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  • Writer's pictureC.H. Shealy

Writing My First Book

Updated: May 5, 2022

In February of 2019 I decided to write a book. I had never written a book and I honestly didn't know if I would succeed. I mean a lot of people say they're going to write a book but never actually end up doing it...or start one but never finish. Whether it be due to a change in circumstances or that well of creativity drying up, most don't succeed. So that begs the question, why did I even bother if the odds were stacked against me?

Honestly, I did it because I was in a really dark place at the time. Because I'd had this idea based on a dream that I had back in 2012… I know it’s cliché but I have really vivid dreams and when I woke up from this particular dream I ran to go tell my then boyfriend (now husband) about it. It took a solid hour and when I finished he looked at me and said, “Go write that down. It sounds like something you’d read in a book.”

So I did. I quickly wrote out a quick synopsis of my dream and then promptly got back to the daily grind. At the time I was fresh out of college and still trying to find my footing while wading through the murky waters of adulthood. Years passed and my career morphed. In February 2019, with the support of my husband, I made the difficult decision to quit my job at a hospital in town.

I deal with depression, which gets particularly bad in the winter months and that combined with everything at work had me spiraling. It was a difficult time but my husband gave me a purpose that I quickly latched onto. He told me to write my book. The one we’d talked about seven years prior.

I sat down and read over the outline I had written in 2012 wondering how the heck I was supposed to turn it into a book. So I started researching. I decided early on that I wanted to write a full-length adult romance novel, which helped me narrow down the word count. Now that I knew what I was aiming for I was able to start planning. I read countless articles on how to write a book, steps to outline your novel, and how to become an author.

When it came down to it I can’t say I used much of what I found. The articles I read all said I needed to have my entire book outlined, each chapter broken down, etc. That’s not how I work. I majored in English, so I have written my fair share of papers. Over the years I realized my style of writing is what I lovingly refer to as word-vomit. I have a basic idea of where I’m starting and where I’m ending. Knowing the required word count tells me where I need to have the climax so I write with a vague story arc in mind. But I basically sit down and let the words spill out. It’s usually a mess, and I have to go back and clean things up, but it works for me.

My first step before writing was creating my characters. I created small storyboards of between four and six pictures for each character in my book, even the pets, and placed them on a bulletin board over my desk for easy reference. I also wrote out a basic profile for each character including their full name, familial history, basic likes and dislikes, personality traits, etc.

The scary part was sitting down to write for the first time, so instead of thinking about it, I let my fingers guide me. As the book began to take shape, I’d go back and re-read the previous chapter before starting the next one. Sometimes I’d start off with nothing more than a basic sentence. Something like, ‘the sun was shining’. Then I’d ask myself why my character would know that. What were they doing? Where were they going? Why were they going there? Were they alone or with another character? As I began answering those questions the chapter would take form and the words would quickly fill up each page.

Don’t get me wrong there were days when I didn’t want to write, there were times when I’d get caught up on a sentence or a single word, but I tried to write at least one chapter a day. If I was having a particularly bad day or if I was sick and truly couldn’t write I’d make up for it over the next few days by upping my work count output.

I knew I wanted to get a rough draft written in four months. Knowing how long I had to write the manuscript and how long I wanted it to be, I was able to figure out approximately how many words I needed to write per day. I didn’t write most weekends, nor did I write on holidays. I treated it like a traditional job. I set my alarm every morning, downed a cup of coffee and grabbed some toast before plopping myself down in front of my computer and getting down to business.

As I wrote, I made sure to draw out floor plans for any rooms I mentioned and scribble images of any objects I brought up for reference later. I'd create additional profiles for new characters that came up and add to my primary characters profiles as needed.

I finished my book at the end of May 2019. I spent about a month going through and editing everything. Then I asked if a couple of close friends would do me the favor of reading through what I’d written and give me feedback ( I knew these two people would be brutally honest with me). When they were done, I went through and edited it again before doing a final read-through. I thought about hiring a professional editor, but I didn’t have the money so I ended up editing it to the best of my ability.

After spending a ton of time researching traditional publishing, I ended up deciding to self publish. I really just wanted to get my book out there. I’m not doing this to become rich or famous. I’m doing it because I want to create places for people to escape reality, even if only for a short while. I’ve used books as a coping mechanism for years. I also just genuinely love to read… though, I’m partial to romance. When I feel myself getting sucked into that dark dreary vortex of misery, I crack open a book and get lost inside its pages instead. Books help me escape my troubles and I hope my works can do the same for others.

I’m incredibly lucky. I realize that. Most people don’t have the luxury of a home office or time to dedicate to writing five days a week. Those are two things that helped make my journey successful. But if you’re looking to write a book or a novella, I want to be the first person to tell you that I believe in you. You can do this. Figure out what genre you want to write first and look into the typical word count for books in that genre. Then try to figure out how much time you can dedicate to writing and how long you want to give yourself to complete your manuscript. Having these things figured out will help you wrap your head around the process that is writing a book and aid in setting daily goals.

Finally, there is one quote in particular that I found myself drawn to throughout this process that I’d like to share with you. It gave me the push I needed to write on days when my brain felt numb. I hope it inspires you too.

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

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