It’s been a while since I wrote an update on the process and progress of writing my first novel, with the working title of Life at the Death House, so I thought it would be a good time to give an overview.
I finished writing the first draft in February 2016 and then went through that with my trusty red pen, readying the second draft for a group of beta readers in early March.
I asked several good friends and family members to participate as beta readers, each with their own unique perspectives and skills in reading. My goal here was to get the reactions and comments from as wide a range of people as possible without opening myself up to an overwhelming selection of people. I had seven kind people jump on board with the idea, and have since had great discussions with them about their thoughts on the book. Thank you so much Carole, Gilles, Glen, Kayla, Mom, Noreen and Sabine for your time, consideration and positive energy on this journey. It has been so awesome to share this with you.
In the spring, I sat down with each of the beta readers to discuss their feelings and comments about the book. The approach that I took was to write down every idea and thought that each reader said so that I wouldn’t miss anything. I wanted to have everything recorded so that – even if my kneejerk reaction was to dislike the suggestion – I would give it serious consideration once I’d had time to sit away from the manuscript for a few weeks. I didn’t want to hover over anyone’s ideas, and I know that sometimes I can be a little too protective over my writing, so I worked hard at this.
I spent the summer – not working daily on the book, but often – going through the changes and the suggestions and creating a third draft. What I have now is a manuscript that has seen several major changes that, I feel, have really brought the story and characters to a more grown up and realistic place.
A couple of the changes made were:
Secondary Character Written Out ~ Rest in Peace, Beth
What a really awesome experience this was. It’s my first book, so it’s my first experience writing out an entire character, but I really loved the challenge. In writing her out, I was able to discover things about the other characters that bring them closer to the reader. I think that with the removal of this character, all the others became that much stronger and more relatable.
As well, the story now feels so different with her gone – different in a good way.
More Flashback Chapters Added
In the first and second drafts, I had written flashback chapters for my main character (Tyler) but not for any of the others. I – and the beta readers – all found that these flashbacks did a great job at connecting the reader to the character, making elements of his personality become clearer as to where they came from. The flashbacks raised the level of empathy for Tyler as a person.
It was widely felt that adding flashbacks for the other characters would go a long way to improving the connections between the readers and all of the other people living in the New Life House, raising the stakes for both the readers and the characters themselves.
Change of Title…
Another big change that was suggested was to update the title of the novel. The reason for the title The Death House has a poignant explanation within the book, but the title itself could lead readers to think the story is a horror/thriller which it is not. Thus, the title being changed to Life at the Death House made sense because it more clearly aligns with the story. The story is about the life that the people who live at the supposed death house get to live and the futures they plan to have.
The next stage for the book will see my awesome beta readers go through Draft 3 v.4 to comment and discuss how it has come along. I will take those considerations and prepare a fourth draft that a really awesome author – and friend – has agreed to read as a mentor on the project. I am excited to see what that process will look like. And from there, I will make the fifth draft which is what I will be querying to agents in the start of the New Year.
Writing a book and readying it for submission to agents is quite the process, and it takes a lot more time that I’d imagined. I’m glad that it’s taking the time because I think time is what makes stories grow stronger.
The nerdy side of me is also excited to start querying. I have been creating a hearty database of agents that I could query and will prioritize those. I’ve also begun on a synopsis and pitch for the novel. It’s quite the challenge to condense 189 pages, single-spaced, into two pages, but I’m really excited to give it a whirl.