Updated: Mar 17
Three years ago, I started a project that turned into this 391-page published novel. It took a lot of mornings waking up at 4 a.m. before my newborn baby turned toddler woke up and before work started just so that I could squeeze in a bit of time to write a little bit at a time.
I knew I wanted to build a story around the perfect American town with the perfect citizens. Yet, in that town, something was amiss. What was the town's story? How did adults see the town? How did kids see it? I recently had finished reading It, and I loved how King wrote from both the children's and the adult's perspectives in that novel. I wanted to try to emulate that in this text. I thought history was important. How did the town become so moral, and how did kids grow up in that environment over the years? These questions powered Neighborhood Watch.
There were days I only wrote a paragraph. There were days I wrote over ten pages. There were times my writer's block weighed so heavy I had to step away from the computer and think about where I was in the story and where I wanted to go. I made rough outlines for the following day whenever I finished writing.
But the first draft was a far cry from what became the finished product. Between my excellent editor, Alison Moran, my grad school professor Seth Berg, my classmates, and a couple of people in the newspaper industry, I was able to fine-tune the draft into a product I could be proud of. Alison pointed out flaws in the story's plot and character development. "You need to strengthen this scene," or a "woman wouldn't say this," she might say. Her comments frustrated my writing process for the better. I found myself rewriting entire sections of the novel, but it made me better in my craft. I rewrote the whole ending because of her and am so glad I had. Because of my Story and Concept course, I had to lay out an outline for the novel and explain what I did for each decision I put into the work. Those papers and critiques forced me to evaluate my work yet again. My professor and peers offered constructive criticism of points I had never noticed before. Lastly, there are points in the novel that I wrote newspaper articles. While I have a journalism background, it has been some time since I have served my time on a paper. Having current people in the industry analyze those sections made my confidence skyrocket.
These edits consumed me for the same amount of time that the writing had. It would have been easy to throw my hands up and call it quits. It was painstaking having to figure out how to change entire sections. I had to throw my ego aside and put my trust in others. I also had to trust myself and decide what was worth keeping. Before I submitted, I also conducted thorough proofreads. I sent my manuscript out to several agents. Agents sent me back with several "Unfortunately" responses, or I did not hear back at all. After putting in so much effort, the rejection was disappointing, to say the least. But when you believe in the product, you cannot avoid putting it out there. Knowing that I had a strong product and believed in myself, I can only hope that it gets read by as many people as possible.
I will continue to query agents on future works and cross my fingers that one day a piece sticks. Until then, I am proud of what I accomplished. It has been a long and arduous journey, and now it is done. Enjoy reading it. I enjoyed writing it.
Find the book on Amazon here.