haven’t touch H&L since Christmas and I plan on leaving it alone until at least February. Initially, I had planned on using this time to write a draft of H&L book 2, but I was struggling to do that when I’m not totally satisfied with some of the plot details from book 1. I got about 7,000 words in book 2 over the last 2 weeks, but I’m going to abandon that for the time being. I’ve also started doing some research on the publishing process. Obviously, I want to get H&L book 1 in tip-top shape before I start submitting anywhere, but I’ve started working on an initial draft of a query letter and things like that.

So what am I doing now? I’m headed back to a partial draft that I’ve been working on sporadically for the last 4 years (it’s the novel I mention here on grief) and I’m hopefully going to complete a draft of that. It’s a much different piece than H&L. H&L is pretty fun with lots of romance and a little bit of magic. Calliope (the novel I’m currently working on) is about grief and self-destruction. It also requires a more nuanced use of language (aka some skill).

Ideally, I see it fitting in with the millennial-angst category (with books like Luster by Raven Leilani, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh), which is full of such brilliantly written novels. I’ve always considered myself to be a slightly below-average writer. Like I’m not terrible, but I’m also not good and I don’t really understand how commas work.

I’m trying to remind myself that the only way to improve is by writing more (also reading more). So we’re going back to Calliope. I’ll keep you updated.

I also wanted to shout-out some of my favorite things that have been crucial to helping me over the writing process so far.

This Hogwarts Rainy Window: I had initially made a cute little playlist with songs that helped fit the mood of H&L to listen to while I write (aka it was mostly Folkore). While I still use the playlist occasionally, I found having something a little less obtrusive in the background was helpful. I almost always have this video playing in a tab on my computer or sometimes I put it on the TV. The rain sound is perfection and I like the visuals too. I’ve probably played it 50+ times over the last 2 months.

Query Shark: As I’ve started working on my query letter, I’ve been reading through all the archives from Query Shark. Janet Reid is a literary agent and she goes through user-submitted query letters and gives feedback to help people improve them. It’s been immensely helpful (I’ve gone through about ½ the archive at this point) to help me as I’m drafting my first query letter.

Brandon Sanderson Lecture Series: One of the most challenging aspects of writing H&L was constructing the world. I enjoy a contemporary fantasy novel (they tend to be some of my favorites), but they certainly aren’t my most read genre. Although H&L takes place very much in our world, there is a magic system and community that I need to create and insert into the book. I had very little idea about how to do that. This series was wonderful (and free on youtube).

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: This book is fantastic for everyone, but I honestly think rereading this at the end of last year was one of the main reasons I even attempted to write H&L at all.


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