After more than 40,000 words spread through 32 fiction posts, I’ve been able to compile a rough draft for what I hope will be my first published novella. Never one to embrace editing—I fully understand its utility and necessity, I just am not practiced or enthused at the process of doing it—I have made a concerted effort to redraft the story into one cohesive narrative more suitable to print.

Though I still have a great deal of content for my Wasteland series, and even a wonderful cover design, writing Pandora’s Box has been a much more rewarding process, and ultimately one that has reached far further than my previous attempt at setting down a novel. Whether it’s the dynamism of the characters, the clear direction and purpose of the plot, or the nature of the story, I’ve found it rather straightforward to polish up these posts and self-correct errors and omissions, making adjustments where necessary to streamline the prose.

“Streamline” is a funny word to use in this context though; I find that for every 2500 words I edit, I am adding about another 1000 in order to make the story flow better. At this rate my “little” 120-page novella will end up closer to a 185-page book, which is both exciting and daunting at once.

Recently I’ve been introduced to an editor who specializes in freelance, often self-published authors, and I submitted the opening scene of my story for her perusal, to see if we worked well together and if we really understood each other’s vision. I’m very happy to say that I’m quite blown away by her edits, which go light-years into improving and clarifying my intent. She did a great job in making the text sound like the best “me” possible, and I greatly look forward to working with her in early April, once I finish the full second draft of the story.

As someone who both craves and fears external validation, one line in our exchange really stuck out to me, and seeing it truly made my month:

I enjoyed the sample—you have an engaging, fun writing style.

Someone who’s professional life for the last twenty years has been the process of reading and critiquing other amateur authors called my work both fun and engaging—talk about a mood booster! It made me feel much better about the whole project itself.

I’m largely considering going the self-publishing route, probably through Amazon, but I really would love to see a local bookstore sell copies of my novel. I know a few in the area have sections dedicated to local authors, and boy it would be a huge compliment to see my own name, my own story, on that wall. So many others have helped contribute to the telling of this tale, and they will be well-recognized in the finished product, but to think that something I have written may be worth a brick-and-mortar presence is just an awe-inspiring dream to me.

As this is my first novel and it’s really just a vanity press project, I’m expecting to “lose” almost every penny I put into it, from the editing to the printing. Heck, I may need to spring for an ISBN code if I want to sell the book in stores, and I doubt I’ll even make back that outlay, over the life of the book.

What is important though is the experience—not just of writing the book, editing it, and of hopefully putting it out there for the world, but also of actually finishing a major literary project. It’s often said that a college degree these days isn’t so much about the subject matter and is more about the ability to pursue and achieve a goal. That’s what this first novel feels like—my first real attempt to reach that milestone. Even if Pandora’s Box isn’t a success by many metrics, having gone through the process and seeing my own name in print will be a pretty big feather in the cap, as well as prepare me for the next go-round.

I’m still riding the high of receiving that compliment earlier today, and it made me want to spend as much of the evening writing as possible, getting farther into my own work. I’m very glad it’s a three-day weekend because I think I’m going to be hunched over my laptop for most of it, trying to squeeze as much productivity out of my off-work hours as I can.

A preemptive thank you to everyone who has helped and is helping me through this process. Your support and encouragement truly mean the world to me.

Header image from the fantastic 1989 film Dead Poets Society, which remains my all-time favorite movie both for its inspirational message and the rich portrayal of the characters. To say it speaks to me is an understatement.