I did it! I finished the first draft of The Stranger, previously called The Extra (although the second is by no means now final). As you can see in the graph below, I began writing seriously on the 5th of November for NaNoWriMo, and it took me exactly one month and a day (excluding the first 3K words I wrote earlier in the year). The final word count stood at 63.861. This number will be going up as I will go through the next few edits, and I’m hoping to reach the 70K again.
So, how did I do it? Let me tell you.
Did I start writing the story from scratch? No, I didn’t. I finished Book 3 of the Suckers Trilogy in March 2018, and just after that, I wrote the first few chapters of this book. I didn’t know it was going to be another trilogy, but the more I thought about it, the more ideas I had. I didn’t have time to continue writing, however, as I decided to do major cover edits on the Sucker Trilogy books. This took me a couple of months (next time I’ll let someone else do it!). I then needed to work on promoting the trilogy in October. In between the scenes, so to speak, I jotted down notes on my cell phone. I used the Samsung Notes app every time an idea for the book popped into my head. I have two pages of them (the Note app has a limit on how much you can put on each page). Some notes I have used, some I haven’t, but you never know when they’re coming in handy, so I’m not deleting them. I still have two books to write :).
My book plays in Alaska. Why? Because I needed a place where paranormal creatures could live in relative obscurity. Werewolves need to be able to run unseen. Vampires need to be able to drink blood without being caught. And Alaska is a pretty remote place. One day, I Googled the map for Alaska and found this lake called Deadman Lake. I had found the perfect spot for my story!
The Real Research
Now I knew where my novel was going to take place, I tried to read up and watch documentaries on everything Alaska. What were the daylight hours? How cold did it get in winter? What animals live there? What is it like for humans to live there? A mistake I make when writing my first Suckers Trilogy book was that that I assumed what country towns in Maine looked like. I had no clue. I actually made a similar mistake in The Stranger. A typical house in the UK has an upstairs, and I assumed this to be the case in Alaska as well (like in Maine). Only halfway did I realize this was so wrong, and I had to rewrite certain passages.
One of the ‘in-depth’ researches I did was when I contacted another writer who had lived in the area. We had an online, live conversation, and she could give me a lot of answers to questions I had. I also bought Nora Roberts’s book Northern Lights, a story which also plays in Alaska. I haven’t finished it, but it very much regurgitated all the things I had learned so far about living in Alaska. I was on the right track!
The Actual Writing
As mentioned earlier, I only began writing on the fifth day of November, and by the time it was the fifteenth of the month, I only had written for six days and hadn’t even passed the 20K word mark. I was running behind big time and needed to up my game. Competitive as I am, I set all other things aside and began treating my writing as a full-time job. This did it the world of good. I limited my time on social media. I even turned off the notifications on my phone. Sorry, I lie. This was actually a remnant from my filming session with Aberdeenshire Film Productions late October, and I simply forgot to turn it back on again. I don’t think I will, to be honest, as I don’t want to be a slave to Facebook and Twitter anymore.
Writing At Last
What was it like to actually write after half a year? Awesome! Even though I had been thinking about this story for months, I refused myself to think up an ending already, literally going LALALALALA in my head when my mind even hinted going into certain directions. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with Book 3 in the Suckers Trilogy and spoil the fun. I sort of had an idea of what the moral of the story was (oh yes, it has one), but I kept an open mind on how to put it in there. I preferred to let my characters take me on their journey, leaving all directions open (north, east, south, and west). And during all of my writing, I have faced many, many directions. Sometimes I turned into directions that I immediately backtracked and erased. Most times, however, I just took some time looking around at the crossroads and chose the option that was the most interesting.
This story is different in that it definitely complies to being a romance. The Suckers Trilogy is rather dark whereas I kept this story reasonably light. I’m not sure yet if the next two stories are going to stay this light, but romance lovers are certainly not going to be disappointed with this one. There’s (only) one semi-descriptive love scene in it, and I had to change the age of the main character from 17 to 18 to keep everybody happy. No, this doesn’t make it erotica. I had to look up what the difference was to make sure for you, but this story still holds if you take out the loving, so no erotica.
At one point, something happened that I didn’t anticipate at all. All of a sudden, this character appeared, out of the blue, knocking me off my feet, throwing a spanner in the works, so to say. But it made it so much more fun, giving the story so much more depth. It’s going to be one of the red lines that run through all three of the stories. I just love it when things like this happen!
Having an Editor
The first draft is done, and I’ve actually already finished the first edit. I love this story so much that I couldn’t stop working on it! 😀 I’m trying to make this production the most professional one I’ve done so far, so it’s going to be interesting how much time it will take. Being more professional also means I have an editor booked in January (which is pretty organized for me). I have the next two weeks to polish the story and get it ready for the editor. She already told me I’ve got a habit of head-hopping (a remnant trait from my first-person point of view writing of the Suckers Trilogy) before I started writing this book, but I’ve caught myself still doing it. So quite a few scenes need to be re-written.
I’m hoping I can find some alpha/beta-readers in my email list (but if you’re not, I’ll still welcome you!). I already have one person who has put his hand up for being a beta-reader (yay!). As I write ‘on the fly’ or ‘pantsing’ as they say, my story has no pre-checked structure. I go with the flow and hence some sections may be too slow, too fast, or perhaps not necessary at all. I need someone to tell me this to make the story better.
My editor will do a light edit. She already told me my writing isn’t bad at all (You have a firm handle on voice, style, grammar, and punctuation), so it will mostly be a vocabulary and possibly a little grammar improvement here and there, plus help with my POV and chapter changes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed she won’t find any plot holes. As I’ve changed directions so many times in the story, I hope I can correct any wrong assumptions I had at the beginning of the story. Once I’ve gone through her notes and made my changes in February, she’ll proofread the work, and it can go to beta-readers to be read in March-April. So, if you have some time in your schedule and would like a free book, put your hand up! (and email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the meantime, I need to organize a cover. At first, I was thinking about a cartoon-style cover, but now I’ve written the story, I don’t think that’s the way to go. It’s not that funny. I still don’t have any idea for a cover, so I’m open to any suggestions (cover or cover designer). Let me know if you know of a great designer.
All-in-all, I can’t wait to get this story on the market and to my readers. I just know they’re going to love it as much as I do!