Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Time Mishaps



I've been writing for over a decade. In fact, I wrote a series, three books, before my fourth book got published. This is pretty common. Writing is sort of a "learn as you go" type of gig.  Sure you have to have a great premise. Yes, its important to take workshops and classes. Definitely read books on the craft.


But...But!


You will never know what you will face when writing a novel until you're 50 thousand words deep and realize...you don't know where this is going. Or you get to 40 thousand words and figure out your story was better suited to novella.  Here's my favorite...You get to 120 thousand word and realize...this should be two separate books.


You have to write. Everyday. Give yourself time to get better. Face, overcome, and learn from your own trials during the process.


I'm giving a workshop for beginning fiction writers and I get a lot of the same topics during the question and answer period. There seems to be common problems that crop up with first novels. So I thought I'd list a few of them and see what you other writers and readers have found in your own journey.

  • The middle sags - you get to a certain point and realize that your characters aren't really doing anything.
  • Your secondary character became more interesting - the whole Luke/Han Solo phenomenon. Sidekick takes over plot.
  • You finished your story too soon - Everything falls into place according to plan and BAM!...the end -- on page 150.
  • Your story is too long - You're on page 800 of your hero's journey and he still hasn't rescued the babe.
  • You have a series of pointless battles and/or car chases -  Because...well you like to write those. And that's conflict, right?
Over the course of the next couple weeks, I will go over each reason a first novel hits these snags and methods to overcome them.

And for those who have completed a novel...what was the hardest part? What roadblocks did you hit and how did you deal? What did you learn from the experience?

Until next time...Go Write!

11 comments:

DEZMOND said...

I predict lots of great advice on these interesting topics!

Heidi Windmiller said...

I'm a few novels past my first one, and I still usually end up with a sagging middle. But I've figured out to just keep writing and worry about it at the revision phase.

Personally, I think the hardest part of a novel is transitioning from writing to revision. I'm always super excited about a project until I get to the first revisions and realize how much work is left. Sometimes the first draft messes feel overwhelming.

I'm excited to read your advice on these topics!

Tessa Conte said...

LOL OMG my secondary characters CONSTANTLY take over. I think it's the mystery factor... I tend to think about my MCs too much.

Looking forward to your advice!

Eric W. Trant said...

The hardest part for me, and this goes for any story short long or medium, is NOT deleting the whole shebang!

I hate everything I write. Heck, I delete most of my emails and blog posts. Most of what I post is the undeleted portion of a longer post, see.

The thing for me is silencing that inner critic, the one who says, YOU SUCK, and trudging on through, and convincing myself that maybe I don't suck so bad.

This is different from inspiration. I am talking about the inner critic, the one who nukes scenes and stories because they aren't good enough.

This is the guy who refuses to submit. This is the one who refuses to try, and insists YOU SUCK for every word of every paragraph on every page.

I learned during a beta read that my critic is psychotic. A story I had nuked, but finished anyway just to get out of my head, and sent out as an afterthought, piqued my reader's interest!

She said of the few dozen stories of mine she had read, this was the best, the clearest, and this was MY VOICE!

WRITE LIKE THIS, ERIC! She said. THAT IS YOUR VOICE!

And I almost killed it, her favorite story, my voice, the one who yanked her into a story and insisted she read it.

Kill your inner critic. If and when I ever give a writing seminar, I will focus on this one point. Kill that little Fokker before he kills you.


- Eric

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Over the course of writing nine books, four published, I can safely say I've suffered from many of these ailments. The worst so far was cutting 20,000 words from my last novel. Killed me. Would rather add words any day than cut.

Thanks for your great insight.

Kathi

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My biggest one was coming up with another story to follow the first! My book was supposed to go solo, but everyone wanted a sequel. I managed to write one, but now everyone says it needs to be a trilogy. Oh crap! I have no idea where to take the story next...

Raquel Byrnes said...

Dezmond - Thank you so much.

Heidi - First draft revision can totally be overwhelming. I hear ya.

Tessa - I know...I think you're right about maybe I was thinking too much.

Eric - Wow. I've read your stuff. You don't suck. I guess that inner critic does need to take a hike. On the other hand, maybe this need to constantly get better and better is what makes you such a great author.

Kathi - Yikes, 20 K words slashed...ouch! I'm with you. I'd rather add than cut.

Alex - I was so excited to hear that CassaStar had a sequel! Can't wait to read that too.

Anna said...

My biggest challenge was resisting the Am-I-Crazies. I had to power through to the end even though I lost confidence in the story around 50K.

Linda Glaz said...

Ugh, the rewrites for the hundredth time. Getting so sick of your main character you long to strangle him/her.

Lois D. Brown said...

So true. I loved this. Summarize my writing career so far. :)

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I hear you! Each novel seems to pose its own unique challenges, doesn't it? I thought it would get easier, but... it doesn't!