From Idea to Book: The Journey of The Prisons of Magic
After three years of writing, rewriting, and stressing, my debut novel The Prisons of Magic launched this Tuesday. The journey to get here was definitely long and full of obstacles, but it was the most rewarding and exciting experience of my life. In light of that, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the numerous steps that went into the publication of my first novel.
I’ll be honest: I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing The Prisons of Magic. The only thing I knew about my book when I wrote the first chapter was… well… the first chapter. That’s where my idea came from, and I had to let the rest of the book evolve from there. Truth be told, until I wrote the fourth chapter, I thought I would write a book about teenagers testing the limitations of magic. However, what I had in mind and what I ended up putting on paper differed greatly.
This was the summer before my freshman year of high school and the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. With lockdowns in full bloom, I couldn’t go anywhere or meet anyone. Therefore, I decided to share my writing with the world. My friends had been pushing me to join the Wattpad community for a while at this point, so I decided to check it out. I did have previously written works that I could have posted, but I wasn’t ready to share those just yet. Thus began The Prisons of Magic.
The First Draft
Although I published my book on Wattpad on a whim, it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I ever made. Having to post a chapter every week forced me to write one every week. I told myself I had to get 1000 words out there by Sunday, and somehow, that gave me the motivation to push through writer’s block and a busy schedule. Even if the chapter I published contributed nothing to the main plot, at least I wrote something. I always double and triple checked my chapters before publishing them (the rule don’t edit as you go doesn’t really resonate with me).
Sometime in April of 2021, I could see the end of my book for the first time. I had what I thought would be ten chapters left to write. It turned out to be more, but I spent a few weeks just writing those last chapters. It wasn’t the healthiest writing schedule, but I did manage to finish in May and write THE END to wrap up my manuscript. As an underwriter, I considered this draft complete with about 55,000 words.
Revising & Editing
Surprise, surprise: I had a lot of work to do when revising and editing. After removing plot holes, I began my real revisions in July of 2021. I completely rewrote the ending of my book and revised the middle vigorously. Thanks to my habit of editing as I go, the first half required one major round of revision, but the latter half required two or three (depending on the chapter). Obviously, there were quite a few more rounds of minor edits that needed to be made. I spent the entire summer reading, revising, editing, and rereading The Prisons of Magic. By September 8th, 2021, the day before the first day of 10th grade, I had a 65,000 word book I believed to be ready for querying!
The Publishing Process
The publishing process ended up taking more time than the actual writing of the book. As this was the first time I tried traditional publishing, I had to do a lot of research to understand the overall process, the structure of query letters, and possible agents to query. I took my book down from Wattpad and began sending out emails.
After a lot of waiting and very few responses from agents, I decided to move onto self-publishing. Using The Young Writers Initiative’s alpha reader program, I received feedback on character development and pacing, which I implemented into my next rewrite of The Prisons of Magic before getting an editor through the same organization. I tried querying again after these edits, but the lack of responses continued.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion (as most debut authors do) that self-publishing was the best route. I then had to decide what platform I would self-publish on, and I did a lot of research on the options and spent a lot of time debating Kindle Direct Publishing (with Amazon) and Barnes & Noble Press. I still wanted to publish in paperback, so I outsourced my cover designing and hired a professional copy editor.
I was completely satisfied with my edits by mid-December 2023. At that point, I began interior designing. I designed my chapter headers, page headers, footers, the title page, the copyright page, and everything in between. I had a ton of fun writing the acknowledgments section of my book, while I almost had a mental breakdown over page margins. But, in the end, the finished product was worth all the time and energy that went into the development of the book.
Stay tuned for later posts including details on each of these steps and suggestions for new novelists. I’m still full of disbelief (I’m done!), relief (I can work on other stories now!), and excitement (I can finally share my book with others!). Get your copy of The Prisons of Magic at amazon.com/dp/B0BYR86YPN/.