What Comes After ’The End’?

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Here you have the face of a very happy person – me. You see, I wrote a book. Or, rather, I finished writing the first draft of my first book and that, my friends, leads to a smile like the one on the photo.

On Monday 17th of December, 247 pages and 90,742 words later, I finished the epilogue of Yellow Tails. I wrote the words ’The End’ on the document, looked at them for a while and then erased them as they feel somewhat cheesy to me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t finished the manuscript – because I have. In this photo, I have in front of me the finished first draft of my first book and I feel serene.

The First Feelings

On Monday, I knew I would finish the story that day so when it actually happened I wasn’t surprised, not in any way confused that I actually managed to come to the end of the story. Finishing felt like something very natural, like this was the way it’s supposed to feel. I walked to the bedroom to whisper to my partner (who was still quite asleep) ’I finished the story’ and felt the calmness wash over me.

But after those first feelings of calm, the emotion rollercoaster started moving. Encouraged by my partner, I decided to print out the book that same day so we walked to the university to print out all the 247 pages (I even made a time-lapse out of it). However, I didn’t only get my words printed out on paper: what I didn’t know was that my partner had actually made a cover for Yellow Tails! He creates digital art and had used his skills to make a book cover with the three main characters of Yellow Tails, balancing on a scale.

So, after printing out all the pages, he presented the cover to me and placed it on top the pile of papers that now was my book. Seeing that book cover on my first draft, my first book, made me burst into tears. The calmness I had felt up until that moment disappeared and instead I felt elated but also somehow relieved. I realized that I had actually come to an end of this phase of the project. Perhaps it was that book cover that actually made me realise what I’ve created and accomplished during the past ten months. Suddenly, Yellow Tails became real to me. Because it is one thing to have the title page written in Times New Roman – but to have a proper book cover to one’s draft makes it feel like an actual book.

How do I feel now, a few days later? Three things: 1) I’m happy for finishing the story without trying to rush to get to the end, 2) I’m proud for my perseverance, of what I’ve accomplished, and 3) most of all, I’m so glad for taking the time during these ten months to write my novel, pushing it forward 1,000 to 2,000 words at a time, and ending up with a first draft with a proper beginning and an ending.

So! I reached the end of my novel – what happens next?

The First Four Weeks

The book has been printed and it even has a cover. But for the next four weeks, I won’t be touching it. Or I will try not to touch it, at least. I haven’t really been able to keep myself from turning a random page and read a few sentences, enjoying my own writing and feeling amazed by what I’ve accomplished.

(However, as the story has been written over a period of ten months, I also notice some changes in my writing style when I compare the first fifty pages with the last fifty. But that isn’t anything to think of at the moment, that I will leave to the part about editing.)

I’ll pick up Yellow Tails in four weeks or so when I start editing it. But until then, I will let it rest, get some air, take it easy for a moment. And that is precisely what I’ve been planning to do myself as well.

These past four months have been tough on me as I’ve been juggling with several different projects at the same time. As my the first part of my thesis is finished and even Yellow Tails has reached its end, I finally feel like I can take a break from more or less everything that entails a deadline. Except Christmas, of course, which has a deadline of its own.

Instead of focusing on things that need to be done, I’ll focus on things I want to do. I’ll be ’sharpening the saw’, so to speak. Those things include dedicating time for some self-care: doing yoga, reading, writing my journal, listening to podcasts I’ve been postponing all Fall, even listen to music (I prefer to write, walk and work out in silence so I don’t listen to that much music). And of course, spend time with my partner and friends.

A Writer’s Buzz

But as a writer, I’m pretty sure I can’t keep my hands off writing or at least planning  something. Therefore, during these upcoming weeks I’ll probably spend a good deal of time preparing for what’s next on the Yellow Tails agenda: learning new things about writing and especially self-editing. What to focus on, how to get the most out of the first round of edits (do share your tips in the comments if you have some)? I’m already making a mental list of how to improve the characters of my story and try to figure out what a good editing pace is. I even wrote down a few thoughts on beta-reading and to whom I could give my story to read, although it will take a couple of months before entering that phase.

(So… I’m already planning and the four-week break has only begun.)

In addition to this, I’ll probably even start planning some new stories I wish to write and tell. During these past ten months, and especially this Fall, as I’ve been working on Yellow Tails, new ideas have come to my mind. Altogether four different stories, three of them traditional novels and the fourth a collection of short-stories with a specific theme. But which one will I choose? I guess I’ll find out sooner or later.

However, for now, I’ll be taking a Christmas break. Let the mind rest for a few days, focus on taking care of my body and mind, enjoy the fresh snow on the ground and make Christmas cards and presents instead of pushing myself to produce a good amount of daily words. Sharpening the saw can take one far – and we will see how far it’ll take me.

How Does One Become A Published Author?

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It’s been 12 years since I decided to bury my hopes for becoming an author and thought I wanted to do something else instead. However, after all these years, I still haven’t found a job that would feel right and fulfilling, something that I could consider doing for the rest of my life.

So, instead of searching for the this-feels-right-profession, I’m returning to my childhood career plans: I’m going to be a published author.

My ’Why’

As you already know, I’ve written four full-length novels (although only one of them has a proper ending) during my lifetime. That means I’m already a writer. But now I want to become a published author.

At the moment, I’m working on my fifth full-length novel, aiming to complete it and hopefully get it published. But how does one get published? And why do I even want to become a published author – why not simply write for myself?

What is my why for doing this? Let me tell you:

  1. Nothing yet has given me such fulfillment as writing does. Especially writing fiction where I get to use my imagination is rewarding. Therefore…
  2. … this is what I want to do for a living. I want to finance my life and support myself as an author. This profession is also something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, which is pretty awesome.
  3. Also, I have no clue of what I would want to do instead. I could consider having a part-time job on the side (owning a café, for instance) but my main focus would still be on writing.

The feeling of fulfillment is what keeps me going. Every day, after reaching my word goal of the day, I feel good, energetic, motivated and, best of all, proud of myself. And that’s something worth holding onto.

So, on to the next challenge: how can one become a published author?

Courageous, Stubborn and Serious

I reached out to a Finnish author who has published several books for young adults. I asked her how to get one’s book published and, especially, how can one become a full-time author. This is what she told me:

1. Be Courageous

If you want to become a full-time author, you must have the courage to throw yourself in the game. Being a full-time author means you seldom have financial security, but if you start your career by making sure you are financially well off, you’ll soon realize you’re heading against the wall instead of writing the book you wish to get published.

Instead, focus on the right things, take the financial risks and believe in yourself. Dare to plan long-term projects instead of only relying on smaller ones.

2. It’s A Real Job

If you wish to become a full-time author you need to treat your authorship as a real job. That means that you keep on going even if your financial future is unsure and plan your finances so that you’ll be able to keep on going even if you don’t get financial aid for your projects. As with any other profession, also a writer should strive for continuous development – learn new things, improve your writing and reach out to other writers.

3. The First Book Is the Toughest One

You will probably write your first book while working with something else at the same time. It’s tough, but after that you’ll hopefully get writing scholarships and other financial aid which will help you focus full-time on your writing. Just get your first book published!

4. Be Stubborn

One of the important qualities of an author is to be stubborn: even if you have a writer’s block or whatever you write feels like crap, don’t give up – just keep on going. Don’t give yourself a break.

The same stubbornness is valuable when you try to get your book published: don’t give up. If they reject you, do the edits you need to and try again. Or send them something else you’ve written instead. Be annoyingly stubborn.

5. Know Your Genre

Read books! Not whatever books but books that represent the genre you yourself want to write. This is important because by reading the kind of books you’d like to write, you’ll learn to know your competition (i.e. what kind of books have already been published), what do you want to write about, what kind of books you like and what kind of language is typical for that particular genre.

6. Practice Writing

Join a writing course. By joining one you’ll 1) practice writing and 2) find a community of other writers and friends who are interested in discussing writing and texts.

So, What’s Next?

After receiving these tips, it seems like the obvious thing for me to do is to keep on reading and writing.

I have my draft that I work on and aim to have the first version ready by the end of the year. After that I’ll edit it, have someone else read it and then I’ll edit it some more, after which I’ll send it to one or more publishers.

Feels like there’s a long way to go but it isn’t supposed to be easy, either.

I’ve been thinking about joining a course for writing. The Minimalists have one that a friend of mine recommended to me. I’m still thinking over the financial aspects of joining the course but I am curious to know how it would improve my writing. Have you joined a writing course sometime?

But what I know is this: it is possible to become a full-time author. And that’s nice to know because it will help me to stay focused, motivated and goal-oriented. I will become a published author. And hopefully I’ll be able to share my journey with you in this blog!