Done writing, now what?

Mid-November last year, I came across NaNoWriMo for the first time. 50,000, I thought. I’d like to take up that challenge. But I only had half-a-month left to achieve that. I decided to do it anyway, without submitting anything. Just something to help nudge me back into writing.

So on 16 November 2014, my adult fiction Strictly Professional was conceived. I was amazed at how fast I went from Prologue to Chapter 11 in just one week. But I got stuck after that for a few days. I tried really hard to think of how it should go from that chapter but I was driven to do a time skip instead. I wrote at least six chapters before I stopped again, this time to read everything I’ve written in order to see how I could connect the two parts of the book. I was met with a huge log blocking my path once again. Incidentally, it was already 30 November when that happened and I realised I had written 40,000 words. Not too bad, I must say, because I was supposed to hit 50,000 words in 30 days and I did 40,000 in 14 days.

For the second time, I read through all the chapters – editing and proofreading along the way, which are things a writer should not do while still in the process of writing their first draft. All editing should be done only after the whole work-in-progress has reached its ‘full term’.

I still couldn’t think of a way to put the two chunks together although I knew by then, that they would be quite a few chapters apart. That’s when I was hit with a massive writer’s block. For the next couple of months, I managed to write only a few hundred words at a time. And by ‘at a time’, I mean a span of two or three days before I stopped writing altogether for a very long period of time.

I knew in my head that I wanted to complete this book. It would be a first for me. I’ve written many stories before but none of them has ever reached completion. My best friend has been bugging me about one I wrote back in 2008. I’m determined to get back to it but I just can’t find the chemistry between us at the moment.

Back to my writer’s block… I realised I just couldn’t think of what else to write for Strictly Professional so I did what most writers would do: write other stories. I managed to come up with three short stories and two new plots. I was amazed at how fast I could come up with writing ideas recently. I’m considering expanding those short stories and plots to full-blown fictions after I’m done with my current ‘baby’.

It was in April when I surprised myself by tabulating a layout plan for all the missing chapters of Strictly Professional; all the way to the Epilogue. With that in hand, completing the book was a breeze. Probably also because I was rejecting any writer’s block I could sense coming at me.

13 May 2015 – my first draft was finally completed. I was excited and terrified at the same. I actually finished writing a whole fiction! Over 91,000 words. Something I would be proud of. Something that made me feel accomplished.

And then, I started my research on the different ways of having it published. That’s when I came to a fork in the road. I’m torn between traditional publishing, self-publishing and putting it up on Kindle. Personally, I would prefer to have it published traditionally but that would mean I have to hunt for a literary agent.

My research on literary agencies show that we have about 17 literary agents in Malaysia. Most of them are agents for technology lit. The others only deal with children’s books. I’m looking for one that would represent English adult fiction. Apparently, there’s none. It’s either that or they are hiding somewhere. It dawned on me that the reason why there are no (or very few) adult fiction literary agents in Malaysia is because there are no (or very few) adult fiction writers here. And this is probably because Malaysians hardly read. It is a really sad thing, actually. But that’s something for me to write about at another time. My other literary agent options are either in Singapore, the Philippines, the US or the UK. So I’ve listed them down – those who would be willing to represent a Malaysian author, that is.

So, what now? What have I been doing for the past three weeks since I wrote ‘THE END’ on my last page?

I left the first draft in ‘incubation’ for one week before I came back to do the massive editing and proofreading writers all over the world talk about. This is where the tedious part of writing a book really is.

During my first round, I read through all 29 chapters to make sure the timeline was unflawed, every part of the story connected smoothly, the plot was believable and the characters were consistent and ‘real’.

My second round of editing involved more proofreading and some re-chaptering which resulted in the book having err… 34 chapters now.

I am now in my third round. It is going to be done at a slower pace because I am also writing an overview of each chapter. I’m only at Chapter 4 and there are still so many mistakes popping up as I go along.

There’s just so much to do before I get to see my book in a bookstore. After I am done with the chapter synopsis, that’s when my patience will be fully tested. I will need to send query letters to all the literary agents on my list and wait for them to get back to me with the hope of getting some who would call me to speak to me about their offer.

Many famous authors were faced with tons of rejections for their first book and yet they’ve made it thus far. Read I’m in for a long labour.


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