1) FINDING MY VOICE
Air Pirates was originally a story about Sam (big surprise there), and Hagai was just the reader's guide into the world. I always knew Sam's voice, but writing from Hagai's POV was more difficult for me. Until one day Cindy finished reading chapter 4 and said, "I like Hagai. He's really funny."
Funny? I wrote something funny? I had no idea. I didn't even know that was possible. Humor was one of those things I figured I'd never be able to write. Like romance or contemporary fiction. After Cindy told me, suddenly I could see it for myself. Hagai really was funny.
Then I screwed it all up in chapter 6 by trying too hard, but that's beside the point. The point is, when Cindy said that, I realized I had a voice. I mean, I always had a voice, but now I knew what it was. I could see it, refine it, and most of all take pride in it.
2) WROTE THE QUERY EARLY
Somewhere around chapter 8, I realized I was unclear on the focus of the story. So I spent some time writing and refining my query letter. This was the best decision I could have made for three reasons:
- It gave me months to refine the query in small doses, rather than trying to perfect it all at once while fighting the urge to "Send it right now and see what happens!"
- It forced me to figure out what the story was really about and consequently kept me from getting off-track while I was drafting.
- Because I'd written less than half the novel at that point, writing the query was easier; I didn't try to force superfluous details into the query because I didn't know any details!
3) DEDICATED WRITING TIME
So, my wife is awesome. One of the myriad ways in which she is awesome is that she gives me 2 hours a day, most days, to disappear and write. Not only does it help keep me free from distraction, but it motivates me. It feels like I'm leaving for my job, and I know if I waste my two hours, I can't make it up later.
4) BETA READERS WHO KNOW THE BUSINESS BETTER THAN I DO
All my beta readers were awesome. I used at least 95% of everyone's comments, and Air Pirates is much better for it.
But a few of my beta readers had that extra level of skill and experience I didn't. They were harsher critics than I even knew how to be. They not only stretched this novel, but they stretched me as a writer.
Until a year and a half ago, I knew hardly any writers. The best thing that has come out of this blog has been my relationship with many of you: writers on the same path, many of whom know more than I do. I'd still be doing this without you guys, but I couldn't do it nearly as well or as well-encouraged. Beta or not, you are all awesome.