My first draft of my novel took me nearly two years and it's a hot mess. I decided to start over pretty much from scratch. Oh and it's a historical novel, so I'm doing research as well while trying to write the second draft. There is no end in sight and at times I find myself falling into a hole of despair. There's so much to do! How do you stay motivated through this seemingly endless process?
It's so tough isn't it, particularly when you're trying to work around bits you've already written so you don't waste the effort, but just find it's completely limiting the new sections and you'd be better of just hitting the delete button.
I assume you're writing about something you love though. Where's it set? I adore history (although I make life simple on myself and go with complete fiction!) so the research must be fascinating and you're constantly learning.
And for me it's that excitement when you suddenly come up with a new plot line, a different perspective on an existing character, a completely new character, that gets you completely engaged with the novel and makes it something fresh and new again. I've just completely re-written the start of my YA paranormal book (which is going to have a knock-on effect on the rest of it), but it's so much better than it was and I'm really excited about what's going to happen next.
It sounds to me as if you're so focused on getting reaching the end point and getting it finished that you're forgetting why you're doing it in the first place, which is you love writing. You will get there, so just do whatever it is you do to get your imagination going (I go for long walks), and let yourself get excited by this incredible world you're creating. Good luck!
Yes that's so true. I tried working around what I'd already written and the story felt cramped and forced. That's what led me to just starting all over again.
I'm writing about the 1950's in Los Angeles. (It's not historical for some, but I was born in the 70's so I'm having to do the research.) I don't know LA that well so I'm having to learn about that too. Part of the reason why I chose the 50's and LA is because I was intrigued by it, but now I'm thinking why didn't I at least set it in a familiar place like San Francisco where I live?? But at the time it just didn't interest me. I'm starting to regret it and I'm even thinking of switching locations.
But anyway, thanks so much for the reminder and the encouragement. I do tend to focus on the end goal and get frustrated with the process and ironically the frustration itself creates a lot of the barriers to writing! There are reasons why I started this in the first place and it's easy to forget them. (I think I might write them down and keep them handy.) The world I was writing about did excite me at one point.
Good luck with your novel. Will you keep me posted? I'd really love to hear about how you'll deal with the re-write's effects on the rest of your book. I struggle with that too.
My first novel takes place in Britain in 500 a.d. I've been to England but not the part where my novel takes place. Still, you can find so much of what you need by imagining, asking questions, surfing the web. If you're really fascinated, the information is out there for you to find. One of my beta readers is from England and she commended me on knowing the terrain better than she did.
So two extremes - Petra with the challenge of recreating a time with little documentation to bring it to life and Jannette trying to recreate a time with a wealth of reality that you need to be true to - I'm in awe of you both!
Jannette is there an element of your familiarity with San Francisco making you feel not only that it will be less interesting to write, but also maybe less interesting for your readers? Wherever you set the book it's going to be exciting for the reader so if bringing it closer to home makes it feel more real to you, that could be exactly the boost you need to get past this difficult first draft stage.
I would also say your choice of location should contribute to your story. It should be a conscious, not a random choice. Why this particular place? Why this particular time? Why these characters? Why this situation?
On Absolute Write there are two threads (two volumes, because it got so long) called "Learn Writing With Uncle Jim." http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6710 It began in 2003 and continues today. Novelist Jim McDonald gives practical advice. One thing he talks about there that stuck with me is that every line of dialogue, every bit of description, every everything must enlighten character or move your story forward. If it doesn't, cut it. So even location must do this, and in the best books you'll find that the location becomes so integral to the story you can't imagine it taking place anywhere else.
Thanks for the link Petrea! What an amazing trove of practical advice!
It really is--"practical" is the word! The whole site is a great resource, as is this one.
This sounds like the first draft of my novel!
I ended up using it as an outline. Maybe you can do something similar, so don't throw it away. They say you have to do some bad writing to get to the good stuff. So congratulate yourself for finishing the first draft. You got that out of the way.
You may not end up as the kind of writer who always uses an outline, but for now it might be a good idea to put one together. I cut and pasted that first draft. I used a wall of the dining room (if your family's less charitable, perhaps the basement?) and taped it up with masking tape so I could see it laid out and move things around. I wrote cards with things like "battle scene here" and "transition?" and placed them on the wall, too. It worked for me to be able to see it.
It took me a long time to finish the book. I won't tell you how long. But I stayed motivated because I loved my story and my characters. Keep writing it for yourself. Keep loving your story and don't try to tailor it to what you think others might want.
Hi Petrea! I tend to ping-pong between just letting myself write and outlining. When I let myself write, the story meanders and when I try to stick to an outline, the writing comes out forced. I'm trying to strike a balance. I think the suggestion is great though, because I could make a point of revisiting the outline more. I tend to forget about it for long periods of time.
I appreciate the words of encouragement. You're right, it's about loving your story and forgetting about what you think others might want. I tend to focus on that and it freezes me up!
I wonder if it would help to think of the outline as a flexible thing that you get to change if you need to. I use mine to help me know what comes next or, if I'm at the end of a writing session, to write down ideas for what I plan to do in the next session. Mine fluctuates-- sometimes I know the ending, sometimes it's only a few chapters ahead of where I am in the actual story. It changes as I go along because the characters change as I learn more about them and their situations (especially in the first draft). If the outline is a fluid thing you can change as you see the story unfold, it might be more useful to you.
Yes, I think that would help. I don't know why, but I forget about the outline for long periods of time (like months.) I think reminding myself to look at it more often would be a good start and then letting it be a flexible thing is a great idea.
I'd say that the best way to find and keep your motivation is to figure out what motivates you to write in the first place, and then, more specifically, what motivated you to write THIS novel. Why this genre? Why this story? Why the urgency, if any to finish?
My issue with finishing was a self-imposed deadline, so that was a motivating factor for me. But considering stuff like that will help you sort out whether or not you want to continue and accurately identify your motivation.
Historical fiction seems tough to me, so I admire anyone who makes a go of it. Historical writing seems to take a ton of research and a lot more patience than I have.
My first novel was totally made up, and I still had a problem wrapping it up. Sometimes, I feel like I should have made it longer, and it was already over 300 pages. What a labor of love that was. Geez. But thank goodness, the baby turned out fine. :)