I just joined this group. I am about to start writing my first novel and I am a little overwhelmed. I am hoping this group will help not only point me in the right direction, but help me stay the course!
Hi there Katherine.
Welcome to the group.
I am writing my first novel as well. I have come a long way since I decided to get back to writing. I am grateful to have picked up a few tips on the way.
You can do it.
Hi, Katherine. Congrats on taking the first step!
I'm sure you know what you're doing, but the easiest way...Start at the beginning. I know that sounds too easy, but it's really the best way. Start at the beginning of the story and move forward.
Chances are good you'll rewrite your beginning later, so don't stop to worry about the "message" or the clever beginning. Get the story on paper and see where it takes you!
Good luck. :)
Hi Katherine! I just joined it too and am hoping for the same as you! What's next for you in the process? I am only just putting my ideas together. Still have to finalize on one or the other theme......from there then to research and character sketches I suppose! Have ordered a couple of books which I hope will help me along the way. Any suggestions from anyone?
Just some general thoughts....
I'm not sure what people are asking for when they say "I'm about to start a novel, got any advice?"
Not that I'm any great sage, but I have to ask....
What are you looking for, exactly? There are a number of books on how to improve your writing: books about theme, and characters, and plot. There are books about what to do with a book once you're finished writing it.
No book or advice in the world will write it for you. :) I recommend Stephen King's On Writing, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, and maybe one more for the genre you're writing in (if it's sci-fi/fantasy, Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy is excellent, and On Writing Horror, edited by Mort Castle is great for horror).
All of them seem to come down to one thing, and that is you can only learn by doing it! Writing a novel is the best teacher for what to do, what mistakes to make, and how to express yourself as a writer.
I've written three novels, a novella, and a handful of short stories (none of the longer works have seen the light of day or publication yet--the first drafts are completed, but they need a lot of work), and each one was different. I feel like I'd have more to share if I were a "real writer." I think that, like riding a bike or tying your shoelaces, it takes practice, and you can only learn by doing.
Every writer has a different rhythm. Some say you have to write every day or you'll never get anything done. Some say work at your own pace. I find I write in spurts, where I'm writing a lot, then it seems to dry up for several months.
I also found I was most productive with the novella. Since it was for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I had a set goal of 1700 words per day. Before I started, I drew up a basic plot outline for myself, and an Excel spreadsheet of what "happened" in the story on each day. I also had character sketches for the main group. Then when I wrote, I'd start with one of the scenes in my head and see where it took me. Some days it was hard, some days it was easy, but it got done when I had a goal.
Contrast that with the YA novel I've been trying to finish for a course. It's been over a year, I'm down to the last third of it, and I've had a massive writer's block for the past six months (they gave me an extension). I'm tempted to just hand in what I have, since the next assignment starts the rewrite, but I think that's part of what's blocking me. And I'm so far away from it, I don't know where the story goes next--it's not like a thriller where you can just blow someone up and keep going, either!
So as you can see, writing varies wildly. I don't think there's anything consistent, or any real advice, except to listen to yourself and try on different things until you find what works best. :)
thank you so much for your long and informative reply! Part of what I am looking for is to learn just how real people set about writing their novels. In a way I think I am trying to reassure myslef that yes it is possible for little old me to write a novel!
I write quite a lot as it is, but up until now very little of my writing has been fictionally inclined (is that a term?!) However since joining She Writes my writng production mechanism has gone overboard and I am writing at every opportunity that I can find! And if I'm not writing I ' considering where my characters are going next. It's great fun, and that's what keeps me doing it!
But I still haven't started The Novel. I have written a few short stories, and am presently working on a 10,000 word serialized story. When i have edited and polished this I really REALLY want to start the Novel.
You've written a lot and it all sounds terribly impressive! Your NaNoWriMo experience sounds good too! Maybe this year for that.....though I hope to have begun the novel before then!
Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom!
Sometimes declaring that you are going to do something is all you need to get it done. Keep up the work! Let it happen. Most first novels are a wonderful learning process. I recommend you read as much as you write, resist a lot of editing until you are done with the first draft, and let yourself learn.
The first step is writing the book!
Many thanks to you too Cheryl. I really appreciate your account of how you juxtapose outlines and character sketches. That makes a lot of sense. Sort of like starting out with a road map but being prepared to meander down a few side routes.
Excellent advice too in your recommendation to never throw anything out as it might be useful later. I had betetr learn to pull my finger away from the delete button then! :-)
And yes, fun it certainly is!
I like using a "scrap doc" for everything I need to ditch. Anything longer than a phrase gets copied into this separate document and left there. If I ever need it, I can go back and find it. But usually I never need to go back to the scrap--it's just comforting to know it's not gone forever. Plus, then I don't have to save ten million versions of my file.
I just found an interesting video on YouTube, about plotting with circles and lines and bubbles and plot arcs and such... It's some of what I did for NaNo two years ago (last year was unsuccessful). It's worth a watch, if you have a bit of time. :)
I totally understand! Before I started writing my first novel, I was more than a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing a book. I had written many, many short stories - not a problem - but when I thought about 300 pages, 80,000 words, well, you know.
I was on the phone with a good friend and I was explaining to her how I felt. She laughed and said, "Pretend your first chapter is a short story. You can write that; you've done it lots of times." I realized that what she was saying was true. But, where to start? I discovered that it doesn't matter where you start, just that you start. (I would be doing many rewrites before all was said and done and I changed the beginning three times before I felt it was right.) So, I started writing!
Mixed Messages, the first novel in my Malone mystery series, was published by Post Mortem Press in April. I'm in the process now of completing the edits for the sequel, Unfinished Business.
My point? You can do it! Take a deep breath, pick up a pen or start typing. Once you build up the momentum, it will all fall into place. Remember, every day spent "thinking about it" is a day not spent "doing it."
Hi, Katherine! I'm new as well to the site and to this group, and I'm also working on writing my first (hopeful!) novel. There is some great information in these responses! I've done some myself, such as keeping a scrap doc with everything I delete from my various writings. Another thing I've realized over the course of a few years, is that a lot of the things I've written - sentences, short stories, poems, whatever - were all leading me to this first novel. Now that I've gone back and read some of my past stuff, and especially things I've written recently, they can all be used in different parts of my novel.
My advice would be to keep it all, and pay attention to what could be used to flesh out the novel you are currently writing. Just write!! People kept saying that to me and I kept reading it on all the Writer's sites or books that I read. But the thing is? It's true. Just write. Write anything and anytime that the urge strikes you. It's helped me anyway. That, and these types of sites are so motivating! What pushed me initially though into MAKING the time to write was joining a Writer's Group in my town. Once a month, I need to show something for myself, and it is amazing how easy it's been to produce knowing that I have that monthly deadline.
Good luck! I look forward to hearing how it's going!