What is the biggest surprise you have encountered writing your first novel?
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When I first started my book I opened an empty word document and started to type.  I was good for ten pages then ran into some problems.  I had no road map.  I didn't know my characters.  It was like directing strangers with no script.  Disaster! 

 

I had to step back and process.  I opened another document and free wrote everything.  My mind dumping ending in an ugly pile of words. It did help but still gave me no direction and didn't get me any closer to my characters.  It took several months to sift out chapters.  Once I laid the map of events, then I had to go back and blow some life into my characters.  

 

My biggest surprises:  

  •  The amount of work.  A consistent schedule of 4 dedicated hours a day for a year and I am still flushing out the last of the editing.  
  • The difficulty of layering different subplots.  
  • I have clutch words. I never thought that I had go to phrases used when better words escaped me.  Trying to clean them out of the text has been a ton of work and is so frustrating.  
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Replies
  • Yes! So often you hear that great writing is unplanned, but I never get anywhere when I do that! Before composing the first draft to my novel, I wrote a general summary of the plot, a two-paragraph description of the setting, a list of major and minor characters, and a critical scene. It helped tremendously. I feel that if I hadn't done that, I'd have no novel. So I definitely agree with your post.

  • I like to have two WIPs.   Not because of the subject matter, but when I get stuck or tired of one I can work on the other.  Keeps my creative juices flowing.
  • I learned to take take mini breaks away from my manuscript because the subject matter is so intense there are times where  I break down in tears. Either I was crying or getting so angry with the antagonist I wanted to just box the whole thing and leave it for another day. So a little voice in my head told me to just start another story that is light and full of humor. So on the days that just seem dark I have something else to fall back on so I don't become discouraged.
  • How much time it takes. It is a process of slowing down and having patience, learning to enjoy the journey and not get caught up in the end result. Truly a life lesson.
  • It's okay, as you can see I'm not on here all that often either.  I think you're right, everyone needs to find their own way.  I was looking for some kind of magic potion or exact directive, as if I were trying to cook a soup, and it's really something you need to figure out on your own.  Sigh.  It's what I did with short stories, so I hope I can do it with a longer work as well.
  • Hi Linda!

     

    Sorry it's been a few days since I've been able to get back here. I keep the charts small online so no one sees book spoilers (my friends get mad). They're basically an online organization chart. It's the same thing a company would have, except instead of department heads and titles, I stick an "event" that I think needs to happen and I shoot wildly for it while I write. As I go, I can move the boxes/events around, so if I realize an event needs to happen sooner than I thought, I can easily shuffle. Some authors do the same thing, but they carry big rolls of butcher paper with yellow sticky notes all over it. (Funny, huh?) My chart is like that, but an online version.

     

    Everyone's method is different. Some don't plot at all. Some don't write until the plot is fully fleshed out with bullets and everything. But you knew that. The fun (and frustrating) part of being a new novelist is finding our own way. What you saw on my blog was me trying a better way of finding a great plot. It may work. It may not. Honestly, I think what everyone needs to try is every way (LOL) until they find what's right for them.

     

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it... /cue Mission Impossible theme

     

    Jen Kirchner

  • Linda, just write, write as much as you can as the story comes to you. Don't think about the character; write about her/him. More details will come as you write. Carve out a time for research but do not let it interfere with the writing. As me how I know.
  • I had several false starts to novels that petered out, or I would just write short stories. It was the Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) last year that showed me how to just get it all out and focus on massive word count. While it took dedication, I have to say, it wasn't as difficult as I thought. I found I enjoyed writing - a lot. I took a lot of chances, some of which were entirely edited out in the second draft, but a lot of it still works. I had to remind myself constantly to stop trying to continuously edit as I wrote. It takes practice.

     

    You should check out the Nano website (do a google search for national novel writing month) and maybe plan to do the next one in November. It was a lot of fun and helped me a ton.

  • I am currrently tortuing myself with self-editing. I want to send it out to my chosen test readers, BUT NOT BEFORE I TWEAK THIS ONE THING. I know I need to take my time with it though, this is my first attempt at an entire, cohesive novel, so I know the first few drafts will need work. Still, it's a LOT of work.
  • That makes so much sense, Valerie!  This is my main problem.  I'm going to really make an effort of letting go of the perfectionism, and needing it to be good immediately.  Another friend mentioned this, that you just have to write and get started on the writing, edit later, and in the process of actually writing I'll figure out a lot of this stuff.  But again, where to start?!