One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog for my writing was so I can document this journey. I’m calling this particular series Where I’m At, because I want to fill you in on what I’ve done up to this point in my publishing journey. I’m hoping it will be useful to people with the same aspirations, or at the very least, be an entertaining read.
Perhaps I have started this blog too late, or perhaps this particular book has taken too long to get to this point, but either way, this is the story of how I wrote Hunting Vienna, my first novel.
Over the years, I’ve written many stories, started a few novels, even got quite far into one, but the single thing all these projects had in common was that they were never finished. I would think of a new idea, get really excited, start writing that instead, only for that fire to die down. Until I got a new idea and the cycle continued.
Hunting Vienna was no different in its infancy. Back in 2011, I had just finished high school and needed a summer project to hold me over until university started. I remember reading and loving John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, Maureen Johnson’s Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and the now classic, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. YA contemporary stories that got me really excited to write my own. So I did.
I didn’t know much about the story when I first sat down to write it. I can be the pantsiest of pantsers when starting out. I knew my characters and I knew the setting, Vienna. That was really it. The earliest scribbles in my ideas notebook show how I got from I have no idea what I’m doing but this is fun to Oh I have a plot now better start planning it.
The first draft turned out comprehensible and linear, for the most part. Which is a surprise to me, considering the above. I changed the name of one of the characters half-way through the draft, and I wrote a long chapter knowing perfectly well that it will not make it into the book. Everything else was as you would expect a first draft to be: a decent first attempt which needed extensive editing.
In September of 2014, I managed the impossible. I wrote The End on a novel. It was done. I had finished it. It had taken three years of my life, but it was all worth it. Looking back now, I can hardly believe I was able to write during those years. For long periods of time, I didn’t write a single word of it, I avoided the document like it was poison. Because there were too many other things happening for me to focus on something of this magnitude. I started university in my hometown, quit a semester in, met a boy, moved to Denmark to study at a different university with said boy, lived in three different apartments in three years, all the while trying to get my shit together and not go completely mad doing it.
I think I succeeded. Not going completely mad, that is. Answer may vary depending on who you ask.
When I completed the manuscript, I used my year’s worth of printing credit to print it all out. All 100k words/400 pages of it. I killed a lot of trees. I’m sorry, world. But seeing my words on paper drove in the fact that I had written a book. An entire book. Me. I had done it. It didn’t matter that half of the words were garbage, they were my words and I was proud. I made a video soon after I printed it out, talking about the experience. Yes, I used to Youtube. No, I don’t anymore, but if you are reading this, then you can access the unlisted link and watch the video if you so wish.
My book was called EuroDaniel because that was the first thing that came to mind when I had to save the first ever document of it. It stuck so well that it was difficult finding an actual title. I chose Hunting Vienna for now, but who knows what it will end up being called when someone will publish it. I’m optimistic, I do think it will get published. If not traditionally, then for sure self-published. But that’s a post for another day.
It took three years to write the first draft. Just the first draft. I’m now on my third/forth, depending on how you look at it. And it’s still.not.done. Writing a book is hard. Writing a book takes time. I hope my second one won’t take so long. But if you are reading this and wondering if you will ever finish your own first draft, go and get it done. It is possible, and it’s so worth it. Even if it’s bad, even if it won’t ever see the light of day, you will have written a book and how many people can say that?
And because I ended up cutting at least half of the first manuscript, and because I think that that half was so bad it was actually funny, here are some fantastic lines from the first draft of Hunting Vienna. Please remember that I understand these are terrible and I promise you the book is infinitely better these days.
There were no knives and scalpels on his mind, but there were a few internal organs involved in his thoughts. Mainly the heart. The aortic pump. The organ that kept him alive, but to which he paid little attention.
That was true enough. Back home, it sure rained a lot. But the rain was just as mellow and common as posh people at Cricket competitions.
Dan collapsed on the neatly made bed. It was so soft and welcoming. If only he could live life always neatly tucked into bed. He imagined himself hovering around town in his bed, going to work or to the shops. He could offer rides to pretty girls. Although that would be extremely creepy. Hey, pretty girl, want to hop on my bed for a quick ride to the tube station? Yeah that’ll work. If he ever wanted a sexual assault mandate. He giggled. Mandate. He found that word amusing. Man-date. Haha.