Monday, August 16, 2010

What I Wish I Knew Before I Wrote My Novel

Whew! Thank the lord for WriteOnCon. I learned a great deal about the bizz and about my own writing.

So, today I want to talk about what I wish I knew before I wrote my novel.

I'm kind of a self-starter type of person. I once built a desk from OfficeMax and did all kinds of things wrong before I finally opened the instructions. So, it doesn't surprise me that I went ahead with writing my first novel before I really considered what goes into creating one.

However, I did take creative writing classes, spent time writing short stories and journeling my whole life, I just never really read books about writing books.

What's done is done. Now for my second novel here's what I plan on doing:

1. I'm going to read about how to plot a novel. I started with an article on eHow, How to Plot a Novel and then I bought No Plot, No Problem! by Chris Baty.

You're probably wondering how I managed to get through one novel without properly plotting. I wonder the same least now I do. I actually just envisioned my story and wrote. I had an idea of who my characters were and how I wanted the book to go. I learned however, that if the story isn't plotted very well then you'll know about it in the revisions. Yep! I am trudging through revisions on my first novel where I've had to cover up big plot holes, and ambiguity that might not have been a problem if I plotted first. Why oh why did I choose to write a suspense novel first?

2. I'm going to make and keep a style sheet or reference guide. Nathan Bransford and Anna Katherine both talk about the benefits of doing this on their sites.

You should check out both articles because the purpose for each article is different. Nathan suggests keeping details about each of your characters so you don't have to flip back through a couple hundred pages to find out if your MC's girlfriend's name has an E on the end or not, or whether your MC's new love interest has blonde hair and blue eyes or blonde hair and green eyes. Anna Katherine talks about why you should put together a reference guide for a copy editor and then they give an example of what theirs looked like. Examples from their article include, "I want "gray" to always be spelled "grey" and "we wanted "sulfur" to always be spelled "sulphur"". Not to mention they have a good reason to keep timelines handy for your characters, such as the school schedule (don't show your MC showing up in Science class in the morning in one chapter and then at the end of the day in the next).

3. I wish I had written my query letter and synopsis before I wrote my book.

Elana Johnson just wrote a great article about writing a synopsis and what book she read for such great advice, check it out. Why write the query and synopsis before I've even written the first five pages? It might just be me but I found that when I wrote the synopsis I found some of my plot problems and that's when my first inkling to rewrite my book started. I was adding fluff to my synopsis that might not have been in my book. That's no good. Can writing the query and synopsis first really help? I don't know. But when I get done with the second book I'll tell you. It doesn't hurt to try. At least you'll know for sure if you have a solid plot and a great beginning, middle and end. Same goes for the query. Why wait until you've put blood sweat and tears into a book to feel daunted by the query? Just write the query first and then see how far off the target you are when you get done with the book, you can revise it then.

4. Write First, Edit Second

I sort of did this one the first time. I actually thought if I edited along the way I was going to lose my momentum so I pounded out the first 64,000 words in 6 weeks and then added on 10,000 more words during the edit process. This time, I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo. This is a lofty goal, but I'm up for the challenge...I think. Why not write a book in 30 days? The writing shouldn't take a really long time (shouldn't being the operative word here), but it can. Sometimes writing a book can take years, because we are perfectionists, writers and editors all in one. We want perfect first drafts. Maybe because we still have a touch of insecurity and know a beta reader is going to have to read our book at some point and being that as it may, the book better be perfect. Nah! Don't think like that. Get your story out of your head and then go back and edit and revise as needed. I stop 10,000 words short of my goal just for revising and editing purposes. You'll find areas you can tighten, but you'll also find areas where you need to add more, leave a cushion in your desired word count for this. Don't arrive at a lofty word goal and then have to add more making your word count too big for your desired audience, i.e. seriously 100,000 words for an MG book is too much, especially for first time authors (even J.K. Rowling's first couple books are relatively short in comparison to the others in the series.)

5. Ease up on myself. There's no gun to my head.

With the first novel, I felt like I had something to prove to myself, my husband, neighbors, friends, and family. I took myself way too seriously and skipped out on some of the fun. I didn't have a blog, I was afraid to Facebook my progress, had no idea about writing conferences and all the fun writing groups and blogs are out there. I was lonely. Nobody really understood what I was going through. I was definitely missing out on all of the fun that goes on in the blogging world of writers. WriteOnCon was fun! And I'm betting NaNoWriMo is going to be just as fun. Are you enjoying your process? I hope so.

I'm sure there are plenty more things I could have done before I wrote my first novel, but it's never too late to start anew.

Anybody else participating in NaNoWriMo? It would be nice to be familiar with a couple of writers during this upcoming event.

What kinds of things do you wish you knew before you started writing your first novel? Can you think of anything I could add to my list?

1 comment:

  1. WriteOnCon was amazing. Early on, I submitted picture books before they were ready, before I really studied the business. I wish I would have waited. I think writing can always improve year after year. We can only get better!