I’m over halfway through writing my book. It’s not, technically speaking, my first — I published a technical guide to the browser geolocation API a long time ago, and self-published a short novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo — but it is my first really serious attempt at a novel. As I’ve mentioned before, while I believe there’s a market for it, I don’t have representation or publishing lined up, and I don’t know how it will be received. It’s a shot in the dark in the same way a startup is a shot in the dark.
Just as a startup can be de-risked, I believe aspects of a novel can be de-risked. So much is involved in the quality of execution — whether it’s writing words or building software — but there are ways to know if you’re on the right track. In startups, the worst thing is to spend a long time creating something and then release it to the world without ever doing any research. In writing, the journey is also valuable: the process is important in itself. And because it’s unlikely that anyone’s sunk $1.5M into your writing venture (at least for your first time out), you haven’t really lost anything if it doesn’t work out. That gives you freedom to creatively experiment.
Still, it’s very much worth knowing who you’re writing for, and whether you’re creating something they’d actually like to read. Part of that is in the craft of writing itself and the vibrancy of your imagination. Part of it is just in doing some research and understanding what people like. And part of it is in speaking to experts and getting their feedback.
I’m trying to do all three, while making sure my center of gravity is firmly on the act of actually writing. I’m lucky enough to be chatting with a mentor in science fiction publishing; I’m doing audience research; I’m working on every aspect of the craft of fiction writing.
Some days that comes easily. Some days, not so much. My daily word count varies between around 250 and 1500 words, depending on how much sleep I’ve had and whatever else is going on. Our son is about to be a year old, and has all the energy and inquisitiveness of a toddler. This week, for example, childcare fell apart, so the time I have to do anything — writing, working, taking a shower — has diminished. (Not that I’m complaining: these are hours, weeks, and years with him that I’ll never get back.)
This work also represents an interesting break for me. Normally I write and publish blog posts very quickly, or post on social media almost reflexively. I’ve rarely seen an online text box I didn’t like. On the other hand, this is a long-form story with a very long gestational period — and I’m *terrified* to eventually share it. That’s another reason to make sure it goes through rounds of editing, refinement, and feedback before a larger group gets to see it. There’s something so raw and vulnerable about this that I’m simply not used to. Perhaps that’s one reason why I’ve never got this far before. But I’ve come too far now to not see what’s on the other side.