Writing My First Novel

May 30th, 2006

Discussion, we hope, from writers working on their first novel: their trials, tribulations, experiences, triumphs, despairs, and the joys of stubborn persistence.

718 Responses to “Writing My First Novel”

  1. Jenon 15 Jun 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Getting started at all is the hardest part. Seriously. Staring at a blank notebook page or a blank word-processing screen can be so intimidating. You make excuses not to start – I have to go to work/school/the gym/the grocery store. I’ll write better when I have more time.

    But then, when am I going to have more time? There’s always things to do. I’ll only have the time to write when I make the time to write. That’s the hardest lesson I’ve learned so far.

  2. Muneravenon 15 Jun 2006 at 3:05 pm

    I just finished my first novel. Over 540 pages. My second proofreader is going through it now and then I will do one last rewrite and send it out into the world, where I will find out if anyone but me (and my proofreaders, bless them) loves it.

    The thing that most surprised me when I finished it is that I am glad I did it no matter what happens next. I did indeed write it to share with other people, and I want it to be published, but even if it never gets made into a real book, I feel quite happy and proud to have written it nonetheless. I thought I would feel more angst-y about the difficulties of achieving publication. Instead I feel I learned so much and worked so hard that the process itself has great value to me.

    I just wanted to share that with first-novel writers. It’s quite something to finish. It’s worth all those days when you couldn’t find your way in the story and you mashed your forehead on the keyboard until you have little squares on your face for the rest of the day. :-D

    –Karen

  3. BDenzon 15 Jun 2006 at 4:58 pm

    My favorite part of writing has always been research, even knowing that I won’t be able to use more than 1/10th of what I find out. But after 17 years of researching my first novel (a Crichton-esque techno-thriller), enough is enough already. I have a beat outline that I’ve hammered on for probably 10 of those years and threw out within the first week of starting writing. Figures. I have lots of characters, some of whom I plan to kill off, but WHICH ones remains in flux. I have an interwoven plot that rivals bad macrame or a drunken spider’s web.

    The problem for the past 10 years has been that my job of technical writing uses the same brain pathways as fiction writing (some would say that all computer software help is fiction … I wouldn’t disagree) and after 10-14 hrs of massaging computer information down to its essence, I didn’t have the energy to write fiction, too. So I’m taking a hiatus from technical writing and concentrating on getting this puppy rolling.

    I finished what I THOUGHT was the prologue and sent it out to my writer’s group (not all genre readers) and a couple of friends who have been begging me to write this thing for years. While those who know our genre cold came back with cries for more and minor tweaks, those not in genre were confused by names, by the number of characters, by the slowness of the plot, and a desire to know NOW what the title means. So I’m restructuring and writing a new prologue and changing the characters a little.

    It’s going to be fun to take my frustrations out here as I go.

    -Barb

  4. Jellyn Andrewson 16 Jun 2006 at 6:35 pm

    My major problem also is getting started. I signed up for Nanowrimo two years in a row. The first year, I wrote a short short story. Which was something for me. The next year, not even that much. For a couple of years now, I’ll look at the Clarion application guidelines and the deadline will get closer and closer, and I’ll still not have even two or three stories to submit. I have characters, I have ideas, I even have a few plots, which is not my strong suit. It’s not writer’s block as I understand it. But clearly something pyschological is going on.

    The advice ‘writers write’ and ‘butt in chair’ is the hardest part for me at the moment.

  5. Barbara Denzon 17 Jun 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Kit and Alis tapped me as a sort of SysOp for this topic, so I’m jumping in here. Feel free to tell me to butt out.

    Jen — There’s ALWAYS something else to do. For years, I used cleaning and neatening as an excuse, knowing I would never achieve it. I meant to. I really did. Now I know that clutter is just generic and when I’ve had enough of mess, I’ll do something about it, but until then … well … I’ll try to write.

    I’ve gotten some of my best advice from Kit and Judith Tarr. From Kit — If you’re going to be a full-time writer, then treat it like a full-time job. When there’s a novel in progress, plan 2 hrs/day reviewing what you did yesterday and 4-6 hrs/day doing new stuff. From Judy — If what you’re writing isn’t flowing the way you want it to, go write on something else, or cook, or go for a walk, or read it aloud and see what stumbles. Just don’t sit there and stare at it. But you’re right. You’ve identified the hardest thing about writing — making the time.

    Karen — Congrats! You’re SO much further than I am. I envy you. Now that you’ve finished this one and it’s ready for the world to take it on, what’s next? What lessons can you impart here on your process? Details, girl. We want details.

    Jellyn — That IS the hardest part. I always loathed outlines and have never done a short story where I’ve used one, but novels are very different. Damon Knight said that there are two kinds of writers — methodical writers and spurt writers. Methodical writers do the “sit in chair, apply 2 hours to writing nightly, edit as you go.” Spurt writers (which he claimed to be and which I KNOW I am) mull over the ideas in their heads until they figure out what to do, then sit down, growl at anyone who interrupts them, and write as long as it takes to get the ideas out. Editing is not an option. Hell, often eating and sleeping are not options. The muse just takes over.

    I would love to be a methodical writer. And for a novel, I think one really needs to be at least somewhat methodical. But my methodical was in the preparation — I have a “beat” outline — something used in the entertainment industry to keep the pacing correct. Beats are like heartbeats — slower as you’re building, faster as the crisis takes over the book. I’ve had it for 10 years. What was stopping me was one plot point that I couldn’t seem to resolve in my head. Once it resolved, I could write.

    There’s nothing “psychological” (in the pejorative sense) going on for you. Your brain just isn’t ready yet. Try the outline. It really does work and there are lots of places around that describe them. Hell, I’ll bet the more senior writers here would tackle it if we asked nicely.

    Barb

  6. Katharine Kerron 18 Jun 2006 at 5:10 am

    Hi, everyone! Welcome, and feel free to vent your frustrations here! However, please don’t vent them on each other. Remember that Barb has hidden powers, and she knows how to use them.

    Getting started is indeed hard, and sometimes keeping on going is even harder. Here’s a trick that works for me when the words dry up.

    Bet you can write just one. One sentence, that is. Try writing a single sentence — it can be stupid, as you can always revise later. Write the sentence, then call it a day. Next day, write another one. This time, if you feel like it, write a second sentence as well. Once you can turn out a sentence or two on demand, try writing just one paragraph, then one page, then one entire scene, and so on. Eventually the momentum will return, and you’ll be able to turn out 5-10 pages a day, a good goal for professionals.

    Remember this as well. Even if you only write just one page a day, in a year you will have 365 pages, which is a good size for a genre novel. The task is not as endless as it seems.

    Barb — don’t dismiss those comments by non-genre readers. A book of the sort you’re writing can sell really well if it draws in those who normally don’t read that particular thing. Consider Michael Crichton and his millions. His early works were SF, but SF tailored to the general audience in structure and “information feed.” It worked.

  7. Kate Elliotton 19 Jun 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Jellyn, one thing I’ve sometimes done that happens to work for me is to ask myself, ‘is there something I fear that is causing me to hesitate?’ If there is, and you can identify it, then often by giving it a name you have the power to, if not banish it entirely, at least to look it in the face and keep moving forward.

    This isn’t true for everyone, but it can be useful.

  8. makoiyion 19 Jun 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Heh, the ‘first’ novel was quietly trunked. The second novel followed closely. The third is waiting a rewrite. The fourth and fith are being written now.

    Yes, the hardest thing is writing it, and then learning that it’s crap. I don’t necessarily mean the plot or storyline but the fact you’ve added an adverb a line, used weak verbs, used ‘as you know bob’ and every other sin known to writers. You become obssessed with ‘getting it right’ and by the time you’ve finished you end up with a novel full of generic prose, with everything fully explained to nth degree, and a case of pronounitis.

    Then you ask, where has the passion gone? So you get to number six. You write it and then some wise ass says, Oh, that’s a trope, or it’s been done twenty million times before, it’s unfortunate that you haven’t read anything like it.

    Number seven, and an agent wants to see it. Wahooo! great. They read it and say your plot kinda dribbles away, your characters are wishy washy and it’s a total mary sue. But it’s got some merit and if you rewrite it we’d like to see it again. By which time you have either had a nervous breakdown or you are so mad you write another one. You ask, well, if I haven’t got anywhere yet, will I ever?

    The answer is. It doesn’t matter. A writer is someone who loves to write and writes with passion. It doesn’t pay the bills unless your name is Stephen King. So why does anyone want to get published? The answer to that in my case, is this wanting to share what I’ve written and I couldn’t stop writing if I tried.

  9. Jellyn Andrewson 19 Jun 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks to everyone for their comments! I think some of them helped. Or maybe talking about it did. I wrote something yesterday, which is more than I’ve done in a long time.

    Kate Elliott said:

    Jellyn, one thing I’ve sometimes done that happens to work for me is to ask myself, ‘is there something I fear that is causing me to hesitate?’

    I’ve thought about this before and I think it’s true. I probably need to think about it further and figure out exactly what it is. Even the idea of sitting down to try to figure out the answer by writing a journal-type entry is daunting for some reason. So I suppose that’s a clue there.

    I want to thank you guys for starting this blog. The postings have been interesting already. I also found the feminist sf blog from here, which has also been interesting and has made me think about some new things.

    If people are curious, I made my way here because Amazon’s front page recommended Carol Berg’s Amazon blog to me and she has a post pointing to here. I’m glad I found it.

  10. Carol Bergon 20 Jun 2006 at 1:23 am

    Karen, you should be happy and proud to have completed a novel. You are definitely in the minority. What is it, 70% of people who start a novel never finish? Good for you.

    And I hope that while your readers are taking a look that you are starting something else! Set that first one aside for a while, work on something else, keep learning about writing, and then go back and take another look. When I survey writers about the first step in the revision process, without fail they tell me: set the book aside for a month/two months/whatever. Distance gives you perspective. Good luck, and keep having fun!

    Carol

  11. M.T.on 20 Jun 2006 at 1:53 am

    I came here from Carol Berg’s blog as well. I do love her ‘Song of the Beast’ book.

    To be honest, I feel kind of daunted posting here. I find that I tend to read more than post, and this is one of the few places where I posted more than just a couple lines within a few days, and more than once. I don’t know- I just find it a little wierd.

    I’m terrible at explanations. When I try to write something, I always meander all over the place. I have a goal in mind, but it never comes out the way I need it to, be it story, essay, or just ‘writing’. It gets even worse when I try to explain something in real life.

    At the same time, I still love to write. I’ve given up on trying to make my writing ‘perfect’ on the first go, hoping that when I get around to revise it that it’ll somehow fall into place on its own. I make too many notes, often have a paraphrased but disorganized version of the original plot, and secondary characters that somehow have more life than the main characters.

    I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the main character of my current fantasy story. He’s gotten better in the past months, and lost years of his backstory are finally becoming clear, but his character leaves something to be desired. Might be because he’s a bit too much of the ‘stay in background’ type, someone who doesn’t take direct action unless he’s forced to. The first section of the story doesn’t have him doing much, making me wonder if a character like that would turn off a random reader.

    As for the, uh…science fiction story (which I posted the beginning of in 13 lines)… Uh, well. I found Kevin Murphy’s suggestions to be quite helpful, and would like to thank him for taking the time to read my terrible work. (I wasn’t sure if I could post right on the 13 lines page, so…) I wasn’t really looking at the details at the time and was focusing more on the tone, but I do understand that bad details can get in the way. I’ll fix them once I finish the rest of the short story. …because revisions are starting to scare me.

  12. Nick Argallon 20 Jun 2006 at 2:36 am

    I just added a sentence to the story that has spent six months being ‘irretrievably stalled’. Two sentences, actually. If I give myself a few hours, I may be able to add a third, but maybe I’ll let that wait until tomorrow.

    But the ice is most definitely cracking. Thank you.

  13. makoiyion 20 Jun 2006 at 7:59 am

    I think it does make a huge difference ‘talking’ about writing. I don’t mean to the exclusion of actually writing ‘the novel’, but writing in a vacuum and not knowing if anything is any good is hard.

    It might be a cliche but the more you write the more you learn, and every novel I’ve written some ephiphany will strike even if it’s something small like how to avoid writing passively, or how to write those seamless sentences that the authors here use.

    I think, and I’d love to hear this from one of the authors here, that each book is as difficult, if not harder, than the previous one, and an author never stops learning. Personally I find the idea of that exciting rather than daunting. There’s that wonderful feeling when you know something works.

  14. Rachel Dunneon 20 Jun 2006 at 11:03 pm

    I have five “first novels” collecting dust on my hard drive, and crying at me daily to get serious, sit down, and write instead of staring blankly at the screen and hoping something jumps out at me.

    My problem is that I get too easily distracted. I’ll sit down at my computer and swear to myself that I’ll write at least a page before I’ll allow myself to do anything else; it works for the first few minutes, but as soon as I look up from the screen, there goes any hope og acheiving said goal. I don’t have a problem starting novels, it’s finishing them that I can never do. I usually get just over a hundred pages, start rereading bits and pieces to see how I’m doing, and decide it’s all crap. I completely restarted the novel I’m working on now because I convinced myself I hated the beginning.

    Another problem I have is the infamous “info dump.” An all-knowing character suddenly appears and gladly enlightens the main character, who then skips cheerily off to follow his Great Destiny. I can’t seem to get around it.

    Ah, it does feel good to vent!

  15. makoiyion 21 Jun 2006 at 9:55 am

    Racgel said : I don’t have a problem starting novels, it’s finishing them that I can never do.

    May I make a suggestion? Write crap. I’m serious. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter how awful it is, as along as you finish it. Pick one, maybe the one you like most. Don’t worry how ghastly it is, just write, even if it’s just the outline of what you want. If you are a bit of a perfectionist you will look at that and make it much better later.

    And it doesn’t matter how awful a first draft is. Who else is going to see it? We’re out own worst critics.

  16. Kate Elliotton 22 Jun 2006 at 5:43 am

    Each novel gets harder to write because I know more, while never knowing enough. As I gain more experience, I set higher goals for myself in my writing even if I’m not conscious of them. Therefore, each book is harder to write than the one that came before it.

    And – yeah – I can procrastinate something terrible. I never thought I would WANT to do laundry.

  17. jayon 22 Jun 2006 at 7:30 am

    Hi all.
    I’ve been thinking of writing a book for years now…pretty much since i read “Palace” a few years ago..It captured my imagination and I thought to myself that few authors have captured the subtleties of a fictional society as well as Katherine Kerr did in that book.
    I have what I think is a “great idea” for the novel that I do intend to write oneday but at the moment strangely I have convinced myself that it would be really beneficial to try and draw some of the characters that have sprung into my mind. Just to get the creative juices flowing.
    But I think that’s just my fear of just starting to actually write. I’ve never had much experience in writing in my day to day work, as I work with my hands, so I also think that this is contributing to not starting.
    The only reason that I’d like to write my book is for other people to enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed other authors’ novels over the years (well I hope that it would be an enjoyable experience to read).
    So what do you, as aspiring authors reccommend?
    Should I bite the bullet and just start writing and see how it goes or should i pick up the pencils and hope to inspire myself to do something about it?

  18. Rachel Dunneon 22 Jun 2006 at 11:43 am

    jay: I do the same thing! My most recent artistic distraction was trying to plan out the cover (for a book I haven’t even written a quarter of, I might add). I draw the characters, I draw scenes from the book, I draw insiginificant things only vaguely releated to the novel at all… And I know I’m doing it, but I can’t seem to stop! Just another part of procrastination…

  19. Katharine Kerron 22 Jun 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Planning the cover before you have finished the book is a definite no-no. (Rachel, my critique of your lines is finally up.) Anything else that helps is probably okay.

    The fear of “making a mistake” or “writing crap” is, in my experience anyway, the biggest single barrier to someone sitting down and writing. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone’s first draft is crap. THIS IS WHY WE REVISE, people! How can we know what we’re saying until we’ve said it? Yes, that’s a joke, but also it’s true.

    You cannot organize and perfect a heap of material until you have the heap. How do you know which of X many things is the most important until you see all X of them? How do you know where your story is going until you reach the end? Once you’ve gotten there, then you can go back and shape the narrative to make sure it arrives by the best route.

    Yes, you can outline. Nothing is deader than a detailed outline, again in my experience. Other writers swear by them. If outlines are not working for you, then try winging it and see what happens. Let your characters tell you what they’re going to do. (That’s what Mark and I did in PALACE.)

    The first draft corresponds, in my mind, to assembling the ingredients you need to cook an elaborate recipe. First you get everything out on the kitchen counter. Then you do whatever prep each ingredient needs, peeling, chopping, whatever. Only then can you combine them and put them into the pan. The actual cooking takes the least energy — the final polish of the words, the spell checks, and so on is the corresponding last step in writing.

    Writing crap is not merely okay. Writing crap is necessary. Get it out into the phosphors or on the page if you write by hand. Once it’s out, then you make it good. To take this metaphor to ridiculous lengths, you turn the crap into gold by revising.

    Kit

  20. Barbara Denzon 22 Jun 2006 at 7:49 pm

    Here’s to writing crap [All hail the mighty Kit!]. ;)

    Even what you consider to be crap isn’t always crap later. I’m always amazed when I read something I wrote years ago at how good it was, considering. It sure didn’t feel like it while it was going on.

    Rachel — InfoDump is a good word for it! I do that too, knowing I’ll ax most of it later. At least I wrote it ONCE, if only to prove to myself that I knew it all. It also helps me sort out what can go into character description, what needs to be there to push the plot along and so needs to be interwoven, and what needs to go back into deep background. Drawing the cover, tho, is an exercise in frustration. IF/When the book sells, the artist who does your cover likely won’t get to see any of the bits that you think are absolutely vital to the cover. I lived witha guy years ago who fancied himself a novelist. He wrote the whole thing and then (fool) let me read it. He had actually written a decent story, with strong male characters, but his female characters were so bad it was laughable — he said they were strong, Amazon types but had them get weepy and need their men’s help at the drop of a hat. He also spent good money to pay an artist to do drawings for his cover and for inside his book. He actually believed he was going to sell it that way and get his artist well known. Needless to say, he didn’t like my critique of his female characters (we broke up not long after that) and even >I

  21. Barbara Denzon 22 Jun 2006 at 8:03 pm

    rats. What that was supposed to say was “Even I knew (this was 28 years ago) What that trying to sell your own art with a book just isn’t done.”

    Damn. Where did the rest of that post go … I said such pithy things. [Preview from now on, Barbara. Click Preview]

    Jay — I took a weekend writing seminar from Donald Maas called Writing the Breakout Novel, based on his book of the same name. The book is good. So was the seminar. But I find nothing better than going to genre conventions that cater to both pros and fen — they’re rarer than they should be. There’s nothing like a meeting of like minds to get the creative juices going. I also currently belong to 3 writers’ groups, tho joining one can be and iffy proposition. 2 are in my genre and are me with one other person. The third is with 4 other people, none of whom read or write sf/f. And Kit’s admonition to me above — not to write their comments off — is totally valid. Much as I’d like to say “well, you just don’t understand” and pooh pooh them, they are who I’m aiming at. So I’m reworking.

    Ah, the ever-growing discussion of outlining. Nice to know Kit doesn’t use them. I never had before now — even in school, I wrote the required outlines when I was with the paper. They have always baffled me.

    Judy Tarr does paragraph outlines of her chapters. They start small — sometimes only a single sentence for a chapter — and grow as she adds plot points she wants to expand on later. And her outlines are living documents. You can’t know before you start writing where a character or event is going to take you. Writers that say they can are, imho, fooling themselves. I like the recipe imagery, Kit. Ah, the things we concoct!

    I love this place!

    Barb

  22. jayon 23 Jun 2006 at 6:03 am

    Rachel:
    I wasn’t exactly thinking of designing a cover for my book, more just a detailed colour sketch of the main characters. You’re probably right that it’s just another form of procrastination though. But in my mind it makes sense to actually do it to aid with description of the appearance of these characters.
    Just reading everybody’s posts has made me more eager to actually make a start though. But I’m lost as to where exactly to start. But I’ve only learn’t to use a computer within the last 6 mths so the thought of actually using my new knowledge is a little daunting too.
    Well I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands as of next weel so fingers crossed that I can find the motivation.
    Barbara
    The last story I wrote was over 10 years ago at school. I’m in Australia and as I said I have virtually no experience in having to write anything. I don’t know of any clubs or anything which caters to people that wish to learn to write sf/f novels. But if anyone does know of any please post a little info it’d be appreciated.

  23. makoiyion 23 Jun 2006 at 7:50 pm

    You know, writing the novel hasn’t been the most difficult for me. Yes, it was damned hard, and I still don’t consider any of them totally finished, but the hardest thing after that is finding the courage to send them out. Workshops helped enormously. You get feedback and encouragement that way. Meeting other people at cons with like minds was another way to learn the craft, the business end as well.

    When it comes to writing the synopsis and query letter I go all to pieces. A subconscious fear of rejection? Probably. I’ve read the agent and editor blogs, I’ve read the how tos and the samples, and yet, writing that damned letter…

    I have done it though, and received my rejections. You don’t take them personally, especially the ones that are obviously form letters. The ones you remember are the ones that encourage you or ask for a re-write. They are the ones that make you think it might be worthwhile to continue.

    So I’ve reached that stage again with both a fantasy novel and a sci fi novel. No, I’m not happy. I’m like that proverbial artist who wants one more brush stroke. But there comes a time when I must bite the bullet and off they go. Then comes the waiting and the over-thinking, and the omg I did a typo on page thirteen, but, you know, whatever happens, I’ll still carry on.

  24. Carol Bergon 23 Jun 2006 at 9:53 pm

    Kate Elliott said,

    June 22, 2006 at 5:43 am · Edit

    Each novel gets harder to write…

    Oh, yes, yes, yes!
    Did I say yes?

  25. Carol Bergon 23 Jun 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Barbara Denz said:

    They start small — sometimes only a single sentence for a chapter — and grow as she adds plot points she wants to expand on later. And her outlines are living documents. You can’t know before you start writing where a character or event is going to take you.

    This is really interesting. I don’t outline. I just can’t grow a story in advance. But I DO need to have a short term destination before I write a scene – even if it is “they get the slave back to the palace.” This is what helps curtail rambling.

    That being said, I do keep a running list of “things that might need to happen.” (along with my running list of names, odd words, and the sketch map as I introduce new places). It may have four or five entries when I sit down to write chapter 1.

    Running is the operative word. The ideas are outgrowths of whatever scene I’m writing at the moment, or of new things I’m discovering about the characters (ooh, she’s claustrophobic…what if…?) And I never force myself to fill in the list until I know more about my characters and whatever predicament I’ve got them in to begin the story. Of course, this list grows longer the farther I get into the story, until by the time I am at chapter 28 of a 32 chapter book, I might have an outline:-)

  26. Katharine Kerron 24 Jun 2006 at 11:13 pm

    Starting, as opposed to staring at the blank screen . . .

    Here’s an exercise, Jay, that might help. Shut your eyes and imagine that you’re standing outside of a door. Notice what kind of door it is, what it looks like, what the wall around it looks like. Now open it. Who’s inside? What’s inside?

    WRite all this down. It most likely won’t be actually left in the story you’re writing, but it mayl give you a — ta da! — way in.

  27. M.T.on 25 Jun 2006 at 3:25 am

    I’ve had the ‘unimportant at first then suddenly very important’ situation recently. On a whim I wrote a character sending a present to the main character of my fantasy story. Next day, I decide what topic the main character’s teacher is going to teach next in class. I didn’t realize the importance of the book being about the same topic until later on in the day. Gah.

    And all of a sudden, a minor character just became a major character. And the whole plot just got more complicated to write.

    This is really interesting. I don’t outline. I just can’t grow a story in advance. But I DO need to have a short term destination before I write a scene – even if it is “they get the slave back to the palace.” This is what helps curtail rambling.

    I wish I could write like that. A lot of my stories end up with extensive backstories because of my pointless outlining and need to know how something worked before I started on it (might be part of why my sci-fi story isn’t as well written as it could be- I still only have a vague idea of how the universe works, and being kept on my toes scares me at times).

    I agree that trying to make a story conform completely to an outline can kill it. I’ve, uh…tried before. And failed miserably on keeping characters in character.

    I’m always amazed when I read something I wrote years ago at how good it was, considering. It sure didn’t feel like it while it was going on.

    I recently re-read a character monologue I wrote last year December, and it made me stop and think. Partly because of how much that character changed, but more because of what he was musing on about. The idea of considering my old writing decent doesn’t sit well with me. It makes me wonder if I’m currently doing something wrong.

    Sometimes I even think it was written by a completely different person. I mean, my own writing can’t be that good, can it?

  28. jayon 25 Jun 2006 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for the idea Katherine :)
    I did kinda follow it but i kinda didn’t but what can I say, I’m past the procrastination part now. I’ve actually written a page and found it wasn’t that hard (wasn’t that easy either!) Just hope the rest comes along as easily!
    But once you get started and have at least a slight idea of where you’d like to head it’s not too bad. It’s probably not all that good but there’s a learning curve to everything right?

  29. Katharine Kerron 25 Jun 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Jay, there is a huge learning curve to writing. Remember, if something’s bad, you can always revise it later. It’s like the old joke about how to get to Carneigie Hall: practice practice practice.

  30. jayon 27 Jun 2006 at 6:27 am

    hey just a question for everyone if that’s ok?
    I’m new to writing, or trying to write a story of any description so I’m a little confused as to how to go about getting a novel on paper.
    So I’ve started writing a short story. Has anyone else here written a short story, then started the story again in more detail from a different angle or whatever to actually create a novel?
    Just wondering. I do like the characters that I’ve created so far but I have a whole Idea in my head which I think would make a good book. Does anyone think that it’s worth writing something twice ar just go the whole hog and write it as a novel?
    Anyone with more writing experience than myself is more than welcome to answer me. I am unsure whether this will actually ruin the idea that I’ve already started on by over-analysing it..Any ideas?

  31. makoiyion 27 Jun 2006 at 7:53 am

    Jay said : Just wondering. I do like the characters that I’ve created so far but I have a whole Idea in my head which I think would make a good book. Does anyone think that it’s worth writing something twice ar just go the whole hog and write it as a novel?

    From my own experience, the story is either a short story or a novel. How do I tell? A novel won’t stop running, a short story tends to encapsulate fewer ideas. Not to say that you can’t write a short story and a novel using the same characters/setting etc, but a short story tends to be more of a single scene.

    The one short story I have published, one review said basically, this should have been a novel, and they were right. Even though it had a beginning/middle/end structure there were too many ideas within that were begging to be expanded, threads that needed lengthening, characters who needed more say, plot that needed resolution.

    There are exceptions to everything. There aren’t any ‘rules’ only your interpretation of them. It’s a bit like saying, ‘How long should a chapter be?’ and for me it’s the same answer as a story, ‘It’s as long as it needs to be.’

    That’s how I would look at it. Doesn’t mean to say I a right. :)

  32. M.T.on 27 Jun 2006 at 10:57 am

    Does anyone think that it’s worth writing something twice ar just go the whole hog and write it as a novel?

    I haven’t suceeded at the novel part yet, but I know I write short stories to get used to the characters, setting, and the feel of the world. I’ve done the same with Fanfiction, so I figured it’d probably also work with original stories (I hope).

    Sort of like taking a small step before a leap.

    I don’t actually write the storyline I know I’m going to use for the novel, though. The events I usually choose occur either before or after the novel; I’d imagine it’d be fun to look at them again afterwards, just to see how much has changed.

    Of course, this is just personal opinion. …

  33. Just \”E\”on 27 Jun 2006 at 2:42 pm

    I have been wanting to write since I was young. Like many, I’m sure, I grew up losing myself in books and always wanting to write something that someone could lose themselves in. However, there was always something lacking in my short stories that my mom stapled together for me when I was little; something different about flipping a page back versus turning a page :) In my tweens I wrote ALL the time. Pages upon pages. I still have stacks of white pages on my shelves that I keep as a reminder of what I’m NOT doing anymore.

    When I got to college I took a lot of writing courses and I very quickly learned (and was taught in a sense) that I don’t write well and that I wouldn’t be good at writing. The stacks of paper that I so lovingly poured myself into as a child seemed empty once I graduated college and I lost my enthusiasm and even the ease of writing somehow.

    In my thirties I am still trying to write … but every word and every sentence is like pulling teeth. When I was younger I had an idea, I would sit down, and just type and type and type until it was gone. Now … I sit for hours staring at a paragraph and wondering if it meets standards and rules. Is it as good as … ? Does it make you feel like … ? Does it evoke this or that?

    Is writing easy and enjoyable for everyone who does it? Is it like drinking water? For me it is Listerine … and I don’t know why and yet I still really feel there is a story in me. Notice I said “a story” as opposed to many :) Since I only have one story to tell does that make me a writer … :) When I was small it seemed writers to me were fountains of endless stories flowing out of them and it had to be easy because my god there were so many books to be read! :)

    It seems now as I outline and plan and plan and plan that nothing seems to happen. I “plan to plan” and outline my characters into frames that are so generic I start to hate them and wonder where all the … wonder went.

    I don’t know any other writers so I’d hard to find advice. I thought perhaps some of you wise and accomplished ones could offer some advice to me. I would be grateful.

    E

  34. Rosamundaon 28 Jun 2006 at 1:30 am

    Note: In the preview page, about three or four characters are cut off the end of each sentence. I don’t know how to stop this happening, and I apologise if this happens in my post.

    Just /”E/”, you are not alone. I write because I am compelled, not because I like it. I hate fumbling for words to express what I see in my mind, worrying about sentence structure, grammar, whether the reader will ‘get’ what I am trying to say, and so on. I loathe revising even more – I’d rather watch paint dry. So you are not the only one who finds the process like pulling hen’s teeth.

    Having said that, I would like to comment on some of the things you said. I’m neither wise or accomplished, but I hope my words are of some use anyway, as one aspiring writer to another.

    I very quickly learned (and was taught in a sense) that I don’t write well and that I wouldn’t be good at writing.

    Why wouldn’t you be good at writing? Just because someone doesn’t write well now, doesn’t mean that they won’t write well in the future. I believe that a lot of the craft of writing – grammar, pacing, structure etc – can be learnt. I don’t think that it is something that writers are born with. I think that it is something they have learnt, either from reading a wide variety of books, or from their schooling, or from both. What can’t be taught (in my opinion) is the creative spark that generates ideas, and it seems that you have that in abundance. I feel that your writing courses have squashed you flat, and that makes me very sad.
    I would be very interested to know what made you think that you don’t write well. I think that maybe you have misjudged yourself here, and your writing is better than you think it is. I certainly thought that your original comment was very well written.

    Since I only have one story to tell does that make me a writer

    Yes. Absolutely. It is a well-known thingy (sorry, don’t know what to call it) that every writer has only one story to tell. Some tell it once, and some tell it a number of times in different ways. All of these are writers. One group is not better than the other.

    When I was younger I had an idea, I would sit down, and just type and type and type until it was gone. Now … I sit for hours staring at a paragraph and wondering if it meets standards and rules. Is it as good as … ? Does it make you feel like … ? Does it evoke this or that?

    The best advice I can give to you is not to worry about standards and rules when you write. Just write. Get the words on the page. Once you have written a set amount (be it one page or one book), go back and revise what you have written.
    I worry about standards and rules when I revise (and not before, or I’d never write anything). I generally do one revision for grammar (the bane of my life), one for spelling, one to check my paragraphing, and one extra one for sentence structure (I’m the Queen of run-on sentences). Then I put the piece of writing away for two weeks. After two weeks, I pull it out again and check for things like: Have I rambled on too much here? Have I used the correct words? Should I expand this, condense it, or leave it? Does this ‘feel’ right? Then comes the hardest bit – I post the writing up on the web for feedback (I belong to two groups for aspiring writers). I consider all comments carefully, but I don’t implement them all. Sometimes, the person writing the feedback has a point (Ok, mostly they have a point). Sometimes I wonder what drugs they were on to come up with that feedback (which I will still consider). This is where I find out if what I have written has reached my audience in the way I wanted it to (and if not, why not).
    What I am trying to say here is: write first, revise second. All good writing is re-writing. The initial words on the page are only a first draft, something that you can then work with to create a story. You still have to rearrange it, add things in, cut things out, change words, rewrite sentences/paragraphs/whole scenes from scratch to get to your story.

    Writing is not easy. Writing, in my opinion, should be listed in the same categories as sadism and machoism. I think that it is one of the hardest things that a person can attempt in their lifetime, and I salute anyone who is brave enough (or crazy enough) to try it.

  35. Just \”E\”on 28 Jun 2006 at 9:40 am

    Rosamunda I thank you greatly for your comments. I would love to talk more with you about writing (feel free to email me also).

    As I mentioned … writing was such a passion for me as a child. As I write this post I’m looking over at my shelf which I’ve carted from state to state and apartment after apartment as I’ve moved over the years that contains all these stacked pieces of paper. “Books”. 200 pages, 300 pages in length that I wrote seemingly without effort when I was 12 – 14 years old. They have … plots (what could be called a plot for a 12 year old) … characters, story archs, beginning, middle, end. I mean there’s 6 of these stacks. And every now and then I thumb through them and think … when did I ever have time to do this … and hey this paragraph is really good, even by my standards now. Some is crap of course, I was a kid, but surprisingly well done. But I remember these times; sitting down and thinking out something and just pecking away at the keys … I don’t know what happened to that time – that ability.

    When I went to college I knew I wanted to major in English. I knew that I wanted to write. I was good at it. It was fun. Of course that’s what I’d do. Naive was I. My first writing course was a nightmare of peer critiques. My style was different, my ideas were different, I wasn’t “well read” (god forbid I liked popular fiction and fantasy). And I just got drilled into the ground. Teacher after teacher … “This isn’t good writing. it’s popular writing but that doesn’t make it good writing…” – “It sounds like you’re trying too hard to convey meaning here, you’re forcing it …” and on and on. Even poetry class was a nightmare. We had to “write on the spot” and I was never good in a flash. Others around me could churn out a page of greatness and I could only really write at home, at my desk, in the quiet … I just didn’t have it. I couldn’t just write anywhere under any circumstance and I didn’t have endless ideas and stories to tell. I had one. One thing I wanted to get out.

    By sophomore year I changed my focus to computer science (which was always more of a hobby and has since become my profession for 13 years). I still wrote but … somehow everything I wrote didn’t seem enough or well written and I started wondering if I was meant for it. I wasn’t like all the others around me who could just sit down and spin a tale in a spiral notebook on a subway on the way to work. (I remember reading how “Queen Harry Potter” wrote on her way to work on a bus or something and thinking how in the world can you write on a bus??) College really dampened my spirits or maybe just made me realize that just because I liked to write, that didn’t mean I was supposed to be a writer. I didnt seem to have the natural skill. I didn’t seem to have the background. I didn’t seem to have a fountain of ideas just bursting to come alive under my pen.

    I have been working on a novel for years and I start and stop. Sometimes I’ll write a perfect page and then not write again for months. Sometimes I’ll write 50 pages in one sitting. But it’s not consistent. I’m always compelled to print and read what I have written which only makes me go back and change it a million times before I can move on to the next page. I read other peoples books cover to cover and I think to myself. How did they do that? How did they make me love on character over another? Did they know how to do that? Did it just happen? Carol Berg’s Transformation series comes to mind (so brilliant Carol thank you so much for that wonderful work) and I wondered how she created such amazing characters. Do you plan that from the beginning? Is it in the dialog? Is it in their actions? Is it just magic? :) I analyze and overanalyze my characters to the point where they seem devoid of any interest and become cardboard cutouts.

    It seems endless for me – questions, starting, stopping – and I wonder if I will ever get the story out of my system. If I will ever earn or be worthy of that magic that seems to be in the hands/pens/computers of other writers.

    Elaine

  36. Just \”E\”on 28 Jun 2006 at 11:15 am

    Barb … you said …

    The problem for the past 10 years has been that my job of technical writing uses the same brain pathways as fiction writing (some would say that all computer software help is fiction … I wouldn’t disagree) and after 10-14 hrs of massaging computer information down to its essence, I didn’t have the energy to write fiction, too. So I’m taking a hiatus from technical writing and concentrating on getting this puppy rolling.

    As a tech junkie, web designer, programming computerhead. I hear ya loud and clear on that! :) Somehow, writing about 1000 lines of tedious PHP code makes me less … creative :) I am trying to retire from computer work to hopefully be able to write full time.

    Elaine

  37. Rosamundaon 29 Jun 2006 at 1:23 am

    Just quickly:-

    E, I would love to email you but your email address isn’t coming up on my computer. Is mine coming up on yours? If not, I will add the address of a website where you can contact me.

    I’m another computer science person (programmer and trainer) turned writer. We seem to have a trend going. :)

    At the moment, I’m struggling with getting senses other than sight involved in my writing, especially sound and touch. Any suggestions?

  38. Just \\”E\\”on 29 Jun 2006 at 10:31 am

    Rosamunda yes indeed a trend! I see a lot of scenes from my book as film in my mind. Probably why I tend to write in present tense. I’m probably better off writing screenplays. I use to write my friends one acts when she was in drama school. I enjoyed the direct aspect of writing for immediate action. I still think in someways this works in novels through I have not yet seen a recent application of it. Because I see things in a sense of immediate action, sound and movement are very often first and foremost in my mind. What is the person doing. How are they moving. How is it communicating something to the reader. But based on my 13 line critique I doubt my style or suggestions would be pretty helpful to you :) I clearly don’t have an understanding of how to communicate things at all :)

    Feel free to contact me anytime tho via the contact form of the URL that SHOULD be attached to this post. Would love to hear from you! And thanks for your comments also from before.

  39. Stacyon 29 Jun 2006 at 4:49 pm

    I’ve been chipping away at my first adult novel – that is, I choose to count the novel I completed in sixth grade that may have been junk but I finished the whole thing as my first novel – since Labor Day 2005. I’m using R. Ray’s “The Weekend Novelist” to keep it all together with lots of input from “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass. What I’ve realized is that writing a novel is not like winning the lottery, it’s growing your own food. It takes sustained effort, belief, and simple hard work. I could extend the metaphor forever – the need to keep your fields fertile, you reap what you sow, etc. Basically my point is that sometimes we think too much about end product – the big bang that novel is going to create in our life when we get it finished – but that thinking doen’t get the thing done.

    I’ve skimmed the other postings here, and I’d strongly recommend checking out Critters (www.critique.org) for anyone writing science fiction or fantasy. It really helped me get serious and I learned a great deal.

  40. Jellyn Andrewson 29 Jun 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Just \\”E\\”, your experience sounds horrible. Not unfamiliar though. I went into college with Creative Writing as one of my potential majors. The first class went all right. The second class was taught by a guy who didn’t even know what ‘pinky finger’ meant. I totally didn’t understand how someone who didn’t know English fluently enough to know ‘pinky finger’ could be conducting a creative writing course in English. That class also had a graduate student in it who was writing this horrible monolithic dreck novel. He totally didn’t belong in a workshop of undergrads who were working on short stories. Only one person in that class really had an understanding of what I was trying to write.

    The third creative writing course was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The professor wouldn’t allow us to write genre fiction. At all. Bad enough he wasn’t letting me write the only thing I knew how to write and was inspired to write — sf/f — but he didn’t leave anything to write. When you cut out science fiction, fantasy, mystery, western, and romance.. what do you have left?!

    English classes are not conducive to good writing. Most creative writing classes and workshops are not suitable for sf/f writing. Try to ignore anything those instructors and fellow students told you. They probably didn’t grok what you were writing. I know my classmates didn’t. They’d rather read another story of a college student shagging and/or killing their roommate.

    End rant. But I did want to make a suggestion. If you’re having trouble writing a sentence because you think that sentence is horrible. Or trouble writing a paragraph because you’re worried about your grammar and spelling, then I suggest an online roleplaying game — such as a MUSH. You’re writing and interacting with people in real time. You only have a few minutes to get your paragraph ‘perfect’ before the people you’re playing with will get tired of waiting. And they’ll provide you with instant feedback if they don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

    It might be a good way to get over the self-censoring you’re doing and to hone your communication skills. Who cares if it’s perfect? It’s just a game; it’s just for fun, and it can even be anonymous. Meanwhile you’ll be learning all about character, dialogue, and even plot.

    Just avoid the trap of enjoying the game so much that it’s a substitute for actual writing. My hours and hours (years and years) of written roleplay isn’t publishable… mostly because I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox.

  41. Muneravenon 29 Jun 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Barbara said “Now that you’ve finished this one and it’s ready for the world to take it on, what’s next? What lessons can you impart here on your process? Details, girl. We want details.”

    I started the next novel two weeks after finishing the first one. Urban fantasy this time. It was the story that screamed “Write me” the loudest. :-)

    I used all sorts of tricks to finish my book. I put a chart on my bedroom door and I counted words and charted them each day. If I didn’t want to write I would go to a coffee shop where there was no Internet, I didn’t bring books, and I sat there with my laptop until I was so bored I HAD to write. I went on “writing dates” with my partner on weekends. And I commiserated with other writers on the Internet at least a few times a week so I didn’t feel alone when things were tough.

    You know what got me really started properly though? I was chatting online with an established fantasy writer whose work I greatly admire (one of those dear authors who takes time to talk to newbies like me) and one day I realized that she wasn’t that different than me. Oh, she’s a far better writer than me, but what I mean is that she is a regular person. I think, down deep, because I love books so very, very much, a part of me (a little kid part) was quite sure that only spectacularly magical people write really good books. This despite my having met many published authors, which you would think might convince me that regular people write books. But of course it t wasn’t ever a conscious belief, nor a logical one. But somehow, as this writer talked about her leaky plumbing and her favorite breed of chicken and just . . .her life, that idea that I am too ordinary to write something good just faded away. Because she was both ordinary and extraordinary. And aren’t we all? So I started to write. And I haven’t stopped.

    But I have to second the idea that writing one novel does not make the next one easier. I thought it would, but nope, this one is even harder. I think that’s because I want to do better and I learned a lot from writing the first one and so I’m trying to apply what I learned and do new things and . . .well, it’s just always going to be a big adventure, isn’t it. :-)

    –Muneraven

  42. Rosamundaon 30 Jun 2006 at 9:15 am

    Muneraven, I liked reading about what inspired you to write. My most recent inspiration came from both an article on the Deep Magic website and the comments here. I suddenly had the ‘aha’ realisation that what I had to do was just write – a little each day – and I would, eventually, become better. That was a very inspiring thought. The fact that doing this would mean finishing my piece is an added bonus. :)
    I goofed big time today. I send in the first 13 lines of a short story to be critiqued, and as soon as I hit the ‘send’ button I realised that the last half of the last sentence was pretentious rubbish. Yi-yi-yi! Why couldn’t that moment of revelation have come a little sooner? I am going to get blasted to bits for that sentence – and rightly so. I just hope I survive the fallout.
    Toodles,
    Rosamunda

  43. Just \”E\”on 30 Jun 2006 at 10:16 am

    I think, down deep, because I love books so very, very much, a part of me (a little kid part) was quite sure that only spectacularly magical people write really good books.

    Amen there. Well said.

  44. Tapetumon 30 Jun 2006 at 9:33 pm

    I feel like I’m jumping in rather late here, but this has been fascinating so far, and I can’t resist.

    I finished the first draft of my first novel about 9 months ago. I’ve barely looked at it since. For me the hard part doesn’t seem to be the writing (I’m 2/3 through book #2), but the revising part. Other than straight up grammar, spelling, and punctuation changes, I can’t seem to make myself start taking it apart and putting it back together.

    Part of it is probably lack of practice. I’m one of the fortunate people who can turn out class-style writing by the ream, with good organization, and acceptable prose – so I got very little practice in editing while in school. Since my first drafts could be turned in straight and get A’s, I didn’t see the point of revising.

    A novel is a completely different kettle of fish. Even if every individual chapter is fine, it still all has to fit together, and something that happens in chapter 48 can alter what I need to say in chapter 3, well after chapter 3 was written. I see the need to rip out sections and reorganize, and I freeze. So I’m stuck, with a novel that several people are telling me is good, and just needs some minor re-ordering to be ready to send out – and I can’t seem to figure out where to start. It was much easier just to start writing a whole different novel.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a good (preferably step-by-step) book or essay on editing a first draft novel? (Picture plaintive basset eyes here.)

  45. Sherwood Smithon 30 Jun 2006 at 10:19 pm

    There are plenty of essays around, but my problem with all of them is that they are so general they don’t really help the first timer.

    My advice is this: once you feel you’ve improved it as much as you can, get an objective opinion from a workshop–but not one filled with other beginners. You need the eye of someone experienced, preferably published, because you need someone first to see what’s on the page, not what you wanted to be there. Workshop friends who’ve been over and over the story will too often see what you meant them to see, not what’s actually there. Second, someone who’s practiced in critiquing can usually articulate any problems, and is also more practiced at separating out what they’d do with the novel (which means how they’d write it, which is of course useless to you) and how you might get that reader investment more quickly and effectively.

    I dunno, maybe we need a first chapter option here: I don’t know how many would have time to comment, and doing this on-line is such a pain, but sometimes a glimpse at a first chapter can at least serve as triage.

    There are good books helping you to get the novel written, but you’re beyond that. Ursula le Guin is great on prose, Orson Scott Card has a pretty good book on structure and pacing. But one really learns best within the context of one’s own work, or so I’ve found.

    so: workshops: well, there is Critters. What you’ll get there is a ramge of response, mostly from other beginners, but they also represent a range of tastes.

    For a far better workshop, there’s the OWW–but the hitch is that they have a fee for joining.

  46. Rosamundaon 01 Jul 2006 at 9:46 am

    Question from the ignorant here – what’s the OWW?

  47. Sherwood Smithon 01 Jul 2006 at 11:21 am

    Online Writers’ Workshop. it’s easy to find via Google–and the number of members who have made big sales within the last couple of years is very high–an impressive ratio. I’m sorry they charge money, but I really do think it’s the best on-line workshop.

  48. Tapetumon 01 Jul 2006 at 11:46 am

    I’ll have to look into OWW. I have run my novel past the crew at Rate Your Writing – but they are mostly beginners also, so they have great ideas for what needs changing, but little idea how to go about it.

    Oddly enough the one published author I’ve run it by has been the one who thinks it needs the least work – but his own time constraints didn’t allow him to give me more than the roughest overview of what he thought he needed to happen – and gave me a dilemma. I have a half roughed-in secondary plot. Most readers liked it, and wanted it filled in properly (the idea occurred to me halfway through, so there’s no set-up). He thought I should remove it altogether, not because it was bad, but because he thought it too ambitious for a first-time writer. I’m loathe to remove it, because without it the book reads like a YA novel to me (nothing wrong with them, it’s just not what I had in mind), but I am also reluctant to ignore his advice.

    Thanks for the recommendations – I’ll be wandering off to Google and Amazon now.

  49. Sherwood Smithon 01 Jul 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Well, one thing you can ask yourself is, why he thinks it should be removed–and is his reasoning cogent? Or would it distort your story too far from your vision? (You hint that it does.) If so, maybe the thread needs better transitions, connections, to the main, and not total annihilation.

    Do check out the OWW peeps.

  50. Tapetumon 01 Jul 2006 at 1:42 pm

    He has no objections to the thread per se. His statement was that if this were a second or third book, he wouldn’t hesitate to have me fill it in properly. He is, by his comments, leery of my skills as a first time novelist being up to the challenge of a serious secondary plot-line.

    Taking it out would over-simplify my story in my eyes, but I am also infamous in all things for overreaching my skills, so I am wary of ignoring his advice.

  51. Barbara Denzon 01 Jul 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Wow. You guys have been busy [and I've been doing music stuff and painting].

    Online Writers Workshops abound on the web — some good; some not. I started a MFA program in creative writing and discovered that it was trying to take me down the path that I already traveled as an undergrad Lit major — making me “literary.” Been there. The one thing I love about cons and skiffy writers in general is that imparting the nuts and bolts stuff for newbies is easily done. I’ve learned more from just sitting around with people like Kit and Alis and Sherwood, doing my “fly on wall” thing, than I ever did in school or from books. Donald Maas’ weekend seminar that expands from the Writing the Breakout Novel book is actually really good for beginners. It doesn’t stress genre; it stresses pacing, which is something we can all learn from, imho. I tried doing the Weekend Novelist, and while it helped a lot to get started, I never finished it. Not that I won’t — I just haven’t yet.

    As to the Novel or Short Story decision — I’ve been told that my short stories are really beginnings of novels. I’ll admit that I build a complete world, with its economics and rules to the magic, before I start. I can’t give advice on switching from Short Story to Novel except that I’ve tried it with mixed results. I find that I need to rework the characters and the world a little — sometimes even combine worlds — to make a story interesting enough to be told in novel form. But I’m working on it. After First Novel. ;)

    Barb

  52. Muneravenon 02 Jul 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Barb said “I’ve been told that my short stories are really beginnings of novels.”

    LOL!! I started out as a poet, but all my poems told stories. So then I wrote short stories. And my stories kept getting longer and longer and longer until they were too long for any magazine to consider. So I had to turn into a novelist!

    I did an MFA program, actually. I wrote literary short stories for my thesis. It was a good fit for me because my writing very much sucked when I went into the program and I was a LOT better when I came out. I might have been able to improve on my own, but I had very good teachers and I was exposed to all kinds of books and read CONSTANTLY for three years, and I think reading EVERYTHING helps a writer. Also I met so many cool people.

    And one other student in my MFA program loved fantasy, and we would mutter to one another after workshops about how we really wanted to write fantasy books someday, as much as we enjoyed literary stuff. Cam went on to get a two-book deal to write Malazan books (he made up that world with Steven Erikson, the fellow who has published several books set in that world). So MFA programs don’t automatically kill fantasy writers. . . they just force us to take a few detours.

    –Muneraven

  53. jayon 03 Jul 2006 at 7:24 am

    ok so I’ve re-written the beginning of my story an would like a little feedback. Don’t be gentle, otherwise I won’t learn ok. I havn’t written anything since school a long time ago now but i kinda like it so far. It’s probably not great, but a few pointers would be cool
    Thanks everyone that comments on it,be it nicely or not :)
    (just hope it emailed alright or else i’ll look like a nob)

  54. Rosamundaon 03 Jul 2006 at 10:21 am

    Jay, I’m waiting for your piece to appear so I can read it.

    AAAARGH! I just found a major plot hole in my story. Now I’m frantically thinking of how to fix it and whether the fix will affect the rest of the story or not (I’ll go back and fix what I’ve written on the re-write).

    Le sigh.

  55. jayon 04 Jul 2006 at 5:02 am

    hmm…posted it last night and don’t know what happened. How long is it supposed to take for your post to appear? Well I guess I’ll just have to post it again. Sorry if whoever’s running this site and getting the mail gets it more than once.
    Trying again

  56. jayon 04 Jul 2006 at 5:18 am

    ok I’ve posted it again and it wasn’t there straight away. I’m not sure if that’s what is supposed to happen. I hope it worked this time though and I actually changed a few words (yet again). If it has worked and you choose to comment remember that I do not expect you to be gentle ok. Please write what you think, not what you think that I’d like to hear, otherwise I won’t end up learning anything.
    Thanks Jay :)

  57. jayon 04 Jul 2006 at 7:31 pm

    well it’s still not there
    I don’t know what’s happened, I probably did something wrong. Do you have to be logged in to submit your 13 lines? Either that or the powers that be’s computer’s thought it looked tasty and ate it. Or they’re just sparing everybody something that they consider to be a really painful read! lol
    Well if I have done something wrong please tell me what it could be so I can try again.
    I am being a little ambitious and my intentions are to write this story slightly reminiscent to a Robert Ludlum novel but obviously with a different spin on things if I’m submitting it here.
    well any ideas about what’s gone wrong, let me know.
    Jay

  58. jayon 04 Jul 2006 at 7:37 pm

    Oooh it bounced back. So that’s why! Ok I did send it once before but it didn’t come up so if it does get posted please post the last version because I have changed a few things ok thanks

  59. Rosamundaon 05 Jul 2006 at 12:39 am

    I’ve just checked and yours isn’t up yet, Jay.

    The site appears to be having trouble with the submissions. I know there was trouble in the past. Perhaps it has surfaced again? Or maybe the person who gets the emails is off sick, and therefore can’t read them and put them on the site.

    I received a ‘bounced’ message for my 13 lines as well, but then they appeared on the site the next day without me having to re-send them. I’m not sure what is going on there.

    Has anyone read the ‘Superman’ post on the front page? It made me think about what is universal and what is cultural in my own work.

    I fixed the plot-hole as well – yay! – with some fancy reworking of the timeline. I do hope that is the last one of those pesky beasties that I see.

    Now, back to the typing – I have yet to make my quota for today.

    Toodles. :)

  60. jayon 05 Jul 2006 at 5:39 am

    yeah Rosamundra it bounced back again. Was wondering if it could be that I don’t have outlook as my default mail client? I don’t really understand what will happen if I click yes to that option. Computers are a little new to me so if I don’t know what something means I click no…clever hey!
    well see you all later….happy typing

  61. Rosamundaon 05 Jul 2006 at 8:15 am

    Jay,

    Don’t click that box! It has nothing to do with that email getting through. What it will do is make Outlook your email program, instead of the one you currently use. I don’t know whether you would want this to happen or not.

    What email program are you suing to send the messages? How are you sending them?

    Have you considered posting on the Questions page, like Caitrin did, to tell the site owners what has happened and to ask if there are any problems? As I said, my 13 lines went up very quickly (overnight, from memory), so I don’t know why yours aren’t appearing.

    There was a problem with emails getting through and the system generating a bounced email message for them. I thought it had been fixed, but maybe not.

    Hope this helps.

    Rosamunda

    P.S. To keep this on topic: One writing book that I’m rather fond of is Kate Grenville’s The Writing Book. It guides you through the process of writing a story, and has some very good exercises to help develop your writing muscles. It’s worth looking through in the bookstore, at least, to see if it is what you are after or not.
    My writing groups are so insane that I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. The one Sherwood recommended sounds good.

  62. Stacyon 06 Jul 2006 at 12:20 pm

    I’ve got a question – what is wrong with having other beginners critique? Sure, they aren’t published, but they are readers. The folks who buy your book aren’t published writers either, they just buy books and read them. They may not have an exact answer of how to fix a problem, but they aren’t the writer of the book – the writer is. I think I’m responsible for fixing my novel’s problems, not my reader, whoever they are.

    Barb – It’s funny that you mention that you haven’t finished The Weekend Novelist. I have a superstition where I have avoided reading the end of the book, the chapter regarding the final draft, no matter how many times I’ve reread the rest as I work along. I know my inner critic will take the final draft advice and pummel my earlier drafts, and I’m not looking at the last chapter until I’ve worked up to that point and earn the right by finishing. It’s amazing the silly games we play to keep ourselves motivated.

  63. Tapetumon 06 Jul 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Hmm. Good question, Stacy. For myself, I want both/all kinds in my first round of critiques.

    The people who are just readers give me the best take on how the whole book plays as it now stands. They don’t necessarily give me much by way of hints about what exactly gave them their opinions.

    Other beginning writers give me a mixed set of feedback. They tend to spot annoying plot-gaps, wobbly characters, or bits of inconsistency. They can frequently, but not always give me ideas about how to fix same. This is where the bulk of the critiquing of Ghost Dancer (my first book) has been. Their views are valuable, but it’s often hard work to parse out what I need to do from their critiques.

    I only got one professional to critique Ghost Dancer, so I can’t really speak about the group as a whole. His critique seems in line with what I see here on the 13-line critiques, though, so I’ll generalize. The critique was specific, thorough, and professional. Everything he said came with specific notions about how one might go about fixing the problems. He had a lot more to say about overall pacing, and potential removal of material from the book (the others were loathe to remove good stuff, even if it contributed no forward motion). He seemed to have the best vision of the book as it could be. Interestingly he did not tend to notice plot holes and inconsistencies as much as the beginning writers – possibly because he was rushed for time, possibly because he assumes I’m saavy enough to catch them myself.

    My only silly game on finishing, is that when I get far enough along to know I could finish, I start posting beginning chapters at my writers’ group. They will then pester me endlessly until I actually finish the darned thing – and then pester me for the rewrites! When I dropped out of posting Ghost Dancer for a month due to other issues, one poster wrote a poem entitled Lament for a Ghost Dancer, while another found my brother’s home phone # (in Germany!), and called him up to ask him to tell me to get back to writing. I’m not sure if this is a good sign, or simply that my writing group is deranged, but I’m quite certain I would not be as far along as I am without them.

  64. Barbara Denzon 06 Jul 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Stacy — So THAT’s why I don’t finish any of those “this is how you do it” books! It’s my subconscious mind games! ;)

    Barb

  65. ZavienWadeon 06 Jul 2006 at 5:05 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m Wade. I’ve finished my first novel in Feburary. I’m on my second and third novels at the same time because my characters are greedy of my time.

    I find that I enjoy writing in first person as a female character. i also find it hard to write in third person. I feel I lose the intimacy first person has when I use third person. Does anyone have this problem? Also, I enjoy writing in the present tense. But I’m learning to ejoy past tense since it is the perferred tense.

    Wade

  66. Katharine Kerron 07 Jul 2006 at 12:59 am

    EVERYONE is welcome over at the 13 Line Critique page. You’d don’t have to be a published writer to critique. Ergo, nothing’s wrong with your posting comments, Stacy, or anyone other reader, either.

    Jay, aha, that explains it! Look, I posted an announcement on the general blog about technical difficulties with email. I take it you didn’t read it. It might not be a bad idea for everyone to keep an eye out for announcements from now on, hmmmm?

    To repeat — one of the addresses to which that email goes has been inadvertently listed on an anti-spam blacklist. That is the address that’s sending the bounce-back messages. All the other addresses to which your emails go are working just fine. We are getting all submissions. No one needs to keep sending.

    Jay, it would really help if you would use a consisent name, too, on your emails from now on. You sent 3 emails. I posted two of them before I noticed they were the same, and Kevin put up the third, thinking you were yet another person. So your story opening is up now, and twice at that, with comments.

    I don’t read this page, writing the first novel, that is, every day. Any messages that anyone has for me or Kevin should be sent in email to the critique address.

    Thanks, everyone!

  67. Rosamundaon 07 Jul 2006 at 5:17 am

    Thank you for letting us know how to contact you, Kit. I was puzzled about that.

    I find that I enjoy writing in first person as a female character. i also find it hard to write in third person. I feel I lose the intimacy first person has when I use third person. Does anyone have this problem?

    I have the opposite problem. I loathe first person, both writing in it and reading it. I hate it so much that I would prefer to write in second person rather than writing in first person. :)

    I’m third person, past tense all the way (maybe my school just did a very good job of ‘training’ me this way). I actually find third person far more intimate than first person – there is no ‘I’ to get in the way of my interactions with the characters.

    Just my personal opinion and two cent’s worth.

  68. jayon 07 Jul 2006 at 5:24 am

    Oops sorry about that! I promise I’ll use only the email addy that I signed in here with ok….my bad!

  69. jayon 07 Jul 2006 at 6:30 am

    I just have a little comment that really bugs me about some novels.
    So many people writhe that their character jumps over a gap or whatever and ends up grabbing hold of a ledge to save themselves from plumeting to their death. While doing this, a lot of authors seem to think that writing the afore mentioned character wrenches, dislocates or generally hurts their shoulders. The character is in tremendous pain every time this happens, and sometimes the same character cops it more than once in the same book. But every time their right to go off to save the world again in two days.

    Truth be told, dislocating your shoulder doesn’t really hurt. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t tickle, but it’s not all that bad. (Trust me I’d know.) But once you’ve done damage to it once it will never be the same again.
    Also if you do happen to do it, it takes more than a few weeks to heal, sometimes it doesn’t.
    Why not let a character break an arm, or their little finger or something. I’ve just read too many novels where the characters can heal miraculously from their injuries. Also because so many authors have done it it’s not too imaginative.

    Ok I’ve said my piece. I’m not picking on any particular writers, I’m just saying that reading the same thin in nearly every book is a little annoying.
    Thanks for letting me rant n rave.
    c ya

  70. kgirlon 07 Jul 2006 at 6:47 am

    Jay,
    You are right, the hero or heroin in many thriller type adventure stories bounces back miraculously from seemingly serious injury..perhaps in some way the author is saving us the reader the boredom of a hospital chapter when we just want to see what happens next..(of course not denying the pain of shoulder surgery)
    Also, the hero of our story must always appear invincible, even though we know he or she is not, and is only human, it makes them more appealling and believable to conquer whatever challenge the story is giving them.
    Superman or spiderman for example, be it they are comic book characters, possess these qualities,as do the modern day heros of our generations such as Brigdet Jones (sorry I am a typical girl power reader) and Carrie Bradshaw.

    Readers such as myself like to see the main character as someone they can relate to and not pity but admire and cheer on in adversity..

  71. Stacyon 07 Jul 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Jay, I like your point about common hero injury, because you make a great point for “write what you know.” I’ve never dislocated my shoulder, but I’ve seen how much Mel Gibson acted in pain in Lethal Weapon, and I’ve seen hockey players hurt in reality. But you have real experience, which is so valuable, wheras I would not see a problem with making the same common mistake over again, because who hasn’t seen the actor with the hurt shoulder? It’s a great point for either sticking to something you truly know or really doing research before assuming anything.
    It reminds me of the only time I’ve critiqued an entire novel for someone – we had to trade our respective knowledge base on science via email so I could check some things I doubted and make sure they were possible. For example, he had a character with fatal lung damage talking. I doubted the anatomical possibilities, as speech requires air, and I didn’t know if the writer had considered and researched that already. Pesky reality, it gets in the way of making things happen your way.

    I’m being very picky, personally, with my own novel-in-progress as well. My main character gives birth, which I have experienced, but I had an epidural and my character doesn’t have that option. So I’m having a friend of mine who has gone through natural childbirth give me some descriptive material to work with when I put my poor heroine through labor.

  72. Donna M. Sheltonon 07 Jul 2006 at 5:06 pm

    The hardest part of writing for me is focus. I have children 3 & 5 years old and everytime I get on the computer, some drama unfolds that they have to involve me in. Sitting in my lap, smearing something on the screen, reading the letters and asking me what everything says.

    Sometimes I just want to rent a hotel room and lock myself inside and write. Then again, I might be too distracted by wondering what’s going on at home. My husband isn’t as watchful as I am. I write when my children are sleeping and then when my husband comes home from work at night, he sits next to me and reads everything I write.

    I do manage to get short stories and articles published every now and then, but what I really want is to have a book published. I have 3 manuscripts right now in circulation, 2 novels and 1 pet care book. I’ve been looking at agents and publishers, with no luck yet.

    I do have a publisher looking at a picture book manuscript now. I’m not getting my hopes up, but my fingers are crossed. It always helps when I can communicate with other writers. It makes me feel like I still have a chance.

  73. Sherwood Smithon 07 Jul 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Writing with small children, on top of a job, is rough–I know, been there, done that, twice. (Nearly burned down the house once, out of bone-jarring, brain-frozen exhaustion.)

    But it will happen–the kids get older and more self-sufficient (and trustworthy: you don’t worry that a fourth grader will drink draino, for example) and meanwhile, constantly working on one’s craft has one ready when opportunity knocks. Good for you for getting the ms out there, getting feedback, working on skills. That’s what makes it happen.

  74. Tapetumon 07 Jul 2006 at 8:21 pm

    Oh Lord, writing with small kids…

    I have two boys, 6 & 8, currently home for summer vacation. I’m hip deep in a portion of plot where my POV character has something approaching a psychotic break. Trying to write that, and then getting up in the middle to make mac & cheese, or push somebody on the swing feels like an exercise in multiple personality disorder. It’s not the time, or even the interruptions, as much as it is the complete change of mental state.

  75. kgirlon 08 Jul 2006 at 6:14 am

    writing with children…we are all in the same boat..(the ss feathersword perhaps..lol)

    i too find great difficulty to accomplish anything let alone get to the several stories i’ve started in the last 5 years..
    blockquote>getting up in the middle to make mac & cheese, or push somebody on the swing feels like an exercise in multiple personality disorder.

    when i was reading Tapetum i laughed and could so relate to that…for me its changing spidermans costume back into peter parker while making vegemite toast and feeding the darn cat..all while checking my emails, my latest purchases on ebay and reading up on whatever i need for work the next day…oh yeh and there is that novel i started..somewhere…and there is the issue of actually eating a meal myself and getting to bed on time…sleep whats that?

  76. Katharine Kerron 08 Jul 2006 at 1:19 pm

    A tip for all posting here: don’t forget to check the posts in the “Craft” category. Feel free to ask questions there, too.

  77. Charleson 09 Jul 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Ok, so here is my dilemma when it comes to writing my first novel:

    I have a ten thousand year history of 5 royal families that I have been creating characters and stories about since I was a little kid. Needless to say, as the timeline is ten thousand years and counting, some of the stories are fantasy genre and others science fiction genre, though I feel science fantasy would be the more appropriate term since the fantasy elements are still present in the technological setting of the later stories.

    I’ve actually written a first draft of 2 of the science fiction novels, (way back when I was in high school) which I have subsequently divided up into 4 books, as necessitated by the events within them. These are of the minimalist possible content, however. To provide an example, what is now the first of these 4 books is only 75 single-spaced typed pages. However, these 75 pages contain about 50 different scenes. So, when properly fleshed out, these 75 pages will become quite long.

    Anyway, work has really pushed not only my writing, but reading as well, to the background far more than I would have liked. I’m a network admin, so the amount of time I spend on reading technical manuals is quite extensive.

    That said, I made the decision that it is time to get back to more consistent reading and writing. My technical brain actually functions better when I make the time for my creative brain.

    So, I pulled out my very first story (yes, the beginning of the ten thousands years) and have made extensive progress in realizing the story that has been waiting for me to properly notice it for so many decades.

    I just tossed the only opening I have ever had for this story and replaced it with a new one. I like it a lot better as it quickly lets the reader know the main plot point of the overall story – in this case a trilogy.

    So, now I am at the point where I need to figure out the physical construction of the book. I’ve identified my viewpoint characters and have written the first few scenes.

    Now, I have to figure out how I am going to tell the story. Will each new chapter bring with it a switch to a different viewpoint character? Will I have a few chapters in a row for each? I don’t know yet. The reason I’m concerned about this is that I have always written a story in chronological order. I’m not one to skip ahead and write scenes and piece them together.

    For now, I know the opening act of the book and have embarked on writing through to where the next phase of the story begins.

    I have a brief outline of the scenes I want to show and what I want the opening act to accomplish. But I am sure I will encounter many surprises and characters along the way.

  78. Katharine Kerron 09 Jul 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Charles, it sounds to like you’ve done all the prep work you need to do. For one thing, those 75-page “novels” are what I’d call a “detailed outline.” You’ve identified the way you like to work, too, which is an important first step. (Remember, everyone: you need to find the way you work best, not the way someone else told you was best.)

    So, what you do now is WRITE. Here’s where a little flexibility will be a great help. When you come to a scene where you’re uncertain of the point of view character, try writing a few lines from the povs of several different characters and just see how it goes. If one person dries up on you, then you know it’s not him/her.

    Also, look at the very end of the previous scene. Is there a natural point of transition to another character? For instanc,e suppose two people are having an argument from one character’s pov. The character who loses storms off in disgust. The reader will naturally wonder what he’s thinking or planning now, so a shift to his pov would seem very logical.

  79. Carol Bergon 10 Jul 2006 at 7:46 pm

    I find that I enjoy writing in first person as a female character. i also find it hard to write in third person. I feel I lose the intimacy first person has when I use third person. Does anyone have this problem? Also, I enjoy writing in the present tense.

    Hi Wade,

    Yes, I have exactly this problem! Which is why all my books are in first person. I write both male and female characters in first, but women are harder. When I write third I just can’t get into the character’s head, and my prose comes out very stiff. One exercise I did with a piece that I really want to come out in third, is translating my stiff third person to first, loosening it up – getting into the character’s voice – and then translating BACK to third. It is amazing how much better the third person prose reads after that. I think the key is getting out of the “narrator’s voice” and into the “character’s voice.”

    But I can’t do present tense – or rather I can for a short time, but then I start feeling as if I’m holding my breath, waiting for a hammer to fall on my head. I’m with present tenst like some people are with first person – which, of course, I can’t understand at all!!! :-) It’s a good thing different people have different tastes, eh?

    Hope this helps,
    Carol

  80. Carol Bergon 10 Jul 2006 at 8:08 pm

    How did they do that? How did they make me love on character over another? Did they know how to do that? Did it just happen? Carol Berg’s Transformation series comes to mind (so brilliant Carol thank you so much for that wonderful work) and I wondered how she created such amazing characters. Do you plan that from the beginning? Is it in the dialog? Is it in their actions? Is it just magic? :) I analyze and overanalyze my characters to the point where they seem devoid of any interest and become cardboard cutouts.

    Hi Elaine,

    Thank you for the kind words!

    My best advice is: Don’t overanalyze your characters early on, and don’t make them try to fit some pattern or sheet of description. Let them grow with your story. I begin writing with only a sketch of a character, and approach the work as if I’ve just been introduced. OK, I know a bit about what he looks like. And I know what she’s doing in this situation, and maybe a little about education or background – but not much. There’s LOTS I don’t know. And then, I introduce plot. How does this man react to being inspected on the auction block or how does he react when confronted by a very angry woman who believes he ruined her life? That’s when I start analyzing.

    In the second case: One can argue or strike back at an accuser and declare innocence (I know my character would never have hurt her intentionally and he knows it) or one can accept the accusation and feel guilty, even though you know it’s not your fault. I choose the second way for Aidan. What does that tell me about him? When I hit him with something else, I must take into account what I’ve just learned about him. And so, as I develop the plot, I think…well, what would make him strike back? Anything? Of course he will feel a sense of injustice if this person keeps hammering at him. But perhaps he would never strike back and direct that roused passion in another direction. That is, I must decide if he’s a wimp, or a masochist, or a person with a soft outer shell and a core of iron?

    Sometimes I discover I’ve taken the wrong tack, and have to go back and adjust. When I first wrote Transformation, I made Aleksander much more intentionally cruel. He crossed a certain moral line that I found I could not step back across. He is still cruel, but because I had “things I wanted to do with him” I had to tread carefully, consider the roots of his personality, and where HE might draw a line if he ever believed he had to.

    Does this help? Good luck and keep writing – practice is what makes it happen.

    Carol

  81. Carol Bergon 10 Jul 2006 at 8:25 pm

    Now, I have to figure out how I am going to tell the story. Will each new chapter bring with it a switch to a different viewpoint character? Will I have a few chapters in a row for each? I don’t know yet. The reason I’m concerned about this is that I have always written a story in chronological order. I’m not one to skip ahead and write scenes and piece them together.

    Hi Charles,

    Congratulations on making such excellent progress with such a huge story. I went through exactly this same decision process as I wrote Guardians of the Keep. I had three point-of-view characters. I am not one to skip ahead with the story either. I write from beginning to end, developing plot and character as I go.

    The critical issue here is keeping the reader apprised of whose eyes we are looking through at all times. Confusion takes the reader out of the story.

    In some cases the action proceeds in strict sequence. And in some cases we see the same events from two different points of view. I chose to keep a single POV within a chapter, but I let the story itself dictate how many chapters in a row came from a single POV. Keeping a single POV per chapter allowed me to juggle chapters to make sure that the most dramatic telling came first, that twists and surprises were not spoiled by having multiple views. As the story developed I found places where I could minimize switching by putting several chapters in a row.

    If you are telling the story from multple POVs, consider introducing the first POV change early enough that readers don’t feel cheated. Sometimes they invest so heavily in a character that it is a dreadful letdown to switch.

    Good luck and keep going,
    Carol

  82. Donna M. Sheltonon 11 Jul 2006 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for the comments. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone!
    -Donna

  83. jayon 11 Jul 2006 at 6:13 am

    What I’m finding hard at the moment is how to get my meaning across on paper…or on the computer screen as that’s how far it’s progressed so far. Also I’m still having a little trouble motivating myself to write more still.
    I know where I want the story to progress to and in a rough sense how I want to get it there, but I just seem unable still to get further on.
    I’m thinking of writing just the basic outline of the scenes to take place, which characters are involved and locations. Then flesh it out a little more thoroughly later on.
    But it could be just that I have one of my arms immobilised in a sling, which doesn’t exactly make for the easies typing. lol
    But that’s probably just another form of procrastination because I can still think clearly and can still type…just VERY slowly.
    I have ideas constantly flashing in my mind about the plot of my story, some changing what I’ve already written. Some of these ideas aren’t bad…well I don’t think anyway. But it’s the constantly changing ideas about how to progress the story that are a little disheartening, considering some have been written and there’s a lot of other avenues to explore.

  84. makoiyion 11 Jul 2006 at 9:16 am

    If a story is constantly evolving in my mind, then that means to me, I haven’t got it quite right yet. Poor you with one arm in a sling! But you must have heard many of us say: Notebooks! Have a notebook for each story/novel you are writing. Write down all those wonderful ideas. You don’t have to use them all, or any, but there’s a certain symmetry to stories that when they come together they click. I think it was Janny Wurts who said on her site somewhere. Just write it, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time, the back brain is working away and there’s probably a reason for it that will come to you later.

    If you try writing all these wonderful ideas into the story itself you will probably find yourself going off on a tangent where you never meant to go. So write them separately and let them sit and they’ll either find their place or won’t.

    Well. That’s my theory, anyway.

  85. Charleson 11 Jul 2006 at 10:46 am

    Katharine,

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement. What is interesting — at least to me – - is that my writing habits — a sparse draft or “detailed outline” as you say to establish the story and then following this up with a more developed and detailed draft — developed mostly out of necessity. I started writing on an old typewriter that had a large ribbon that was black on its top half and red on its bottom half. We only had the one ribbon available for the typewriter. As there was no Internet shopping back then that ribbon was all I had. So, if one were to look at my old science fiction works they start off with nice black type which ends up fading away to be replaced the remainder of the way with increasingly faded red type.

    It wasn’t until I purchased an Apple IIc and moved onto the computer when I started really fleshing out my stories.

    Had I not been faced with limited resources who knows what writing process I might have developed!

  86. Charleson 11 Jul 2006 at 11:10 am

    The critical issue here is keeping the reader apprised of whose eyes we are looking through at all times. Confusion takes the reader out of the story.

    Carol,

    Thanks to you as well for your resonse. My initial reaction to first person narrative is that it is not my preference. However, when I go through my Andre Norton collection (my largest) I am amazed at how many of the stories I loved so much were written in first person by her. I guess it is a testament to excellent writing that the first person style doesn’t intrude.

    I would have to say my favorite first person novel is Norton’s “The Crystal Gryphon”. This is the first time I read a book that had 2 first person narratives. The book alternated chapters between the two points of view with some events overlapping as each described them.

    I suspect that speaking in a clearly identifiable first person voice for more than one character in a book is quite daunting.

    I write in third person narrative. I used to have a lot more omnipresent narrative in the past, but my main recent writing exercise has been to eliminate that viewpoint and focus instead on singular third person points of view within a chapter.

    I’ve gone back and looked at my first more fleshed out writing on the computer and now the shifts in narrative are apparent. One exercise that I only do occasionally is to take an old scene from something I wrote a while ago and rewrite it strictly from only one third person view. I don’t do this too often because I have found myself distracted by that story and gone off on a writing tangent away from what I was supposed to be working on.

    Even writing can be a procrastination tool!

    If you are telling the story from multple POVs, consider introducing the first POV change early enough that readers don’t feel cheated. Sometimes they invest so heavily in a character that it is a dreadful letdown to switch.

    In the book I’ve finally decided I should write (the beginning of the ten thousand year timeline) I am actually having fun with using the events and interactions as a way to introduce my point of view characters. So far, the book as a whole has 5 definite point of view characters, 3 of which appear in the opening section. I actually am introducing all 3 viewpoints within the first 4 chapters. I’ve found a way to have these switches flow nicely.

    Now, whether or not I can keep that up remains to be seen.

  87. jayon 14 Jul 2006 at 6:39 am

    makoiyi,
    A notebook would be a great idea….but at the moment, being right handed with my right arm in this sling, I can’t write by hand. But I am lucky that I can type because it holds my arm at a ninety degree angle to my stomach so I’m always in a position that enables me to type!
    So what I’ve started to do instead is I’ve opened a section of my file for my novel and am using this for short notes. I’ve sectioned it off so It’ll be nice and easy to delete later and It’s right there any time I’d like to look at it or revise any ideas that I’ve had about the story.
    But I’ll get a notebook in a months time so I don’t have to be sitting at the computer to add to it.

  88. Collieon 20 Jul 2006 at 10:29 pm

    I have a question, please. Writing isn’t difficult for me; coming up with a story idea is. Would anyone be willing to explain how they come up with story ideas? Thanks for any assistance.

  89. Danion 21 Jul 2006 at 11:59 am

    Anyone have any suggestions on how to describe accents? For ex, if you had to describe the differences between a Yorkshire accent, an upper crust London accent, and a Dublin-Irish accent to someone who’d never heard them before, how would you do it?

  90. makoiyion 21 Jul 2006 at 2:36 pm

    Last year I sent a novel to a small press publisher. They asked for the full and rejected it with a, please rewrite and send back to us. I said I needed it to sit for a while, and that was fine with them, and meanwhile if I had anything else to pelase send. Well I did send them something recently but they rejected that and hadn’t forgotten who I was. Could I please send the original novel if I’d rewritten. I guess this was a year ago, but the novel seems to have stuck in their minds.

    I don’t know what to do. The publisher is small and they do pod, but it’s not the kind of pod publisher everyone reviles. This one’s credentials are good.

    What I’m not certain about. If I am building up my career as a novelist, is this a good place to start, or should I hold out for an agent, larger publisher? I do understand that sales count with agents/publishers etc and often a small press sales are low compared to someone like Daw etc, but can it do any harm?

    Any advice? Please!

  91. jayon 23 Jul 2006 at 12:42 am

    makoiyi,
    I’m no expert, but if you were to get someting you’ve written published, even by a lesser known publisher and sales turned out to be pretty good. Wouldn’t that make you much more attractive to a well known publisher? You never know hey? They may even approach you ( I’m not sure if that’s how things get done though!) But isn’t getting your name known and your work recognised going to make your life easier later on?
    That’s what I think anyway….but what woul I know?
    Congratulations on making that good an impression on them that they still remember you after a year, that’s pretty cool.

  92. jayon 23 Jul 2006 at 12:46 am

    Oh yeah…Kit, thanks for changing that listing on the 13 line critiques.

  93. makoiyion 23 Jul 2006 at 10:53 am

    jay, agents and publishers work on sales figures, so a small press isn’t going to impress them much unless by some miracle the book took off and had huge sales.

    It’s really a question of whether I just want a book in print, to say I’ve ‘done it’ or I want to make a career out of writing. It goes deeper into wondering if the novel is good enough and would it be held up as an example.

    I asked on another forum and they said, It depends what you want, and I want a career. I want to go the agent route. Not that this small press is a bad one. I’ve looked into it and their sales, but I’m not sure a pod publisher is what I want for my book.

    Thanks for answering! My head’s been in a whirl thinking about it.

    Sue

  94. Barbara Denzon 25 Jul 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Dani — I’m by no means the expert here, but describing accents in terms like “nose in the air, he mumbled words that could have been King’s English if I could have understood them,” or “there was such a twist cast to the “o” in his words that every time one appeared in a word, it sounded like he was skinning cats,” or …?

    Sue — if it were me (and, by gum, it is), I’d steer clear of small presses the first time out. I do not want to get midlisted right off the bat.

    Barb

  95. DeeKooton 26 Jul 2006 at 4:39 am

    Hi all,

    I have finally started my first novel with a few chapters under my belt amd more waiting to spill out.

    I have tried a few times when I was younger to write but only now have I felt the confidence and authority to put the stories running in head on paper. And for the first time I can believe what I have written, I can feel my characters and love them (even as undeveloped as they are) and I am actually writing the way I want the story to be told. I think this on-set of self-credibilty might have something to do with age and recent life experiences. I’ve gotten married, had a baby, finished my degrees (finally!), seen my mother through a liver transplant and will be thirty next year. Now I feel I can tell stories about life because I have some idea about it.

    I’ve tested what I’d written so far with a friend and my sister. They came to me asking for more. My sister unbeknownst to me passed it on to a couple of people and they have been bugging her about getting more to read. It is quite exhilarating. Too exhilarating that I feel I might exhaust my creativity so I have given it a little break. It is normal to feel this….I love what I have written but can I go on? Is it a fleeting fluke!

  96. makoiyion 26 Jul 2006 at 9:55 am

    Barbara said : Sue — if it were me (and, by gum, it is), I’d steer clear of small presses the first time out. I do not want to get midlisted right off the bat.

    That’s pretty much what other folks said. I mean, it was incredibly flattering that after a year with no contact with me they still wanted the novel. It meant, to me, that despite its flaws it has potential. Well, I know it has, agents have said the same. I just need to tighten it up and make the protags protag a touch more :) I’ve done most of that and it’s come around to sending it out again. I’ve probably sat on it too long.

    The whole question about the small press really made me think. One friend who is in the business said: Do what you want. That sounds so simple, but when you are not over-confident it becomes complicated. What I realised was, I wasn’t believing in myself or my abilities. Just writing a query letter was terrifying me, and taking the small press route was the easy cop out. I wasn’t pushing myself. I was relying on other people to tell me what to do instead of taking control. So I looked through the novels I’d written and picked two. The fantasy one in question and a sci fi novel that also has potential. I printed them out and now I’m editing. Doing something with them instead of sitting on them. I sent a short story off and got myself focused. I just needed a kick in the pants. :)

    Thanks!

    Sue

  97. Danion 26 Jul 2006 at 11:15 am

    he mumbled words that could have been King’s English if I could have understood them

    Barb — I would if I could. However, it’s a case of an Irishman & a Yorkshire man (they’re a storyteller and a merchant) on the silk road. Their ability to pronounce Turkish and Mongolian is rather… um …. interesting. :-) So I’m resorting to “he dragged his words out with broad vowels” (Irish accent) and the other as speaking as if all his vowels were the same one (or something similar, I really don’t like either one). I almost think I need to find a linguist’s analysis of the pronounciation or someting.

  98. Barbara Denzon 26 Jul 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Sue — smart thinking!

    Dani — A linguist who knows all three languages might be … um … challenging. Seems like a decent solution.

    Now I have a question. For my summer residency, one of the things asked for is a synopsis to critique. Typically, how long is a “synopsis?” I vaguely remember Judy Tarr saying about 30 pp for a detailed synopsis (and I certainly have the depth to do that), but such things baffle me. I have books, mind you, but it’s so much easier to ask here! ;)

  99. makoiyion 26 Jul 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Barbara asked: How long should a synopsis be?

    This is taken from the oww wiki site, but it’s pretty much what I’ve seen in other places as well. If I’m e-mailing an agent I tend to do a far sharper, shorter synopsis than if I am snail mailing. The art, apparently, is to focus on the main plot and characters leaving out everything not relevent to the main plot arc, thereby getting rid of clutter.

    As short as practicable while still telling the whole story. 2-7 pp. is recommended; most books should be synopsized in 4 pages or less. As a rough guide, 1 double-spaced page per 50,000 novel words. Some editors have specific length requirements; follow them. And be prepared for several synopsis sizes.

  100. Katharine Kerron 27 Jul 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Dani, challenging indeed!

    Some general notes:

    The best way to show dialect differences in actual dialogue is rhythm. There is a rhythm to all Anglo-Celtic speech, for instance, that’s easily heard and reproduced — well, easy if the author makes an effort to hear/reproduce it. Most languages have their own rhythms. Of course, you have to know native speakers to hear them. I dunno about Mongolian, for instance.

    The thing to avoid is the apostrophe. Too many writers over too many years have fallen into the trap of peppering dialogue with apostrophes to represent “missing” elements, like the initial aitches in Cockney. In reality, nothing is “missing” in dialect at all. It’s simply a case of a different phonology, not a case of someone being too ignorant to know how to speak “correctly.”

  101. Barbara Denzon 27 Jul 2006 at 8:36 pm

    Kit, I agree. Damon Knight was the first person I knew who suggested not writing specifically for dialect at all, since the characters didn’t hear what they were saying as any different than “normal” speech. He said, tho, that the argument as to whether to write in dialect or not had been raging as long as he had been writing — and that was a long time. I just pretend that all characters have a Babel fish. ;)

  102. Katharine Kerron 28 Jul 2006 at 5:32 am

    The Babel fish was a grand invention! Also that virus on FARSCAPE that everyone gets injected with.

  103. Danion 28 Jul 2006 at 5:25 pm

    dialect differences in actual dialogue is rhythm

    Kit — thanks, that’s a good idea. I can definitely give them a different rhythm. (btw, Mongolian, to me at least, sounds more like Turkish or a Slavic language mixed with Chinese cadence)

    I’ve always hated the apostrophe substituting for real linguistic work — I keep thinking that those authors never bothered to really practice pronoucing their abreviated names. And, why are only names abreviated? Why not titles? Or all proper nouns? Or names of fruits and grains?

    Barb — good reminder about Damon’s wisdom. I’d forgotten that. I think I’ll stick to Kit’s idea about rhythm/cadence.

    The Babel fish was a grand invention! Also that virus on FARSCAPE

    I think I’d rather have the virus than a fish in my ear!

  104. jayon 07 Aug 2006 at 4:26 am

    Hi all again,
    Just a little question. If hypothetically, definately hypothetically, I’m not planning on including this at all ok…lol…Well if you were to make a character say telepathic in a story, would you, as the writer have to convey their thoughts as you would convey their speech?
    This is probably a really stupid question, so I’m sorry if you think so, but I rarely read science fiction. I generally read novels that fit more into the genre of fantasy or historical books or thrillers. So in light of this you can probably understand my confusion.
    Also, if the answer is yes to conveying telepathic communication as speech, would you have to make this type of communication italic, to help the reader distinguish between oral and mental communication? This way you wouldn’t have to keep writing that a character thought this or that ‘at’ someone every time someone said something.
    Well I hope someone writes back about this because it’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a little while.
    Cheers
    Jay

  105. Rosamundaon 07 Aug 2006 at 6:52 am

    Jay,
    I’ve only ever seen telepathic speech done exactly like speech, without the inverted commas, and in italics. Then again, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest reader of science-fiction.
    Hope this helps.

  106. jayon 10 Aug 2006 at 7:47 am

    Oops, I think I’m gonna have to look at a different point in which to start my story. One of the key elements I’ve planned in my mind for the story is becoming really really hard to implement. The longer I leave it, by writing more, the more awkward it seems to get in there. Also I’m a little worried that it’ll seem like a tacked on idea if it’s not implemented reasonably quickly into the story, and in a believable way. (Well as believably as possible for a sci-fi novel.)
    Jees, this is getting harder to write!
    I spose that the only plus is that I can still use some, if not all of the ideas that I’ve already written. But that doesn’t stop it from being exceptionally frustrating!

  107. jayon 10 Aug 2006 at 8:03 am

    Collie,
    I’ve only started writing my first story. But all of the ideas that I have had over the years while procrastinating to myself about writing a novel have come to me while thinking about mundane things.
    I think about these things, mundane as they are, then change them a little, sometimes I’ve come up with an idea out of it.
    You may all scoff at how I come up with ideas, but it works for me. Though I do have a slightly warped mind and that may have more than a little to do with it!
    lol

  108. Tapetumon 12 Aug 2006 at 7:10 pm

    Yeah Katherine! Somebody who feels the way I do about outlines.

    Every time I’ve tried outlining a story, it has dropped dead in the traces. Ditto for character sheets done before the writing (something else frequently advocated). If I simply sit down and write, then the story sorts itself out and the characters likewise, but if I try to define them ahead of time, they just fall down and lie there.

    Even for school essays, I wrote the essay first and outlined afterwards. I drove my teachers starkers.

  109. Kathrynon 17 Aug 2006 at 10:36 am

    I have a fear, my youth.

    I have the story (roughly – some pivotal scenes and the general direction) my main characters and many peripheral ones that come and go depending on the scene I’m mentally working through. I also have a sense of the more abstract ideas I want to explore through the story.

    I just don’t feel like I know enough. Not enough history, enough terrain, or even enough about people. I’m 23 and not terribly widely travelled (outside of my imagination) and I find myself sitting down beginning to write and wondering things like ‘can you really build using XX type of stone’ or ‘does this item really fit in XX level of technology.’ Often I will look up what I want to know only to be flooded with conflicting information online or presented with a book worse than anything my degree put me through.

    I get so afraid that I will ruin the story I really want to tell that I either don’t write or I confine myself to not-for-public scenes from the character’s past where I can’t do too much damage.

  110. Kathrynon 21 Aug 2006 at 9:56 am

    Well I’ve found one solution, Open University. I think I’ve found a history moduel that I can work full time and do. It should at least give me an opening on to the endless reading list.

    Also a cheap subscription to the university library would help rather than our terrible so-mordern-we-don’t-need-books local one. I’ve never seen such a space rich but book poor one!

    Somehow just saying it here encouraged me to find a solution that wasn’t jump in a time machine. Thanks for having such a brill site!

  111. Stacyon 23 Aug 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Kathryn,

    FAKE IT.

    I’m not much older than you, and I’ve decided to take the above advice to heart and just keep writing when I don’t know. Have faith you’ll figure it out.

  112. Katharine Kerron 23 Aug 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Kathryn, about “youth”: you’ve got time, then, to figure everything out. Think of it as an asset, not a liability. Your solution of attending the Open University sounds like a good one.

  113. Kathrynon 24 Aug 2006 at 7:47 am

    Thank you Katharine and Stacey, I’ll take the advice you both give. I’ll carry on writing and try not to worry about the incredibly huge revision process it will need.

    I will also devote lots of time to further studies and learning generally, so that I can actually complete that revision process at some point. I’m really excited about the course I didn’t realise how much I’d already come to miss studying.

  114. Mitch Wagneron 24 Aug 2006 at 4:39 pm

    I use the Internet and Wikipedia quite heavily for research. I don’t really care if it’s accurate–it’ll say “fiction” right there on the cover, after all–I just need the overwhelming majority of readers to believe that it’s accurate. Which is a whole ‘nother thing.

  115. Mitch Wagneron 24 Aug 2006 at 4:48 pm

    For about 30 years, I was in the habit of talking about writing about fiction, but not actually doing it.

    Now I’ve gotten into the habit of doing it.

    My secret: 250 words a day. That’s my quota. After 17 years online and 22 years as a professoinal journalist, I have developed extraordinary diarrhea of the keyboard, and 250 words a day is easy. And that’s all I need to do.

    Of course, I always do more, because who can get up and stop after precisely 250 words. You have to finish the sentence or even the paragraph, right? So you do a few more than 250 words. You do 260 words or even 300.

    Often, I find that 250 words is enough to get momentum going, and I can tap out a couple of thousand words easily. Other times — like this week — the days are filled with alarums and excursions and being chased by bears, and I’m pretty worn out in the evening when it’s time to do fiction, and 250 words is all I can manage (plus a few more to finish out the sentence or the paragraph). But that’s okay, because all I need to do is 250 words.

    A novel is technically 60,000 words. At 250 words a day, that means you’ve knocked out the first draft of a novel in 240 days–eight months. Figure another eight months for polishing, and that’s a novel in a year and a third. Not bad.

    Actually, I understand Rex Stout, who wrote the Nero Wolfe series of murder mysteries, was extremely disciplined and did, indeed, keep to a precise word count every day. When he was done, he just stopped even if it was mid-sentence, and picked up again the next day.

    Likewise, he didn’t take a break even when he finished a novel. For most writers, finishing a novel is a big deal — even if you’ve written as many novels as Stout did — and warrants a pause for celebration. Not Stout, though, he just typed “THE END” at the end of the text, ripped the paper out of the typewriter, rolled in a fresh sheet and started the new novel immediately.

  116. Mitch Wagneron 24 Aug 2006 at 4:52 pm

    But we can’t all be Rex Stout.

  117. Jellyn Andrewson 24 Aug 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Kathryn,

    I’d say don’t worry about the details in the first draft. If you’re not sure what material they’d make a building out of, you can just gloss over it and fill it in later. Such as ‘John Jacob built his house out of _____’ Then you can search for all your _____’s and fill them in later. Or maybe you’ll find you want to cut that part later, so you don’t need to answer the question anyway.

    The Internet can be a great temptation and distraction. ‘Oh, I’ll just quickly look up what to put in here.’ Then half an hour later, you’re still off on the web and not writing. Either you haven’t yet found what you were looking for, or you’ve gone off on a browsing tangent. Interesting and entertaining maybe, but you’re not writing. Not good.

    Hopefully things you miss in your writing and your research, your readers and critiquers will catch. Then you can fix them for the final draft.

  118. Barbara Denzon 24 Aug 2006 at 8:51 pm

    Hi, all. Been away at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Association’s writer’s residency for most of the past 2 weeks. It’s intense and a great place to practice one’s chops. The focus this time was on writing for children and teenagers, and it helps to unearth one’s inner child. I workshopped the prologue to my novel and got mostly positive feedback, tho they still feel like they’re jumping in in the middle and want the history that’s in my synopsis in the prologue instead. It’s enough to drive a person crazy. How do I cram 17 years of research into a short chapter and not make is sound like a knowledge dump.

    The other “problem” I run into with this group is that they don’t read our genre and don’t know how to cope with multiple “main characters.” How does one explain that this is a disaster novel — a techno-thriller a la Michael Crichton — and that the primary character is the event. Haven’t figured that out yet.

    What I DID find out is that I have a penchant for children’s lit — grades about 3 through 11. Nice to know. It never occured to me to have a new genre/age group handy and ready to use. Decided that as long as I write for my niece, I’ll be fine. She’s reading way ahead of her grade and prefers the mystery/suspense/fantasy novels treasured by boys. Not enough written for boys, the residency “experts” said, and publishers have been buying into the “well, boys don’t read so we won’t target them” crap. They don’t read because there’s nothing out there that appeals to them. Or so the speakers said. Nice to know, I guess.

    I’m exhausted. I did talk about us a lot.

    Oh, and I have a new market for those that are interested. It’s a short fiction market called Lunch Hour Books (lunchhourbooks.com). The woman getting it started is a friend of mine. She’s taking sci-fi and fantasy now.

  119. K. Erevason 24 Aug 2006 at 10:37 pm

    When he was done, he just stopped even if it was mid-sentence, and picked up again the next day.

    A friend suggested stopping mid-sentence, and I’ve found that doing it sometimes helps. If I stop writing in the middle of a sentence, then when I come back the next day (or week.. heh..), I have an easier time starting to write because I have to complete the thought. If I have to start a new sentence, then I’m forced to decide how to start it and what to say. Sometimes just finishing that other sentence is enough to get me going, to get me back into the character’s train of thought.

    ….sometimes.

    Kathryn– I get the same feeling quite often, especially when I am reading novels; I find myself thinking “Where on Earth do they learn all of this?” For now, I’m just reading and learning and paying attention to conversations I might have ignored before in the hopes of hearing something I can use in my novel.

    The Internet can be a great temptation and distraction. ‘Oh, I’ll just quickly look up what to put in here.’ Then half an hour later, you’re still off on the web and not writing. Either you haven’t yet found what you were looking for, or you’ve gone off on a browsing tangent. Interesting and entertaining maybe, but you’re not writing. Not good.

    Heh…heh… That was directed at me, wasn’t it?

  120. Elisabeth G.on 24 Aug 2006 at 11:27 pm

    the primary character is the event

    Interesting way to describe it! I’ve heard fantasy worlds being described as the main character in their stories, but the event being the primary character in an apocalyptic novel also makes a boatload of sense.

    I’m also one of those incredibly guilty of procrastination. Recently I’ve made a huge effort to write at least a little bit every day — I don’t have a set limit, exactly, but I get rather disgusted with myself if it’s less than 200 words — and my pace has really picked up. If I can continue this way for the next couple of weeks I think I will actually finish the novel before my birthday in September (which has been my goal for a long time). I still procrastinate horribly, and I need to set myself three or four hours to get a couple thousand words done because I spend so much of my writing time doing something much less productive, but I do at least get some writing done. It’s better than the months and months I went without writing a word (and still calling myself a writer… ha). I wish I had Rex Stout’s fortitude.

    I sympathize greatly with those having problems with non-genre-readers as workshoppers. I took a few creative writing classes in high school with a published author and tried to workshop portions of stories I was working on. I occasionally got good advice, but spent almost all the time explaining the background of the world and the story to them instead of recieving feedback. They didn’t seem to realize that the world was supposed to come clear as the story progressed, not be dumped on them right from the outset in a huge “as you know, Bob” segment.

    My favorite part was when they told me “your work doesn’t feel like fantasy! It feels like regular fiction, in a fantasy world!” and all smiled at me like this was supposed to be some huge compliment. It was, I suppose, but the fact that it was such a HUGE deal to me just provided infinite amusement. I LIKE stuff that feels like fantasy; otherwise I wouldn’t read or write it!

    Most of them were poets, though, which meant I did get a lot of help with the clarity and flow of my language. It also meant I got really good at editing works of others for clarity and flow. Unfortunately I can’t seem to apply that to my own work. Does anyone else have this problem?? I can edit stuff other people do wonderfully, but I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to my own! Either I’m satisfied with it and realize later it’s horrible, or it’s really fine but I can’t seem to make myself believe that!

    Mmm… so much for a short post. This is a very interesting thread — sparked a lot of ideas, if not for my novel, at least regarding the process of writing! Sorry for the rambliness. I get this way late at night, and when in new places! It’s lovely to meet all of you!

  121. Joon 25 Aug 2006 at 10:05 am

    I’ve been lurking around this place for a few months now, having found my way here from a link posted at Carol Berg’s site. I’ve found this place really, really helpful and encouraging. Ever since I can remember, I’ve devoured books. It probably isn’t that much of a surprise then, that my interests turned to writing. Family have often told me over the years “you should be a writer”, but I’ve always shrugged it off and asked “What would I write?” I’ve thought up enough scenarios in my time, but never really been able to make a plot or anything lasting out of them. Besides, I always felt that writers were supposed to be people that couldn’t stop churning out The Next Great Idea. I barely had something that could give me more than a few chapters.

    Then, about five years ago, things changed. And now, here I am today, characters, a world, a plot, and most importantly over 50 pages of a novel having been written. I cannot describe what a wonderful feeling it is to have your character stop in the middle of a scene and insist “No, you’re not making me do THAT!” I’ve come to see my characters as people, I share their thoughts, know their dreams, their fears, and often find them visiting me in my dreams.

    Like Kathryn, I too have a lot of worries over the details of my story’s world. I’ve learnt, through experience, that these sorts of things should be addressed in moderation. In one scene in my novel, my character drowns, so I did spend a lot of time there looking up research so that I could make the experience as realistic as possible when I write that scene. For things like what the buildings are made up of, or details like that, I just try to guess. When my story is written, I’ll go through it and pick out all the details that need to be checked for factual correctness.

    What I like to do, as I write, is to use Microsoft Word’s highlight text tool to colour words, or sentences that need my attention. Then, when I go over my work later, I can easily pick out what I’ve highlighted and am reminded that something needs to be considered there. I also find the insert comments tool very useful – often, I’ll link it to the Chapter heading and then make some notes about various points or things I want to check or expand on later. I’ve tried notebooks and such, but they just don’t work. I usually forget to keep them up-to-date, find myself interrupting my writing far too much when I do remember to write in them, and usually they’re so crammed of notes that I couldn’t hope to find anything useful or relevant later anyways.

    About pacing and all that-I’m something of a procrastinator, and I have become quite adapt at finding things to keep me from writing – particular examples include a 3 week period in which I did no writing at all, but justified my break because I was “reading how to write books”, or the time I managed to distract myself from writing for 2 hours looking for the perfect soundtrack to help inspire me.

    When I am writing, I do try to meet various targets. Not only do I have massive issues with starting, but I also, strangely enough, have just as much problems stopping. This may sound like a good thing, but for me, it’s not. I often find that if I don’t write to a stopping point, then I’ll fall into a sort of strange, trance-like state, and when I load up my document the next day, tend to discover that my character has run off picking flowers (as he did last time) for the next five pages. No relevance at all to the plot, but … sure it was fun! Am I the only one that does that?

    So, I like to impose a limit. I try to be flexible with myself, because the amount of writing I can manage on any given day varies, and often I do find I struggle to battle the writing nerves which can make the whole effort exhausting. On a difficult day, I aim to just write a paragraph, on a better day, I might attempt to go further than that, and on a very good day, I’ll write a chapter, maybe two. Lately, I have been trying to end each writing day “in the middle of a thought”, so that I can pick straight up the next day. I wrote 3 pages yesterday, which was very good.

    In terms of editing. I’m hopeless at editing other people’s work (aside from maybe pointing out the obvious spelling or grammar errors) but with my own, oddly, I seem to manage quite well. I do suffer with the problem that once I’ve written something, when I go back to it the next day, it just looks like nonsense. One of my biggest early bad habits was that I’d delete so much (often much of it not deserving of deletion) until I actually had an incoherent plot.

    For major edits, I take distance. Two, three days for a chapter. Longer (months in fact after I wrote the first 15 pages of my novel) before I go back to edit anything more. Distance really, really helps me address things in a critical (but fairer) way. As I go through my work, I ask myself “Why is this here?” and work accordingly. I try to keep things to the point, but don’t want my writing to feel like I’ve cheated the reader. I really try not to get myself caught up in worrying about style in an early draft – I actually expect to have to re-write a lot of it again anyways. I’m also lucky that I have a wonderful friend that reads through my work, and provides valuable comments.

    These things help, and although I cannot change my habits, I have learnt to see them for what they are and recognize which ones are helpful to my writing, and which ones are not so helpful. I usually know fairly quickly when something isn’t working, so if I come back the next day and everything seems to have turned moldy overnight, I give it time to settle and look at things with a bit more distance.

    Ahd sheesh, that was a long post! Guess I should go write something now!

  122. Vivian Francison 25 Aug 2006 at 11:51 am

    Following up on Elizabeth G.’s comment on clarity and flow; this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.

    At the paragraph level:
    1) Many paragraphs have a main topic, which is clearly identified in the first sentence. Here’s an example :

    “The premises they had chosen had originally been an elegant little two-story town house. The owner of the property had converted it into space for two businesses. The upper floor, accessed by a separate entrance, was vacant at the moment.” Amanda Quick

    2) If a new/unexpected topic is introduced there is a transition of some sort from the first topic to the second. This is a loose suggestion. Surprising the reader with something unexpected may be the purpose, esp. at the end of the paragraph. Example of transitions:

    “….’Let’s go there first.’
    We set out, crossing a stretch of countryside I had not visited before. Eventually, we came to a small graveyard, a rusted iron fence about it. The gate was not secured, and I shouldered it open.” Roger Zelazny

    ‘We set out’ transitions from dialogue to description of the walk. ‘Eventually’ gives us a time reference and transitions to arrival at the graveyard. ‘A rusted iron fence about it’ transitions into ‘the gate.’

    The passage of time needs to be clear as well. Sometimes it gets confusing when switching between dialogue and description or when a period of time is suddenly skipped over.

    In the ‘unexpected topics’ category I would also include metaphors and the like, where the new image is a big departure from the current topic. (Unless, of course, surprise is the purpose.)

    I’d like to discuss clarity and flow on a sentence level as well, but it’s going to have to wait until later.
    I’m interested in anyone else’s techniques on this subject as well.

  123. Vivian Francison 25 Aug 2006 at 12:37 pm

    I’d also like to add something regarding the idea that not enough of the books published are on a topic boys would be interested in. I’ve heard this said before, but have never found this to be the case when looking at actual books published, at least with a cursory survey.

    Looking at the bestseller lists for children’s books at NY Times, Amazon and Barnes and Noble shows books on pirates, worms, warriors, monsters, thiefs, castles and bats. If these topics are bestsellers, I’m sure publishers are looking for more books on the same topics.

    The NEA (National Education Association) did an online survey of kid’s favorite 100 books. Link here. Most of these are books boys would read, including but not limited to: Harry Potter, Goosebumps, Dr. Seuss, Gary Paulsen, Narnia, Roald Dahl, Pokemon, Shel Silverstein, The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Jack London, The Hardy Boys, Redwall, Magic Tree House, Maurice Sendak, Jerry Spinelli, John Scieszka, I Spy, My Side of the Mountain, Draw Fifty Airplanes, Hank the Cow Dog and Piggie Pie. (Also, if it makes a difference, 57 of these books were written by men, with six names I couldn’t identify the gender of.)

    A possible reason for this belief is the fact that while it perfectly acceptable in our society for a girl to read books on typically boy topics such as trucks, the reverse is not true.

    Anyone with hard figures on this, I’d be interested in seeing it.

  124. Katharine Kerron 25 Aug 2006 at 5:32 pm

    .” How does one explain that this is a disaster novel — a techno-thriller a la Michael Crichton — and that the primary character is the event.

    Barb, you could just tell them exactly that. Short and sweet. :-)

    Mitch, great post on the dail 250 words!

    I think Wikipedia and all encyclopedias suck as research material, however — canned leftovers, is what they are, digests of third-level source material. Research is like anything else: if it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right. Of course, I sound more like my grandmothers daily . . .

  125. K. Erevason 25 Aug 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Eh, someone’s got to sound like her grandmothers. . . :D

    I avoid Wikipedia for serious research; if I need to check a quick fact that I can’t get from my dictionary, I look at WP, but considering that it’s open to anyone to submit information, you really have to be cautious about what you take for fact.

    On clarity and flow. Time proves to be rather difficult for me, both in the matter of how I should address and label it, and also in how to achieve flow, as Vivian noted.
    As a fantasy writer-in-progress, I’m always debating with myself about how I should deal with my characters’ measurements of time–minutes and hours, or something new entirely? Risk confusing the reader by inventing another time system, or go by the old standby and make my world feel a bit less fantasic? I noticed, though, that the book I am reading now uses minutes and hours freely, and I have not been the least bit bothered by it, so maybe I’m just a worrywart with first-novel jitters. As it is, sticking to not-so-specific time references has lead me to having trouble when I have to inform the reader exactly how much time has passed between Important Event A and Important Event B. Maybe I’ll just suck it up and keep writing.

    Jo– I’ve never had to impose a writing limit for myself–usually my brain does that on its own–but I find it interesting that you’ve been doing so. Haven’t had the trouble with the characters picking flowers, but knowing my protagonist, he’d be off practicing his latest dance routine if I gave him the chance to run.

  126. Mitch Wagneron 25 Aug 2006 at 11:42 pm

    Of course, I sound more like my grandmothers daily

    And Howard can start sounding like a grandfather. He can get started by shouting, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” out the front door every now and then.

  127. Elisabeth G.on 26 Aug 2006 at 1:18 am

    K., I have the same problem (potential problem?) regarding a time measurement system. What works for me is to try to simply remember that people in my world don’t have clocks or anything that accurately measures time, so they probably wouldn’t have the concept of a minute as an exact, sixty-second entity like we do. It doesn’t really do much good for anyone (certainly not my readers) but it makes me feel better!

  128. Joon 26 Aug 2006 at 6:02 am

    K. Erevas-I hear a lot about writers that impose a writing minimum on themselves, but indeed, a writing limit was quite unexpected to me when I discovered it was something I needed to impose. I tend to find that it happens when I haven’t done enough planning. I’m not a massive planner, but I generally have an idea in my mind about what’s going to happen in the next chapter/chapters. If I push to a point where I don’t have the details established clearly enough in my mind, then I find it easier to get “lost” in the flow and end up writing all sorts of weirdness.

    Regarding time measurement- this is probably my biggest weakest (that and pacing). I find I have an extra challenge because my character is immortal. In my writing, I wanted to use the aspect of time to my advantage to set a feel for the type of world my character lived in. My character starts off in one “world” and then ends up another. Therefore, to try and establish the feeling of timelessness, I wrote the early chapters of my novel in a sort of “dreamy” way. When he finds himself in the other world, I wrote with more structure and pacing – connected events together. As Vivian Francis described, trying to lead on from what’s said in one paragraph into the next.

    With regards to research-I’ve not found Wiki unreliable yet, though admittedly I’ve only used it to look up details for my drowning scene. I tend to like to gather resources from two or maybe three places, and compare for obvious differences so as to make sure of factual correctness. Because my novel is written from first person perspective, I tend to find that my character is not the type that would know what the stones of a building were made of. Sadly, he is a bit of an expert on nature, so I do need to take a lot of time making sure I get my facts about trees and such right.

  129. K. Erevason 26 Aug 2006 at 10:00 pm

    I hear a lot about writers that impose a writing minimum on themselves, but indeed, a writing limit was quite unexpected to me when I discovered it was something I needed to impose. I tend to find that it happens when I haven’t done enough planning. I’m not a massive planner, but I generally have an idea in my mind about what’s going to happen in the next chapter/chapters. If I push to a point where I don’t have the details established clearly enough in my mind, then I find it easier to get “lost” in the flow and end up writing all sorts of weirdness.

    Yes, that makes perfect sense. I usually stop at those points anyway because I don’t have them planned out well enough to continue, as you said. I guess that’s imposing a limit, though I’d never really though of it that way.

    I haven’t exactly found Wiki unreliable, but I did find an entry that was copied from some college student’s class notes–not unreliable, per se, but you’ve gotta hope he took accurate notes!

    Afraid I don’t know any good tree resources– sorry! :P

  130. Vivian Francison 26 Aug 2006 at 11:49 pm

    When researching, I like to have three sources confirm the same thing. There often seem to be certain widely-believed (to be true) facts which will be repeated frequently even though they are not true. Here’s one I was amazed to discover while researching a recent project: IV and IX were not the symbols used for 4 and 9 in Roman times. They used IIII and VIIII. Roman numerals were used in Europe until the 1500′s, and underwent several changes during that period, inc. the addition of shorthands such as IV. To speed up research, I try to get stuff written by people who really know what they are talking about, and cut down on the chaff. They also have the most interesting details–the inside scoop. I also really like source-books, since they quote directly from historic texts, and offer everything categorized by topic. So I can look up “time,” ok, make that “clock” and get:

    “May the gods destroy that man who first discovered hours, the very man who first set up a sundial here, who smashed my day, alas, into fragments. When I was a boy, my stomach was my sundial, and the best and most accurate by far of all your time-telling devices. It always told you when you needed to eat (exept when there was nothing to eat). But now, even when there is something to eat you can’t eat unless the sun agrees.” Aquilius

    How great is that! Also performs as a transition into the next topic: what to do in a story with those aspects of life that are different from what we are generally familiar with. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Mars’ series, he accounts for the difference between an Earth Day and a slightly longer Mars day be creating a ‘time slip’ in the middle of the night, during which clocks stop running. The mood of characters is affected in scenes taking place within this witching hour.

    I like imaginative stuff, but unfortunately, there is, I think, a limited number of ‘different aspects of life’ that can be given strong attention in one story before it loses it’s focus/clarity. So my real question, I guess, is how to draw attention away from ‘differences’ that aren’t a part of the main focus? Something to think about later.

  131. Katharine Kerron 27 Aug 2006 at 5:39 pm

    He can get started by shouting, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” out the front door every now and then.

    Fortunately, our lawn is dead.

    A good example of why details matter. :-)

  132. Katharine Kerron 27 Aug 2006 at 5:39 pm

    I should add that Wiki is no worse than any other encyclopedia, which is why I rail against all of them.

  133. heatheron 05 Sep 2006 at 9:49 am

    i have been writing this story in bits and pieces for years now- and while i have a deep sense of impatience for it to breathe on its own, i can’t deny that the time it is taking has given it a maturity that it lacked and desperately needed.
    Much like myself i am sure.
    However, i worry that i am injecting to much of my own trials and tribulations into the veins of my main character. Undeniably i feel a kinship with her, yet if i do not seperate myself, will i ever finish? One could argue toward a fear of failure- but at the risk of sounding terribly conceited- i know that i am good at what i do and can’t imagine (with some of the things i have read in print) that i should be rejected. Yes, life interferes- but boo hoo, get over it. Just do it already. I get so aggravated with myself.
    I feel the life in this story- in its characters- as i never have in any of my others but have yet to tame the chaos that surrounds it. At this point, i don’t even wonder whether any other will like what i have written.. It is only important that i FINISH.

  134. Grace Roeberon 05 Sep 2006 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve learned a lot, not just here, but with a great critque group.

    I belong to two. One is all genres. The other is Sci-fi only. If you do belong to a crit. group it’s important to pick one that has a good mix of different levels of skills (magazine/freelance, published novelists, romance, sci-fi, western, literary, etc.)

    I had to start somewhere and I lucked out with a good group. You pick up so much belonging to a good group whose members are not there to stroke your mistakes, but pounce on them and rip them (less you) to shreads.

    What are friends for?

    The first novel will crawl a crooked path to life, I believe, with encouragement from fellow writer’s who have been there and done that.

    I suggest a good face to face crit. group where lessons continue over cups of coffee after the meetings.

    Grace

    Oh, I consider myself a meticulous/spurt.

    I’ve been taught to appreciate OUTLINES for a novel and have taken an online course to help me gel that into my poor brain.

    The ‘spurt’ happens when I reach a scene within the outline where something ‘techy’ may have to happen in just the right way.

  135. Katharine Kerron 05 Sep 2006 at 5:31 pm

    If outining works for you, by all means use it. But if it doesn’t, it will kill your project dead. Writing fiction is a peculiar partnership between the rational mind and the great Unconscious Whatzit, and everyone has to negotiate their own terms.

    Heather, just finishing is the most important thing with a first novel. “Don’t think about publishing until you finish the first draft” is perhaps the one true bit of advice that fits everyone. :-)

    Many authors have a “trunk novel,” finished but unsellable — but also worth its weight in learner’s gold.

  136. heatheron 05 Sep 2006 at 6:52 pm

    I nod once in near reverence to the writer of one of my favorite series and would gladly listen to her advice- yes, finishing is my goal-especially this one. My trunk novels are kept in water tight bins and only rarely do i pull them out to embarass myself. I allow noone to read them, mind- it is just excruciating to look back on almost cartoonish characters and plot twists that i apparently at one time felt to be interesting. I certainly hope that in ten years i don’t reread what i write today and cringe as i do now over my arrogance of then.

  137. Samer Rabadion 06 Sep 2006 at 7:18 pm

    Hello,

    I found this site, like some others, through Carol Berg on Amazon.com. Frankly, I’m amazed that something like this exists. Many moons ago, I used to belong to GEnie and was an avid lurker (if such a thing is possible) of the sci-fi/fantasy forums there.

    I’d given up on the idea of being a writer myself until recent events in my life have shown me that maybe it’s not such an impossibility after all. I have as a result started working on my first novel.

    The idea scares me to death, and that’s why I’m so happy to have found this site. I’ve already learned so much from the few days I’ve been here.

    I’m not sure you’ll hear all that much from me, as I tend to be fairly quiet, but I did want to introduce myself and say that I’m happy to have found this community.

    I also want to offer special thanks to Mitch Wagner for his post about writing 250 words/day. It made the prospect of writing a novel less daunting, and I’ve been averaging 450 words/day. :-)

    Best,

    Samer

  138. Vivian Francison 06 Sep 2006 at 7:35 pm

    It is great hearing from you, Samer. Best of luck on your novel.

  139. Mitch Wagneron 06 Sep 2006 at 11:43 pm

    I’m glad I could be of help with that, Samer, and welcome to this group.

  140. backaron 07 Sep 2006 at 6:41 am

    hi,
    I on my first novel heaven knows when it will finish,any way when i started writing mine I had a clear vision (no what I had now but more or less the same) I try to pich in 1 0r 2 sentences whneever I can be it in class or workshop or home and junk it to my novel.but there are some days when I just cand move a single sentence and I get hooked on to the last word such that every were I go I see the smae old words

  141. Jenniferon 07 Sep 2006 at 8:33 am

    re: outlines…

    I learned my lesson the hard way! I made it all the way to freshman year (undergrad) without ever writing an outline. Having tested out of any requirements, I figured I’d take an “easy” class to balance out the schedule (-cue the ‘Jaws’ theme music). The class was a study on minority women writers, and very interesting. The point is: I nearly failed the class! Each paper was required to be outlined some time in advance , and I had no concept of how to do that. During one of my many ‘challenging’ meetings with the professor( I’m sure she wouldn’t have been so polite…), I mentioned that the class was an elective for me, and told her the whole story. She basically allowed me to turn in my outlines in after I wrote my final papers.
    I had learned to write the way I had learned to read; in a flow. Once the blocks came off, the whole situation became much more enjoyable….

  142. Jellyn Andrewson 07 Sep 2006 at 5:54 pm

    For nonfiction papers for school, sometimes I outline, but usually if I do, it’s right before I get started writing. I’ve done all my research and I’ve thought about things. I’ve put it into logical order already in my head. I just jot down an outline so I don’t forget something I wanted to say. Also so that if I momentarily stall, I can look at the outline to see what was next.

    I don’t like turning in outlines in class. I’m usually not at the point where I’m ready to write one, or they want more detail than I usually include. I also don’t like turning in rough drafts. My rough drafts are pretty much my final drafts, minus a spellcheck and final read-through.

    I’m still working on how this nonfiction writing method will apply to my fiction writing. Do I need to outline more? Less? Certainly the rough draft -> final version is going to be more pronounced.

  143. Mitch Wagneron 07 Sep 2006 at 9:04 pm

    “How to Write a Novel,” by Justine Larbalestier. Great tips. Couple of observations on Justine’s points:

    1) I love the phrase “intramaweb thingie.”

    2) Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi!” would be a great name for a novel.

  144. Joon 08 Sep 2006 at 8:13 am

    Outlining is a big problem for me, probably because I hate to plan things in any great detail, but for novel writing, I really do need to establish more depth than just “main character is going to do [whatever] next.”

    I have a wonderful friend that I discuss plot with when my writing gets sluggish – and that often helps me to think ahead a bit further; and once I’m confident with where I’m going, I tend to find a lot of my writing problems go away.

    I did write an outline for the first half of the first part of my novel. That was really useful, especially when I set my writing aside for months – I wouldn’t have been able to get back into my characters and their world without that outline being there to remind me what I had intended. And outlining did help me to pick up on events and things that had a big impact (indirectly) on my main character. I wouldn’t have known about them without an outline.

    I doubt I’m ever going to be the sort of writer that plans ahead to the very last chapter. I have a few (probably three, at most! — so far, though more get added as I write and the story unfolds) key events in my mind, and I basically write until my character “meets” with those events. The whole “not knowing what happens next” thing is one aspect of the writing craft that I love, so planning ahead too far would really spoil that for me. On the other hand, the constant feeling of “not knowing whether I’m flying towards a brick wall” (might hit a stop and not be able to figure out how to continue) is quite scary and leads to a lot of problems with writers block for me.

  145. Mitch Wagneron 09 Sep 2006 at 6:24 pm

    Did someone already say this here? Writing a novel, for many writers who work without an outline, is said to be like driving cross-country at night: You know the destination, you know a couple of cities you’ll stop in along the way, but mainly all you can see is the area, a few feet in front of your car, illuminated by the headlights.

    Joe Haldeman quotes that occasionally; he attributes it to a well-known 20th-Century literary writer. I forget who. Might be Hemingway, but I don’t think so.

    My 250-word-a-word method is like walking cross-country with a flashlight. Much slower than driving, and you cover less ground, and can see less, but the pace is about as fast as I can think ahead, so it suits me. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve stuck with it for months, long enough to complete two works of (not-so) short fiction and get a good way into a novel.

  146. Elisabeth G.on 10 Sep 2006 at 2:10 am

    I’m one of those (rare?) writers who absolutely cannot work without an outline. I’ve tried so many times, and every time the novel comes to a crashing, burning, explosive halt about fifty pages in. It just doesn’t work for me. My baby is almost done (I’ve been saying it’ll be done in two weeks for about a month now… sigh. I had forgotten how much work college is. Heh) and I never would have gotten anywhere near this far without my outline. I don’t outline exhaustively — I outline the plot chapter by chapter, detailing what all the MCs will do, where they will go, and what major revelations they will have.

    Okay, I guess that kind of is outlining exhaustively! But I know how to work outside of my outline as well. Whenever the story calls for it, I have no trouble breaking out of the outline and adding or subtracting things I never thought I’d want to add or subtract. Some of my favorite scenes in my novel are ones I never planned on; they just sort of happened between important scenes that I had planned out, and they mostly ended up being great character-building pieces or nice rests between major action.

    Why can’t I work without an outline? I don’t know. I think it might be because if I don’t know where the story is heading, I can’t do all the fun stuff guiding the story there. That may be one of my favorite parts of novel writing — knowing where the story begins and where it ends and how I have to form and shape it to get it there. If I don’t outline, I end up with a shapeless mess.

    All that said, my plan for my next novel involves a vague beginning, a vaguer end, and a complete blank in between, so… we’ll see how that goes!

  147. Barbara Denzon 17 Sep 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Ah, outlines.

    In college I always wrote them after my first draft. I was one of those people who wrote the whole paper longhand (yes, this was before computers and I hated to type), cut it up, laid it out on the floor in the order I wanted to assemble it, and then numbered each cut out bit. From those bits, came my outline. Final adjustments were made there and then final version typed.

    I never outline short stories. I know where I want to start, where critical points are and (usually) the end. I binge-write short stories — usually in 1-3 days of straight first draft writing and then cleanup over the next week. Let it sit a week. Reread and retype as necessary.

    I have a beat outline for the novel, but I’ve already deviated from it SOOOOOOOO much that it’s a hint of direction and plot points more than anything else.

    Re novels in trunks — [sigh]. At my age, I hope I don’t end up with too many of those.

    Elizabeth — I sympathize with the vagueness. SOOOOO well.

    Mitch — I suspect your method is saner than my spurt method. Life too often intrudes on spurt writers.

    Barb

  148. ehjoneson 18 Sep 2006 at 11:28 am

    I’ve been an aspiring writer for as long as I can remember, but always suffered from the same problem Elisabeth G. mentioned up there. My work would go on for fifty or sixty pages, and then I’d throw it away in disgust. The plot and characters would start to get away from me, do things I’d never planned, and it just got tedious.

    Recently, though, I sat down and spent some time making an outline for a new novel idea I had. I was fairly detailed, and did a chapter-by-chapter description of what my novel would be. Once I started writing, I followed the outline fairly strictly, although there was quite a bit of room for change. (Several scenes got added, one got subtracted, the geography changed completely, and one of my major characters changed gender!) But the main point I’m trying to make is, the outline worked for me. It was a drastic difference from all my previous efforts, and IMHO, I had a great end product when I finished. I spent a few weeks editing and vetting the work, shipped off queries to a few agents, and to make a long story slightly less long, I now have signed with an agency and am working on book 2! If I’d thought of this method ten years ago, I might actually have been in print by now! LOL

    Then again, I’m still not in print yet, but I’m closer than I ever thought I’d be. :-D

  149. stevepaon 20 Sep 2006 at 2:27 pm

    I suppose I should add something to this thread. Barb kindly pointed me to this site two days ago after she discovered that I’d spent the weekend thrashing out my first significant short story. That I hinted at continuing the experience probably helped. For somebody who had never tried composing a story longer than the excuse I once gave my teacher to get out of a particularly troublesome Physical Ed class, writing that story was an interesting catharsis. I find myself somewhat tempted to repeat the experience again and again. :-)

    Anyway, I wrote up the story on my web site at http://stevepa.wordpress.com/remembrance. I’m not actively soliciting any feedback at this point although I’ve come to a few conclusions of my own after the third and fourth re-reading. But I’ve decided that I’d benefit from reading the comments on this site before I start the next one. For one thing, I really do need to work a bit more on natural dialogue. Writing even one line of dialogue in the story was harder than composing a descriptive sentence.

    But in any case, thanks for the pointer to this site Barb so I’ll take myself off and find myself some hints and tips.

  150. Jellyn Andrewson 20 Sep 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Caveat. If you want to sell your short story to a publisher at some point, then you shouldn’t post it on the web. At least, not unprotected (such as by a password). Many places will consider this ‘published’ and no longer want to buy first rights from you.

    If you’re looking for feedback, Critters is a good online group. And free. It’s http://www.critters.org .

  151. stevepaon 20 Sep 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t really consider it something I’d submit to a publisher so that’s fine. Thanks though.

  152. Barbara Denzon 21 Sep 2006 at 8:22 pm

    More and better things will come, eh, Steve? I’m waiting. Patiently. Mostly. ;)

    Barb

  153. Penelopeon 23 Sep 2006 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve been following this for a while, but hadn’t posted anything because I thought me and fiction were having another one of our spats. Then last night I sat down and wrote about 2k words on one of my various WIP, and it felt wonderful.

    I find all this discussion of outlining fascinating, because when I write non-fiction I need an outline, but with fiction the outline doesn’t seem as necessary. In college, I outlined all my papers, even the 30 page ones. Now, the actual writing was never in order–I’d write one bit, put [insert paragraph about point 3] and then write the next bit, getting everything easy out of my head before going back and filling in the needed hard bits. I’d keep a separate text file for tangents, in case they were useful, too. The whole time, though, I always knew exactly what I was working towards.

    I tried this approach to fiction in high school, and I doubt I’ll ever do it again. A friend and I tried to cowrite the back story for some rp characters, and it turned into the beginnings of a novel (and we later hashed out a trilogy-length plot). We sat down and outlined together, chapter by chapter, what would happen, and then wrote. I never finished it–we got about 2/3 of the way through in about 3 years–because it took so long to write. I couldn’t keep writing the story because I had grown so much since I started it. So the outline sits there glaring at me, still.

    That experience has made mistrust fiction outlines, so far. We’ll see.

  154. Khylan Seriphynon 26 Sep 2006 at 8:21 am

    re: above.
    I’m a person that can not stick to outlines. I see it similar to a project plan, and project plans in my head = chores. I don’t want writing to be a chore. It’s the only fun I have in life.

    Besides, I know what I wan’t to write in my head. I do record a rough sketch on paper, but I can’t put down everything. If I had to do up diagrams, plans etc. Don’t think I’ll get the “actually” story done. But, I do see some reasons why diagrams, plans are important for some things.

  155. Gustav Marxon 29 Sep 2006 at 4:52 am

    Hi all,

    Been reading the posts for a while and thought i might as well join in the discussions.

    I have been writing for a couple of months now, finishing 5 – 10 pages a day, roughly 65000 words in all.

    I have one wuestion nagging at me: when is it enough. Is there an upper limit to how many words to write, or will it automatically turn into a trilogy ect.

    I am asking this because I still feel that the story has only just begun to take shape. The characters are only now beginning to fill out and the one of the plotlines has come to an end, but is all set to depart on yet another thread from here on.

    I enjoy reading all of the posts and the different methods you all use to write.

    I do not use an outline at all, and I have no definite ending in sight. It could all change in a matter of words.

    What i tend to do is sit down and write and let the story unfold as I go, join the world they find themselves in and see the action happening as if I was stading right there, and this is what i try to put down in writing.

    But, I just wanted to say hi and thank all of you for the ideas you all share here.

  156. kateelliotton 29 Sep 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Gustav, welcome!

    Write until you get to the end. Then stop. That’s the only “rule” that matters. Don’t worry about anything else, just enjoy the process.

    It sounds as if you are deeply involved in the joy of discovery as the story unfolds. It’ll be a wonderful journey.

  157. Katharine Kerron 29 Sep 2006 at 5:22 pm

    The plot and characters would start to get away from me, do things I’d never planned, and it just got tedious.

    This means the book was starting to come alive for you. I’m sorry you felt you had to stick to your plans. In my experience, after 16 published books, the plans are never as good as the new ideas that spring up during the actual writing.

    Good fiction comes from the same place dreams do — wherever that is in the mind. ::-) The spontaeneous images that arise during the writing process may change what the conscious mind intended, but they also tend to be charged with more emotional and creative energy.

    If outlines work for you, great! But remember that they are good guides but terrible dictators. And example for those who’ve read my stuff: If I had stuck to my brief outline for DAGGERSPELL, Nevyn would never have been a character. He appeared out of the dry and over-familiar material as I floundered.

    Mitch, I love that image of the car at night. I can’t remember who originally said it, either, though.

  158. Katharine Kerron 29 Sep 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Come to think of it, I’ve written the entire Deverry series without any kind of master plan or outline, as I had to explain to my editor yesterday. She couldn’t believe it at first because of the way it all fits together.

    Most of us tend to identify with our consciousness, our “ego” to use an old and should be outdated term, or personality, or whatever you want to call it. There is a hell of a lot more to a mind than that little island of awareness. Outlines satisfy the conscious self. The real work happens in the dark sea surrounding the island.

  159. Khylan Seriphynon 05 Oct 2006 at 2:52 am

    Treading on intellectual infringment. I think that’s the right term the professionals call it.

    This is a question mainly for Katherine. I’m about to self publish a book. I’m concerned I may have subconciously borrowed from her Deverry series.

    This is what I’m concerned about:
    In my story, the principal character is called Neven (which means no one in Armian tongue) . The character is 13 years old. She was left for dead near a riverside. Healed up by an Old Man, only to be sold into slavery.

    Now, I didn’t realise until halfway writing the story that Katherine’s Deverry Series has a character called “Nevyn”, which means no one in his language.

    I just want to know if I could have a character called Neven. Is this going to cause too many complications. I’m happy to change the name, but I really like to keep it.

    I don’t want to do the wrong thing and end up in a heap of hot water after the book is published (even though it probably won’t generate many sales). And, I can’t seem to find a direct email fo Katherine and let her know.

    Really appreciate the advice.

    xx

    Khylan

  160. M.T.on 13 Oct 2006 at 8:06 pm

    I’m pretty ashamed of my previous posts on this community, but here I am. Again. I can’t seem to get away from this place.

    Does anyone have trouble with main characters? My secondary characters always seem to have more life than they do. i.e, there’s an instructor in my fantasy story, who, quite simply, dominates. He does things on his own, and half the time drives what’s happening even though he’s not supposed to.

    I outline pretty extensively, even though I know things will change once I start writing. Taking whatever new stuff I’ve written into account, I keep editing the outline, over, and over, and over, and over….

    Come to think of it, I’ve written the entire Deverry series without any kind of master plan or outline, as I had to explain to my editor yesterday.

    I find that pretty amazing.

  161. Kate Elliotton 13 Oct 2006 at 8:27 pm

    I had one book in which the main character was flat but the other characters were alive and kicking. I just didn’t ‘get’ him. He had to be in the story, since the story was about his relationship with his father. So I decided to trust my subconscious. I wrote the story, and in the scenes where he was present I wrote his dialogue and responses even though he was flat, figuring that I would revise once I was done.

    About three quarters of the way through, in a scene, a line of dialogue popped out of his mouth that surprised me. And I suddenly realized that he was finally talking to me. At that point I had him. In fact, it was then easy to go back and revise his earlier scenes because he had come alive.

    So if your secondary characters are more alive than your main character, there are a couple of possibilities.

    1) be patient, and let your main character reveal him/her self; you can always go back and revise the earlier scenes with your new knowledge (as I did)

    2) your main character isn’t really your main character, someone else is

    3) you haven’t thought through what is really driving your main character

    4) some other possibility – I am sure there are at least a thousand

  162. M.T.on 14 Oct 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you for your advice. I’ve considered the second possibility a lot, but I was and still am pretty dead set on the main character being the main character. Somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same if, say, the instructor ended up with that job.

    So I’ll try the first and third and see how that works out. :)

  163. M.T.on 15 Oct 2006 at 6:58 pm

    This has been bothering me for a while…

    Is starting with the mundane/familiar then plunging into the unfamiliar a bad strategy for openings? By this I mean starting with…say, a student doing homework. He/she’s having trouble with it, and decides to call a friend for help. Things go along smoothly when he/she realizes there’s something wrong with his/her computer. And that’s when the fantasy/sci-fi element begins.

    Or would that take too long to develop? :/

  164. Kate Elliotton 16 Oct 2006 at 2:04 pm

    I think that’s a strategy that can work well (pretty much anything can work well when it’s done well) – precisely because it opens wtih a familiar situation and then leads the reader into unfamiliar territory.

    Sometimes when you start with unfamiliar territory right away, the story gets bogged down in having to explain things, or the reader has to be willing to wade through the unfamiliarity, which not all readers are. Not that this can’t work as well. Just to say that starting with familiar and moving into unfamiliar is a perfectly legitimate, workable method.

  165. Barbara Denzon 01 Nov 2006 at 6:31 pm

    I apologize for being MIA for awhile. Life intervened.

    For those who have THOUGHT about writing a first novel (or any novel) and haven’t gotten to it, there’s an online challenge going on that quite a few writers I know are joining — National Novel Writing Month (http://www.NaNoWriMo.org) — that is for the month of November. And since today’s the first ….

    1500 words today and counting.

  166. Mitch Wagneron 18 Dec 2006 at 7:20 pm

    What do you do when you’re well into your first draft and you find you want to make a significant change in the story?

    I started writing a novel-in-progress as a high fantasy, but I realize now that it’s better as soft science fiction with a low-tech society. Also, I thought I wanted the novel to be about a thug with a social conscience and mission, now, I realize it would be better as a story about a thug who acquires a social conscience and religion.

    I guess what I’ll do is write a few notes to myself and just keep going forward with the new backstory and story line in mind, then revise the beginning when I’ve hit the end of the story. If that doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll revise from the very beginning.

    But I’m curious to see what the Seasoned Pros would do and recommend in this situation. Or do Seasoned Pros even run into this situation — is this a mistake only a beginner makes?

  167. Davidon 26 Dec 2006 at 3:35 am

    I have a fiance who writes mostly post apocalyptic stories, and she is very close to finishing her first (she has something like fifteen different stories almost fully developed) and I’m trying to find out as much information as possible (as well as try to find an editor that is willing to read her stories) can anyone help?

  168. Kate Elliotton 29 Dec 2006 at 8:13 pm

    David,

    have her check out books like “How To Get Happily Published” in the library (although that’s primarily for novels).

    Also, while I do not myself have much of a background in short stories and don’t know much about those markets, there have got to be places online where there is discussion of markets and submission guidelines. One thing to do is figure out where and what she is reading, and check out the submission guidelines for those magazines, publishers, and e-zines, and then submit properly formatted manuscripts accordingly.

  169. Lizzaon 15 Jan 2007 at 12:51 pm

    When I started to write my first novel, I found that imagining the scenes and deep emotions of the characters was the more enjoyable part. I could imagine everything that happened into a movie screen in my head. Putting them together was the semi-difficult part. Connecting the story lines, dramatic scenes, character relationships, and everything else that makes an adventurous, dramatic story, took some time. I sat down one day, took a deep breath, and said to myself, “I just have to take one step at a time.” I then planned out how many chapters that I would have in my novella(shorter version of a novel) and what would happen in each one. I took another sheet of paper and planned out each character’s personality and random things about them that I would like to include in my story. This took some time, but I felt more confident to succeed once I was finished with all of my outlining.
    The hardest part i’d have to say though, was getting my chapters to be more lengthy. They were short and to the point. I wanted to be able to keep the reader hanging with suspense until the final word of the chapter. This is still something that I seem to have trouble with.
    I’ve been searching around to try and find the answer, but I can’t seem to find one.
    How long must your chapter be? How long do publishers recommend them being?

  170. Lizzaon 15 Jan 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Another question from little ‘ole me! I’m stuck in a writer’s block, except this writer’s block is more for the outline than the actual story. I’ve tried to decide what should happen next, but nothing comes to mind. What do you do when you get a writer’s block? How do I get over it?

  171. Debbie Whiteon 15 Jan 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I’ve got a question I’ve been curious about: I’m working on revisions on my 40,000 word fantasy novel. When I got THE idea for this novel, I knew exactly what I wanted to happen at the beginning and exactly what the climax and end would look like. I knew the general steps the main character would go through to get there. So I just started writing. I wrote the opening scene. I wrote the climax and end. I wrote the main scene right before the climax because I knew exactly what had to be established in that scene for the next scene to work. Then I wrote the main scene right before that, and so on until I’d written all the main scenes backwards from the climax. Then I filled in all the connecting scenes, did a read-through to make sure everything flowed correctly, and then started on revisions. This technique worked wonderfully because I always knew exactly what needed to be in each scene and was never stumped at what to write. Yet I’ve never heard of anyone else writing like this and certainly never heard of anyone recommending this technique. Am I the only one?

  172. Lizzaon 16 Jan 2007 at 9:03 pm

    I like to write scenes like that sometimes when I simply can’t wait to write it. But not all the time. That IS a good way of doing things though. Keep up the good work!

  173. David Louis Edelmanon 19 Jan 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Debbie — This technique isn’t as unconventional as you might think. A lot of writers (like me) do a variation on your technique, which goes like this:

    Step 1: Piece together a novel however you possibly can. Write the good scenes first, write the easy scenes first, write the short scenes first, write backwards, forwards, upside-down, whatever works for you. Just get a complete draft done.

    Step 2: Start rewriting from the beginning, this time working in a straight line from start to finish.

    Step 3: Keep rewriting until the book comes together as a whole.

    Not all writers agree with this tactic. If in doubt, consult the cardinal rule of writing: “If it works for you, then groovy.”

  174. Lizzaon 20 Jan 2007 at 12:00 am

    Hey all! I’ve experienced a slight writers block. I just started a new novella and have arrived at the second chapter. There are at least three different plots that would work with the story I am writing. Have any advice for me?

  175. Ariaon 21 Jan 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Lizza:

    Writers block is a pain, I’m experienceing MAJOR blockage now.
    Uhh…I’d say consider each plot line, toy around with idea’s you like the best and what’s the most workable. Which one do you think the readers would like. Talk to your friends about it and get their advice, describe the story to them…that’s how I get my advice, at least. But then again, I’m not a pro-writer, so….I dont know.
    Good luck, hope you can figure it out!
    -Aria

  176. Kate Elliotton 22 Jan 2007 at 4:18 am

    Debbie,

    if it works for you, then it’s the right way to write. I think that’s a cool way to write. Katharine Kerr also writes her novels “out of order” – that is, writing scenes from various sections of the book not in linear order and then filling in the gaps between.

  177. Kate Elliotton 22 Jan 2007 at 4:21 am

    Lizza -

    that’s not quite what I would define as writer’s block, more the part of the experience of learning to write in which you are training yourself how to tell stories. It’s normal.

    As I said over in “Questions” to Aria -
    have a man (or a woman) walk into the room with gun (or a sword).

    This is just a mechanism to shake things up – and i don’t mean it necessarily literally. The great thing about first drafts is that no matter what you write, you can keep it, or throw it out, later.

    I haven’t commented on your paragraphing question yet because I am thinking of making a somewhat longer post of it (about paragraphing) and posting it as an entry on the front page.

  178. Lizzaon 22 Jan 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for your responses. I think i’ve got it all under control now. I decided where I wanted the story to go and what audience I am writing to. I guess it wasn’t exactly writers block, but deciding where my story would go and what its purpose really was.
    Thanks again!

  179. Ariaon 23 Jan 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Lizza,

    Glad you figured it out! Congrats!
    I finally got my little plot snag worked out too ^_^
    -Aria

  180. Lizzaon 24 Jan 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I seem to be on here a lot, but only because it helps me out. I have one question. Is it better to have a specific group of people reading and helping out with your book, or a wide range of people? I think it would be better to have a wide range of people, but I have never really done anything like this before, so I wouldn’t exactly know.

  181. Lizzaon 24 Jan 2007 at 7:03 pm

    -Kate Elliott
    I have yet another question. Are you writing anything in particular?

  182. Ariaon 25 Jan 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Lizza,

    I’d try a wide range of people…but they’d hav eto have interest in the subject you’re writing. Also, they shouldnt be biased because they know you…it took me a while to get my friend to finally tell me more than “it’s good” and finally give me some critique.
    Still, I only have one person reading mine, as I am rather reluctant to give it to others and some dont want to read it. But then again, I’m not a professional writer!

    -Aria

  183. Kate Elliotton 25 Jan 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Lizza, I think there’s no right answer to the question of whether it’s better to have a specific group reading or a wider range. You could always try asking a range of people to read the book, and then make your own judgements on how useful their critique is and by that means pare down who is reading and commenting.

    Sometimes people really don’t have all that much useful to say because they don’t know enough to make their comments helpful or because they don’t want to say anything remotely critical for fear of hurting your feelings (this can be especially true if you’re writing something that reader doesn’t care for, as in someone who, say, doesn’t like mystery novels who is asked to read a mystery). Other times people tell you what THEY would have done if they were writing it, which isn’t useful but they’re not writing it (they can write their own stuff).

    BUt other times people you might not expect to have good comments might tell you just the thing you needed to understand that a certain scene is slow, or a character’s personality isn’t coming across, or whatever.

    It also depends on what you want out of the feedback. For some writers, they mostly want ‘atta-boys’ – a sense of being patted on the back and told to go on writing. I don’t see this as a problem in certain situations, if what the writer is seeking is primarily encouragement. In other situations, though, such as a determined effort to actually get a story published, atta-boy commentary can work against the aspiring writer because what they may need at that time is comments telling them where the story bogs down, or where the reader gets confused, or the obvious continuity error, and so on.

    Not every piece of commentary is going to be useful, and by the same token, not even piece of critical commentary is wrong. So in the long run, I think you have to get the feel for what you’re hearing and see how it echoes off of story elements that you yourself know or suspect may be problematic. And of course there is the rule of thumb, which is if the majority of readers mention X as a problem, even if you don’t think X is a problem, you need to take a close look at X.

  184. Kate Elliotton 25 Jan 2007 at 6:21 pm

    I am currently working on Shadow Gate, the sequel to Spirit Gate.

  185. ehjoneson 27 Jan 2007 at 1:23 am

    Hey there. I have a quick little question here. Maybe not so quick, I don’t know. I’m working on book 2 of a series for middle grade to young adult readers at the moment. My agent loves book 1, and it’s being pitched right now, but we’re really pitching it as a series, so I’m including sample chapters from book 2 in the package for submission. Book 2 is going great, though. The first book had a fairly slow buildup, owing to the need to introduce the characters and develop them. Book 2 has moved a LOT faster. It’s also setting up to have a lot more action.
    And that’s where my question comes in. When is it TOO MUCH action? From the very first chapter, things have moved at a rapid pace, introducing the new guest characters and the general set of tension and conflict. So far, I’m up to chapter 5, over 20,000 words, and there have been 2 major battles, a couple of small skirmishes, an important secondary plot with a bit of intrigue introduced, and a major character is down for the count. And the thing is, it feels like all the action is absolutely necessary to get to this point. It’s leading up to a huge climax. But when is it too much? Is there a point in writing a novel where you have to say, whoa, slow down, let’s take some time for a breather here?

  186. Lizzaon 28 Jan 2007 at 9:53 am

    EHJones-
    I’m not much of what you’d call “an experianced author”, but I have read a good amount of books that could go along with your question. My answer to that is this:
    Is your main character’s personality and feelings being shown?
    Are there any little details that could have been added to improve the story?
    I read someone’s story once that also had the same (similar) problem as you. They had so much action and detail, that the reader would have no idea of who the person was or what they were thinking or doing emotionally.
    Although, if the action helps move the story along, than I think you’re doing fine.

  187. Lizzaon 28 Jan 2007 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for everyone’s advice. The only reason I asked was because I have a small group I get into every month or so and we help each other out with anything we happend to be writing at the time. Since there are more than just a few people, it’s not as scary to give one’s opinion on someone’s story.

  188. kateelliotton 29 Jan 2007 at 3:03 am

    ehjones -

    I agree with Lizza’s answer.

    As a reader I personally get bored with straight whambam action if it’s all about the action and there’s no emotional conflict or stress. But if the emotional context is bound up with the physical action, then that is fine. It really depends.

    It might be that everything is in balance, and this book is just moving faster because you’ve done the heavy duty lifting of introducing the larger situation and world in the first book.

    It might be that you’re in essence writing a first draft that sets down your plot with little character development or setting detail, and that during revisions you can go back and put that in to deepen the experience.

    In my humble opinion, I would not worry so much about it while writing the first draft. That’s what revising is for.

  189. ehjoneson 29 Jan 2007 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for the good advice. I think you guys have hit on exactly what I’m seeing. It’s not that there’s no character development going on, it’s that the action is driving the character development more than it did in the last book. This book is supposed to be more exciting, with more going on, than the first. My man characters are all acting in character, and reacting to the conflict that’s going on all around them. It’s not all wham-bam-action for the sake of action, rather, it all relates to the plot and pushes things toward the climax. I guess what threw me is the fact that book 1 spent such a long time introducing my main characters and getting to know them, and book 2 took up exactly where book 1 left off. The characters are already introduced, developed, and known factors, so I could get right in to the meat of the story.

  190. kateelliotton 29 Jan 2007 at 1:06 pm

    ehjones: good luck!

  191. Ariaon 31 Jan 2007 at 6:24 pm

    My question is, what do you do when you’re in the middle of your book, and suddenly you find yourself thinking “this sucks.”
    I’m not quitting…I cant quit, I promised myself I wouldnt. It’s just that I find myself looking at a bunch of other stories and comparing them to my own, the writing styles at least. And though it’s such a stupid thing, it always leaves me hating my own writing…

  192. Debbie Whiteon 31 Jan 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Aria: I don’t know if this is part of your problem, but I always write stories I enjoy so that it doesn’t matter a lick to me if no one else likes them. That’s how I get through the first draft still smiling. If the story is no longer fun to you, then maybe you need to think about why that is and find a way to make it fun again. Who cares if it doesn’t follow your outline (assuming you have one).

    However, I think you’re mainly saying that you feel like your writing sucks when compared to professional, published authors who have had their work all polished up before it got into print form. (Hint: you’re not allowed to think that your work sucks until after you’ve polished it all up pretty because everyone’s writing isn’t that great the first round or two.)

    Also, when I read a story that’s just wonderfully great, I carefully go back and try to figure out why I like to so much. Was the character engaging? If so, what made that character so engaging and how were those engaging characterists written in? I use that information to make my ‘bad’ writing better.

    Hope that helps.

  193. Lizzaon 31 Jan 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Aria-
    I have found myself running into that sort of problem before. Here’s what I think about it. Who is your audience? Who are you writing to? Keep writing to only them and press forward toward your audience, keeping them in your mind to help you focus only on that. The audience of someone else isn’t likely the same as yours. So, they may be good at writing toward “their audience”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be really good at writing to your audience. Keep up the good work!

  194. kateelliotton 31 Jan 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Aria,

    most writers I know go through a phase, during the writing of any given book, where s/he thinks ‘this is crap.’

    How any given writer handles this phase of the process depends on their personality, but in my case, I try to ignore the voice that is telling me it all sucks and keep pushing forward. That’s because I know that once I have the first draft done, I can go back and revise. So what matters isn’t whether it is, or isn’t, sucky, but not letting the Editor On Your Shoulder stop your forward progress.

    Know that you are not alone in this feeling! Keep writing! Good luck.

  195. Nicole L.on 31 Jan 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Aria,

    I don’t know if this is what you mean, but I go through mood swings while I’m writing: some days I think it’s going great, and others I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. So I have a rule: I’m not allowed to judge while I’m writing. I write and if there’s stuff that needs to be taken out or reworked I do that only after the first draft is done and I’ve given myself some distance from it AND I’m in a good mood when I look at it for revision.

    Hope that helps.

  196. Ariaon 04 Feb 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Wow, guys, thanks for all your advice. It’s all really good, and I’ll keep it in mind when I’m writing next! It helps a lot, and I am forever grateful ^_^
    (Lets just hope this story works out, eh??)

  197. Debbie Whiteon 05 Feb 2007 at 11:57 am

    I have some questions on fantasy conventions for anyone who’d like to answer:

    If a character is introduced in the first paragraph and is out to avenge a family member’s death, is he automatically assumed to be a hero?

    What if that character is seeking revenge when the police could handle it and the perp would be brought to justice?

    How about if the character, introduced in the first paragraph, is instead worried about someone out to avenge a family member’s death on them? Is the avenger automatically an anti-hero now?

    I guess what I’m asking is: Does a character’s introduction in the first few paragraphs automatically mean ‘hero,’ no matter what they’re out to do or how they act, unless they are actually tagged by the author (if they are the POV character) or POV character as evil in those same paragraphs?

  198. M.T.on 06 Feb 2007 at 12:15 am

    To Debbie: I would imagine so, since it’s what the reader’s presented with first. The tags don’t have to be direct (I…don’t think they do), but I guess the general gist needs to be there. Perception changes, so by the end of the book, the same reader might decide that this or that character was actually minor or major and what their roles were in the long run, if you get what I mean.

    Something like how looks are decieving or…something….

    … Sorry if I’m not making much sense.

  199. ehjoneson 06 Feb 2007 at 3:37 am

    I’d have to differ with M.T. on that score, unless I’m misunderstanding the reply. Just because the character is introduced in the first paragraph as the current POV character doesn’t necessarily make him/her the hero, although that may be the reader’s first perception. But there’s nothing that says the reader’s first perception can’t be wrong, and there’s nothing that says you can’t blow the reader away with the revelation shortly thereafter that the character’s motives may not be as pure as they were initially laid out. Your avenging angel character could be introduced and even seem to be in the right, only to later discover whatever facts turn out to make the character the villain (or, if not the villain, at least in the wrong). And also, just because the character is the first POV character introduced does not automatically mean that the character is the protagonist of the story. I’m trying to think of examples, and for some reason, Dickens comes to mind.
    “Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.”

    A better example might be the Andromeda strain. I don’t have a copy nearby to give you a quote, but unless I’m mistaken, the book opens with several military types out in the desert getting ready to pick up a satellite that has come down ahead of schedule. Not only is the first POV character not the protagonist, he’s dead by the end of the chapter. In fact, of the four or five characters in that book who would qualify as protagonists (it’s never really clear), I don’t think any of them are even introduced until the second chapter. I could be wrong about that, though, it’s been a while since I read it.

    I know you asked specifically about fantasy conventions, and I just gave you a sci fi example and a literary classic example, but I think the same rule applies: there is no rule. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter when you introduce your characters, what their motives are, or who the POV is at any given time. If you write the story with one person as the protagonist, and clearly make that person the lead in the story, it doesn’t matter if someone else was introduced first. The protagonist or hero is the person you, as the author, want the reader to relate to, and to care about their journey. There are no set-in-stone conventions that say the hero even has to be likable. Or, for that matter, heroic or even good. It’s how you write it, not where or when the character is introduced, that matters.

  200. Kate Elliotton 07 Feb 2007 at 3:33 am

    Debbie -
    it all depends.

    first of all, whose point of view (pov) is this part of the story being told from? If in the scene we are viewing Character X from the pov of Char Y, then not a problem in any way.

    But I’ve also seen characters introduced as the initial pov character who were then killed off, as well as introductory chapters in which the villain’s neferious plans and attitudes are unveiled from the villain’s pov, after which the pov jumps to the protagonist.

    Also, while the reader brings certain expectations (many of which the writer can’t predict) to any given narrative, it’s perfectly legit to tweak those expectations or run right against them – as long as you pull it off.

    the rule being: as long as it works, it works.

  201. Debbie Whiteon 07 Feb 2007 at 10:42 am

    M.T. and ehjones: Thanks for your responses.

    Kate,

    Also, while the reader brings certain expectations (many of which the writer can’t predict) to any given narrative, it’s perfectly legit to tweak those expectations or run right against them – as long as you pull it off.

    That’s exactly what I’m trying to do–figure out what most readers initially expect so that I can work with, tweak, or run against them.

    I tend to initially assume that the first POV and those characters with them are the heroes unless they are tagged otherwise (like in the case of the villain’s neferious plans). However, if the POV is a rather nasty character, I won’t keep thinking that even if (s)he is the tagged as the hero.

    I understand that short stories and novels are different creatures, but I was surprised when everyone assumed Jerome in my 13-line critique was the hero. Any fellow who immediately cusses at a young woman/girl who has just helped them wouldn’t exactly be rated a hero in my book. So I began to wonder if I really understood what reader expectations were, as thus my question on here. :)

  202. Kate Elliotton 07 Feb 2007 at 8:45 pm

    But a man who cusses at a tag-along might simply be exasperated. It’s interesting how much the rewrite you did shifted the perspective.

  203. M.T.on 07 Feb 2007 at 9:39 pm

    To ehjones: You said what I wanted to say with a *lot* more clarity.

    On an unrelated note: Is it just me, or is this page getting rather…long? Or was there a decision to do-away with the numbers? Just curious.

  204. Taensray Lewinson 08 Feb 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Phew! My 1st novel is still killing me, but a poem of mine was recently published. WOOHOO! Something good at last.
    My “short stories” too, seem to be the beginnings of longer things.

  205. Lizzaon 10 Feb 2007 at 5:04 pm

    My novella is really getting into the part where the reader gets hooked. You see, when writing a book its good to have the reader thinking something, and then turning the whole story around making it a big surprise. I know this because the people I have lent my story too all agree that this is so. Not twisting and turning until everything is totally confusing, but to the point where the reader could say, “Oh wow, I was sure that (such and such) was going to happen.”
    That’s what I say all the time when i’m reading. Predictable books take some of the fun out of reading.
    (this is my personal opinion)
    Just wasnted to say that, thanks for answering all my questions before!
    Lizza

  206. Carol Bergon 13 Feb 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Debbie White says:

    That’s exactly what I’m trying to do–figure out what most readers initially expect so that I can work with, tweak, or run against them.

    Yes, as people have said, whatever works, works. Just keep in mind some cautions about openings designed to trick readers. You want to get a reader invested in your characters and story so that they’ll turn the page. If your attempt to tweak their expectations totally upends that investment, you can alienate the reader you’re trying to delight! And if you’re starting with a cliched opening (eg. the family member vengeance motive, which seems to be used everywhere nowadays), you run the risk of a reader closing the book before you’ve introduced your cool twist.

    That being said – go forth and tweak!

    Have fun,
    Carol

  207. Debbie Whiteon 14 Feb 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Carol: I wasn’t really intending on trying to ‘trick’ the reader because I get mad when other writers do that to me. I meant for all the hints to be there, just not jumping-up-and-down obvious until you reach the end. More like what Jane Austen does with Emma’s perceptions of Frank Churchill, but with the reader’s expectations making them overlook the hints. I’ve also come to the conclusion that one can’t start with too cliché a beginning or the reader won’t bother to read on long enough to be delighted that the story isn’t cliché after all. I’ll finish polishing up that short story and see if I can make it work there before ever trying it in longer forms, but maybe I’m balancing too near the edge with this idea.

    Onto other news: I finally finished my first novel today. That is, I finished revising it. The revising took longer than writing it in the first place. Anyway, it is 82,107 words long. I already have two friends willing to read it and give me their suggestions and impressions on it. One reader is a woman who mainly checks for spelling and grammar errors. She normally doesn’t read fantasy, so she gives me a perspective on it as well. The other is a friend who likes to read fantasy but has never done this for me before.

    So my question for published fantasy authors is: how many readers do you have look over your novels before sending them out to the publisher and what sort of things do you ask them to critique on besides what wasn’t clear or what didn’t flow smoothly? Many thanks.

  208. BDenzon 15 Feb 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Congrats, Debbie.

    For me, I have three trusted readers who read for different things. One is a grammar freak who happens to also love fantasy in all its forms; one is a plot, science, and style freak who wants to be sure everything feels believable — he prefers space- or science-based things but isn’t opposed to reading fantasy; and one is a “character integrity” freak who can always can tell when a character isn’t acting as I originally drew him/her. And then my husband gets to read the draft after the other three have added their two cents and I’ve incorporated their changes. He hates reading more than once, so I’ve learned to save him for last, even if his suggestions often cause me a LOT of rework. They’re always valid and good and the rewrites he suggests sometimes undo (or completely remove) changes I’ve made for the others, but in the long run make a tighter book. What I tell all of them is that I want to know if it feels believable and real. If not, where does it go wrong. Sherwood Smith is one of the most incredible people at doing that and back-in-the-day before we were all published and busy, she could take a manuscript and tell you the word or sentence after which it all goes horribly wrong and why. When you find those people, hang onto them. Those that can tell you why are worth their weight in gold.

    While all that’s going on, I try to not even look at the manuscript. Then I do one last readthrough from end to end with “fresh” eyes to be sure everything moves the plot. If it doesn’t, I get ruthless.

    Something I picked up from one of the oldtimers (Can’t remember if it was Damon Knight or Harlan or someone of that ilk) was to print it all out for that last ruthless readthrough and delete it off my hard drive and type it back in fresh. I have to admit I’ve never done it with a long work, but I’ve done it for shorter ones. Amazing the repetitions and things you find when you do that.

    Barb

  209. Lizzaon 15 Feb 2007 at 8:17 pm

    I am on my fourth chapter and things are going well. The seven people who read it are all agreeing the same thing: “It kept me going”, or, “You have a great hook.” That’s exactly what I was going for. This is a bit akward for me, but there’s a relationship between characters that’s hard for me to work with. They are friends, but one has a crush on the other. I’m not good at writing . . . well, things related with love. Got any tips or ideas for me. I’ll take anything!
    Lizza

  210. Carol Bergon 17 Feb 2007 at 11:01 am

    Yes, congrats, Debbie, on completing that story!

    I run every word I write through my regular critique group of 6 people. I ask them to look for anything that pops them out of the story, anything that is unclear, whether action scene choreography or muddy motivations, really anything. I also read the whole manuscript aloud (my husband loves to be read to, but I’ll read to myself if needed.) There are some things you hear – especially pacing or rhythm problems, word duplication, garbled sentences – that you can’t detect any other way.

    About the story opening question – sounds like you’re well aware of the pitfalls. I’ll bet you can find a way to do what you want. Good luck with it.

    Carol

  211. Stacyon 20 Feb 2007 at 2:47 pm

    A note to Debbie, and another plug for Critters – if you are looking for folks who read fantasy who like to critique, check out critters.org. You earn the right to have your work critiqued by “crittering” others work, and it’s only SF, fantasy and horror (the site is run by the VP of SFWA). I crittered a science fiction novel there some time ago, which was a great learning experience, and am revising like mad to try and get my first novel manuscript on the Critter queue sometime soon.

  212. Michael Capobiancoon 21 Feb 2007 at 1:17 pm

    To clarify, Critters is run by a former VP of SFWA, Andrew Burt, not the current one, Howard Hendrix.

    Michael

  213. Stacyon 21 Feb 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the clarification – I just noticed the change on the Critter site. I only mentioned the connection with SFWA to explain the SF/F/H alignment of the website.

  214. Debbie Whiteon 23 Feb 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Barb and Carol, thanks with the help on what to tell readers to look for. I’ve found a few more willing to help me. Barb, I’m not quite up to retyping the entire story, but I am now reading it out loud to my cats. They’re not very critical, but I am finding a lot of things that are repetitious, don’t flow well, etc., that way. Thanks for the tip, Carol!

    Stacy, I might get on Critters if my local readers aren’t as helpful as I’d like. At the moment, I’m actually trying to see that readers think of the overall story–are they getting the story that I think I’ve written? Is it clear, well-paced, etc.? I’d prefer readers who aren’t also writers for this stage. But maybe you’ll see me on Critters in a few months.

  215. ehjoneson 23 Feb 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I’m not sure if I should post my questions in this thread anymore, since I just finished the first draft of my second novel, but ah, well, I don’t figure anyone will mind. After all, the first one’s still not published. ;-)
    My question today regards writing habits. All the tips ad tricks I’ve been given in the past say a writer should write every day, that it’s essential to keep the creative juices flowing. I’ve not run into any problems doing that. I write every day, a LOT. I figured it up, and not counting re-writes, cuts, throwing away entire fifty-to-sixty thousand word drafts and starting over, etc., I’ve put down more than two hundred thousand words on my first two novels since May of last year.
    But if writers write every day, especially as much as I’ve been lately, isn’t there a chance of burnout? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling it yet. I’m still going strong and working on a short story for entry into the writers of the future contest. But is there a point where a writer just runs out of steam and has to step back, take a breath, and close the laptop for a few weeks or so?

  216. donnie gillespieon 26 Feb 2007 at 4:19 pm

    well, i found that wrting the novel was the hard part as i have finished my first one (Ramblings of a mad man). What i have found the be the hardest thing is writing the queries and synopsi.
    as for writing styles, mine appears to be different that others and yet a combination of them. when i wrote i saw the screens in my mind as if i were watching a movie and did the best i could to describe what i was seeing. Sometimes i wrote in spurts other times i wrote for hours (when i could steal the time. usually at night when the wife and kids were asleep).
    now i’m trying to get some interest stirred up in the book and hope that some publisher will pick it up. if not i’m thinking about publishing it through lulu.com.

  217. Ariaon 26 Feb 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I find it hard to write every day. I wish I could, but with school and stuff, I tend to lose my creativity and ideas as well as will power. Yet, I set a deadline for myself (a friends birthday – he reads the story and I’d like to have it done as a birthday present) which is mid-April. I just hope I can make it.
    So basically, I’m trying hard to write every day now too. I just dont want to over work myself.
    Everyone kept asking me today, since I was working on editing during lunch, with nothing better to do, if I was going to get it published.
    Well, seriously, it’s like “I’m going to try, I just dont know how to even begin…”
    Any tips?
    (I might have even asked this before >_

  218. Kelly-Louiseon 28 Feb 2007 at 5:44 am

    Hello!!!

    I’m really struggling with my book. it is my first attempt, after writing many short stories, to write a full-blown novel.

    I am really struggling in how to make the characters talk and making them sound credible!

    CAN ANYONE PLEASE HELP?

    lol.

    thanks,

    love kelly x x

  219. ehjoneson 28 Feb 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Kelly-Louise,

    Here’s a tip that always works for me. Try to think of someone in your life who is similar to your character, in both temperament and personality. What would that person say or do in a situation such as your character is facing? If you’re like most writers, it shouldn’t be hard to find such similar real people, since you’ve likely pulled much of your inspiration for the character from real life.

    Another tip is to just not worry about it, at least on your first draft. You know what is supposed to happen, and you know how your characters are going to react. Write the scenes with that in mind, and go ahead and use whatever clumsy dialog comes into your head to advance each scene. After you’ve finished a scene, or a chapter, or even the entire work, go back and re-visit your dialog. You should know your characters well enough by then that you should know what would come out of their mouths. Not only that, you’ll find that the dialog toward the later portions of your book has a more real sound and feel to it. When you re-work things, use the speech patterns and character “voice” that you find in those later pages.

    The final tip is one that almost every writer gives about writing dialog. Read every line of it out loud! If possible, have different people read each character in a scene as if they were reading from a script. It’ll give you a better idea about how the words actually sound.

    Getting dialog (or even narration) to sound real, plausible, and engaging is a challenge. There’s no secret magic trick to it. For some it comes naturally, while others have to work at it. The only way to get better at it is, like everything else, to just do it.

  220. Ariaon 02 Mar 2007 at 5:20 pm

    I have a question that sort of pertains to the previous one. I’m having trouble keeping one character, well, in character. Grant it, it’s a character who changes, is different with say his wife than with the outside world. But anyway, I figure if I go back and re-read what I’ve done with him, I can pick him up again…but does anyone know any other way to make sure a character stays in character?

  221. Lizzaon 03 Mar 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Writing things down (similar to an outline) helps me. I describe the character with appearance, personality and any other important things that will aid me when i’m writing. Of course, I do this in the beginning. I also describe the changes in personality or emotions that will take place. This might not help much, but it’s what works best for me. The way you did things seems like the right way to go though.
    Now, I’ve got a question. What do you do when you’ve gotten so far and want to keep on writing, but you end up deep in writers block. That’s happened to me and I cna’t seem to get myself out of it.
    -Lizza

  222. ehjoneson 03 Mar 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Lizza,

    I don’t tend to get blocked these days, for the most part, and I think it’s primarily because I outline faithfully. That doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s almost a necessity for me.

    However, I recently came to a spot in my second novel where I had outlined the development of a subplot that was to take up a large part of the center of my book. When I started writing it, I hated it… completely despised it. It didn’t fit the tone of the book or the direction I had intended to go. So I dumped it, and found myself unable to find anything to replace it, thus leaving a hole deep in the center of my book. Serious writer’s block.

    What I did was to first step back for a day and let things stew in my head for a while. Then, when I went back to writing, I skipped to the end of my book. I wrote the epilogue, and then I wrote the final climactic scene and the last chapter. Once I had done that, my creative juices were flowing again, and I was able to figure out what I wanted to do in the barren spot where I’d given the book a subplot-ectomy.

    Don’t know if any of that is helpful to you, but it worked for me. Once I got past my writer’s block, things just started racing, and I finished the rest of the novel in about a week and a half.

  223. Lizzaon 03 Mar 2007 at 10:48 pm

    That helped a good deal actually. I knew what I wanted to write, but not exactly how I was going to write it. Normally I also do what you suggested: wait about a day or two to get my juices flowing.

  224. Ariaon 04 Mar 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Lizza:

    The outlines a good idea, and it’s something I’ve kind of used, but I would call mine more of a profile than anything. Yet it just doesnt quite cater to my diologue problems. I have the characters attitude down, I just…lost a grip on his speech.
    THanks for the advice,
    -Aria

  225. kateelliotton 04 Mar 2007 at 7:24 pm

    When I have lost my grip on a character’s speech, I usually just push ahead and figure eventually I’ll get the rhythm pacing and vocab back eventually. Or else, if I never do, then I decide I need to rethink the character.

    But my usual fix is to just push forward and hope s/he falls back “into character.”

  226. kateelliotton 04 Mar 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Kelly-Louise,

    I think you’ve already gotten good advice. So I’ll just back them up:
    1) just write, and don’t worry about it. Much of learning takes place in the act of putting down words. Also, once the first draft is down you have the opportunity of revising.

    2) eavesdrop. listen to how real people talk (don’t rely on tv shows etc for dialogue training, as mostly that isn’t real conversation). You’ll end up adapting “real conversation” because it doesn’t actually work on the page, but the key is to be aware, to listen to how the rhythms and cadence and action/reaction of speech work around you. Then you can start to apply that to your own characters.

    3) avoid cliches.

  227. Steve M Nashon 06 Mar 2007 at 4:45 am

    Hi

    Good idea for a website :-)

    I’ve decided to detail my own travails at writing a first novel on a blog, as it happens. (I shall link to this page from today’s entry.)

    My novel writing problem is an interesting one (aside from my desire to procrastinate which has already surprised me in its inventiveness. Why don’t I want to write my first novel? That’s what puzzles me, but it’s the question I am forced to ask myself by my continuing to ‘do everything but write’). Anyway, back to my interesting problem: my novel might not be a novel, more a metafiction monologue (!).

    I have seriouisly wondered whether what I am now choosing to write counts as a novel. I’ve decided to write it anyway and then I will be better prepared to write a proper novel. A proper novel? A proper novel doesn’t smell like kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, for example (even though I thoroughly enjoyed Timequake – it inspired me, actually, to continue writing my own oddity).

    Anyway, rambling again. Just thought I’d pop by and say ‘hi’

  228. ehjoneson 06 Mar 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Steve,

    Send me the name of your blog you’re running, I’d be interested in reading it. I’ve been doing the same thing since midsummer last year. I started on MySpace and then moved to Blogger to try and get more exposure and readership.

    I think when you’re asking what qualifies as a novel, you have to be aware that everyone’s definition differs. But what I say is, if it’s fiction of any type, and it’s longer than a typical short story or novella, it’s a novel. Don’t worry about what categories to fit your work into. A novel is what you say it is.

  229. Lizzaon 06 Mar 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Steve M Nash,
    I can’t really help you any because I have never ran into a problem like that. I normally always looking for a time to sit in front of my computer and write. (technically type) About the novel thing. It may not be a novel; it could be a novelette or novella (shorter versions of novels). What I am writing could not come oven close to becoming a novel. Maybe someday . . . .

  230. Lizzaon 06 Mar 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Wow, I had a TON of spelling errors there. That’s embarrassing.

  231. Ariaon 12 Mar 2007 at 5:50 am

    So how exactly do you define your work as a novel? Is there a page limit? Requirements? Whenever I talk about my work with my friends, it’s always a “story” or a “book” even though it’s breached 150 MS word pages. So what exactly is it then? I guess it’s still a story, but not quite a book, at least, not in bindings, but is it a novel?

  232. ehjoneson 12 Mar 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Aria,
    Well, my agent has been harping on this with me for a couple of months now. Publishers go by word count, usually. 55,000 to 100,000 words is the average length of a novel. Down as low as 20,000 words is a novella or novellette. Anything less than that is a story or short story.

    This is per my agent; I don’t necessarily agree on the word lengths she’s giving me, but that’s primarily because I disagree with what she lists as maximum length, not minimum. Some of the best novels I’ve ever read were FAR beyond the maximum word length she gave me. But then again, some well-known genre authors in the past have had bestsellers that were under the 50,000 word mark. It’s really more of a guideline, and varies depending on your target market. The reason she’s harping on me is that my first novel is aimed toward middle grade readers and tops out at 115,000 words. She stressed that I should aim my second novel more to the 50,000 to 75,000 word range. I came close, sort of. My second novel is 84,000 words.

    The writer’s groups that I’ve been involved in have been much more free in their thinking. Yes, you have to hit a certain length before your work is considered a novel; usually the 40,000 word range. But what the groups normally focus on is the idea that the length of your work is however many words it takes to tell the story in the best way possible. And I’m of the opinion, the more the merrier!

  233. R.on 12 Mar 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Howdy, and wow.

    There is so much impressive and helpful info here. Glad to have found this site! My grateful thanks to all involved in its creation.

    I’ve been working sporadically on my first novel for several years now, having removed from the cardboard filing box both the typed (yes, *typed*) hardcopy ms. and half a dozen spiral bound theme notebooks, a couple of years back.

    After a quick cold reading, my characters, settings, and premise were still interesting,… but the story itself – ick. I tossed the whole thing out in disgust and horror and began anew. Those characters thanked me, first for not letting them languish forever in a cardboard tomb in the garage, and second for tossing out that first attempt at their story line.

    Ironically, I’ve become a slave to outline – no, not to any particular outline itself, but to the action and function of outlining. Outlining is the only way I’ve been able to effectively harness this beast of a story arc that I’m wrangling.

    It was originally going to be a single, thickish, volume. It grew. Oh, my gods, it grew. It morphed itself into a trilogy, and the next thing I knew it couldn’t be told in only three books. It’s now a quintet, and the only way I could keep it from expanding fractally was to deploy an outline.

    I’ve also been working on short stories to develop and hone my skills for characterization and narrative prose. So far, well,… we’ll see. My greatest obstacle in completing this first novel is my addiction to tangent chasing while lost in the throes of research. It’s so hard, sometimes, to not follow that rabbit deeper and deeper into his warrens.

    My hat is off to everyone who perserveres and gets that first story finished and told. Bravo to all of you!

  234. Writing my first novel « Steer Forth!on 15 Mar 2007 at 1:47 pm

    [...] Writing my first novel Brought forth by a blog page titled Writing my first novel. [...]

  235. Lizzaon 15 Mar 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Yes, this website is very informative. I have appreciated all the help you all have given me. It has really helped in my stretch to complete my first novel. (Ok, so more of a novella.) I really don’t know if it will hit the novel word count. Possibly, though. I have fallen onto the seventh chapter and I am exctatic to see how the story will unfold. When I write something, I see it as a movie in my mind. I write what I see in my mind, making description MUCH easier. So, as any intrigueing fantasy movie, I greatly anticipate the next twist in my tale. I just wanted to thank you all for your wonderful help.
    Also, another question. When do you know when your manuscript is ready to be sent in to a publisher. Meaning, how much do I have to continue to look over and edit it? How many people should read and reveiw it? When I submit my work what will my publisher be asking of me? (That is if my work is accepted)
    One last question. What are publishers looking for nowadays? How do I make my story to fit in with their guide lines?
    I know it’s a lot to ask, but it’s somwthing that has been nagging at me and I would really appreciate an answer from anyone.

  236. Ariaon 18 Mar 2007 at 10:08 am

    ehjones:

    Thanks for the definition! My story…er…novel…is almost 94,000 words, and it’s not done yet (but I’m getting close!)
    One of the things I’m frankly worried about is having TOO many pages….and I’m sure there are places I could cut, as I see them when I’m editing, but still..

  237. ehjoneson 18 Mar 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Aria:

    Speaking of places to cut, I’ve discovered the very same thing. I decided to revisit my first novel and do the whole “murder your little darlings” thing. I’ve re-written the opening two chapters and condensed them into one. It needs a bit more tweaking; I lost some of the character development I did in those chapters. But I think it can be done, and done well. The main thing is, in doing this, I’ve cut 5,000 words and turned three chapters into one. My novel was 18 chapters long; it’s now 17. If I can cut 1,000 words from each remaining chapter (a monumental task), I’ll be down around the 90-93,000 word mark. The problem is, making only those cuts that make the book stronger.

  238. Steve M Nashon 19 Mar 2007 at 10:51 am

    Hi

    Thanks for the feedback re my ‘problem’ of whether what I’m writing is a novel. It’s definitely not about word count, but more “where’s the story, where are the characters, where’s the conflict etc?”

    If you read Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut you will know what I mean. This book is part autobiography, part metafiction, part fiction. My book is about the relationship between the book’s main character and the writer of the book. It includes stuff about how to write, how to read, and how I wrote this book. Very introspective and I *really* wish my natural inclination was to write a crime thriller. Lol.

    Anyway, thanks again

    Steve

  239. Ariaon 19 Mar 2007 at 5:35 pm

    ehjones:

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m looking back at my first chapters and going “god this is horrible”. I think though, I need to finish it first and THEN proritize what needs to be done. Minor editing now, major editing later, you know? That way I can screw with the plotline…when the plots DONE. I’ve set a deadline…less than a month away…I just hope I can finish it by then! If not I’ll just have to push it back, but hey, there’s spring break coming up soon :D.
    Wish me luck!
    -Aria

  240. Lizzaon 21 Mar 2007 at 6:51 pm

    I know it’s a lot to ask, but again, my questions above Iwould really like answered. Thanks a ton!

  241. ehjoneson 21 Mar 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Lizza,

    You’re probably looking for one of the pros to answer your question, but I’ll take a shot at it too. Hope you don’t mind an amateur opinion on the subject.

    Your manuscript is ready to be sent off when you feel it’s ready, assuming you don’t have an agent. (If you do have an agent, you should listen to their opinion, not mine…)

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone’s manuscript is ready to be sent after they type the final word of their first draft. But once you’ve written your work, and gone back over it to remove typos and whatnot, and then read it over again and revised it… and then revised those revisions… and then revised the revisions of those revisions… you’ll start to get a feel for the book, and whether it’s done. Sure, I’d advise you to have as many people as are willing read the work and critique it for you (preferably a judicious mix of friends and total strangers), but you can’t be afraid to put your work out there. Once you’ve done a healthy helping of revisions, and gotten a few objective opinions, you’ll have to decide if what you have produced is the best you can do. And once you decide that, you HAVE to get your work out there, and start work on something else.

    And then, you’ll come back and look at your work a month or two later and decide it wasn’t ready after all and feel the urge to revise some more. ;-) It’s just the nature of the beast.

    All that being said, I’d like to make an offer to anyone and everyone who reads this. I’d be happy to be one of your strangers and give your work a reading and a critique, if anyone is willing to return the favor. I need more objective opinions of my novels, both amateur and professional. (Yes, I know the pros have better things to do… but the offer’s out there for any takers.) I have a pool of people who read my stuff for me already, but unfortunately, the ones who were strangers or unfamiliar to me are now friends and acquaintances, and thus their opinions are suspect. I would like to find a pool of fellow authors who aren’t afraid to give each other honest opinions.

  242. Ariaon 22 Mar 2007 at 5:50 pm

    It defiently is a lot of editing. As much as I hate it…I dont like what I’ve written even more, so I’m compelled to edit it. I’ll probably never be completely satisfied, you know?
    Ehjones: So what is your story about? Reading it sounds like fun!

    And Lizza:
    I know what you mean about the movie thing, but I basically get that when I’m reading a really good book! For my stories, they more or less become a part of me, and I can feel their constant presence, it sound weird I know.
    As for the manuscript…I’d find an agent. I’ve tried to send stuff in (not very good stuff though, I was perhaps 12!) and then go through them. As for when you’ll be done that manuscrpit, like ehjones said, it is a LOT of editing, and like I said earlier…you’re just normally compelled to.
    As for what are publishers looking for? I defiently wouldnt know in the slightest, but it is my best guess that it changes for the publishers and your genre. Also, like I said, you would probably want to look into an agent (thats what I’m going to do)
    Best of luck!! I hope you finish!
    -Aria

  243. kateelliotton 22 Mar 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Steve Nash – write what you’re excited about writing. Don’t worry about what it is for now. Later, if you try to sell it, you’ll need to think about how you want to present it. In addition, you’re exactly right when you say that writing this now will give you some skills to tackle a second project later. The operative lesson being that writing is a skill sharpened by practice.

  244. kateelliotton 22 Mar 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Lizza, publishers these days are looking for books that people will buy. They don’t always know what that is. The first Harry Potter novel was purchased for a modest advance; word of mouth and steadily mounting sales made the publisher realize they had something hot on their hands; it was not “promoted” into existence (although later promotions have certainly pushed the series into the stratosphere).

    Unless you are specifically writing for a specific line with specific written-out guidelines (e.g. Harlequin romance), I would not worry about making what you write “fit” what you think they want. Write the story that excites you. What excites you is more likely to excite them.

    There are, of course, ways to improve your manuscript: tight writing, good dialogue, emotional conflicts that people can identify with, action, a timely theme, what have you. If you’re writing for teens, it’s probably best not to make your main pov character a 50 year old accountant writing in first person for the length of the book about a comvoluted financial scam she uncovers, although you never know.

    But the key is to write the first book, and then edit it as well as you can, and then see what feedback you get, and then meanwhile to write another book and a third even. The best way to improve your writing is 1) to write, lots, and to rewrit extensively 2) to read good writing with an eye to how other writers get the effects they do 3) to experience life in order to deepen your vision.

  245. ehjoneson 22 Mar 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Aria,

    What I’ve written is kind of a fantasy/scifi series that is a crossover between middle grade/young adult/adult. It’s not strictly a fantasy novel. I think of it more as a journey of a father and son growing closer that happens to be set in a fantasy world. Because of the alternate world nature of the series, it can move between fantasy, scifi, horror, epic, fairy tale, almost anything.

    It is planned as a series of novels, although the first one can stand alone as well. The overall storyline is about a 13-year-old boy, kind of a ne’er do well slacker type, who discovers a shack in the woods behind his grandparents’ house that wasn’t there before. He finds himself recruited as the champion for the Gatehouse and being shoved into adventures on other worlds. The first novel is set in a fantasy world called Canellin, full of swords and sorcery and the inevitable dragon. The boy’s father manages to follow him to the world, and much of the novel goes back and forth between them as POV as the father searches for the son.

    Book two is a totally different world concept. The young hero and his cousin travel to a world where superheroes are real, and have taken over and enforced a nearly fascist regime. Other superpowered rebels fight against the status quo. The boy’s father and aunt follow in an effort to help their children.

    If it sounds interesting to you, or anyone else out there, I’d be happy to share it in hope of getting unbiased opinions. I can send either or both manuscripts in PDF format. Leave me your e-mail address, or click on my name up top and go to my blog and e-mail me from there if you’d rather not have your e-mail address out on the WWW.

  246. Lizzaon 23 Mar 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you all so much! That actually helped me a ton! I didn’t need pro opinions, just ones that could be my guide lines as I take my journey to become an author. I have one final question though. Of course, you have to find an agent. Are there specific agents for specific types of work? Such as: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Histor. Fiction, Action, Etc. I’ve never published anything before so this might sound a little strange, but your help would be GREATLY appreciated!
    (Sorry for all of the question, but it’s really helping me and I’m learning a lot!)

  247. Kate Elliotton 23 Mar 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Lizza, go to your public library and look for all or some of the following books:

    How to Get Happily Published by (I think) Judith Applebaum

    Writer’s Market (for its listing of agents)

    there are other Writer’s Market type books who have listings of agents and markets, like Guide to Literary Agents (although I’ve never used it). You need to find people who represent within the genre(s) that you are writing in, rather than sending, say, a query for fiction to an agent who represents only non fiction (a waste of her time and your postage).

    Caveat: No reputable literary agent charges a reading fee. Don’t pay one. Also, publishers pay for your work; you don’t pay them to print it.

  248. ehjoneson 23 Mar 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Lizza,

    In addition to Kate Elliot’s advice, I’ll also recommend a couple of the resources I used in my search. Mainly because I’m nosy and like to toss my two cents in. These sources are available online for those of us too lazy to get out of our recliners and go to the library. ;)

    Association of Author’s Representatives -
    aar-online.org
    A good source for finding agents who are members of their organization. To be a member, you have to meet certain guidelines, like charging no fees, taking a percentage that is within the industry standard range, etc. No agent should charge you any fees up front, period. Any extra fees should be spelled out in their agency agreement, and be contingent upon sale of the work.

    Preditors and Editors -
    anotherrealm.com/prededitors/pubagent.htm
    A good source for researching agents, provided you have found their name/company name and can look them up. This site will often tell you whether they’re reputable or not. You’ll find some amusing stories about some specific non-recommended agencies and publishers here as well. It’s hilarious what some of these folks will do to try and make a buck.

    Also, I’ve read many articles on the subject that say that it’s not always necessary to have an agent before you find a publisher, although some major houses no longer accept unagented work. But a lot of folks say that you should find your publisher first, on your own, by digging your way out of the slush pile somehow. “Paying your dues” and all that. Once you find a publisher, you can find a reputable agent fairly easily to negotiate the deal for you, since they’ll be happy to get the contract now that you’ve already found a home for your work. I don’t know if I trust that advice, and I’m glad I found an agent who wanted to work with me, but I can’t discount the advice simply because it doesn’t fit the route I’ve chosen to take.

    -Eric

  249. Lyntonon 24 Mar 2007 at 4:18 am

    Hi all,

    I found this website with the help of Glenda, and thought I’d add my two cents.

    After around five years of procrastination, I finally finished my first book earlier this year. It ended up at around the 164k mark. I found that strict plotting didn’t work for me; I’d think about where I wanted to go with this or that character, maybe jot a few notes down, and the rest came out as I wrote. Sometimes during a re-read I was like “what the hell was I thinking!?”, and one of my proof readers asked me the same question about something that was subsequently canned.

    I recieved my first rejection slip from an agent two days ago… But I shan’t give up! I’ve had some good advice from people on other forums like this one, and it seems that perseverence is the name of the game when it comes to (hopefully) getting published.

    Anyway, I’m off to read some more of the above posts. Catchya’s.

  250. Kate Elliotton 24 Mar 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Eric, good stuff. I’m not really in the loop in terms of seeking an agent for the first time (not any more, anyway), so this is great information.

    Lynton – welcome! Now: start the next book. . . .

  251. Danion 24 Mar 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Also, a couple of agent’s blogs that, though not for the faint of heart, are great resources for learning. Both “Lit Agent X” and “Miss Snark” hold occasional “contests” on their blog where they offer to review and critique your query, your hook, etc.

    I’ve learned a tremendous amount about storytelling from reading their critiques. But I will forwarn again, don’t submit to them if you’re not willing to get a very frank assessment. But when you see the stats of how many queries they get a week (a hundred or more) and how few book sales result (perhaps 1 a month), you’ll understand why they have to winnow as much as they do.

    Be sure to read through the archives.

    Lit Agent X: http://raleva31.livejournal.com/

    Miss Snark: http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

    And an agent who’s a bit more politic about his critiques:

    Nathan Bransford: http://www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com/

    Dani

  252. ehjoneson 24 Mar 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Now it’s time for me to ask a question.

    After you’ve written your novel, and it’s being submitted to publishers, is there a point in the rejection process in which you need to decide to go back and re-work it? For instance, if you’ve been read by, oh, for a not quite hypothetical example, say, seven publishers, and three of them have rejected all listing the same reason, is it maybe time to revisit your work and re-think?

    My novel shares a basic premise with another popular series out there, which I wasn’t aware of when I wrote it. To over-simplify, my novel is about a young boy who travels to alternate worlds righting wrongs. There is a series out there that has a similar concept. My book is MUCH different in theme and tone than the books in that series, and the details of the concept are far different, as is my writing style, but the very basic premise shares that single similarity. And three editors now have rejected it due to that (although the first time, it actually made it past the editor to the acquisitions committee, who then passed on it for that reason).

    There are thousands of publishing houses out there, and hundreds of books a year get published that share similarities like that. Particularly in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. But how many rejections for the same reason do I take before I just chuck it and move on to my next project?

    That being said, I’m already working on a project with a new concept… not because I don’t believe in my current work, but because I’ve already written the first two novels of the current work and want to get something else out there too.

  253. Lyntonon 25 Mar 2007 at 8:48 am

    Kate: I’m on it!

  254. Ariaon 25 Mar 2007 at 11:25 am

    So I have a question.
    In my story, there is going to be a war, right? Baisc containment of the war: it’s in a dome city, that’s kind of advanced, and the front is coming in from the outside of the dome, and on the inside.
    To me, when I say it, it sounds kind of stupid, but still, that really has nothing to do with my question, hehe.
    My question is, how should I go about planning said war? I dont know really what point of views I should take, who I should follow, and how to make it sound believable. (Genre = scifi/fant)
    Anyone have any advice?
    (And I’m – hopefully – going to have some help from a freind on the planning, but I’m still unsure of how I should go about this).
    -Aria

  255. Danion 25 Mar 2007 at 2:47 pm

    My question is, how should I go about planning said war?

    Let’s see, Kit Kerr will tell you to watch Amerca football. ;-)

    Read/research books on war. A few I like are:

    The Defense of Duffer’s Drift, by E.D. Swinton (it’s a training primer on small unit tactics set during the Boer War)
    About Face, by Colonel David H. Hackworth and Julie Sherman
    Love my Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, by Kayla Williams

    Also, early John Keegan.

    I’m sure others here can recommend more.

  256. Danion 25 Mar 2007 at 3:00 pm

    The other things about writing battlescenes is: ACT IT OUT.

    Use miniatures (Lego’s are great) to help visualize the sequence of events. This will prevent obvious problems (like too many people in a room, line of sight issues, etc). It will also help you figure out how to move people through the scene.

    Find your local re-enactment society (whether Civil War, WWI, or SCA), and ask about the weapons and tactics they use. See if someone will let you lift a long sword, or a blackpower pistol. The weight and balance differ and require different strategies.

    Depending on who you want to base your battle tactics on (US. military protocol, UK, South African, Israeli, German Politzi, etc), you should be able to find data on how they train their troops to enter a building (in the US Army, it’s usually units of 4, first person goes right into the room, the 2nd to the left, 3rd to the right, and 4th to the left so they stay out of each other’s line of fire), clear a street, etc.

    The more you understand how about how a battle functions (from the tactics of why various units are deployed they way they are), and how people act (there’s a great research paper on decision making during the “fog of war” or in the midst of the chaos of a battle), the better you’ll be able to “see” it in your mind’s eye and then to articulate it on paper.

    Dani

  257. Sengei Tawnon 25 Mar 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Same goes for including nonviolent action politics.
    Gene Sharp (1973) wrote a lot on this subject; 3 volumes on the politics and methods of nonviolent action.

  258. Ariaon 26 Mar 2007 at 5:29 am

    Thanks guys, for the advice! I might defiently have to check those books out, and I had never really thought of miniature reinactment! Thanks Dani!
    Again, thanks for the advice!
    -Aria

  259. Lizzaon 27 Mar 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks for the advice guys! It helped a lot! Well, I guess I don’t have any more questions . . . for now. (Laughs)

  260. Ariaon 01 Apr 2007 at 8:40 pm

    So I was thinking about putting my introduction to my story, which is basically just the overview, on fictionpress, and I was wondering if anyone would take a look at it to tell me if it sounds interesting or not. okay, grant it, the introduction isnt interesting in the first place…but still.
    Yeah, but I’m not going to do that until I’m done the story so I dont get disheartened or anything since I’m so close to the end. But all the same, would anyone look at it for me if I do decide to do that?
    -Aria

  261. Lizzaon 02 Apr 2007 at 7:51 am

    Aria-
    I volunteer to look at it. I don’t have a lot of experience or anything, but it doesn’t really take experience does it? It sounds neat though!

  262. ehjoneson 02 Apr 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Aria,
    I’d be happy to take a look at it and give an uninformed opinion. ;) I also repeat my request to any out there who would be willing to be second readers for my novels. In fact, I would be happy to just have someone read my prologue and first two chapters of my second novel and give me an opinion. Any takers? You can e-mail me at pomander@thegatehouse.us.

    -Eric

  263. Ariaon 03 Apr 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks guys! I’ll let you know when I finish.

    Ehjones, if you email me at sonador.II@hotmail.com, I’ll take a look at some of it! Dont know when I can get around to it, but I’ll get there eventually ^_^
    -Aria

  264. ehjoneson 03 Apr 2007 at 4:29 pm

    All right, I have a question for the pros.

    I’ve received a moderately brutal assessment of the opening pages of my second novel from my agent. She says that my prologue needs to be edgier, and that it needs more conflict and more angst. So I’ve poked it and prodded it, and even once started from scratch and tried to recreate it. Each time, it’s gone to my first readers and come back with notes that the first version was far, far better and didn’t need any changes, and that the revisions took away from it so much that it was no longer engaging.

    I respect my agent’s opinion. She’s the only industry professional that looks at my preliminary work. However, in this case, I’m getting the impression that she might be taking an overly harsh view of this particular bit of writing.

    My agent has to be happy with my work. She’s the one who has to market it and sell it for me, so it’s important that she likes it. Maybe if (when) I’m more established as an author, it won’t be as important, but I’ve yet to sell a manuscript. Her approval is vital.

    So how do I resolve this?

  265. Ariaon 03 Apr 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Ehjones:

    Far, far, far, FAR from a pro, but I would love to take a look at both versions and give you another opinion, maybe even some advice? Like I said, far from a pro, but I’d love to try my hand at it, see if there’s anything I can do to help?
    That is, if you want (if so, email it to me at the address on my previous post, above yours, if not, then that’s okay!!)

    -Aria

  266. ehjoneson 03 Apr 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Aria,

    I’ve sent you the documents as PDF files. Let me know if you have any problems reading them. It’s just the prologue and chapter 1, and then the revised prologue.

    If there’s any way I can return the favor, I’d be happy to. Feel free to bounce an idea or two off me, or even use me as a reader if you’d like.

    Thanks again,

    Eric

  267. Ariaon 04 Apr 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Eric,

    I’ve recieved your email and I’ll take a look at it fully (I’ve started it somewhat) within the next few days as I get time (Focusing on writing more than reading while I have the chance!)

    So far it looks good, though!
    -Aria

  268. Carol Bergon 04 Apr 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Eric,

    The things that your agent is asking for are things that people involved in publishing/marketing genre novels generally agree are critical to set your story above the hundreds of others that cross an editor’s desk. Conflict, angst – which I think of as a shorthand for “personalized” or “character-focused tension” – and edginess – which I interpret, in a general sense, as a new or non-simplistic slant on the story – are the components that drive readers to turn the page. You can’t count on an editor to hang around long enough to discover the beautifully wrought, subtly built tension beginning to show itself on page 12. And, alas, beautiful writing is, of itself, not saleable.

    Of course, it’s impossible to judge the work itself without reading, but you are right that your agent’s feeling for your work is important. You are placing your career (and, you hope, your money) in her hands – which is why the choice of agent is so important. If you believe (and this is a huge “if” !) that this agent is knowledgable in the genre, in the market, and in fiction writing, then you should think many times before dismissing her advice. What reason would she have to be “extra harsh” on this particular piece of writing? Does it touch on themes or topics that she finds offensive? Or is the style so totally out of the ordinary that she can’t deal with it? Probably not. Has she read other work of yours that she thinks does a better job at these things? (BTW, has she sold novels in your genre?)

    Maybe you just haven’t found the right approach as yet. What is it about the first version that your first readers find so appealing? What is it about the added conflict/angst/edginess that bothers them? What do they see getting lost? It bothers ME to hear that they told you that the original opening didn’t need any changes. That’s pretty rare! Are they biased because they know the rest of the story? Do they agree with the need for conflict and tension in an opening? If not, then perhaps you need new first readers!

    One more thing to consider…is the prologue necessary? Oftimes prologues (especially I’m-setting-up-the-background prologues) are deadly because they are lacking in exactly these elements. Consider starting your story right in the present action.

    Wish I could give you the answer – but I’m always on the hunt for it myself!

    Good luck!
    Carol

  269. Charleson 04 Apr 2007 at 2:43 pm

    One more thing to consider…is the prologue necessary? Oftimes prologues (especially I’m-setting-up-the-background prologues) are deadly because they are lacking in exactly these elements. Consider starting your story right in the present action.

    Carol,

    When I was younger, I spent countless hours on prologues. I still have one at the very front of my initial story, but I know that I will not include it as part of the novel for submission. I keep it handy because it has turned out to be quite the quick reference source for me. I included so much detail in my prologue that I seldom have to look elsewhere for specific background information.

    So, while it will never make it into print — if I am skilled and lucky enough — it has proven useful.

    That said, I enjoy a prologue that is an actual scene used to set up an important plot point that will eventually reveal itself later. The here-is-the-history-of-this-imaginary-world-up-to-this-moment-in-time prologue tends to come off nearly meaningless and does little more than to annoy me because it is keeping me from the actual story.

    But that’s just my current opinion. When I was younger I loved prologues. Time changes taste.

  270. ehjoneson 04 Apr 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Carol and Charles,
    Thanks for the replies!
    The prologue isn’t specifically necessary, no, but it’s one of those that Charles is talking about. The scene that sets up a major plot point for later in the book.
    As far as angst and edginess, I agree wholeheartedly that they’re necessary. The thing is, they’re already present. The prologue is a scene in which a character is fleeing from what she feels is a fate worse than death at the hands of an oppressive but well-meaning government. She is captured by a somewhat sinister man who violates her mind and renders her unconscious before sending her off to that fate. It’s not that my readers feel that edginess isn’t necessary, they just feel that it’s already there.
    The re-working I’ve done on the prologue has been an attempt to make it darker and more sinister. But the problem is that when I do that, it loses the subtlety and hits you over the head with the edgy aspects. It goes from being “Ah, you must come with me no matter what your wishes, because it’s best for the world,” to the other end of the spectrum, “MWahahaha, I am evil and I am taking you against your will!”
    I do trust my agent’s opinion, that’s what’s so frustrating. As for sales in the genre, not exactly. She handles fantasy, sci-fi, and young adult. My novel is young adult fantasy with sci fi aspects, and I don’t think she’s made any sales of that SPECIFIC genre. ;-) But she was very insightful with critiquing my first novel, and has been so spot on in pitching my first novel to editors that more than half of her pitches have resulted in requests for the full manuscript. Even if she hasn’t made a young adult fantasy sale, she’s done such good work for me that I value her opinion highly.
    It could be that I simply haven’t found the right approach yet. It could also be that I’m too much in love with my words to be able to see another way to go about it. Whatever the case, I’ve decided to move on from the prologue and start re-working the first chapter, which I think will be easier for now.

  271. EAWhitton 06 Apr 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Aria:

    I’d definitely recommend Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to help with your battle tactics – while neither of your armies might actually adhere to his philosophy, it’s a great overview of the things you as the author should be aware of, that a soldier would be thinking of while setting up a battle or approaching a fight. It’s only about 80 pages long, so a very quick read, full of great stuff.

    For those wondering what publishing houses are looking for:

    Almost all publishing houses have a website, with a prominent link to guidelines for submissions. This is where you’ll find their specific requirements for formatting and shipping, if any – they will also outline what they are and aren’t looking for (sometimes as general as “accepting all fiction” or as specific as “please no teen vampire or werewolf stories”). So go through your shelves or library shelves, find work that is similar to your own, note the publisher, and go check it out.

    For that matter, check out a few of those books and take note of the things they do that make it a good story – and figure out how to create that kind of pull in your work. It’s nice to turn off your brain while reading, but as a writer you should be able to turn it on and figure out WHY you like or dislike a book or a scene or a character. If you can’t, you’ll never achieve the right tone in your own writing.

    That said, I’d definitely echo and stress that you should write the story that’s in you to write, rather than playing to a market that will probably be wildly different by the time you write, edit, and sell your manuscript.

  272. EAWhitton 06 Apr 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Oops, meant to say that most agents have similar info on what kinds of work they rep on their websites.

    One of the things I hear from agents most often is how important it is to know everything you can about an agent before you query them – go to their website, do a google search, look carefully at the above mentioned agent resources (current editions available in any public library) but know who the agent is and what they represent before you query – not doing so is the equivalent of approaching an insurance company asking to interview for a firefighting position.

    Getting published is being paid for your work – treat it like the job search it is.

  273. Ariaon 09 Apr 2007 at 12:32 pm

    So I just…and I literally mean just…finished my novel’s first draft. But instead of this rushing happiness I expected at the completion, I feel more pensive, as if there’s a big hole where the thought of finishing used to be. Realization just hasnt quite yet hit, I hope, because I still am semi-excited, just not…jumping for joy. Yet.
    Okay, well, it still needs work, a lot of editing, so maybe THEN will I feel the joy.
    I guess it’s just I’ve worked on it for so long I never thought I’d finish…and well, here I am…and it just doesnt seem real.

    Strange. Isnt it?

    PS. EAWhitt, thanks for the book title, I might have to check it out anyway (since the scene still needs a lot of work).

  274. ehjoneson 09 Apr 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Aria,
    Congratulations! Don’t worry, when the shock wears off, that giddy feeling will set in. And then you’ll read through your book, find several thousand typos, and start smacking your forehead uncontrollably.

    What’s your novel about? Share with us, give us a quick synopsis!

  275. Ariaon 12 Apr 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks!
    Well, the synopsis…
    I’ll get that up in a few days, after I get my introduction posted on fiction press, becasue that helps explain it. THEN I’ll give a synopsis ^_^
    (Fictionpress is being a bear and wont let me upload the document for some reason. Grrr)

  276. Ariaon 16 Apr 2007 at 5:45 am

    So fictionpress is finally working! I got my introduction up on it, and if anyone would care to take a look at it and give me their honest opinion, I’d be forever thankful! It’s just the introduction, which gives the basic gist of the story.
    It can be found here:
    http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2347234/1/

    After you read that, the basic synopsis of the rest of the story is:

    A young woman, the Leader of her village, gets taken captive by the ships, and taken to Caradonia as a Worker. She is later rescued, and joins the Life Guards in their fight. The story follows her as she and her rescuer go from city to city, meeting with the leaders of each of the Life Guard stations there, gathering recruits and making friends. Some unexpected twists get thrown into the mix with the past of one of the characters, throwing a whole new type of spin onto the war that must be fought. There’s capture and fighting, hidden and open love and of course the tell tale fight between good and evil.

    That’s…basically it without giving away much more!

  277. Ariaon 16 Apr 2007 at 5:49 am

    Ack, I hate having three posts in a row, but I wanted to add (and since I cant edit my post) that

    if you read the introduction of my story and want to critique me, if you could leave a review (it can be listed as anonymous, unless, of course, you have your own fictinpress account). That would be great!
    -Aria

  278. Seaboe Emmon 17 Apr 2007 at 11:32 am

    I started my first novel when I was 16 and finished it when I was 21.

    During the years in between characters were removed and added, roles were expanded and contracted, but the plot remained basically the same.

    I didn’t outline it. I believe it is unsaleable as written.

    Since then, I’ve written a second novel and a number of short stories. I recently sold my first story. I believe writing the short stories taught me things that writing the novel did not–one of which was how much could and should be packed into a story.

    Seaboe Emm

  279. Lynnon 21 Apr 2007 at 8:07 am

    I help young teens who write fan fiction. Maybe help is not the correct word. I encourage, rather than help. I do give them ideas or help with some technical points, but my technical skills are lacking.

    I have one author who writes the first half of a one chapter story in the first person singular, and then in the second half, she changes to write in the first person singular of the opposite character. When I told her it was confusing, she lashed out at me about how she was a teacher and it was correct writing.

    I really haven’t seen or read any literature written in this same style, personally I hate reading first person singular especially in fan fiction, but I don’t know the rule. Can anyone tell me if this is proper. I have not posted the story pending other opinions. I want to be fair, even if I found it to be confusing. If it is correct in its technical aspects, then I should post it and let the readers say what they will. Please let me know your opinions. Thanks.

    Oh and I just found this site. I like this. I want to try and be a writer, but have used the same excuses. I may try after reading the comments here. :-)

  280. Lizzaon 21 Apr 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Hi all!
    I’ve been experiencing some things that’ve been bringing me down slightly. I am currently reading Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. He or she (forgive me) have written so long of chapters, that it makes mine seem like there’s not enough body. Of coarse, I do realize that perhaps I should add some description. The dialogue and all seem to be full and make sense. I have expanded it to the point where if I do anything to it, it’ll make no sense. Should I really worry about this?

  281. ehjoneson 21 Apr 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Lynn,
    I don’t usually like reading first person fiction either, and I think writing it well must be a challenge. It can often tend toward the confusing. However, if it’s done well, it can be remarkable. One instance I know of where I felt it was done quite well was The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. Not only was it written in the first person, but the lead character was a time traveler (or dimension traveler, depending on your point of view). Because of this, the POV actually changed on several occasions from one “version” of the character to another, including crossing over from male to female versions of the same character, in first person. Throughout most of the book, all the character’s major interactions were with himself, either future, past, or alternate versions, and we often got to see multiple POV’s of the same scene.

    So I’d say there’s no rule that says you can’t switch from one POV to another when writing in first person, since I’ve seen it done in a book I enjoyed very much. The problem isn’t in the act itself, but in the execution. Switching to a new POV, whether it’s first person, third person, whatever, must almost always be clearly delineated, unless it’s left momentarily confusing for a specific effect. I know how frustrating it is to be reading a book and suddenly not be sure what character you’re following, or what character is doing what. So maybe the problem with the person you’ve been helping isn’t so much that she is writing in first person and switching POV’s, but rather that she’s not doing it all that well.

  282. Sandra Ton 30 Apr 2007 at 1:06 am

    Hi everyone, I’m a Swedish girl who’s written stories since I was seven years old (which means for about nine years in a few months). Right now I’m working on a few novels that I hope will get published, all of them are Fantasy-novels. I have to say that it’s really hard to write the beginning of a novel, I know what will happen in the middle and the end, but the beginning… it’s really hard! I haven’t got too much time to write either, since I still go to school (I have about three years left, and then I will go to another school and continue for about four years more) and I’m also in an orchestra that takes a lot of time. Sometimes I write during the lessons, but that means I get some more homework. Any ideas to make things like these fit (I mean; writing, school and orchestra)?
    Well, I have to rush. School starts in about 40 minutes, and since I bike the 4,5 kilometres to school it takes a while.

  283. ehjoneson 30 Apr 2007 at 1:57 am

    Sandra,

    Nope. There’s no way to make them all fit.

    OK, that’s not really true, but it’s still hard finding time to write. And don’t expect it to get any easier once you’re out of school. ;-)

    I wrote my first novel, yet to be published, while working a full time job, raising a teenager by myself, trying to remodel my home without the aid of a contractor, and searching for a new job because the one I had was about to end. I managed this by, essentially, having no personal life whatsoever. Lunch breaks? I took my laptop to the restaurant and typed with one hand while eating with the other. Coffee breaks? Skip the coffee, just go to the break room and type. Home life? Any time I had that wasn’t spent with my son was spent with pad and pen, or tapping on a keyboard. And forget going out for a drink with the guys!

    Finding the time to write isn’t really a problem. It’s finding the time to do everything else you’re supposed to do in the day. Writing can become an all-consuming beast. I found myself staying up til the morning hours to get those ideas down, in case I forgot them.

    It doesn’t have to be a struggle, though. Speed isn’t really an issue when you’re writing. Just put aside some time every day if you can, even if it’s only fifteen minutes or a half an hour, and write. It will take you longer to get your ideas down on paper, but they’ll get there.

  284. Ariaon 30 Apr 2007 at 4:15 pm

    It’s scary when you just start writing, and then suddenly all this time has passed.

    As for me, I finally finished my first novel (the introduction to which is titled the Life Guards under my fp account which is the link with my name) in amongst school and the rest, so I can defiently sympathize with you there as well Sandra.

    So what is your plotline about? For me, the beginning and the end are easy, and the middle is vague and harder. Well, the end can be hard too actually, but still!

  285. Ivyon 02 May 2007 at 8:57 am

    I would very much appreciate some opinions on an issue that’s giving me trouble in my first novel. When Naomi, the protaganist, uses her psychic powers, I use the words “sensed” and “felt” and I think it’s clear from context when I’m referring to the normal use of those terms “She felt cold” and when I’m referring to her psychic use of those terms “She felt he was in a cold place, many miles north of here.” One reader has suggested I come up with a new term to describe her powers, say “She psy-sensed he was reluctant to frighten her” but that sounds corny to me. Alternatively, he’d like me to capitalize the first letter of words I’m using oddly. “She Sensed his concern.” That looks a bit Young Adult to me, and this isn’t a YA novel. I’d prefer to leave it alone, actually.

    What do you think?

  286. Daniel Woodson 02 May 2007 at 9:48 am

    Definitely leave it alone. People aren’t stupid – they know the different between feeling a table and feeling a presence, etc. ‘Psy-sensed’ does indeed sound corny, and there’s no need to capitalise Sensed, etc. It’s all in the way you describe what’s happening – it’s perfectly ok to say ‘she saw a man, chained in darkness; she could feel his hunger’ or whatever, as long as the surrounding prose makes it clear that this is a psychic vision. Otherwise, you end up with ‘her Psy-Senses told her he was in the tower; she Felt his presence’, which is a massive cliché.

    Well, that’s my opinion, anyway :).

  287. Carol Bergon 03 May 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I agree with Daniel, Ivy. Using a different word is unnecessary. What might help is making sure you are not over-using “felt”. Instead of “he felt cold” use “the winter crept into his bones” or some such. Think of different ways to phrase sensory details. You can do the same with your psychic sensations. Think of a vivid descriptive word – a tickle, a rush, a creeping, a jolt – to describe this feeling.

    Good luck,
    Carol

  288. Ariaon 06 May 2007 at 3:46 pm

    ehjones:

    Ack, I went to open my email today since I (finally) got time to take a look at your story, but they deactivated my account and everything from there is gone. I’d still be more than happy to take a look at if you still want me to, if not s’okay. If so, send it instead to SonadorSky@gmail.com .
    Stupid hotmail >_

  289. ehjoneson 06 May 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Aria,

    No problem. I’ll get it e-mailed to you by tomorrow. Time’s going to be a crunch for me soon, too… I start a new job on Wednesday. No more sitting around the house tapping at my laptop! Writing is about to become far more difficult!

    I’ll have it to you soon, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

  290. Ariaon 09 May 2007 at 5:40 am

    Eric,

    Got the email and started reading it yesterday during school. Couldnt finish then and couldnt pick it up again after school, but I hope to be able to do that today! Liking what I’m reading so far! Good luck on your new job!

    -Aria

  291. Joy Herseyon 09 May 2007 at 7:12 am

    There has been a fair amount of discussion about chapters and chapter length etc. How do authors like Terry Pratchett get away without using them?

  292. Ivyon 09 May 2007 at 11:03 am

    Joy,

    I don’t like to think of what we call rules of writing (other than spelling and grammar) as rules. I’d rather call them “points of consideration”. They are things you need to be aware of and know how to handle. They are things that can and have been broken to good effect. In the novel, Gremlins, there is a chapter that has only two words. “He forgot.” It works, given the story, and it’s quite funny. George Gipe was attentive to what readers expected a chapter to be and played off of that. If you find your chapters work out to be smaller than suggested or longer than suggested or vary wildly and that’s what works for your story then maybe it’s best to let them be as they are. If you aren’t sure, try lining them up with more established norms and run both versions past a few trusted beta readers. See what they think.

    My 2 cents anyway.

    -Ivy

  293. kateelliotton 10 May 2007 at 3:52 am

    Joy, I agree with Ivy. Pratchett writes what he writes and since it works, it works.

    Chapters are a convenient way to focus information. They serve to aid the author in delivering installments in shorter chunks, which in many cases helps heighten tension. They can help separate points of view or changes in scene or time, kind of a structural short cut, if you will. They allow the writer to build scenes based around various types of confrontations and interactions (in the same way that scenes in plays structure how the story unfolds and what you get to know when).

    In addition, readers are used to reading in chapters, just as modern pop music listeners are accustomed to the 3:30 minute length pop song.

    If you’re not certain how they fit into your current story, then experiment.

  294. Joy Herseyon 10 May 2007 at 10:09 am

    I was wondering about that. I find identifying where to end one chapter to begin another confusing at times. Some end up being pages and others paragraphs. Thanks! I appreciate it the suggestions.

  295. Debbie Whiteon 10 May 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Joy,

    When I wrote my story, I didn’t put chapters in. That’s partly because I didn’t write the story sequentially from beginning to end (I went beginning, end, then backwards). Once my first draft was done, I somewhat arbitrarily decided “I’ll look for a breaking point every 15 pages (~5,000 words).” If you think of the novel as an overall question being answered, then I looked for breaks after every 10 to 20 pages that answered a sub-question AND raised another question. Chapter 1 was “Will heroine overcome the manipulator?” Chapter 2 was “Nope, but will her new plan work?” Chapter 3 was “That kind of worked. Will she discover new information to reveal who she can trust?” And so on. Some chapters contained only one scene others jumped through several scenes all on the same theme.

    So that’s how one person put in chapters. Most are the standard 10-20 pages long that I set for myself, but I think one is about 8 pages and another is about 26 pages long.

    If you think 15 pages/~5,000 words sounds long, then you’ll feel better knowing that an “aspiring writer” friend of mine writes 5 page/~1,600 word long chapters for his adult novels. This often cuts things off in the middle of a scene, but he likes it that way and the cut-off points do work. I know I have novels on my shelves that have 30 page or longer chapters. I’d suggest just going with what fits the rhythm of your story.

  296. Brian Pon 14 May 2007 at 6:21 pm

    First off, it’s nice to know that other writer’s are facing the same issues with their writing that I am. I’ve been at this for years, trying to finish one story or another. I have these ideas that come to me when I’m painting or drawing (I am a graphic designer by trade) and characters will spring to mind that just won’t leave me alone. So, I give them a story to exist in, and a world to explore. But what now! How do I let anyone see what I see? So I write. The problem is that once I’ve finally conquered the fear of writing, and I’ve plotted and researched and outlined my ass off, the story starts to sound like something I’ve read before. So I give it up. Years later, when going through my old notes, I say to myself, “Hey, this was pretty damn good!”

    My point is, how does a writer stay excited about a story? With all of the prep work that goes into writing prose, it seems like a daunting task.

  297. Brian Pon 14 May 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Lizza,

    I wouldn’t worry about it to much. When a chapter requires itself to be long, it will be. I’ve read tons of writers whose chapter lengths varied significantly within a given story. Christopher Moore, (who wrote Fluke and Lamb, among others) had some chapters that were a few paragraphs, while others went on for pages. I think that the story should dictate this.

    Just one viewpoint on the matter.

  298. ehjoneson 14 May 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Brian P,

    Staying excited about writing is sometimes a challenge. I usually don’t run into it until I’ve finished a couple of drafts of whatever I’m working on, but then it becomes a tedium.

    Here’s a suggestion from several writer’s workshops I’ve been involved in.

    After you’ve outlined and gotten all your research, set it aside for at least a week, if not a month or two. (This is assuming you’re not on a deadline.) Then go back to it. Instead of seeming like something you’ve just read and aren’t interested in, it’ll seem like revisiting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll look at it and say, ah, yes… now I see how that goes together. That’s how those two passages fit. Or ooh, that character seems to have lost his voice after chapter six… I need to re-write some of that. Or you’ll look over that sterling outline you’ve written, and realize that it’s time to put it down as prose.

    That’s kind of how I have to do my re-writes. After I’ve finished a work, I sometimes find that I can’t make changes to it until I’ve had some distance from it. Try it… might work for you.

  299. Ariaon 15 May 2007 at 5:29 am

    Joy,

    In my opinion, you should just KNOW when it should be a chapter cut. That’s what happened to me. I would write, and then if I needed to switch a few days forward, or cut to a different scene, or just emphasize the suspense…I would add a chapter. I have 41 in total, I believe, with 213 pages, not including the intro and the prologue.

    So it should just be where it feels right, not just say, a thousand words into the action in the middle of where it doesnt even make a good cut off, just because you’re trying to be consistant.

    But that’s just me,
    -Aria

  300. Ivyon 15 May 2007 at 10:41 am

    Brian,

    I find there are two kinds of stories for me. Some need careful plotting and research. Others pour out in a rush. I’ve only been able to sell the ones that have come out in a rush, for what that’s worth. So perhaps there is a point where there is too much research? I know there comes a point of falling out of love and the research has to stop before that happens or the story won’t fly. You have to still love your concept and love your characters.

    -Ivy

  301. Seaboe Emmon 15 May 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Concerning chapter lengths–I’m another one who thinks the story will tell you the appropriate length. On the other hand, try not to let every chapter be a cliff-hanger. That can get tedious.

    My chapters probably do tend to be about 5-8k. Then again, my short stories (other than the short-shorts) also tend to be 5-8k. I think there may be a connection there, although I’m not sure what it is.

    Seaboe

  302. MattDon 15 May 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Brian, one thing you could try is writing short stories about the moments that excite you most. They may be more successful as short stories, they may offer a path towards transforming the set of stories into a novel, or both. I can think of several lauded recent novels that grew from sets of short stories the authors wrote, unpublished (Hal Duncan) and published (David Marusek) alike.

    Joy, with chapters…if you’re on a first draft, perhaps just add some extra carriage returns at each place you think a chapter might be, and then keep on writing without worrying too much about pages-per-chapters and such. Good potential chapter breaks are sudden changes of POV, time, location and mood; when steps toward whatever the characters are trying to accomplish are completed; and when new steps or new conflicts are revealed.

    If you’re in the revising stage, then think more about what you’re trying to convey with the story. Chapters, just like sentences, paragraphs, and sections, are tools that you can use to evoke reactions in your readers. You have at your disposal elements such as the length of the chapter, how you end it (cliffhanger, introspective denouement or anything in-between), and the rhythm of the sequence of chapters. Shorter chapters generally give a feeling of faster pace. Ending a chapter on a cliffhanger generally creates urgency and a bit of an out-of-control feeling; ending on a realization highlights the intelligence of your characters; ending on a wisecrack highlights their wry sense of humor. Having a pattern of chapter lengths (short, medium, short, medium, short, medium, etc.), meanwhile, can give a sense of regularity and control, while breaking the pattern gives again a sense that things have gotten out of the characters’ control. A simple pattern can seem focused, intimate or claustrophobic, while a more complex pattern will evoke a wider, more multifaceted take on events.

    Obviously you don’t want to get too mechanical about these elements — a healthy dollop of personal style is important. But these are tricks that I have noticed as a reader because they work on me and others.

  303. ehjoneson 15 May 2007 at 9:49 pm

    You know, regarding chapter length, I haven’t ever really given it a lot of thought. Well, I did at first, I suppose, but not since the first half of my first novel.

    Don’t get me wrong… sometimes I have to look and think to myself, should I pull the first passage from the next chapter back into this one? But it’s rarely due to something like chapter length, it’s more about completeness. When I outline, I separate out what I want each chapter to say, the events I want to occur, scene changes, etc.

    My chapters tend to vary in length from around 4K up to as much as 10K. It’s all a question of tying events together. If something fits with the tone or events of one chapter, but not the next, it stays… even if the chapter is drastically long. But I also go the other route… if the events of a chapter only need 2K words to get across, then that’s all the chapter gets.

    I used to look at my chapters and try to decide if they were long enough, or too long, but it’s something I grew out of quickly. A chapter needs to be long enough to tell the part of the story it needs to tell, no longer and no shorter.

  304. R.on 16 May 2007 at 10:49 pm

    What is the consensus on software for drafting novels? I’m using MS Word, because that’s what came with my laptop. Currently each chapter is a single document, and I keep all the chapters for the same manuscript in the same folder – but this makes pagination from chapter to chapter a headache. Or maybe there’s some miracle application I just haven’t found, yet?

    It’s also excruciatingly tedious when I have to go back in and insert a new chapter [yeah, I do work from outlines - but I ain't precognitive, not even about my own works], and then have to renumber all those chapters that follow.

    Who’s using what software, and how do you love/hate it?

  305. Ivyon 17 May 2007 at 8:50 am

    Why don’t you keep the entire novel in one file? Word can handle it. Or are you referring to MS Works.

  306. R.on 17 May 2007 at 11:37 am

    Hi, Ivy –

    I’d tried the single-file routine and it just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because of the way I’m hard-wired, but I don’t think [or write] linearly. My brain hopscotches around the timeline of the story — which is why I absolutely must use an outline, to keep track of the sequences.

    It’s a five-book story arc that covers a considerable period of time, and because of the way my mind works I have to keep going back into earlier bits to lay foundations for the future bits, if the story is to have any coherency and if I want to keep my characters in character as they evolve and/or grow from their experiences and developing relationships.

    When I kept each book all in it’s own single document, I could never find the places I needed to adjust before my Muse wandered off in peeved boredom. [Oy, I hate it when she does that.]

    At this time I have no idea of the word count nor of the number of pages.

  307. Stacyon 17 May 2007 at 12:13 pm

    R – Sounds like you need to avoid numbering until the very end. Have you tried just naming by scene title or chapter title (Character Goes Fishing, Character Comes to Brutal End) for each little file, and keeping a master list of where that scene fits, and only putting it all together at the last possible moment? If you keep the titles in the all-book length file, you could then just use GoTo and cut down on time hunting. If you know you want to add detail to the brutal end, then just going to Character Comes to Brutal End might be fast enough. I use notebooks to write (many, many notebooks) and only type when I have reached a point where others must look, so it’s basically at full draft time, but I put each Act into its own file to keep the chunks smaller untill all three are complete, and then I cut and paste into one uber-file for printing.

  308. R.on 17 May 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Stacy said:

    Have you tried just naming by scene title or chapter title (Character Goes Fishing, Character Comes to Brutal End) for each little file, and keeping a master list of where that scene fits, and only putting it all together at the last possible moment?

    Currently the chapters are just numbered, and I keep a very brief synopsis of each chapter in sequential order on a working table-of-contents document I maintain in each book’s folder. The TOC’s serve double duty as evolving outlines. So far this is the only way I’ve been able to keep this beast of a story organized.

    Whenever I find myself in a quandary over sequence, I print out the TOC in question and compare it to the overall timeline/outline for that book, marking, cursing, and updating as needed.

    [Holy effing merde, Batman! What have I got myself into??]

    Gods, I need more coffee.

  309. Brendan Podgeron 17 May 2007 at 4:57 pm

    If you went the single file route for your books, you could use Section Breaks in Word and then the chapters numbering would,(with the right tags) change as you added others before them.

    Regarding the pagination issue, don’t worry. Most printers/publishers are going to dump your text into a specialist layout program like QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign and fix any widow/orphan/page break issues in there.

  310. Ivyon 21 May 2007 at 10:53 am

    What’s the common length for a novel these days? Mine looks like it might come in at about 75-80K and that seems a bit short?

  311. Seaboe Emmon 21 May 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Ivy, what kind of novel is it? I would think 75-80 k would be about standard for Romance or YA.

    Seaboe

  312. Ivyon 21 May 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Seaboe, it’s a fantasy novel.

  313. kateelliotton 21 May 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Ivy, a length often quoted for sff novels is circa 100K words. But 75-80K strikes me as fine, too, if it’s what the novel came in at. You’ll find many mysteries, romances, and YA novels at this length, and some sff.

    You can look carefully through the text to see if you’ve scanted important plot developments, or if you’ve in places told rather than showed (she traveled 500 miles through rugged country and fought five monsters before reaching the fabled city of Ur), but other than that I would let it be. More than anything, you don’t want to pad – adding words just for the sake of length – since that will kill your pacing. Not that I’m saying you were thinking of doing that!

  314. Brendan Podgeron 21 May 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Ivy,

    A shortish novel, YAY!

    Speaking as someone who is running out of bookshelf space and who misses the days of yore when a story could be told in under 400 pages, I say go for it.

  315. MattDon 22 May 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Most publishers post submission guidelines that include minimum recommended word counts. For the major F&SF publishers, it seems to be around 80-90,000 words, depending on the publisher.

    MattD

  316. Lizzaon 22 May 2007 at 5:10 pm

    What lengths sell best with publishers? I’m writing a fantasy that’s approximately 40,000-50,000 words total. Do I need to expand on my work?

  317. Carol Bergon 23 May 2007 at 1:28 am

    Lizza,

    I think 40-50K is hovering in the upper limits of a novella wordcount, as opposed to being a novel. Nothing wrong with that, but novellas are trickier sales as they are long for most short fiction markets. They are most often seen in anthologies.

    As Kate said, consider whether you have fully dramatized your story, including dialogue, description, and rich characters, or if you have only narrated it. If you feel as if you have developed the existing story fully at this length, then you are probably still lacking the complexity of plot and action needed for an adult fantasy novel.

    Carol

  318. Philippaon 23 May 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Joy among insurmountable joys, an agent has picked me up! I’ve got two novels written, one of which (the one she’s wanting to market first) is 76,000 words, and the other of which (the one I wrote first) is 146,000 words. They’re two entirely different styles, although both fall into the fantasy/speculative fiction category: the shorter one, Solace & Grief, is set in Sydney with a vampire as the protagonist and has comic undertones, while the longer one, The Pilgrim Child, is most decidedly epic quest fantasy set in a world of my own devising. Both novels have always been intended as first volumes in trilogies, and each story has been roughly sketched out to its conclusion. Currently, I’m doing a final re-edit readthrough of The Pilgrim Child while plotting where the next volume in my vampire tale will head, seeing as it’s been given preference. At some point, though, I want to find time to come back to my other novel and begin its sequal, too.

    So, essentially: am I completely crazy for having two biggish series/projects on the hob at once, let alone at this point? Any tips for scheduling/balancing/cultivating the odd moment of sanity? Additional information of relevance: I’m 21, I work full time as a secretary, I’m getting married in September and I’m trying to transfer my (currently deferred) Arts degree across to a more convenient university to complete my final year. Also, I live in Melbourne, Australia.

  319. Luke Austinon 24 May 2007 at 7:08 am

    Should I wait a few more years until i have a better understanding of everything before I start writing a novel? This writing business contains so many choices and so little direct answers. Should I start by writing short stories? I’m only 17 but I feel writing is what I want to do. Katherine, your books actually got me into reading/writing in the first place when I was 13 and, I don’t know, I’m just not sure if this is long enough for me to write a novel that anyone would want to read, any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance

  320. Seaboe Emmon 24 May 2007 at 10:31 am

    Should I wait a few more years until i have a better understanding of everything before I start writing a novel?

    IMO, no. I started my first novel at 16. What I wrote then bore very little resemblence to what I had when I finished (six years later), but I don’t regret starting first with a novel one bit.

    I think you can learn a lot about perseverence by taking on a novel that young. Even if it does end up an unpublishable mess.

    Seaboe

  321. Carol Bergon 24 May 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Luke,

    Write whatever length seems fun to you. What do you like to read? Why write short stories, if all you read is long work? Why start a novel, if you like to read short pieces? Concentrate on the characters and the story, and learning the craft to develop them, rather than on the shape of the work. Learn as you go. Don’t expect to publish the first thing you write.

    Enjoy!
    Carol

  322. Carol Bergon 24 May 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Philippa,

    You DO seem to have a full plate. But don’t ever worry about having lots of ideas and projects. Publishing moves slowly, and you can worry about scheduling and delivery once your agent brings you an offer. For right now, pick the project you want to work on and proceed. It is great to have books ready to go.

    Congrats!
    Carol

  323. Philippaon 24 May 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks Carol! I know logically that nothing is going to happen with a metaphoric snapping of the fingers, but being excited tends to make me feel as if the one in a million exception is not so much impossible as en route to my door with a very large bag of money. Well, large-ish. You get the idea. Any more probable bridges I’ll cross when and if I come to them, and concentrate for the moment on having fun with the stories I’ve got.

    Cheers,

    Philippa

  324. Luke Austinon 28 May 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve decided i’m going to give writing a novel a go, thanks to Carol and Seobe ^.^. I’ve started designing the plot line and the characters very briefly but I can’t find any good medieval sites. My story is set in an English sort Land with knights and such, but the information on i’ve found on these sorts of things has been very useless so far. Anyone know of any good sites or books that I could find?
    Thanks.
    Luke.

  325. Ariaon 29 May 2007 at 11:02 am

    So, I was wondering if anyone could help me out with this question.

    How exactly do you come up with a good summary for your story, an intriguing one that will capture peoples attentions and make them think “hey that’s a good story” and not put it down within the first sentace (as I must admit I do a lot) and go “wow this sounds corny.”?

    Thanks,
    Aria

    P.S. Luke: here is a site that I found…I’m not sure how good it is or if it is what you are looking for. Or, for that matter, if it’s accurate. But it might be a start??

    http://www.britainexpress.com/History/medieval_britain_index.htm

  326. Stacyon 30 May 2007 at 10:24 am

    Luke – I sincerely doubt you will find the information you need on the internet. It might be a good jumping off point, but for in-depth information you will need history and archaeology books. I’d suggest you pick a very specific place and time – medieval England is different from Wales or Scotland of the same time period, and even more different than France or Germany. You may want to figure out what your story requires – lots of warfare or not? nobles vs. peasants? invaders or stability? – and find a historical match to mimic.

  327. Ivyon 30 May 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Luke, I don’t know if it’s still in print, but there is a book called The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages. It might be worth checking out.

  328. Luke Austinon 30 May 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks all, I’ll have a look around.

  329. anxiety panic attackon 31 May 2007 at 4:04 pm

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  330. Doris Jeanetteon 31 May 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Anxiety panic attacks happen when we forget to feel our fear. Stay in touch with your emotional self and your feelings and ride the energy of fear. All writers feel and face fear because we are telling the truth. Fear is how you know you are honest and open…..stay with your fear and drop all anxiety. To learn more about the difference check out overcoming anxiety naturally.

  331. Seaboe Emmon 01 Jun 2007 at 10:26 am

    Is anyone else as confused as I am about the sudden appearance of posts on conquering anxiety?

    Seaboe

  332. Ivyon 01 Jun 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I’m as confused as you are, Seaboe, but I’m not terribly anxious about them.

  333. kateelliotton 01 Jun 2007 at 8:44 pm

    I’m kind of anxious about those posts on conquering anxiety!

    But seriously, some belated replies:

    Luke: I started my first novel at 16. Honestly, by objective standards, it was awful, but it was well worth writing, so write what you want. You aren’t “too young” to write a novel.

    Phillippa: you do have a lot on your plate. Do what you can, and don’t let the craziness make you so stressed you can’t enjoy yourself.

    There are people who write multiple series at the same time, but they are usually full-time writers. To be frank, in your situation, I would be hesitant to sell the first book of a series if you didn’t have the second finished or well in hand, otherwise you run the risk of always writing behind the clock. Publishers like volumes of series to come out at reasonable intervals, to maintain visibility and momentum, and someone starting out who has a big gap between books will have a difficult time with that. So you might want to focus more at this point in getting a second (or even third) volume written in one or both of the series rather than trying to get an immediate sale. We focus a lot these days on publication as the reason for writing, but in the end, it seems to me that we write because we want to tell the story, so if that’s what you concentrate on at the moment, then later when/if you do publish one or both of these series, you’ll be ahead of the game.

  334. Ivyon 05 Jun 2007 at 1:55 pm

    This is entertaining. Type “He carefully laid the mummy aside.” in Word with the grammar check turned on. The correction is cyclical. Word wants to change “laid” to “lay”. Then it wants to change “lay” to “laid”.

  335. Ivyon 05 Jun 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I want to keep a story clean but one critical scene involves Naomi giving birth in a confrence room. It’s weird. She’s giving birth to a magic knife. My issue is, at some point the woman acting as midwife is going to have to take Naomi’s panties off (I put her in a skirt to avoid having to pull her pants off). Will that automatically make that scene a bit racy? Can I just ignore that detail? Can I just hide it in the action and try to direct attention away as much as possible?

  336. Donnaon 05 Jun 2007 at 5:55 pm

    I’m about to have my first book published – not a novel – just one book that is part of a series of books for teens. “Breaking Dawn” by Ransom Publishing, due to come out by October 2007. I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to promote a first book? I’ve been doing research and have some ideas, I was just interested in hearing from someone with experience.

  337. Stacyon 06 Jun 2007 at 10:18 am

    Ivy – try using “underwear” instead of “panties.” I’d say its all about perspective, and therefore your character’s perspective. If they are all about business, so is the scene. If they are being naughty, so is the scene. You might find a copy of Raymond Obstfeld’s book Novelists Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes helpful (its got its good and bad suggestions IMO, but worth reading.) Birth is really pretty gross and not the least racy anyhow.

  338. Stacyon 06 Jun 2007 at 10:20 am

    Donna – check out David Edelman’s post about how he marketed Infoquake in the archives – I found it really informative.

  339. Debbie Whiteon 06 Jun 2007 at 10:53 am

    Ivy, I also suggest that you use “underwear” instead of “panties.” Likewise, use words to describe the birth that aren’t racy and it won’t come across as racy. The fact that you want to try to ignore it or hide it makes me think that you aren’t comfortable writing the scene. You discomfort will come out in the wording of the scene. Stop worrying about the scene. Write about it in plain, business-like terms, and it shouldn’t be racy at all.

  340. Ivyon 06 Jun 2007 at 11:32 am

    Thank you both for the advice. I’ll definitely change the word. I’m not uncomfortable with the scene as a whole, just the one word.

  341. kateelliotton 06 Jun 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Donna – yes, David Edelman’s post is excellent and really covers far more than I could have.

    Ivy – Stacy and Debbie have given good advice. Good luck!

  342. kateelliotton 06 Jun 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Luke – re: research.

    GO TO THE LIBRARY. Get a basic middle reader level book on “the middle ages” as your starting point. Read it. Check the bibliography and read more. Then move to the adult section and find a basic overview of the middle ages and read it. After you’ve finished that, start reading books with more specific subjects, time or region, for the Middle Ages.

    When possible, find translated primary sources to get a feel for how people then wrote and thought.

    There is no substitute for reading primary and secondary sources. The internet will not do it for you – in fact, internet sources are really only useful if you already have a base of knowledge so you can look for specific things and know how to judge the content.

    Good luck.

  343. Ivyon 07 Jun 2007 at 11:45 am

    Does this work to show that Naomi is rushing through these phone conversations or should I write them out further? She’s hurrying because it is a life-or-death emergency.

    Naomi snatched the phone. She ran down each number on her speed dial in turn.

    “Mom, you and dad need to pray to Set, right now. Don’t ask, just do it, please.”

    “Nicole, it’s Naomi. I need you to pray to Set… Wait, we can talk about Steve later. This is an emergency.”

    “Bill, Naomi. I don’t have your home number and I’m guessing everyone went home early after what happened today. If you call it to get messages, please, pray to Set. He’s in a fight. It gives him strength. I’m going to keep calling around.”

    Thanks!
    -Ivy

  344. Seaboe Emmon 07 Jun 2007 at 1:20 pm

    I think they show the rush just fine, but more description (snatching keys, tucking the phone against her ear with her shoulder as she locks the door and so forth) would increase the feeling of urgency.

    Seaboe

  345. Ivyon 07 Jun 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks, Seaboe. She’s not going anywhere but I can have her rooting around through papers, looking for more numbers, while she talks.

  346. Ivyon 07 Jun 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Seaboe, I made the change like you suggested and you’re right. She comes off a lot more frentic and not so much like a talking head. Thank you. :)

  347. Debbie Whiteon 08 Jun 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Ivy, I assume this conversation snippet is from the same story as your first 13 line submission. Please remember that I like your story idea. However, the following kind of threw me: “…pray to Set. He’s in a fight. It gives him strength.” I’ve heard of the fantasy mythos that the greater the number of worshipers a god has, the greater his strength. But wouldn’t prayer (especially from non-worshipers!) be rather distracting during a fight? Kind of like someone taping you on your shoulder and asking question while you’re trying to focus on your opponent and get a good punch in? However, it’s your story, so do what you like. :)

  348. Ivyon 08 Jun 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Debbie, no. It’s the same character but a different story. The 13 lines submission is from “Chaos Theory”, which is a short story and this is from “Rescue”, which is a novel. You raise a good point. I know in the old days, when Set battled Apep (ie sundown or during an eclipse) the priests would read from “The Book of Overthrowing Apep” as a way to pray and give strength to Apep and yet that was clearly a formula prayer. Let me think on that. And thanks.

    Oh, that begs another question. Is it better to have Set use the Egyptian terms Wab (for the male) and Wabet (for the female) instead of priest and preistess assuming I put the term in clear context the first time or two or have Set define the terms for Naomi, who wouldn’t know them?

    -Ivy

  349. Liz (Lizza)on 08 Jun 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Would it be bad if I used a name for my book that already exists? I just recently checked and found that there was another one titled like mine.

  350. Ivyon 09 Jun 2007 at 10:05 am

    Doesn’t that happen all the time, Liz? As long as the genre is different it should be okay. Takedown is the title of a book about Kevin Mitnick, a book about an attack on Baghdad, a thriller, a children’s novel, and a book about an undercover detective.

  351. Debbie Whiteon 09 Jun 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Ivy,
    Ah, let me guess: Naomi becomes Set’s priestess? If so, I’d be less likely to question the prayer scene. If she’s calling other people that work for Set (i.e. his ‘subjects’), I’d question it even less. If it was clear that the prayer was the ‘strength and victory to Set’ sort rather than the ‘Set, please give me a horse for my birthday’ sort, I wouldn’t quibble over the word at all. Just to let you know, this wasn’t a “I’d stop reading” problem. It was simply something that seemed a bit odd to me.

    As for your Wabet vs. priestess question, I think that using Wabet would be good as long as it’s clear what that means.

  352. Micon 09 Jun 2007 at 10:02 pm

    On the Wabet vs priestess question, my opinion:

    Wish I could remember where I read this … the advice was not to use “foreign” language unless the situation really calls for it. For example, a thing or concept just doesn’t translate well into English. C.J. Cherryh does this well, in my opinion — check out “Hunter of Worlds.” She uses “asuthitekkhe” instead of “two+ servant-people who have each received a surgically implanted electronic device that allows them the equivalent of telepathy.”

    If the priestess does “normal priestess things,” perhaps omit the term. If there’s something we don’t normally associate with the job — say, being a fighter pilot :-) — then perhaps the new term helps to remind us of the difference.

    In my experience, many readers have difficulty with foreign terms and find those words detrimental to their enjoyment.

    –Mic

  353. Ivyon 11 Jun 2007 at 10:06 am

    What’s the correct way to do word counts? If I go by Word I have 65K words. If I go by 1 page = 250 words in Corrior 12 font with a 1″ margin on each side, I have 82K words. Thanks.

  354. Daniel W. Mortonon 12 Jun 2007 at 1:59 am

    Hi, I’m new here.

    Ok,I’m writing the first in a large series of novels called The Limbonian Chronicles.

    I have two problems.

    First, The characters from the story are refugees from limbo( place where “nuetral” souls go) which was destroyed by the angel hierarchy. The people of limbo have bodies symbolizing the major sin they made on earth. And me, not being much for symbolizism, can only make bodies for the main characters. Should I drop the idea, or do more research?

    Second,and biggest. Long story short, my male characters=good,my female characters=SUCK. I have so far proven that I am capable of: Motherly female personalities,too nice female personalities,and tomboys. The forst two, being as sexist and cliche as hell, leaves me tomboys. Is there a solution to this? Should I make all my female main and supporting characters tomboys?

  355. Ivyon 12 Jun 2007 at 8:47 am

    Daniel,

    You might want to check out http://www.dkamagazine.com if you like angel stories. The editors there are fantastic and you get feedback with every submission. When you shop this, don’t forget the Christian Fiction market. It’s a tough one because it’s so easy to offend someone’s interpretation of scripture, but it’s growing. From what I understand you do need to be Christian to place a Christian fiction book and they make you sign a statement declairing your faith.

    As to symbolism, perhaps you’ll want to develop your own. What does gluttony look like? Fat? Bloated? Greed might be sticky and grasping. Think about how you would imagine the sins would look.

    As to women characters, they have to be characters first. You don’t want to write them with traditional “woman” qualities; you want to make them individual. You don’t write men as standard “macho man”, and “corporate ladder climber” and “good old boy” right? Is this a society that has segregated and defined roles for women (ala Victorian England?)

  356. Stacyon 12 Jun 2007 at 11:19 am

    Daniel – if all you are constructing are uncomplex “types” of women, instead of rich female characters with inner and outer problems, maybe you are just being too nice to your ladies. Give them some issues!
    If you’d like to take a look at some complex female architypes, check out the book Sex Signs, available in the astrology section of any bookstore. It contains 13 extremely detailed female architypes based on the signs of the zodiac plus one. I love it for creating characters because it gives me built-in conflicts and backstory to build from.

  357. Daniel W. Mortonon 12 Jun 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks for the answers to my questions :).

    Anyway, to tell the truth it’s kind of anti-christian in a way. The people of limbo are mostly made of people who hate christianity because of the fact they feel god left them behind in limbo. They hate christianity even more when the angels destroy limbo and attempt to send them all into “non-existence”.

    Plus, I may or may use the idea that there is actually no god(in this fiction universe), but instead god is a cover for the high angels to keep order on earth limbo and hell.

    The society is made up mostly of souls from the18th century to present day, because most of the older ones faded into none-existence. So some people may be sexist but the society is mostly modern.

    Thanks for the advice on symbolism Ivy, your obviously better at it than me lol.

    Thanks for the book suggestion,stacy. Do you think it’s possible to get this book from the liabrary?

  358. Ivyon 12 Jun 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Oooh. So you’re starting with the Enlightenment. Interesting. I’m curious what sort of ramifications that had on this world. Now I have images of a bunch of picketing souls proclaiming, “The Donation of Constantine was a LIE”. Then some other souls walk by. “Yeah, we knew that.” And yet other souls, “the what?” which puts the first group of souls into a tizzy. Okay, I’ll stop that now.

    The idea sounds intriguing.

    My question is why would they only hate Christianity? Wouldn’t there be Shinto souls there? Jewish souls? Muslim souls?

  359. Philippaon 12 Jun 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Phillippa: you do have a lot on your plate. Do what you can, and don’t let the craziness make you so stressed you can’t enjoy yourself.

    There are people who write multiple series at the same time, but they are usually full-time writers. To be frank, in your situation, I would be hesitant to sell the first book of a series if you didn’t have the second finished or well in hand, otherwise you run the risk of always writing behind the clock.

    Thank you, Kate! I’m trying to focus more on the second book for the series that’s been picked up, for the reasons you’ve stated here, but also because I’m very much immersed in that world at the moment, and have the next book planned out almost chapter by chapter, whereas it’s been a year or so since I was last properly focused on Eorea (the world in which my other book takes place). Right now, I’m sitting in my lazy place, which is what happens when all the main bits of a story I want to write click into place – it feels as if I’ve just ‘read’ the story, and so am lazy about actually writing it. Generally, this lasts about two weeks, and equates to the deep breath before the plunge; so I know that, very soon, I’ll be back in the thick of it.

    So far, the craziness is proving manageable. In an odd way, I think being made redundant at work (my boss is changing firms) sort of tipped me into the happy place – too much to possibly try thinking about without turning into a Gorgon, so instead, I’m just drifting calmly on the surface of it all. Quite soothing, really! :)

  360. Stacyon 13 Jun 2007 at 11:28 am

    Daniel – it’s entirely possible to find Sex Signs in the library, if it has a decently stocked astrology/new age section – the author is Judith Bennett.

    I’m curious what effect the fairly recent decision declaring that unbaptised infants are now not going to limbo but to heaven might have on your concept – suddenly all the babies go “poof!” Maybe limbo was full mostly of babies (as most adults would either manage heaven or go to hell) and now that they are gone, the angels want to downsize instead of taking the time to manage limbo. It sounds like you could have a lot of fun with the story setting – rather Terry Pratchett-like, if you chose.

  361. Daniel W. Mortonon 13 Jun 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Ivy- The way I see it, since the angels use christianty to retain order, they would make sure that the souls thought that christianity was the “real” religion.

    Yes, there would be some stubborn hold-outs,but most would accept it.

    Stacy- Thanks I’ll check out that.

    That baby idea sounds grat. Alot better than my original plan, in which the unborn(especially aborted babys) or pre-baptized babies were treated as normal limbonian souls are. I might use that idea, if you don’t mind. (never heard of Terry Pratchett though)

  362. Ivyon 13 Jun 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Daniel, on the topic of writing female characters. There are some women who accept and even aspire to http://tinyurl.com/29gb48 and there are other women who reject it utterly. 18th and 19th century women would probably find it perfectly reasonable.

  363. Stacyon 14 Jun 2007 at 11:01 am

    Daniel – go right ahead. I read about the subject in an essay in Time magazine around a year ago (I guess) and some conclave decided that unbaptised children, as “innocents” qualified for heaven instead of limbo.
    If you’ve never read Terry Pratchett – go pick up a copy of “Good Omens” asap! It was recently reprinted and easy to find.

  364. Puzzled Writeron 16 Jun 2007 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve been at work on a novel off and on for three years and am frustrated with my lack of progress. I’ve been able to find the time, I don’t have a problem with the blank page, but something’s been holding me back from completion and that’s an issue of POV. I can’t decide between 1st or 3rd and go back and forth in my drafts. I like 1st POV for many reasons: my character/narrator has a strong voice, is a good observer, and can bring a fresh perspective. But of course 1st has its limitations in plotting and lack of suspense, so I switched to 3rd for a while. But then I found some of the energy drained away as well as the tightness of the narrative. And I missed the compelling voice and immediacy of 1st person.

    I need some perspective here: What are your thoughts on 1st vs. 3rd POV for a first novel? I want to get unstuck from this problem.

    Thanks,
    Puzzled

  365. Daniel W. Mortonon 16 Jun 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Both have their stengths, both have their weakness.

    Why write a chapter in each point of view, then compare them. If it works, then you should find one way works better.

  366. Debbie Whiteon 17 Jun 2007 at 9:51 am

    Puzzled Writer,

    If you feel more motivated to write the story when you’re writing in 1st person and you like the character better that way, then write in 1st person and figure out a way to use or work around the limitations that POV imposes. There’s no point in taking 20 years to write a novel in 3rd person simply because you think that’s the way you ought to do it. Your lack of enthusiasm will show through.

    By the way, this advice is coming from a “3rd person is the perfect POV” person. ;) Another option is to read books that you really enjoyed and study just how they made the characters work and be engaging in those POVs. Then you can decide.

  367. Ivyon 17 Jun 2007 at 10:24 am

    Puzzled Writer,

    You can do first person pov with two different narrators, alternating chapers, so long as it’s clear from the very beginning of the second chapter that this is what you’re doing.

  368. Lucienon 17 Jun 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Puzzled,

    Just a short something to consider too and not to say that this is a staple rule by any means. I am writing two stories or at least I’ve began the second…
    My first novel is in 3rd Person and I did this mainly because I have more than a single path to take in the story. My characters are split apart from each other and though I could do as Ivy suggested I rather enjoy how you can twist the readers view of your character by what they see from the 3rd person narrative meaning its more the characters actions that defines them as much as personal thought process. I enjoy action and I think it helps to personify the theme of faith that the novel is based around. (this is a personal view on the nature of faith and a whole other conversation) but that is why I chose 3rd for that piece.
    My second that I’ve laid ground work for is in 1st person I did this because I’ve only really got one character that I want my reader to associate with. That is a daunting task (though not impossible) to do in 3rd person.(Again, a personal opinion) As there are infinite amounts of personalities out there, how do you get everyone to feel for a single type of character telling the story from the outside? However to tell this story in that characters view gives me the opportunity to gain a deep emotional connection with the reader as they will see his most intimate moments and hopefully get a real feel for his experiences both past and present. There are switch between points of view and as I’ve seen several time on this site. (Anything can be done if it’s done with a masterful hand) Hopefully this helps, I’m being forced from the computer so I will post more later. Hope this helps

  369. Puzzled Writeron 18 Jun 2007 at 12:57 am

    Wow, so I step away from the computer for a day and here are these great replies!

    Daniel: Good tip, I have done this to some extent with the opening chapters but I still need to read them through.

    Debbie: Your perspective reminded me what’s most important in writing: passion and enthusiasm, qualities which make a story feel authentic whatever the POV. Indeed, no need to stretch this out for years and I should go with my heart. Thinking about my favorite books list, I realize that the ones I admired were usually in the 3rd person but books I bonded with, ones that made an impact on me, were in the 1st person. Hm, that could be my answer right there.

    Ivy: This is a good suggestion; I’m going to experiment with this technique and see how it could work. I’d probably put the character’s names at the top of the chapter to prevent confusion.

    Lucien: I see what you mean re: showing character through action vs. thought. 3rd is better for action and 1st is better if you have a character you want the readers to identify with. What I like about 1st is that the reader can go on the journey through the story with the character and to identify to some extent with that character’s journey; you don’t get that immediacy and emotional connection with 3rd. So it boils down to whether the story is about action or character.

    Thank you all!

    Ok, so now I’m puzzling over another question which I’ll post soon.

    (Somewhat less) Puzzled Writer

  370. Puzzled Writeron 18 Jun 2007 at 1:48 am

    Ok, here’s the other issue I’m puzzled about: structure and openings.

    Which feels like the better type of structure?

    a.) Start at the beginning with an originating event and then proceeding chronologically to show how that event played out in the character’s life (like the Red King telling Alice to start at the beginning and go until the end).

    b.) Start with some interesting event that occurs 1/3rd of the way in the storyline, end chapter on a cliffhanger, then flash back to the previous times to explain how the characters got there and go from there until you reach the cliffhanger and then proceed to the end.

    I’ve noticed that option B is popular in television and movie scripts (and some novels, too). It can work well but then I wonder if it’s gimmicky and maybe the traditional way is still best. Simplicity in storytelling flow is a good thing and I don’t want to mess around with too many flashbacks because I worry they’d slow the pace down.

  371. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 8:59 am

    I’m not sure I understood your point on where to start the story. I prefer to start en medias re (in the middle of things) but not too far in the story. Far enough that it’s interesting. Not so far that I can’t bring the reader up to speed via small info bites. You don’t need flashbacks to show how things happened. You can have one character tell another. You can summarize beifly. “He though four years of medical school and two more as an intern would land him somewhere better than…” You can imply things too:

    Jim ran to catch up with Lily, his flower, his joy, his one true love. “Hi.”
    She walked faster, her perfect heels clicking sweetly on the pavement..
    He hurried to keep pace with her. “How are you doing today?”
    She focused forward on the bleach while sidewalk, refusing even to glance at him.
    He skipped a few paces ahead, and walked backwards. “Can I walk you to school today?”
    She glanced at him. “If I refuse, will you leave me alone?”
    “No.” He smiled.
    “Then I suppose you’re going to walk me to school.”

    This conveys, without explination, that he’s probably approached her many times and she’s rebuffed him before, to no effect.

    As to the idea of putting the character’s name in the chapter head, remember that some readers skip over that. The point of view should be clear via the narrative. An easy trick, the first time, is to have the second PoV character refer immediately to teh first PoV character by name. So if Set was my first PoV character and I wanted to switch to Naomi, I’d say:

    Set led the way through the park past snowdrifts and leafless trees to Cleopatra’s needle.

    “What does it say?” I asked, indicated the heiroglyphs that ran from the base up almost to the top.

    He squinted. “A lot of it is faded.” He pointed to a string of birds. “In the third year of Tuthmoses, during the time of Innundation…”

    This works if I’ve established that the two of them are alone in the park. By process of elimination, the PoV character must be Naomi. If I had a lot of characters together and I had Naomi as the first PoV and wanted to switch to Set, I’d mention something in front that only he (as the only deity in the group) would think.

    I led the group through the park. They moved briskly and chatted as we went, which I took as a sign that they were all right. It’s hard to tell how severly heat or cold affects humans.

    And then there is the simple out of letting the reader know in advance, who is going to do what.

    From Gloria’s PoV:

    “Let’s do this. Doug, you go speak to the captain. I’m going to talk to the Andrebians about allowing us safe passage. Marcie, since you know a bit about the trade guilds in this area, see if you can make contact and buy us the parts we need.”

    Then the next chapter.

    I kicked the hunk of metal that was supposed to function as our radio. Make contact she said. With what? A carrier pidgeon?

    See?

  372. Debbie Whiteon 18 Jun 2007 at 11:43 am

    Okay, now I’m a bit puzzled.

    As there are infinite amounts of personalities out there, how do you get everyone to feel for a single type of character telling the story from the outside?

    3rd is better for action and 1st is better if you have a character you want the readers to identify with.

    I think that there’s a slight misunderstanding of 3rd person here. You can get deep inside your POV character’s head and personality in 3rd person. Some writers don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

    In any case, Puzzled Writer, the quick answer to your new questions is that you’re writing a novel, not a movie. ;) I generally feel that writers using option B don’t think that their beginning is strong enough to stand on it’s own. They use a cliffhanger to make people stick with them rather than fix what’s ‘boring’ about their beginning. So I’d say to start at the first interesting action and write forward (option A).

  373. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 12:04 pm

    As there are infinite amounts of personalities out there, how do you get everyone to feel for a single type of character telling the story from the outside?

    You can use interior monologue in the third person if you want to.

    She hung up the phone and wondered, for the fifth time this morning, what certain IT departments had against getting any work done. She scrawled ‘rights issue’ on the trouble ticket and checked the box marked ‘expecting callback from client.’

    Against

    She laid the receiver in the cradle, mindlessly. She scrawled ‘rights issue’ on the trouble ticket, as if it were a simple thing these false restrictions man placed upon himself and his world. Rights to directories, rights to services, rights to life and magic and… She checked the box marked ‘expecting callback from client’.

    Against

    She dropped the phone into its cradle. On the trouble ticket she checked the ‘expecting callback from client’ and jotted ‘rights issue’ in the section for comments. One idiot down, sort of, ten thousand more to go.

    They’re very different people thinking very different things while taking the exact same action.

  374. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Can this work?

    In my novel, Set has tremendous power, but not fine-tuned control. You want someone who can throw a dragon from New York to Kyoto, Set’s your man. You want soemone who can move a tiny bone fragment and seal it in place…best go to Isis. Healing is really difficult for him.

    Mick (a minor character) has been battling lung cancer. This is his second go round (lung cancer that returns is almost always fatal) and it’s entered stage 4 (the most severe, final stage where doctors switch from “cure the person” to “make the person comfortable”). Naomi asks Set to heal him. Set then lays down a list of things Mick needs to do: quit smoking, eat something other than fast foods, drink water, exercise, take vitamins…. He can do the job, but only with a lot of cooperation. When Horus visits Naomi (and this is sorrt of complicated to summarize) Mick asks if he’s here to heal him, Naomi says no, he’s powerful like Set so he probably can’t do a better job of it, and Horus (his motivations are complex, but he wants to help Naomi while pretending he’s trying to scare Naomi, all while trying to look really impressive) says, “Do not dare mistake me for that dullard.” He blasts Mick with an excessively powerful but perfectly tuned healing spell (not in Set’s arsinal) and tells him, “Begone. You aren’t the worm food I’m interested in.” Mick staggers out. The next time we hear from him, the cancer is gone. This sets up things that will happen in the second book in the series (if there ever is a second book in the series). My question is, does the whole “Tell him he needs to eat vegetables other than French fries and potato chips” business sound too didactic on its own?

  375. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Oh, before you think this is too (literally) deus ex machina, this is a very minor character. He’s in about four scenes total.

  376. Lucienon 18 Jun 2007 at 1:30 pm

    There’s definitely some confusion at my choice of words I apologize if you misunderstood. Yes of course you can use inner monologue. I wasn’t saying that you couldn’t or its not possible I’m saying that if you’re writing something in 3rd person action conveys motives and emotions in the same way that the persons thought process might in first person.

    i.e.

    She hung up the phone and wondered, for the fifth time this morning, what certain IT departments had against getting any work done. She scrawled ‘rights issue’ on the trouble ticket and checked the box marked ‘expecting callback from client.’

    In this you essentially say she wondered, or she part took in the action of wondering through this action you see her inner thoughts what she is wandering about. This is 3rd person action, just used in a way that conveys thought process.

    Against

    I hung up the phone for the fifth time today. What certain IT departments have against getting work done, I’d never know. I looked down at my paper and scrawled ‘rights issue’ on the trouble ticket, and in turn checked the box marked ‘expecting callback from client.’ If the call would ever come, who knows.

    In this you aren’t told that she is wondering. You aren’t made aware of the action of her wondering by saying she wondered. She simply has the thought and you get it .

    This is what I mean when I say 3rd person uses more action while 1st person uses thought process and closer emotion.

    This is the way I see things and maybe it’s just my style or lack there of, whatever the case. It’s what help I had to lend to try and help out of the confusion, and put 3rd and 1st person into a more black and white sort of comparison instead of giving a grey area answer.

  377. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Interesting. Yes, I see. You can also do:

    She hung up the phone and and scrawled ‘rights issue’ on the trouble ticket. There were some IT departments for which the clear and unstated goal was the prevention of practical work. She checked the box marked ‘expecting callback from client.’ If the call would ever come, who knows?

  378. Puzzled Writeron 18 Jun 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Again, very insightful answers.

    Ivy–Thanks for your examples of how flashbacks, prior info, and POV can be handled. I’ve found the flashback issue tricky.

    Debbie–thanks for the reminder of the distinction between writing for a novel and for a script.

    I continue to become a little less puzzled. : )

  379. Lucienon 18 Jun 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Puzzled,

    I think you really need to look at the events of what happens in your book to get the feel of where you want it to start and where you want it to end. I wonder what your novel looks like in its current form without you figuring out this part of it first.

    In my humble opinion, I think you need to look at two things what the events are that lead up to your climax (i.e. how strong they are dramatically, character wise, etc.), and what your climax is (i.e. does it over power or under power the rest of your story) this is important because you want your book to start strong, but you want it to end strong too. So you need to look at the structure and beginning and ask yourself if it’s too strong, if it’s too weak, if there isn’t much story being told, if the reader is aware of what’s happening. Hopefully it will be enough for the reader to get at least an unconscious grasp or interest of what your telling. I don’t know what kind of a story you’re telling here and guiding your reader by the nose is one of the things I enjoy most as a writer but too much and they get lost. Therefore the idea of (B) loses its effect. (A) As everyone says is of very common use and it’s never a bad thing to tell a story chronologically. Unless you have a very intriguing flash back sequence that you can pull off (B) is in a very high risk of starting to strong and leaving nothing for the finish. It all really depends on the story.

    I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for, hopefully it helps!

  380. Lucienon 18 Jun 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Ivy, :P

    So I don’t know how this fits into the story but the whole eat your vegetables does sound “didactic” (that was actually a new word for me, lol) plus how does that fit in with Set’s character? It seemed to me in your sample that in things Set is not knowledgeable about (i.e. healing) He has a very who cares attitude.
    As you’ve said this is a piece of side story that leads to the second novel WHEN there is one. So I think Set would need to come up with something a little more if nothing else absurd or maybe even some sort of old wives treatment something that seems good but when Horus comes along and snaps away the cancer really makes Set look incompetent.
    Maybe I’m getting the wrong feel here, but the idea does feel a little bleh as is.

    But…

    Who knows what else you have up your sleeve! The idea is definitely very entertaining!

  381. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 6:28 pm

    This makes no sense.

    I open a document on one computer and it has 351 pages. I open the same document on another computer and it has 351 pages until I move the mouse or scroll or do anything, then it has 342 pages. Huh? Has anyone ever seen this before and is there a fix?

  382. Lucienon 18 Jun 2007 at 6:51 pm

    That is odd, I’ve seen it go the other way around as in you have 342 then it goes to 351, obviously all the pages just didn’t load until you scroll. Are you missing work in those pages or do you have all of it and it’s just shorter? Maybe some odd formatting is kicking in I’d check your settings. Silly answers maybe but it’s the best I can think quick notice.

  383. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 7:09 pm

    I checked all my settings. As near as I can tell it’s compressing. I think my laptop doesn’t have Courier, only Courier New. No work is missing. I’ve managed to determine that one extra line is fitting on the page. There are 22 lines in one version and 23 lines in the other.

  384. Ivyon 18 Jun 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Hey, I just found a workaround. If I press the “recount” button to get a word count, I’m back at 351 pages. I want my old PFSWrite back.

  385. Lucienon 18 Jun 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Well that’s good don’t worry I don’t have Courier either just Courier New. I bet you could easily find it for free download somewhere if you really wanted it. Just google Courier Font.

  386. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 19 Jun 2007 at 1:04 am

    Go here for HP’s free Dark Courier font. That’s the one I use.

  387. Ivyon 19 Jun 2007 at 8:33 am

    Kevin, that’s massively helpful. Thank you so much. Please, please, please tell me what your margins are and how many words you get per page. I’m having such problems figuring out what my word count is.

  388. Ivyon 19 Jun 2007 at 11:01 am

    Is it fair to say “The Tietdes swung to point at one and then the other of them as if unable to decide whom to attack first.” I know “whom” is proper in this usage (the object form is “whom” and the subject form is “who”) but does it look stuffy in the middle of a battle between two gods and a sentient knife?

  389. Lucienon 19 Jun 2007 at 2:06 pm

    I don’t think that it’s the “whom” that makes the battle stuffy. In this line especially, however there seems to be some conflict.

    Firstly,
    “at one and then the other of them”
    This seems really odd. Are there multiple targets, as in a large grouping that the Tietdes is pointing to?
    I know by you saying that fight is between two gods this is not the case but that’s what is read with the random “of them” placed at the end. If you used simply “at one and then the other.” that would suffice. The “stuffy” comes from just what this word implies. There is far too much stuff going on in a single sentence. Make this sentence into two and create suspense with the knife’s supposed indecision in the second…

    Secondly,
    “as if unable to decide”
    This knife seems pretty tuned to what a battle is like. If the knife is to take on not just one god but two it must be good. I get from the “as if” that the sentient knife is feigning confusion to create an opening. I just want to make sure this is what you’re conveying.

    In short I think the “whom” is perfectly fine!

  390. Puzzled Writeron 20 Jun 2007 at 12:48 am

    Lucien,

    Thank you for your additional comments re: structure.

  391. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 20 Jun 2007 at 1:12 am

    Ivy,

    What you want is 25 lines per page double spaced, courier typeface, inch and a quarter margins. First pages of chapters and the beginnings of short stories both have the titles and subtitles if there are such both spaced down from the top such that there are 13 lines at the bottom of the page.

    Each page after the first–or including the first if your name, contact info and title are on a cover sheet, as with a novel–should have this sort of format for a header:

    Author-last-name/”Title of story or novel, abbreviated if more than a few words” Page #

    Old-school information on proper manuscript procedure here:

    http://www.larsen-pomada.com/fiction.html

  392. Ivyon 21 Jun 2007 at 11:27 am

    I finished the first draft of The Book of Overthrowing Sebau. It’s 367 pages, so around 91-92K words. I don’t know where it’s going to come in after editing. Right now I’m going to print it and look it over tonight. Depending on how that goes I might put it aside for the weekend. Then I’m going to do one round of edits, send it to my first crit group, edit again, and send it to my second crit group. I know what I want to do for my next novel (okay, I know what I want to do for my next three novels) but I’m considering taking a two week break and then jumping into the next one. Maybe I’ll do a short story in the meanwhile.

    It feels nice just having finished.

  393. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 21 Jun 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Ivy,

    Congrats. It’s a great feeling having finished a novel, especially your first one.

  394. Daniel Woodson 21 Jun 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Grats Ivy :)

  395. Beth Bon 22 Jun 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Ivy,

    Well done! Lots of people start novels. Not as many finish them.

    Good luck with the edits.

  396. Brian Pon 22 Jun 2007 at 7:39 pm

    ehjones, Ivy, MattD,

    Thanks for the advice a while back about how to keep the story interested. Right after reading your comments, I went back to my outline and re-built it, this time without all of the details. Now it’s like I discovering new things as I go, and the characters are taking me in new and different directions everytime I sit down to write.

    I do, however, have another issue. My main character is named Sueqata, and he is the personal slave to a powerful military leader. Throughout the story, Sueqata must serve his master in situations where most people don’t even notice he is there. I’ve been trying to keep the stories focus as tight as possible, but it’s difficult when your protagonist is so played down so much. Have you ever read a story where the main character starts his journey overshadowed by almost everyone around him?

    If anyone has some advice, I’m all ears.

    Oh, and congratulations Ivy on finishing your first draft. I look forward to being able to say that one day :)

  397. Puzzled Writeron 23 Jun 2007 at 1:49 am

    Adding my congratulations to Ivy as well!

  398. Ivyon 23 Jun 2007 at 7:50 am

    Brian, I’m not sure he can function as protaganist as described, unless he’s going to break out from the background and his master’s shadow later in the story. Protaganists cause things to happen, they drive events in the story, they overcome challanges. He can function as a great PoV character, a lens on the story as it were. Check out The Great Gatsby as an example of that. Nick is a fine PoV character, but for the most part he’s in Gatsby’s huge shadow.

    Good luck.

  399. Daniel Woodson 23 Jun 2007 at 8:26 am

    I agree with Ivy – if you’re determined to have him as somone who’s overshadowed by everyone else, you can still reflect that in the way people treat him and the events of the story, but with the narrative you have to really get inside his head. There’s nothing wrong with having a protagonist that has very little power / influence in his own world, but as far as the story goes, he still has to do something (whether that’s overcoming challenges / hardships, providing interesting insights [comical or otherwise], or driving the events of the world quietly from behind the scenes).

    If you have a character who has no power, no influence, no thoughts, observations and no effect on the overall plot all at the same time, they may as well not be there at all.

  400. Brian Pon 23 Jun 2007 at 2:14 pm

    After reading your advice I went and also read Sherwood Smith’s post called “Mary Sue, Heroes, and Protagonists.” I think I better understand what you were saying now. If I had to describe him in Sherwood’s terms, my character Sueqata starts the story as a protagonist. He’s the person that you see this world through. Later, his master must give him to a young woman by command of her father. At that point he does change into more of a hero character, one that has a mission to protect and must become more than he was in order to do it. By the end (at least I hope) he will have made a metamorphosis that leaves all earlier versions of him far behind.

    I took a look at the pages I have (there all in long hand, or I’d send them to you) and I notice that I make observations about people and things that aren’t Sueqata’s observations. I guess that takes away what makes him important to the story.Trying to write this in 3rd Person Limited Omnitant is difficult, especially when there are seens where people are talking around Sueqata, but not to him. But like you guys said, I think I need to “get inside his head” even more to flesh out his importance to the story.

    Thanks for all of your help!

    P.S. (I’ll take any other advice you have to offer.)

  401. ehjoneson 23 Jun 2007 at 7:49 pm

    Hey, all, I’ve been absent from the boards lately, but I wanted to pop in and congratulate Ivy on finishing her draft, and Brian on finding a way to love his characters again… congrats to you both! And Aria, I have to apologize to you very deeply… I promised you a more in depth critique, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten around to it. I promise, it will be forthcoming soon!

    The reason I’ve been absent is due to another project I’ve been working on that’s taken up a lot of my time. (I asked on the questions page if anyone minded if I plugged it here… it’s not exactly a novel, so I hope no one minds…) I’ve been working with an awesome artist on a dark fantasy concept that we pitched as a comic book to the Comic Book Challenge 2007. Well, we didn’t make the top 50 in the contest, but we’re both pretty proud of the work we’ve done so far, and we’re continuing to work on it. My agent has already expressed some interest in seeing it, as well as an industry pro from one of the big 4 comic companies, so even if it didn’t go far in the contest, it may still end up in print.

    Anyway… I hope it doesn’t seem like a shameless plug, but if anybody’s interested in our concept, they can see some sample art and a sample lettered page by clicking on my name link, or checking out our MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/ringofauberon . It may not be published yet, but we think it’s worth looking at!

    And again… deepest apologies to Aria. I didn’t forget about you, and my silence doesn’t mean I didn’t like your pages!! I promise! I just have been swamped!

  402. Ivyon 26 Jun 2007 at 11:19 am

    I was wondering if anyone had any advice on starting the second novel. I’m almost done editing the first, and I have plenty of ideas, but it feels so odd starting over. Suddenly I’m back to having nothing but a blank page. What’s the kick that gets it in gear again?

  403. Seaboe Emmon 26 Jun 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Ivy, write your favorite scene first.

    It will probably be completely different from what actually ends up in the novel, but it gives you something fun to get you past the blank page syndrome.

    Seaboe

  404. Ivyon 27 Jun 2007 at 8:50 am

    I have two grammar questions, please.

    Even the constant hum of emotions and vibrations that she, as a psychic, always felt was gone.

    I’m told this should be “were gone” as “to be” is modifying the plural noun “vibrations”. I think it should be “was gone” as “to be” is modifying the subject of the sentence “the constant hum”. Which is correct?

    Devoid of allies he could trust not to take advantage of the situation and kill him, he was forced to tend his own wounds.

    I’m told this sentence is too complex. One person wants me to take the “not” out, which I think changes the sentence to mean he wants his allies to kill him. Opinions?

  405. Seaboe Emmon 27 Jun 2007 at 9:49 am

    Ivy, you are correct in the first instance–the noun in question is “hum”, not “vibrations” or “emotions”

    As for the second sentence–rewrite it. It is hard to follow. Is there some reason it could not just be “devoid of allies he could trust, he was forced to tend his own wounds.”?

    Seaboe

  406. Beth S.on 27 Jun 2007 at 10:15 am

    First sentence–you’re correct.

    Second sentence is a trifle unwieldy, but as Seaboe said, that could be fixed by trimming it a little. My fix is slightly different. It doesn’t get rid of “not,” but then, I didn’t have a problem with that anyway. “Take advantage of” states what’s already obvious, so it can go. I left the word “kill” because it has the most punch.

    “Devoid of allies he could trust not to kill him, he tended his own wounds.”

    I took out “was forced to” because I wasn’t sure it was really necessary. It’s implied.

    You could also say–

    Lacking allies …

    –which sounds less formal than “devoid of.”

  407. Michael Garneron 29 Jun 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Hi,

    New to the forum and glad I found it.

    I finished the first draft of my first novel two weeks ago and hated the ending. A week and a rewritten last chapter later, I merely disliked the ending, so I pronounced the first draft done. To my surprise, I felt no relief and only a fleeting sense of accomplishment. This morning, sitting next to the manuscript, I discovered why. Yes, it has a beginning, a middle, an end, and I did write it. But it is not publishable. Re-reading the first chapter this morning, I realized that while I have written a novel, I am not DONE writing that novel. What I’ve done is spread manure onto the ground, plowed it into rows along the drainage contours, and cast seeds around. The reason I don’t feel satisfaction about my fat stack of paper is that nothing has grown there yet. There’s order, but the potential fertility will only be realized through a great deal of additional effort (and luck). The job is less than half done and satisfaction at this point would be, I think, a soporific.

    I’m very interested to hear your strategies for successful revising, but I think mine will be to rewrite the whole blessed thing. I agonized over this, realizing that nearly everything I’ve written on it to date would not see print. But, I think any retrofit to the first draft would make it lumpy. The only way I can see to enrich the book is to plow the first draft under. In that sense, it will still be there, fertilizing the subsequent drafts, and the effort to date will not have been wasted, but for the love of Peter, starting over again? That’s hard to face. Nevertheless, that’s the strategy I’m going to use. To the first time novelists out there, what did you do with that first draft? To the pros, how about you?

    The good news is that my writing has improved since I began this project 291 days and 90K words ago. I think (I hope) I’ve moved from the “one damned thing after another” method of story-telling into a more thematically rich and character-centered style. I don’t think that would have been possible without the first draft. Also, my discipline is solidifying. I’ve given up taking occasional days and all weekends off (bad!) and started getting up early so I can write before work (hard!).

    I offer this as way of introducing myself, and as my contribution to the “farm talk” we’re here to trade.

  408. Ivyon 29 Jun 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Are you listening to Michael Stackpole’s The Secrets? If you aren’t, you should be (and add Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing to your subscription list today as well). He’s going through the process of writing a novel in his current series, and he’s definitely in the “do not revise as you go camp”. In his example, if, in chapter six, you decide your protagonist is missing his left arm, you write it that way from that point forward and make a note of it in the revision. So when he gets to revisions, towards the end of the series, he’s very likely to be talking about a situation similar to the one you’re in.

  409. Beth S.on 29 Jun 2007 at 6:42 pm

    I revise and polish as I go so that by the time I finish something, it’s finished except for some pruning and overall tweaking. I do know people who write a first draft just to plow the ground, as you said (love that analogy), and then chuck it and start completely over with a better idea of how to bring the whole thing together. Bottom line, figure out what works best for you.

  410. Brian Pon 29 Jun 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Michael,

    I have never counted myself as an “expert” in anything that had to do with writing. On the contrary, I consider myself quite the novice. I’m about four chapters in on my first novel, but I have written tons of children’s fiction in the past (since I’m an illustrator by training.) All this is to preface my comment, which might sound a little naive. I say give it a couple more weeks. You seem as if you’ve been tackling this literary beast for a while, so why not let it rest up a bit before jumping back into it. Let the prose leave your mind, because anything you read right now will sound cliche and trite since it is so fresh on your mind. Work on something else the mean time and when you come back to your manuscript maybe the rewrite won’t be the “slash and burn” that your expecting.

    That’s my two cent. Best of luck.

  411. Debbie Whiteon 30 Jun 2007 at 10:34 am

    Part of the reason I could never finish a novel until this year was because I’d go back and revise as I went along. I was always so busy revising that I never finished the story before a ‘better one’ came along and I started on that. Then I got a great story idea in my head–it was all there in basic form. I just needed to get it down. The next 30 days were spent furiously writing it down, usually whatever scene had ‘filled out’ in my imagination rather than the scene that naturally came next. This, obviously, made for a somewhat sketchy and disjointed first draft, but I keep track of what needed to be put in during the revisions. The next three months or so were going back and filling in the missing parts, removing repetitions, and fixing up descriptions, grammar, and spelling. Strangely enough, there really wasn’t that much whole-sale changes. Further revisions based on feedback from my readers actually caused more ‘chunks’ of text to be added or removed.

    That’s just my experience, though. I’d agree that you might want to set your first draft aside and not look at it for a week or two. Sometimes during revisions, I’d think “This is bad…I need to change it,” change it, and then realize that the old version was fine and I had to change it back. When I got in that mindset, I just stopped working for the day because I knew it was counterproductive. Maybe the first draft won’t look so hopeless if you look at it again on another day. On the other hand, maybe the changes you want to make really do need a complete re-write. If so, go ahead and chuck the first draft and start again if that’s what will work best for you.

  412. Ivyon 30 Jun 2007 at 11:01 am

    I’m in Beth’s camp. I revise as I go, which makes things easy because I was able to go from first draft to workshop draft in a week. I barely needed to touch the first 2/3rds since I’d gotten them to the point I liked in the first go round. I think you need to find out what works for you and go with that.

  413. ehjoneson 30 Jun 2007 at 9:44 pm

    You know, I’m in the “revise as you go” camp, myself. My first novel was my first serious attempt at writing something of that scale. What I did was draft some folks to be my first readers. I outlined the entire novel, chapter by chapter, and then started writing the prose. As I finished a chapter, I handed it off to my first readers and moved on to the next. And then I’d get the chapter back, hand off the next, and start going over the notes from the first chapter. By the time I was done, my first readers had read my book several times over, and I had written about five drafts in total, although it’s hard to really estimate that because of the way I did it.

    I don’t think I could ever write a book and then chuck it out and start over. If I do the re-writes as I go, then by the time I’m done, I have a final rough draft, and all that’s left is a final read through looking for errors and inconsistencies. That’s not to say it’s done. My first novel took two months to write, and three months to revise… and it wasn’t a drastic revision. The second novel took a month and a half to write, and I’ve been working on revisions requested by my agent for over four months now! But that’s not a case of starting over. It’s a case of trying to make specific changes that still fit into the rest of the story, or to re-write things to make them flow better. The meat and potatoes, the story itself, is finished after that rough draft is done.

    I don’t think I can imagine doing it any other way.

  414. MJon 10 Jul 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Hello! I have known about this forum for years, but never having been able to start a novel until now, I didn’t introduce myself. But about a week ago, I started writing my novel; I’ve worked on it daily, am about 10,000 words into it, and it’s progressing nicely. So, yes, I just wanted to say hello to everyone and also a thank you, because I’ve read a lot of what people have had to say here and it’s been a big help!

    MJ

  415. Brian Pon 13 Jul 2007 at 4:23 pm

    MJ-

    I totally understand where you are coming from. I had be trying to get a good start on my novel forever. One day I started reading the posts on this sight, and it was like a light was turned on! “Wow, other people are suffering through the same stuff as I am! Who would have thought.” Keep up the good work, and maybe one of these days we could compare notes or swap manuscripts.

    BP

  416. Carol Bergon 14 Jul 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Michael,

    Doing a total rewrite after a completed draft is pretty radical, but not unheard of. There is a very successful YA author…Will ??, I think…who does this all the time. It is quite possible that as you write more, you won’t feel this necessary, ie. you will have more shape and cohesion to your ideas flowing as you write.

    Revision is an extremely important task–and not just in the “tidy and smooth” sense. For many of us, only when we’ve written “the end” do we begin to understand the themes and motivations and nuances of characters and plot. And then we have to pare away the pieces that don’t fit, enhance the important ideas that we’ve buried, carve in the wrinkles and dimples and details that bring the whole thing to life, and clarify, clarify, clarify.

    I usually grouse about excessive film examples cluttering up talk about writing, but when it comes to editing and revision, I think the film analogy can be helpful. A “completed” movie consists of miles of filmed scenes that must be cropped and merged and shaped to complete the director’s vision. How many “deleted scenes,” no matter how beautifullly filmed and acted, should be in the final product? Not many at all – none that I’ve seen.

    Good luck with your rewrite/revision and welcome.

    Carol, hoping to find time Real Soon Now to join all these great discussions

  417. Nicole L.on 18 Jul 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Does anyone have a good method for keeping track of alternate calendars? I’m driving myself crazy trying to follow my own timeline. My WIP is set on another planet and for some reason I decided that they would have a 6 day week and a 6 week month (so 36 days) and a year that’s about equal to 22 Earth months. It takes place over a considerate amount of time and one of the protags is pregnant so I have to relate back to real time to make sure I don’t have her pregnant for 11 months or giving birth after only 4. I’m working on my second draft, moving scenes around and confusing myself utterly.

    Thanks!

  418. Seaboe Emmon 19 Jul 2007 at 9:36 am

    Nicole, write out when (using your planet’s calendar) she gets pregnant and when she’s due. Keep that handy as you right and you don’t need to care about “real time”

    Seaboe

  419. Debbie Whiteon 19 Jul 2007 at 10:45 am

    *evil grin* So, Nicole, is each day 24 hours long? I set my own novel on an “alternate earth,” but I still had so much going on that I had to deal with the timeline issue. In the end, I just pulled out a real calendar and started marking things on it. I’d suggest drawing out a rough/crude calendar for your planet’s calendar and marking things on there. That way you can just count the days forward. Of course, the days probably aren’t 24 hours long… In that case, once you have the pregnancy-start day settled, you (or someone really good at math) will just have to convert nine months down into minutes, and then convert that into your local hours, days, weeks, and months to figure out the due date.

    I happen to support going through all this work to get it right. Then again, I love math, so this just makes sense to me.

  420. Nicole L.on 19 Jul 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Debbie, you are evil! I didn’t even think about that! However, since this is a totally low tech civ. I circumvented the whole issue by leaving out hours altogether. Whew! What a near miss.

    Ok, I think this is a case of insufficient backstory and I really do need to make a calendar even if I never use it in the story itself and I just mark it month 1, 2 etc. And then if I still have math problems I might get you to check my equations!

    Seaboe, I was doing ok (not great though) until I started uprooting scenes from the middle, end and beginning and inserting them elsewhere, until whole new days and weeks had sprouted in places they had never been before. I also did not write this MS chronologically and that has not helped. I will try never to do that again since it’s made everything so complicated.

  421. Kate Elliotton 20 Jul 2007 at 12:15 am

    Nicole,
    I would second what Debbie said: make a calendar, and use it as you would your own calendar.

  422. Ericon 29 Jul 2007 at 10:32 pm

    here, here, for all those who courageously start sentences with prepositions and intuitively understand natural limit.

    Anyone feel like they are writing a script instead of a novel??? It’s just so demoralizing.

    I am working on my first novel. I have a hard time with narration and point of view. I feel like I’m writing a big essay with some quotations to demarcate interesting conversationm and then I am back to, I , me, us.. It feels awkward, yet a story is evolving.

    I am also insecure with certain action phrasings. They seem a lackluster. I walked over to the… or I looked at the red bird….

    I am also insecure with keeping tenses in order. Are there rule to follow? At certain times in my story, I want to tell the story in the past and then I feel compelled to draw the reader into the present tense and then quickly shift to past. Sometimes the prose reads like a roller coaster. It can be nauseating. But it’s hopscotch prose…it goes somewhere.

    Any thoughts?

  423. Brian Pon 30 Jul 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Eric,

    I’m in a similar boat with my first novel (or, as I like to call it, the ever growing “word beast” I’ve been carrying around for the past few months.) Everytime I look at what I’ve written I feel like the story is moving and the characters are developing, but the prose doesn’t have that ZING that I’m looking for. I want to evoke emotion (as I’m sure you do.) Just recently I picked up Walter Mosley’s book on writing, and the most important thing he emphasized was “Just finish the first draft!” Write until it makes you sick and you want to set the damn thing on fire. When you have the whole thing together, in all of it’s tarnished glory, then you put the shine on the prose. It frees you up to devote all of your creative energy on the words instead of thinking “what comes next.”

    As far as the problems you are having with tense, those may become an issue later on, since you will want your writing to have an unified feel. Nothing throws a reader off more that time shifts (read Gene Wolfe’s The Knight if you don’t believe me.) As for the rest of it, I would wait to worry about it until the frame work is built.

    That’s my two cent anyways,

    Best of luck

  424. jeanjeanieon 01 Aug 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Hi. I’ve read the blog for a while now but I only just discovered this forum. I’m currently working through the third attempt at my fourth “first novel” — the first first novel actually got finished, but is complete crap, and is mouldering away in a desk drawer; the second didn’t make it past two chapters; the third made it all the way to thirteen chapters before the plot ran into a brick wall that I couldn’t navigate my way around. Somewhere in there I also wrote several novels’ worth of Buffy fan fiction, but those don’t count.

    As for the current novel, I started it three years ago, and then scrapped it after the first six chapters felt like crap. Took a year off from writing to plan my wedding and get married, then took another look at the manuscript, decided the plot still had a lot of merit, re-worked it, signed up for NaNoWriMo and gave it a go. Learned NaNoWriMo is NOT for me, as it encourages me to be excessively wordy, threw out the ten chapters I’d managed that go-round, and started from scratch AGAIN.

    17 chapters in and still going strong, I think the third try is the charm. This time I love my characters and feel comfortable navigating their world, something I never accomplished with either of the earlier drafts. I realize that I needed those other attempts to work out my insecurities and get comfortable with my own imagination. That was one drawback of fanfic–it taught me a lot about plotting, pacing and dialogue, but all that time spent playing in somebody else’s sandbox left me feeling lonely and uncomfortable in my own, and it took a lot of time to get over that intimidated feeling that I couldn’t possibly come up with my own universe or characters that were even half as interesting or likable.

    As for revising, I do a combination of as-you-go and after-the-fact. When I get stuck I’ll usually scroll back up a few pages and work on tightening things up, but I’m not afraid to just get something down and move on, either. My current draft has entire missing scenes with notes in their place along the lines of “[They fight]” and “[Blah blah blah set-description-cakes]“. Obviously, I’ll flesh those out on the second draft, as well as things like fixing timeline wonkiness and emphasizing the overarching theme.

    I have problems with distractibility, but I’ve had pretty good success with setting a timer for 20 minutes and writing until it runs out, then taking short, five minute breaks to check my e-mail or pay attention to whatever is distracting me before resetting the timer and starting over again. That definitely won’t work for everybody, but it works pretty well for me and my ADD.

  425. Adamon 02 Aug 2007 at 7:07 am

    Hi,

    My first attempt at a novel resulted in 40,000 words before I decided I had to start again. My second attempt (same story!) I wrote about 20,000 words before suffering from a form of mental paralysis. Then I decided to write something new, and spent six weeks plotting a complicated story and wrote the first scene only. Now, I record my ideas — but I have no confidence that I will ever write a novel.

    I am tempted to rush-write a novel with no regard to form or style, just so I complete a draft, but I am concerend it will end up so bad that I will chuck it any way.

  426. Stacyon 02 Aug 2007 at 11:59 am

    Adam – write an outline. Seriously. When I tried starting a novel without one, I got one chapter finished before I got lost and stopped. Once you have an outline, you have a map of where you are going. Then I’d suggest trying writing scenes out of order – write the first scene, then the last scene (which you know about because of your outline) then climax and midpoint. This gives you something to “hang” other parts onto – either they come before or after a scene you’ve already written – and I found that was really helpful keeping me going. (All ideas stolen from The Weekend Novelist.) Also remember all first drafts are crap, utter garbage, made readable by revision and editing, which sucks but is the unfortunate reality of novel creation.

  427. Adamon 03 Aug 2007 at 3:01 am

    Hi Stacey,

    Actually, I have never tried to write scenes out of order before. There are always scenes that I hunger to write but have waited because I thought it was best to write the boring (read ‘well written and interesting — yet less fun to write’) bits first.

    I guess, if you work on the principle that you can almost throw away the first draft (read ‘open a bottle of champagne and tell everyone you have completed the first draft of your ‘gonna-get-published’ novel’) then I guess it doesn’t matter if you write scenes out of order.

    My concern would be that despite plotting stories, even short stories (2000-6000 words), when I actually write the thing, I change stuff. In a short story that’s managable but in a novel it may mean that Bill actually died in chapter four, and so wasn’t around to save Matilda (with his childhood knowledge of troll-combat) from the troll in chapter ten, which was the solution to that particular problem when you wrote it. Not a good example but you get my drift.

    Still I guess its better to re-write the odd scene of your SECOND DRAFT than not complete your first one for the above reasons!

    Adam

  428. Brian Pon 03 Aug 2007 at 4:35 pm

    jeanjeanie-

    That timer idea sounds like pure gold! I’ve been battling my own ADD demons in my novel writing. I’m a illustrator and designer by profession, and I’m so use to the instant gratification of drawing out exactly what I want to convey. Wriiting is quite different, as I’m sure you know. I think I will incorporate the timer into my regime, that way everything gets a chance to have my full focus.

    Thanks for the new approach!

    -BP

  429. Ariaon 04 Aug 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Hi everyone!

    Going back and editing my story, I find myself wondering worriedly…does everything in a book have to have a specific point, or can it be more of a memory piece to show a side of a character, or something to the similiar effect.
    In other words, does it have to help the plot specifically?

    Whenever I read a book, I always find that most every detail adds something to the plot, and I’m always worried that some things I write dont do that entirely, and that winds up worrying me.

    I dont know if that makes any sense or not…

  430. Joon 05 Aug 2007 at 4:11 am

    Hi, Aria. Personally, I find that I need to feel everything in a story has to have a purpose, but that purpose does not always have to be to develop the plot itsel. Showing a certain side of a character, developing a relationship, revealing more of your character’s world, these are also valid reasons to write a scene. Unless you’re writing a short story, then chances are that a novel in which something plot related is always happening could seem very fast paced to the reader. This may not always be a good thing. But, I’d be careful about making the novel overly full of events that don’t progress your plot – as a reader, I tend to find that pretty annoying if it’s done too much..

  431. Ariaon 05 Aug 2007 at 10:02 am

    Jo,

    Thanks for the input! yeah, I’m taking out a bunch of things that have nothing to do with anything, but there’s still some I want to keep, but am unsure about.

    But you’ve cleared that up for me a little – that it has a purpose but not just for the plot, but more towards chara developement/revealing more of the chara’s world. That makes me feel better about it, thanks!
    -Aria

  432. JB Armstrongon 05 Aug 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Hey guys! I’m new. I’ve read almost every entry in this thread (took a while) and have been enriched by some of the ideas and links.

    I’m currently writing my first book, a collection of interconnected short stories. It’s going well, and is a lot of fun.

    I actually submitted to the 13 lines critiques, but so far it hasn’t appeared. If it ever does, I look forward to hearing some of your feedback.

    As to the process, I have scrapped drafts for this book up to as long as 10k words. It’s by no means a waste though. There may be jewels in the writing that can be saved and even more, the vision of the story comes clearer and the subsequent draft is usually much better right off the bat.

    As I said, it’s my first book, but I’ve learned a LOAD of stuff in just the last few months. I’m glad I found this site.

    J

  433. jeanjeanieon 06 Aug 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Brian P – glad it helped! I had a lot of trouble getting to that solution, because I always felt that I did my best writing when I could devote hours at a time to it and get into a state of hyperfocus, but my life just doesn’t allow for that. I let that keep me from writing for years before I decided to try writing in micro-sessions. I was amazed at how well it worked for me.

    Adam – another unconventional method (that I got from somebody else) that’s helped me with plotting (I’ve never been a strictly linear writer, and can get frustrated with how much my plots can change as my stories advance) is converting my outline to Powerpoint slides, one scene per slide. Slide Sorter view lets me see my outline as a whole, and I can drag scenes around to rearrange the order, delete entire scenes (or chapters) quickly, and adding in new scenes is pretty simple, too. I also like being able to use the “notes” section to record dialogue snippets or partial scenes as they come to me, to save until I’m ready for them. I also like to change each slide to a darker shade as I complete the scene it represents, so if I’m feeling discouraged I can pull up my Powerpoint outline and see at a glance how much I’ve already accomplished. Again, it’s unorthodox and won’t work for everybody, but it’s been a huge help to me.

  434. Stacyon 08 Aug 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Adam wrote: Still I guess its better to re-write the odd scene of your SECOND DRAFT than not complete your first one for the above reasons!

    Totally!!! I think the writing scenes out of order technique definately demands much brooding over plotting, but think of it this way – somebody has to save Matilda from the troll, or she can’t save the world at the end, so if you kill Bill, his twin brother will have to step in. If the climax scene is the one you really want to write, there’s just no reason not to write it now instead of three months from now. You exchange the agony of plodding along in sequential order and waiting for the good stuff for the agony of revising scenes to fit each other and having to cut out entire bits that don’t fit anymore but you loved to write. I prefer the revision torture to never finishing.

    I really like the sound of that PowerPoint idea – the old index card brought to the 21st century!

  435. Adamon 08 Aug 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for the great ideas and suggestions.

    One other problem I get is I can plot a good problem and a great ending (in my humble opinion!) but the middle bit can feel a bit like filler. It’s almost like having to create further problems for your protag to get to the 100k words required for a novel.

    I am not saying that the problems I create don’t add to the story or the characters –it’s just that any story can be shortened and any story can be lengthened.
    For example, Bill could find Troll-cleaver (the sword) quite quickly (in his father’s cupboard) or you could make a long story about Bill’s journey up a snow-covered mountain where he had to fight yeti’s with a small box of matches and pair of nail scissors. (I know quest coupons!)

    I may also put in a story about how Mathilda nearly escaped the troll but was caught again. True, this may show her plucky spirit and take the reader on a will-she-or-won’t-she escape ride. But it still feels like filler.

    I look at this ‘filler’ and wonder if really I am missing some point, and perhaps should be writing something else….

    Does everyone else write ‘filler’?

  436. Ivyon 08 Aug 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Adam,

    I don’t think what you’re describing is filler. I think it’s taking the reader on the ride of the story.

    In my book there is a scene where Set takes Naomi dancing on the sun barge. It breaks up the tension of what came before and what will come after, it shows that he is starting to figure out how to charm her, and it shows that she’s starting to accept that she might have a place in his world. The story would work without it, but it enhances the dynamic of the characters and breaks up the pacing, so it belongs.

    It’s fun to worry about a character.

    Jody heard a strange noise in the living room. She slipped to the door to see a strange cat had taken up residence. “Hello, cutey. Are you hungry?”

    vs

    Jody heard a creaking, like weight on a floorboard, just outside her bedroom. At first she wasn’t sure if it was real, of the vestiges of a dream. Right. City girl living alone in the country. She’d walked the streets of Harlem in the middle of the night with no fear but the all-consuming darkness of the night world outside her new house–she never knew night could be so dark.

    Then the sound came again, closer this time. She thought of her canister of mace, but that was in her purse, and she felt certain her purse was in the kitchen. She slipped out of bed and picked up a clog instead.

    No hick is taking a New Yorker without a fight. Emboldened by her own attempt at bravado, she moved softly along the plush carpeting to the door. Could a coyote have gotten in here? She remembered the family of bears she saw when she drove in this morning.

    She toed the door open, just a bit to peer out. A small pair of green eyes stared back up at her and meowed.

    Okay, not great, but overall, which would you rather read?

  437. O. Bahri Gordebakon 08 Aug 2007 at 8:48 pm

    I just finished the first draft of my second novel. First one is unpublished, not even sent.

    If that helps to anybody, what I learned from writing two novels is finishing what you start, even if it is the worst book in the world. I once made a wrong attempt for a novel. It remained unfinished. But after that half novel, I decided to finish every novel I start writing. That really helped me, because if I am not sure enough of my idea, I simply do not start. If I start, I finish. Then I may throw it into the trashcan. But I surely learn something from every finished draft.

    It’s a long — long road.

  438. Stacyon 09 Aug 2007 at 10:09 am

    Adam – if it feels like “filler” maybe you just need to find a way to ratchet up the tension. Just ask “what can make this matter more?” and then do that. (advice stolen from Donald Maass) Ivy’s example is quite lovely. It’s easy to write low tension from-here-to-there scenes in the first draft, that’s why revision is such a wonderful thing, IMO. You should probably congratulate yourself on not being satisfied with the first time around and stretching for improvement.

  439. Ericon 09 Aug 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Here is what I have learned from my three attempts at a first novel:

    The less you plan, the more you will rewrite.

    Blocking your story out into scenes first, and then writing one scene at a time is an easy way to make your work easier.

    If you write a scene per day, and your story has sixty scenes it should take you no more than 2 months to write a first draft. If you write two scenes per day it should take you only a month. Most of the business of writing a novel is simple math.

    All you have to do is pick the scene you want to write next, and then write it. You can write scenes out of order, you can choose hard ones first to get them out of the way, or easy ones because you’re more excited about them. Every time you sit down to write, you’re one scene closer to completion.

    The scene is your friend — the ultimate narrative unit. Use it.

  440. Charleson 09 Aug 2007 at 2:01 pm

    A good friend of mine writes his favorite scenes first, jumping around the novel and then goes and finds how the book is supposed to start and works forward until he hits the first of the scenes he has already written. Then he works out how to get from there to the next scene that is already written.

    I don’t write that way. I will sometimes — rarely — write a later scene, but only to establish the context — and usually only if I plan on foreshadowing this event throughout the book.

    I write from beginning to end of a first draft. However, my second draft may contain part first draft and part second draft. This happens when I change where the book needs to open, especially if the new opening is a season earlier than the original opening.

    There are many reasons for why I write this way. One of them is the surprise character I never even knew was there who pops up unannounced yet ends up allowing me to accomplish a key event. I can’t imagine writing out of order even if it is for this one reason.

    My friend, however, loves writing the way he does, diving into the big meaty scenes and working them together into a story that flows and builds.

    We are each happy with our own styles of writing, which is the key.

  441. Ariaon 11 Aug 2007 at 11:54 am

    Another thing that I find helpful, like the finishing a story even if you arent sure about it, it to finish a scene, even if you arent sure about it. Use it kind of like a sketch – it’s only the underlying model. What you want will be there, just maybe not the way you want it, but with that scene in place you can continue on through the plot. Then, you can come back and completely rewrite the entire scene.

    That’s basically what I’m doing now. I found that I didnt like a lot of the things in this one section I wrote, so, using a printed out copy as my guidelines, I opened a new document and started rewriting all of those scenes, than putting them into the original, taking place of the scene I didnt like.

  442. Brian Pon 16 Aug 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Here’s a question for everybody. I started my story with the intention of it being for young adults (somewhere along the lines of Ursula LeGuin and Garth Nix.) However, the more I write, the more violent the story has become. I’m not throwing the violence in just because. When my main character has to fight off a band of wildmen for the first time, I went into some pretty gory details of how the scene played out. It just seemed like it was needed, since he had never killed anyone before, to paint it the most exacting light possible. The narrative has taken on a darker tone than I initially intented, but I still like where it is going. I’m not sure if I should stick with my original plan of writing a YA fantasy, or just see where it takes me.

    Any advice?

  443. Ariaon 16 Aug 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Personally, I’d say see where it takes you and go from there. Dont underestimate what young adults read, either. Stick with what you want to write and dont try and restrict it to a certain limit – you might not like what comes from that.

    But that’s just my opinion.
    Good luck!
    -Aria

  444. Mitch Wagneron 18 Aug 2007 at 4:26 pm

    I came on here to ask a question but it seems it’s already been answered — or, rather, a different question has the same answer.

    I’m about 34,000 words into my first novel and I’ve reached a point where it seems horrible to me, and I can’t think of a way to get back my enthusiasm.

    I was trying to figure out whether to punch through until a resolution to the problems appear, or put the novel aside and do something else. (But if the latter: What?)

    Looks like the answer is punch through.

  445. Ivyon 20 Aug 2007 at 10:15 am

    Is it normal to find that writing the second novel is more difficult than the first? With The Book of Overthrowing Sebau, I felt like the words came and wouldn’t stop coming. Demon Child isn’t being as nice to me.

  446. Charleson 20 Aug 2007 at 10:55 am

    Ivy,

    I’ve noticed on a few writer’s websites a sort of word counter for ongoing writing projects. I noticed you have one on your website as well.

    If you don’t mind my asking, what software are you using for this?

  447. Nicole L.on 20 Aug 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Hey Adam,

    A lot of writers I really respect say that the middle is the hardest part, just like you said 60k of words that have to get you from your opening to the end. It’s not filler, it’s what’s getting you from here to there. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately, as I’ve been writing out of order for my WIP and now I’m going back and doing a lot of connecting scenes. I have to think of each scene as a mini story: opening, conflict and resolution (of some sort). Then when I look at them later, I do a CJ Cherryh test (I’m pretty sure I got this from her blog) and make sure that they all fulfill 3 functions: moving the plot, developing character and there’s one other biggie I’m forgetting, should have written it down, but also foreshadowing, setting up what’s coming next. You get the idea. Having 3 elements in each scene helps make it tight and if a scene is doing all those things then it can’t be filler, right?

    BTW, next time I am so trying to write chronologically!

  448. Ivyon 21 Aug 2007 at 8:27 am

    Charles, it’s from Writopia.

    Put

    in your html code, replacing words with your current word count and target with your target.

  449. jeanjeanieon 27 Aug 2007 at 8:46 am

    Time to vent.

    I’m at the half-way point in my novel, a point where I usually pause to re-evaluate my story-so-far and make any changes I need to make to the outline, etc. Except this is also the point where I usually run out of steam and move on to something else and never come back, even though I keep saying that I will, that this manuscript is “back-burnered,” not “abandoned.” I’ve actually back-burnered this one twice before, and I’m committed to finishing it this time. I’m trying not to let myself get hung up on fixing things on the first draft. I’m trying instead to make myself keep going, to jump ahead to the scenes that I’ve been excited about writing for what feels like forever, except I’ve been envisioning those scenes for so long that I’m now intimidated by them, afraid I won’t be able to do them justice.

    I’ve also been away from the novel for two weeks. I’ve tried a few times to sit down and write during that time, but life has just been too distracting. I need to get focused again, but my usual bag of focusing tricks isn’t working.

    I will NOT let myself give up on this novel. I know I have to keep going. I just have to find a way to kick my own ass into gear.

    In the meantime, I’ll be over here, banging my head on the keyboard…

    *’aeo olpawi 0983p’o
    ]=W ‘PO ’094w o’gGOIH BVP9[
    u*

  450. Adamon 28 Aug 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Jeanie,

    What I did in a similar situation was to take a the next scene and try to write it as a short story. This was less daunting and I had no problems starting — I abandoned it halfway through and carried on writing the novel instead. Which was the real plan, anyway.

    Just an idea.

    Adam

  451. Charles O'Connoron 29 Aug 2007 at 4:33 am

    Hi, I am 24 years old and would like to share my fears. I write like H.P. Lovecraft and poe. I am not good with characters and they bore me. People say I am good at writing paper characters because what I say is more intriguing. Not very popular overall. I do not have a problem coming up with ideas but it is how to put them down in on paper in a successful manner.

    when I write I sometimes spend days on the first paragraph, suffering until I get it right and then the pattern continues. I sometimes wish I was like the masters (poe, hawthorne, bierce) who seem to write a short story in a few days with which for me it takes months until it comes out the way I like it. I want to get to that publishing point so fast. Am I setting unrealistic expectations for myself, am I thinking in a fantasy world where I am the only victim. Should I just learn to relax and realize I am not an old man and enjoy life. What should I do. Help?

  452. Seaboe Emmon 29 Aug 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I want to get to that publishing point so fast. Am I setting unrealistic expectations for myself, am I thinking in a fantasy world where I am the only victim. Should I just learn to relax and realize I am not an old man and enjoy life. What should I do.

    Well, yes, you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, but you may be at a time in your life where you’re not capable of setting realistic ones.

    The only way to become publishable is to practice writing. If that is what you’re doing–and you’re reaching the end of the story–you’re doing what you need to do.

    It’s also important to enjoy life because life is where you get your ideas and characters. If you isolate yourself, you reduce the chances for inspiration.

    Seaboe

  453. jeanjeanieon 30 Aug 2007 at 10:57 am

    Adam -

    Good suggestion, thanks. Earlier this week I managed to eek out an ending to the chapter I started three weeks ago, but after that I stalled. I’m getting some real-life and day-job stuff out of the way so they won’t be able to distract me anymore, then I’ll try your trick to get back into it.

    Charles -

    I had a realization just the other day about how much my writing has improved with age. When I was your age I wanted to be published so bad I could taste it. I still do, but now I’m a little more wise to how the market works and a bit more cynical about my chances, and more patient in getting to that point. But I realize that just having lived–no great adventures, no exploring the world or anything grand like that, but just living my adult life–has seasoned my writing and given a confidence to my voice that I never could have achieved in my early twenties. I’m a much, much better writer at 34 than I could ever hope to be at 24.

    I know that’s not what you want to hear, but the point is, keep writing, keep reading (read everything; even the bad stuff and the stuff you don’t enjoy has lessons to be gleaned about the craft), and go about your life and the business of growing into adulthood. All of that will add to your writing skills without you even being conscious of it. Just give it time, which you’ve got plenty of. You’re definitely not an old man.

  454. Brian Pon 30 Aug 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Charles,

    I totally understand your longing to get to the publishing stage. I’m 27 years old, and I always imagined that I would have something finished and ready to release upon the world by now. Sadly, that is not the case. I’ve written two children’s books, both about to be self-published, and I’m working on my first real novel (very painful, but rewarding, experience.) I think just learning to pace myself and write consistantly is the challenge that faces most writing neophytes. As if working through the doubts and the distractions weren’t enough, you also have to find that imagination-power inside and be able to tap into it instinctually. A lot of that comes from having structure to your writing; a beginning, and middle, and an end. Structure isn’t the enemy of creativity, it’s the bones of it. Any artist will tell you that all great works have a structure underneath, a sketched map on which to build and add embelishment. If you are slaving over one paragraph without considering the work as a whole then off course it will take forever to get anywhere.

    Reading up on characterization wouldn’t help, since you admit to having a problem with that, but the truth of the matter is to keep writing. The publishing part will come or it won’t. I’m really starting to wonder if being published should be my benchmark for “writing success.”

    Best of luck,

    BP

  455. Charleson 30 Aug 2007 at 2:55 pm

    when I write I sometimes spend days on the first paragraph, suffering until I get it right and then the pattern continues.

    Charles O -

    Way back in high school, my best friend and I collaborated on a science fiction story. It was a prequel to something he had written on his own, so we were working with very established (at least in our little world) material.

    My friend wrote the opening scene and I wrote the next one. The collaboration never really got off the ground because my friend kept rewriting his opening scene — a lot.

    This was back in the days of writing longhand or on a typewriter. You can only imagine how much paper he went through trying to get the opening ‘just right’.

    Well, he spent so much time redoing the opening scene that he had to abandon the story altogether. He got to the point where every time he tried to read his opening he would immediately start yawning until he stopped reading.

    Now, this was a valuable lesson to the both of us — easier for me to learn since I was one watching and not doing. My friend has since written over 500 pages of a really cool fantasy story, so he learned to let go of editing until he had a story written to actually edit.

    You can edit your opening paragraph for a year to get it perfect, but you may find by the time you finish the entire story your opening isn’t the right opening now matter how perfect.

    Finish your story first, then agonize over the perfect wording during the re-write.

  456. Nicole Lon 30 Aug 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Hi Brian and Charles,

    I definately think that being published should not be your goal because you can’t control it. You should set goals that you can control: be the best writer you can be, finish your novel, figure out how to add in tight subplots. Setting goals for yourself that you can’t control will make you crazy; worse, you’re giving control of your writing to someone else, someone you don’t even know and may never know. Why would you do that?

  457. Sengei Tawnon 31 Aug 2007 at 8:08 am

    Suggestions on how to get unstuck.

    I’ve been working on two scifi novels (a series) for, oh, five years or so. Have about 30 chapters written for both, but there are major gaps and certain chapters are really hard to write…not sure why…might be too boring (da…a clue!).

    A couple things that have spurred me on is to give the first few chapters to a reader friend and see what they think. My main reader is now so thirsty for the next chapter and so encouraging that I dove into it again! She wants to know what happens…wow. Actually, so do I!

    The other thing that spurs me on is to watch movies or read books in the genre. I get so irritated with the garbage that is out there that it inspires me to write a better story!

  458. Brian Pon 31 Aug 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Reading up on characterization wouldn’t help, since you admit to having a problem with that…

    Sorry Charles O., I meant to say that reading up on characterization WOULD help. Me and and my damned contractions. Hope this makes more sense now.

  459. Ivyon 02 Sep 2007 at 10:38 pm

    This isn’t so much a question of writing a first novel as of marketing one. Between my blog and a few podcasts that I do, I address an audience of about 4,000 people every week. Is that worth mentioning in a book proposal?

    On the one hand I think that it would be because it means a- I have some idea how to market myself, b- I have a base audience to push my book to, and c- book proposals are kind of like resumes in that you’re supposed to spin everything you can in your favor so long as it’s true.

    On the other hand I think not because a- 4,000, while impressive for what I’m doing, is a drop in the bucket for a book sale, and b- an editor or agent might not think it’s proper to mention something like that right out of the gate.

    So, what is the right thing to do?

  460. Jesson 04 Sep 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Hi, I just found the blog. Ivy, it’d be worth mentioning if your book is non-fiction, I think. I keep seeing “platform” all over the place, and not mentioning anything would probably be worse than what you consider your meager offering. But I have no credibility on which to base my advice, so take with a grain of salt and ask someone else. ^_^

    I’m 55k into my third novel. The first two were awful and it took me a year to get to the point where I could write more than 20k and not loathe the story or myself. That’s behind me, but I’m still having trouble focussing and just getting the writing done. I’m working on scrolling this thread and the archives but I’m slow – what are your best “Butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard” tips? I write for about half an hour before I leave for work in the morning, and the rest of my writing is typically done in snatches at the job; I’m a receptionist. Some days I don’t have any writing time, others I’ll have hours. Thanks!

  461. M.T.on 04 Sep 2007 at 10:09 pm

    To Sengei Tawn: Do you mean you want suggestions, or that you’re offering suggestions? …sorry, getting a little too technical. So, I guess I’ll just toss in my two cents in general.

    My main reader is now so thirsty for the next chapter and so encouraging that I dove into it again! She wants to know what happens…wow. Actually, so do I!

    I’ve found that showing your anticipation for a creator’s next work (I say ‘creator’ because a lot of artisty types are like this) works wonders for their productivity.

    So…I guess what I’m trying to say is that the reverse applies too.

    Other ideas on how to get unstuck:
    -Take a break.
    -Consider ‘what ifs’.
    -Talk to someone about your story in general. It doesn’t have to be a fellow writer or reader, of course, just someone to bounce ideas off of to see what they think.

    …and, um, yeah.

  462. Sengei Tawnon 04 Sep 2007 at 11:52 pm

    M.T. Oh, sorry. Was responding to JeanJeanie, Aug 27, but I also appreciate ideas for how to get unstuck!

    You reminded me that taking a break helps. Going for a walk sometimes does it. Or driving to screen music. I suddenly remember some scene and how I need to explain something or add something I didn’t see before. I also use music that inspires me. Usually moody, movie theme-type music.

  463. Mitch Wagneron 05 Sep 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Jess:

    what are your best “Butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard” tips?

    Here’s what I do: Set a daily quota for yourself. 250 words works for me. It’s about a page of copy. When you’re done with your 250 words, you’re done for the day. You may choose to write more if you are inspired, but you are not obliged to.

    250 words a day is a novel in a year, and that’s not bad.

    I’m still working on my first novel. I’m 39,982 words in.

  464. M.T.on 06 Sep 2007 at 12:36 am

    To Sengei Tawn: Music is one of my main inspirations as well. One of my gripes with it, though, is that dialogue tends to take a backseat when I hear violins trilling. Instead, I see characters running around, casting spells, doing theatrical stuff and overall causing a ruckus. It’s fun, sometimes, but the time I can spend in lala land is really, uh, kind of…proportionate to the time I should be spending on homework.

    My novel’s fallen on the backburner. The main reason why is…well…I figured that I should attempt to actually *finish* something first. A novella of some kind, or a short story. Then go back to it and hope the characters didn’t spontaneously mutate on me, as they have a wont of doing.

  465. Adamon 06 Sep 2007 at 6:34 am

    I am currently 14000 words into my story (Woo-hoo) but I don’t like doing the first draft. It’s a bit like moving cardboard characters around a stage that has very little background scenery painted. My desire to go back and create something that feels like proper writing is intense. So much so, that I often come up with more short story ideas while I am supposed to be writing a novel, than at any other time. The desire for a ‘hit’ has often meant I end up writing a short story — leaving my novel on the back-burner.

    Often fantasise about the rush you would get from 120000 words of polished prose and so I am trying to avoid the old trap and just jot the short story ideas down without getting trapped in them.

    Part of me is always worried if one them would make a better novel than the one I am trying to write.

    Classical music helps me write — normally I don’t listen to it, but writing to it is great. They say it increases your IQ if you listen to and then do a test.

  466. Sengeion 06 Sep 2007 at 8:45 am

    Adam, I wish I had your problem. I started out writing a novel. Figured I’d better write a novellette first (to attract an agent? to beef up cover letter to said imaginary agent)…and ended up with another novel! Short stories are great! I can see your predicament, but at the same time, if your energy is spot on with a short story, I’d go for it. Would be great to have a dozen shorts waiting on the sidelines (or sent out to magazines and contests).

  467. Stacyon 06 Sep 2007 at 1:23 pm

    My best butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard advice would be to set up something that isn’t stressful or against your personal programming. I get too stressed out trying to write every day, word quotas simply do not work, I don’t do mornings, and I have to write on paper. I found a system that is designed around writing only on the weekend, and that works great for me. In fact, when I tried to accelerate my progress by writing during the week, all that happened was I got bogged down and produced less, because I lost my every weekend rhythm and committment. My suggestion is don’t use other people’s systems, tailor your system to yourself and your goals, and keep it achievable.

  468. Ivyon 06 Sep 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Jess, I set up goals and then try to hit them, 1,000 words a day, but I give myself permission to get ahead. There are also carrot and stick methods. Reward yourself for your hard work. Keep your muse fed and happy, which may mean going to a museum, listening to music, whatever works for you.

    Sometimes switching mediums helps. I could not get chapter 5 of Demon Child to work at all when I was writing straight to computer. I switched to pen and paper and it flew. Sometimes the opposite happens. I don’t know how the mechanism works, but other writers have reported the same thing.

    Don’t allow yourself to write sometimes. My most productive days are right after the Jewish holidays–the ones where you can’t turn on the computer or write anything down. Somehow, being told I can’t write gets my characters jabbering away non-stop.

    Listen to I Should Be Writing. That’s a great podcast for inspiration and advice on keeping going. The host, Mur Lafferty, has a few podiobooks out there too (Heaven, Hell, Earth) and she’s really good.

  469. Jesson 07 Sep 2007 at 9:06 am

    Thanks, everyone. I only started the novel on July 8, and had a goal of 1250/day that I hit regularly until early-mid August when a bad spell at work squelched much writing and I’m only now emerging. Now I don’t get to write every day but when I do, it’s often in 2k+ gulps. ^_^

  470. Mitch Wagneron 08 Sep 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Jess, if you have a full-time job or are a full-time student, or a full-time caregiver (like, for instance, a stay-at-home Mom), 1,250 words per day is *hugely* ambitious. Maybe you’re taking on too much.

  471. Mitch Wagneron 08 Sep 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Sorry – didn’t really finish that thought. What I mean to say is not that you should give up writing. Rather, set a goal for yourself that you can reach, rather than setting yourself up for failure.

  472. Jesson 14 Sep 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I understood, Mitch, thanks. I’m a fast writer, so that’s actually only maybe an hour or so a day, and I do most of it on my lunch break! I did trim back to 1k just because it’s easier to count by.

  473. Adamon 16 Sep 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Hi,

    I am sure this sounds foolish, but how do you decide when to end a chapter and start a new one. My novel is in 3rd person limited, but has a number of POV characters, and I don’t stay in a single POV during events. I change POV to heighten tension etc. I find it hard to find a natural break as one event merges into the next, especially the first 20000 words, after that there are some natural breaks, but 200000 words seems like a big chapter.

    Adam

  474. Sengeion 16 Sep 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Adam,
    I also wonder about chapters; including whether agents or editors make new chapters or just suggest them?

    I’ve always found it interesting when a chapter ends and then the next chapter begins with the next breath from the same scene. Jim Butcher does this a lot in the Dresden Files books. He’ll end a chapter with a witty or sarcastic remark and then start the next chapter, continuing the action. I don’t mind it; just find it interesting.

  475. Seaboe Emmon 17 Sep 2007 at 10:25 am

    There is no hard and fast rule for chapter breaks. You can end a chapter at every POV change (which can, I admit, make things choppy).

    I would say try to end the chapter at a point that will make the reader want to turn the page. Sometimes, that’s a cliff hanger, sometimes it’s not.

    Seaboe

  476. Beth S.on 17 Sep 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I look at each chapter as a stepping stone, or a mini story arc. When the arc is completed (not necessarily resolved, mind you, but taken to a certain point of climax), I start a new chapter.

  477. ehjoneson 17 Sep 2007 at 8:57 pm

    This may not be the appropriate place to post this, but I heard some news today that brought me up short.

    Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, passed away this weekend.

    I don’t know if many of the folks here will agree with me, but I consider this an incredible loss. I know Jordan’s fantasy novels were met with mixed feelings from the reading and writing communities, but I have been a fan since the first WoT novel. His world and his story drew me in completely. I even have them on audio, and listen to them in the car when on long trips.

    It’s always a tragedy when someone dies. It’s always sad knowing that person has died with work left incomplete. I know that WoT wasn’t Jordan’s only project, but it’s the one I’m most familiar with. Reading his blog, you can tell that he struggled over the past years to wrap up the story. I also have heard that there is a legion of writers waiting to try and finish the story. But it won’t be the same. No matter how hard they try, it’s going to be impossible for them to capture the writer’s voice.

    Sorry, I’m rambling. There are probably a hundred people here who could say what I’m trying to better than I can. I’m still stunned by the news that a writer that I admired and respected is gone. I hope that his fans, family, and friends remember him fondly.

  478. Kate Elliotton 17 Sep 2007 at 9:38 pm

    I’ve been mulling for some hours over a post, and it’s up now.

  479. Brian Pon 18 Sep 2007 at 3:25 pm

    I think it was my room mate in college that handed me a copy of Eye of the World and said, “Read this. You’ll love it!” Ever since than, I have had a relationship with Robert Jordan’s work. It was always a mixed-bag for me, though. While I loved all of the Wheel of Time books up to Lord of Chaos, I had started to feel that the story was meandering a little. But every time I started to feel that he had sold out, I would read a chapter that sucked me in so totally that I would want to skip class or work the next day just so I could read. He was a true talent, the likes of which the writing world will probably never see again.

    Best wishes to his family, who are undoubtedly celebrating his life with all of his fans and admirers.

  480. Ronon 24 Sep 2007 at 11:56 am

    In the conversation about chapter breaks: I think it is important for POV changes. I also think story and plot should be considered for breaking – story is the sequence where plot is the cause and effect. So, I think (although it doesn’t always happen) it is important to leave the reader with something more, one more piece of the puzzle or better – the “holy %$#@” I didn’t see that one coming. I suppose it is a matter of building that suspense and moving to that ending that is so important to the arc.

  481. Robert E Waterson 17 Oct 2007 at 9:07 am

    Hello all. I’ve thoroughally enjoyed the discussion here. I finished my first fantasy novel last year, slightly over 118,000 words, and it’s making the rounds. So far, no success, but I’m hopeful. I’m keeping busy with short stories and planning the next novel.

    One of the most frustrating things about writing the book was the research. Not that I didn’t mind doing it, but I found myself feeling guilty that I was researching and not writing, as if doing the research was actually preventing me from doing the book. I had to read a number of books about early renaissance warfare, and about how blackpowder and primitive cannons were forged, and I kept agonizing about doing that instead of writing. So it was a problem that I had to overcome. Luckily I did overcome it and finished the book. We’ll see if I can persuade an editor that I did a good job on it. Fingers are crossed.

    Another thing that’s frustrating is finding an agent. Some respond to you and some do not. So far I’ve had a few nibbles, but no serious bites. It’s like double jeopardy: You have to go through two steps – not only do you have to get an agent interested, you must then get an editor interested. That’s tough.

    Those two things have been the most frustrating for me. But I’m sticking in there and we’ll see what happens.

  482. Kate Elliotton 18 Oct 2007 at 1:11 am

    Robert,

    you just have to stick with it. You’re doing the right things, but be aware it can take a while. The folks who succeed do so because they don’t quit.

    Meanwhile, my take on research is that it is part of the writing process. When you read a lot about a subject, it can get into your brain and help inform the writing on a deeper level so that instead of the details that you use being tacked on consciously, they start coming out in the writing as things the characters observe, believe in, use, and expect.

    Good luck!

  483. Stacyon 22 Oct 2007 at 11:35 am

    Robert – I’m not published or anything or have an agent, so bear that in mind, but I’ve discovered that all the advice about getting out and networking and actually talking to agents face to face is really necessary. Agents are people, so if you speak to them, person to person, your impact is exponentionally higher than when they receive another stack of white paper at the office to read. Of course, a face-to-face meeting isn’t going to matter if your book isn’t ready, but you get face-to-face feedback as well, so it can shorten the learning curve. I’ve had the great luck to actually speak to several agents in various places and learned a ton about the whole process.

  484. jeanjeanieon 26 Oct 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Hi all.

    I finally managed to unstick myself after two long months. Besides the simple fact of life’s hecticity getting in the way, I figured out that a big part of my problem was that a major plot thread in my story just wasn’t working. While I kept busy with other things these last several weeks, my subconscious appears to have continued working on the problem, and now I know what I need to do to fix it.

    The other thing that got me going again was lowering my daily goal to only 250 words (I was previously aiming for 1,000, which for me = about three hours of writing = the kind of time I just don’t have to devote to it right now). This goal is accomplishable, it’s not intimidating, and I often surpass it, and even when I don’t, at least I’m moving forward on my manuscript. It’s SO much easier to make myself sit down and start writing if I know I’m allowed to go work on all the other things threatening to distract me as soon as I hit 250. And by the time I get to 250, I’m usually not distracted anymore, so I can keep going. Hopefully, this method will get me to the end of my first draft.

    Thanks to whoever it was who mentioned the I Should Be Writing podcast. It’s been a big help in inspiring me to get started again (as well as in giving myself permission to set smaller goals). If the rest of you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend it.

  485. L A Scotton 28 Oct 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I love the idea of limiting one’s self to 250 words a day, Jean. That sounds like a reasonable goal and sure beats the hell out of writing nothing at all!
    I’ve had an absolutely killer idea for a horror novel that has been burning a hole in my soul to be laid out on paper for about fifteen years now. It’s based on terrifying events that actually took place in my life roughly 25 years ago.
    My problem….I have no clue where to start. Maybe I shouldn’t put it that way, I HAVE started on it many times, even getting through the prologue and a couple of chapters, but then I’m at a loss.
    I’ll just sit and stare at the last page I’ve written in a completely devastating fugue state. I simply don’t know where to go from there. Perhaps my dilemma stems from the fact that I have no outline to follow, I’m just writing whatever pops into my head at any given moment.

  486. L A Scotton 28 Oct 2007 at 4:26 pm

    OOPS! I wasn’t finished. Does a novelist know prior to beginning how many chapters his/her book will consist of? How do you lay out an outline?
    I’ve noticed that all of the fiction novels I read are based in a location the author knows by heart. Stephen King’s are always based in Maine where he resides. Boy, would I like to ask HIM a few questions! I am utterly astounded that he has the gift undoubtedly, that all writers desire. And that is to have another best-seller on the shelves before readers even finish his last one. How he does it is beyond me.
    I’m certain everyone here would be delirously happy to have just ONE novel make the New York Times best selling list, God knows I would!
    I’d appreciate any advice from all aspiring novelists here!
    A big “Thanks” in advance.

  487. L A Scotton 28 Oct 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Ivy,
    I’ve read some of your posts here and am amazed by your writing prose. You’ve got it in you to become a famous writer. I want your autograph when you do!

  488. RobertEWaterson 30 Oct 2007 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for the advice, guys. I’m hoping to eventually get a chance to chat with an agent face-to-face. I’m sure that will help.

  489. jeanjeanieon 30 Oct 2007 at 1:11 pm

    @LAScott: The writing process is different for everybody, but I’d wager that very few writers know exactly how many chapters their novel will have before they tell the story. As for outlining, again, it’s different for everybody. Some writers can’t work with outlines, some can’t work without them, and some lie somewhere in the middle.

    As for my own method, usually I’ll start out envisioning a scene, or maybe just a quick exchange of dialogue. I begin by writing that, and then building my story out from there. Once I start plotting I usually get bombarded by ideas and details, so I capture them all down in summary/outline form, which often includes fleshed out scenes and snatches of dialogue, and then use that as a starting point to expand and revise until I’m comfortable enough to start drafting the story for real. I often go back to the beginning and make changes as I figure out new things that need to be set up for later in the story.

    I generally have to have a basic idea of 1) how my story ends, and 2) who my characters are before I can begin writing an actual first draft manuscript. But even when I know how it ends and start out thinking I know pretty well how it will get there, it usually changes on me many times along the way. Characters sometimes have a way of taking on lives of their own and driving the story in totally unexpected directions.

    But that’s just me. You probably need to take the time to explore and experiment with different methods and tailor one that works for you.

    As for location, mine is set in L.A., and I’ve never been there, but my husband grew up there and I have friends who live there, so I’m trusting them to help me get it right, or at least keep me from getting it egregiously wrong. Places you know well, as well as fictional settings, tend to be safest if you plan on going into a lot of detail. If you choose a well-known locale that you don’t have a lot of personal experience with, like I did, then I advise doing a lot of research and having contacts who are familiar with it who can help you get the details right.

  490. L A Scotton 09 Nov 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Jean, Thanks so much for your advice. I think it helped a lot. I’ve just finished reading King’s “On Writing” and now understand how he cranks those novels out so fast. He writes ten pages a day every day. Thus, he has a novel finished every three months. I tried this approach too, but got only one and a half pages before I had to walk away from it.
    It sounds easy enough, just ten pages a day, but as every struggling author knows, it isn’t that easy for most of us. Heck, even five pages a day is tough!
    I know I need to write more than a page a day to get this thing finished before I die, but sometimes the words are there in my mind and just WON’T type out the way I want them to. Therefore, I’ll spend hours typing, backspacing, and re-typing. This gets me, in the brutal end, one page that I’m somewhat satisfied with. Does anyone else have this problem?

  491. Charleson 12 Nov 2007 at 3:08 pm

    L A -

    Everyone seems to have the method that works best for them.

    I know some people who will not write chapter 2 until chapter 1 is as perfect as they can make it.

    Me personally, I generally write from start to finish each chapter in order as a first draft. If needed I will scrap a chapter or portion of a chapter when I realize I’ve gone off track. And I don’t worry too much about some of my prose being a real clunker that I know will be discarded. My initial goal is to get the story down on paper.

    While I generally know the story I am going to write I discover a lot of surprises along the way. As such, there’s no way I would spend days upon days perfecting a chapter when there’s a good chance it will change based upon future event that need building up to or at least foreshadowing.

    Then again, my best friend writes all of his favorite scenes then goes back and figures out how to fit them together and how to fit it all into a properly structured story. I could never work that way but for him its the only way he can write. The closest I came to this was a rough draft of a science fiction story I have stuffed in a drawer. Half of the book is a bunch of short stories I wrote in the same world that became chapters and subplots of the book. I was able to do this by introducing the main element of the book into the short stories and they just clicked. Other than that, I write as I mentioned above: beginning to end with minimal description.

    The second draft is where I really layer in the bias of an individual POV character’s ideology, as well as the needed worldbuilding elements that simply cannot be told through natural dialogue.

    As for the amount of writing, that varies for me. I tend to write more on the weekend, especially Sunday than any other day. Since I have a full time job that often requires overtime (I’m a Network Admin) writing during the week is hard. I’m less concerned with words per day output than I am crafting the story correctly.

    Once again, everyone has their own way here. Some, like King apparently write a certain amount a day.

  492. L A Scotton 15 Nov 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you Charles, that was very insightful!

  493. Mitch Wagneron 15 Nov 2007 at 8:35 pm

    L A Scott – 10 pages a day is a lot, even for someone without a day job. That’s 2,500 words.

    I know a few prolific novelists whose quota is 1,000 words a day.

  494. L A Scotton 16 Nov 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Mitch, It’s really refreshing to know I don’t have to beat myself up over the amount of words I write on any given day.

    I’ve gotten to the point of not even counting anymore. I just write until the thought I had in mind plays itself out on paper. I might write a paragraph or two or several pages, it just depends on where my ideas take me on any given day.

    Prior to this, I found myself mentally counting words and getting completely off track.

    It seems to me it’s not about the amount of words anyway, but the way the story is told. Ultimately, if it’s a good tale, it isn’t going to matter whether one writes a hundred pages a day or just one.
    What’s going to matter in the end, I think, is that the story’s plot and prose intrigues the reader enough to keep him/her engrossed until they turn that final page.

  495. Jim K.on 13 Jan 2008 at 2:32 am

    When writing your first novel, how do you know if what you’re writing is any good? How (as Stephen King puts it) can the author be the reader and the editor at the same time?

  496. Jim K.on 13 Jan 2008 at 2:41 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention in my previous post that I have completed my first fantasy novel (about 148,000 words). It’s in the editing process awaiting revision. People who have read it, or snippets of it, say that it’s good, but I still have my doubts. A lot of times, I get the feeling that my writing just isn’t up to par with the standards for a quality, marketable novel.
    Any thoughts or suggestions?
    Love this site.
    -By the way, I love you Katharine Kerr!

  497. Seaboeon 15 Jan 2008 at 11:28 am

    When writing your first novel, how do you know if what you’re writing is any good?

    My experience is that you’ll have a better idea after you’ve let the story sit–without editing, reading, skimming or anything else involving your eye on its pages. Preferably for three or four months, minimum.

    I’ve also discovered that while criticism is easy to believe, praise is not. Which is not a problem I ever expected to have.

    Seaboe

  498. Katrinaon 20 Jan 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Is there ever an age where you think an author is being too ambitious to write a novel? I’m a junior in high school (sixteen years old), though I suppose I’ve always been mature for my age, and I’ve been researching and planning for a sf novel. Sherwood Smith’s name from a ‘google search’ actually brought me here–I love her books “Crown Duel,” “Inda” and “Fox.”

    I’ve been on and off fanfiction websites, but I’ve never ventured over 100,000 words. I’ve tried to distance myself from Harry Potter and the Matrix though, now that I’m older. I also have written short stories and such from an early age. Does anyone think I’m ready for the leap?

  499. Kate Elliotton 20 Jan 2008 at 5:44 pm

    You are ready to write a novel if you’re thinking about doing it. I can’t guarantee you’ll finish your first novel attempt — or that you won’t finish it. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be good — or bad — or somewhere in between. But none of that matters.

    Go for it.

  500. jeanjeanieon 21 Jan 2008 at 10:47 am

    If you’ve written something 100,000 words long, then congratulations: you’ve already written a novel. Novel length starts around 60,000 words.

    I made my first novel writing attempt when I was about your age. I didn’t complete it, and what I did write was nowhere near publishable, but it was still a valuable experience. The best way to improve your writing is to write. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’re likely to write something worth publishing.

    Good luck!

  501. Katrinaon 21 Jan 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you! I’m going to start next weekend, as soon as the SATs are finally over. I’ve planned it out, but I’ve been unsure about it all. Ah, well, if I’m having a blast writing it… And you’re right about it just being a “test run” of sorts. It may very well have a high flop-rate, but I’ll just find my characters through, I suppose.

    I am proud of the (Harry Potter) fan-fiction novel that I wrote. I started it a year-and-a-half ago, it took that long to finish, but it did quite well. The beta I used taught me more about grammar and plot-building than I ever could have learned in a classroom setting. I guess everything is easier when you don’t have to create another world from scratch.

    Thanks again! ^_^

  502. Ariaon 30 Jan 2008 at 6:31 am

    Katrina:

    I think 16 is a great age to get started. While I’m no professional writer to give this opinion, I myself started even younger…sooo yeah.

    Also, I know you mentioned fanfiction (I myself had a reoccuring stint going on there…love that site) but I also think it might be worth your while to check out fictionpress.com, which is a division of fanfiction, but for original stories.

    Good luck!
    -Aria

  503. Georgeon 31 Jan 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I have just stumbled across this site; I like think it could be a great help. There is much to look at and this is my first day on here. It’s nice to see I’m not alone in my doubts, fears, and procrastination.

    I am working on my first fantasy book and it feels overwhelming at times. My ideas are chaotic and I don’t know were the story is going. My characters form as I write so they have nothing to do with each other yet.

    The world is coming together and the races and their history is forming nicely. I am new at this and still learning. I need to figure out were I want my story to go.

    The way I do it now is I just write. I don’t think it through or plan I just use the world and characters I’ve built and see were it goes. This approach is getting me in to trouble. It’s fun but I get stuck and have no plan to follow to get myself unstuck.

    I will try to absorb all the knowledge I can from this site and the answers I seek may be here just waiting for me. I often feel alone in writing because I know no one else that writes it’s nice to read about all of you.

    thanks

  504. Kate Elliotton 31 Jan 2008 at 10:13 pm

    George, it looks to me that you’re doing the right things.

    In fact, “just write” is the advice I would give anyone working on their first novel. Don’t worry about the end product or the “rules” — just write.

    Getting stuck is part of the process, because you do get unstuck, it sounds like, and it’s important to be conscious after the fact and identify what you did each time; patterns may emerge that will help you in the future, or you may learn (as I have had to) that sometimes you are just stuck.

    At times like that, forex, you can

    1) work on a different scene
    2) do research
    3) take a walk (or some other activity that releases the brain)
    4) worldbuild, draw a map, write faux historical documents
    5) write an awful scene that you will go back and revise or replace later
    6) and so on

    Good luck!

  505. Christineon 07 Feb 2008 at 12:18 am

    Okay, shameless self-promotion — I am an instructor at Misque, a writer’s retreat for authors with complete (or nearly complete!) novels, who want to take the next step and prepare it to be sent to agents and editors. Or just get some very intense feedback on their book that really inspires you to finish it, polish it and publish it. It is a very cozy and encouraging atmosphere, limited to twenty writers, and set in beautiful Hawaii. I’d love to have you!
    If you think you might be interested, check out http://misque-writer.com/ or email me at misque-writer@misque-writer.com

  506. [...] day, looking on writing blogs, and I found something that was surprisingly encouraging. It was a comment by Muneraven on one of the pages of a really interesting blog called DeepGenre, and here is what it [...]

  507. Nikkion 13 Feb 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I wrote my first manuscript. The process was painful, everytime I read it I think…wow this could have been written differently or better. I get frustrated then turn my computer off. It has been sitting in my computer for over a year now waiting for me to hav the courage to send to a publisher. It is non-fiction and chronicles some of the challenges we (my husband and I) face as caregivers for my 96 year old grandmother.

    I have many other ideas that I have started on but not finished. I cannot write the traditional novel – my patience wanes and waxes cold. Therefore, my next book is written in journal format. Any advice for me?

  508. Mitch Wagneron 13 Feb 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Congratulations on finishing your book, Nikki! You’ve accomplished something that very few people in the world have done.

    That said, I’m curious why you feel submitting it takes courage. The worst thing that can happen is it’ll be rejected. So what? Rejection only hurts because we think it hurts.

    You’ve already done something that requires far more courage than submitting a book. Any jamoke can submit a book (after they’ve written it, of course). It just requires postage. But it takes a lot of guts to be a caregiver for someone who’s very, very sick.

  509. Kate Elliotton 13 Feb 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Nikki,

    first of all, Congratulations! Wow! FInishing a book-length work is a huge task, and Mitch is correct that you’ve already accomplished a great deal (both on the writing front and on the life front).

    I’d give you three pieces of advice at this juncture.

    1) write whatever it is you want to write next. Finish it if you can.

    2) I’m not sure how much revision you have done, but if you look back through the care-giving chronicle you’ve written and see where you could have written it differently or better, then open up your word processer and revise.

    3) Submitting work for publication for the first time is indeed daunting. But again, as Mitch says, you already know what the worst thing that can happen with submitting is: the publisher turns you down. I know of no one in this field who has not been rejected at least once. Most receive multiple rejections before we have any smattering of success. Put on your armor, don’t take it personally (or take it as little personally as you can manage), and go forth and submit.

  510. Adamon 14 Feb 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I have recently (in the last 8 weeks) sold my first three short stories, two at token to semi-pro rates and one at pro-rates (5c per word anyway…although I question a $35 pay check as being particularly pro!).

    I started writing a novel 18 months ago, but decided to stop until I was certain I was writing stuff that was publishable. Everyone I have spoken to (electronically, of course) has said it is harder to sell short stories than novels, as the market place is smaller and more competitive. Fewer people complete novels, yet more people buy them.

    So my thoughts are that I should now move away from the addictive, short-term fix type ride of the short-story market and try for a novel. Am I ready? Or am I being overly simplistic?

  511. [...] discussion, with open-ended posts and questions. Indeed, one of the most popular articles, Writing My First Novel, is mostly over 500 comments from authors across the lands of [...]

  512. Nicole L.on 15 Feb 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Congrats on selling your stories Adam! Where did you sell them to?

  513. Anyaon 16 Feb 2008 at 6:15 am

    I started writing a novel 18 months ago, but decided to stop until I was certain I was writing stuff that was publishable. (…) Am I ready?

    Yes! What are you waiting for? You can only write something publishable if you write first. You don’t improve your novel writing by writing short stories, imho. Those are two different pair of shoes. Finish writing your novel, put it aside for a month or so, then read it from a fresh perspective, and revise.

    If you’re stuck, you might want to check out (just to name a few favorites):

    “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Browne and Dave King. (Contains four chapters on Dialogue that are the most useful and succinct advice I have so far encountered.)
    “Scene and Structure,” by Jack Bickham.
    “Plot,” by Ansen Dibell.
    “Characters and Viewpoint,” by Orson Scott Card.
    “Description,” by Monica Wood.

    Good luck! And congrats on publishing your stories.

  514. Ariaon 19 Feb 2008 at 6:48 am

    @Adam:

    Personally, I would say, don’t worry if its publishable or not! It’s great that you’ve sold short stories (congratulations by the way) but don’t stop writing a novel because you arent sure if it’s worth it. It’s always worth it. Write for yourself, not others. If you decide half way through that you just dont like writing a novel anymore, then you can give it up for that reason, and you don’t have to look back. But at least give it more of a chance.

    Plus, you can still write short-stories on the side.

    Good luck!
    -Aria

  515. Kate Elliotton 23 Feb 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Adam, I agree with the other answers you’ve already received. Want to write a novel? Have an idea? Write it, already! As Aria says, it is always worth it.

  516. Nellie Vrolykon 25 Feb 2008 at 7:32 pm

    This is my first post. I’ve read all the interesting posts about the pleasures and travails of writing a first novel.

    I’m almost finished with the first draft of my first novel, an erotic science fantasy. I’d like to get some critiques for the first five chapters but so far I’ve not found any critique place where works of an erotic nature are accepted. If anyone knows of any can you let me know?

    The story is in first person POV. It’s told by an alien being called a synth – synthetic organism – made up of hundreds of different nanomachines. Synths can have any form, but my MC is in humanoid form, for he is a copy of the humanoid aliens who created the synths. Jay’s story begins when he is but an hour old – no he’s not a baby LOL.

    This brings me to his name. I’ve provided a logical explanation for it at the start of his story, or I hope I did. Anyway, originally the name Jay was a placeholder until I thought of something more suitably alien. But when I finally did come up with another name for him, Jay refused to give up his temporary name. Has anyone else had that happen to them?

    I guess this might be enough for my first post. I’m going to explore the site some more.

  517. Kiranon 26 Feb 2008 at 2:51 am

    I believe writing the first sentance is the most difficult part. I write the beginning over and over again, trying to find the right feeling/style to it. It’s the same with a name. I can never begin writing until I have a name that feels right for the character.

  518. Charleson 26 Feb 2008 at 12:50 pm

    The first sentence never seems to be a problem for me… I seemed to have hundreds of those. It’s the committment to fill in the rest of the pages that I seem to be dancing around. It may be that I’ve yet to sit down with an idea and say, “I’m writing a book.” I tend to get an idea, start something and set it aside. *sigh*

    I think I’m on to something now though… time will though, won’t it?

  519. jeanjeanieon 26 Feb 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Charles – you may be a good candidate for NaNoWriMo, if you still have ideas vying for your attention by the time November comes around. I’m pretty ADD myself when it comes to settling on a single idea and focusing on it through to completion. Last year was my first time doing NaNo, and the intensity really helped me focus and get my first draft hammered out. If I could just manage to keep that up the other eleven months of the year, I’d be pretty prolific.

    And hey, that’s a good segue to mention Our Eloquence, a writing community for which I just took over moderator duties. Our purpose is to maintain the same sense of camaraderie, encouragement and motivation that we get during Nano throughout the rest of the year. We just started a goal contest, wherein we each set weekly goals for ourselves, and those who manage to meet the most goals within a six week period will win a prize. The first round just kicked off yesterday, so it’s not too late to sign up. If you don’t have a Livejournal account, you can also sign in with OpenID, or just post anonymously. We don’t mind.

  520. Mitch Wagneron 26 Feb 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I am strongly ambivalent on the subject of NaNoWriMo.

    On the one hand, anything that gets people being creative, thinking, writing, and creating art is entirely AOK and groovy.

    OTOH, NaNoWriMo is a *huge* investment. Consider: There are 29 days in November. 27 if you’re an American – figure you’re not going to get fiction writing done on Thanksgiving day, and one other day that weekend.

    The NaNoWriMo definition of a novel is 50,000 words.

    That means you’d have to write 1,852 words per day to get a novel done.

    That’s exhausting. I know professional novelists, people who’ve had more than four novels in print and who’ve sold pretty well, who do 1,000 words a day. And that’s a long, tiring workday for them.

    So I’m concerned that NaNoWriMo is setting unrealistic goals for people, and burning them out.

    Just my $0.02. Note that I’m a professional journalist, but just a wannabe fiction writer, with four unpublished short stories and a first novel-in-progress to my credit.

  521. Charleson 27 Feb 2008 at 7:44 am

    Sounds interesting… when I’m able to concentrate without interruption, I can usually turn out 2500 (give or take) words a day. Threats to family members would have to be made in preparation… o.O But I’m a slower reader than writer… editing could take me past the deadline. ;)

    I actually went through a re-filing effort last night of 20 years worth of fantasy material (six partially finished books and twice that in short stories… I was obsessed before my son was born *sigh*… maps and outlines too, OH MY!). But oddly enough I’ve been writing about crime, dark (modern) fantasy and emotional stuff lately. It feels good just to write again, and I’m only just discovery the online “support” community, but I wonder if I’ll ever return to the fantasy material or just consider it a teeth-cutting stage. I can remember a time when everwhere I turned I would see my characters, I would interact with them in dreams and watch them fight or fee for thier lives on the sides of highways. At times I feel I’ve left them surrounded with no escape… abandoned. any written word is a good word though, right?

    hmmm… looks like I’ve got some links to follow. Thanks for the information!

    ~C~

  522. Seaboeon 27 Feb 2008 at 11:01 am

    Mitch Wagner said

    Consider: There are 29 days in November.

    Last time I looked there were 30. Did you lose one?

    I think that if your problem is sitting down to write, NaNo will probably help you get over it. If your problem is plotting, NaNo is no help at all.

    Seaboe

  523. jeanjeanieon 27 Feb 2008 at 11:41 am

    What Seaboe said. NaNo isn’t about creating a stellar work of art. It’s about developing the discipline to put your but in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard day after day, laying aside all of the excuses, emotional baggage and attention problems that tend to keep you from doing so; and it’s about learning how to turn off your inner critic and just let the story come out. It’s novel writer boot camp.

    Mitch, I agreed 100% with your assessment until I figured what the hell and actually did it. I didn’t get a novel out of it, but I did get a workable manuscript somewhere between a detailed outline and a rough draft. More importantly, I got the self-knowledge that I AM capable of writing over a thousand words a day. I’m going at a more relaxed pace now, but after NaNo, the 250-500 words per day I aim for now feels like a pittance, and it’s much easier to get myself started on it. For the most part.

    Also, meeting the 50,000 word quota in 30 days really isn’t as hard as it sounds. I figured out that I could hammer out about 250 words in 15-20 minutes, and that if I did that four or five times a day instead of trying to fit it all into one sitting, I could easily make my daily quota. I still worked my day job, I still got plenty of sleep, and I still got plenty of quality time with my family. I even still got to watch all my TV shows.

    That’s how I write now–in short spurts scattered throughout the day. I used to believe I needed at least a solid uninterrupted two hours to produce anything worthwhile. NaNo got me over that notion. I’ll give you the burnout, though. I had to take all of December and part of January off to recover. But I’m writing a lot more consistently now that I did before last November, and to me that’s completely worth an entire month of pushing myself past my limits.

  524. Mitch Wagneron 27 Feb 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Seaboe – There are 29 days in November on … uh .. the metric calendar. Yeah, that’s it. The metric calendar.

  525. Charleson 27 Feb 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Is that a slight against us Canadians..? o.O

    (we invented bacon, you know… or at least lots of things to do with it!)

  526. Debbie Whiteon 27 Feb 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I know professional novelists, people who’ve had more than four novels in print and who’ve sold pretty well, who do 1,000 words a day. And that’s a long, tiring workday for them.

    Really? I feel better about my writing habits now. I tend to write between 500 and 2500 words a day, with a average around 1,000 words. I don’t revise as I go; I just get the words down and go back to revise them at a later time. This is the only way for me to keep the forward motion going until I’m done with a first draft.

  527. Gareth Bradmanon 09 Mar 2008 at 7:54 am

    I’ve just started writing a book and have just finished the plots for the main characters. I’ve written a short line for each scene to give me a jist of what i’m gonna write about. My story is everyone’s favourite good v evil sort of thing and i am trying to write at least a page or two per day. So far i haven’t even picked a pen up to start!! I don’t know why i can’t just start writing. I have the plan in front of me and have a good feel of whats going to happen throughout the whole book but can’t seem to get started.

    Any advice?

    Thanks
    Gareth

  528. jeanjeanieon 10 Mar 2008 at 9:26 am

    1. Check your inner editor at the door. Give yourself permission to suck. “Good” is what second drafts are for.

    2. Start in the middle. A piece of dialogue, a scene you can see clearly, a character description–it doesn’t matter, as long as it gets you started.

    3. Challenge yourself to write just ten words. Ten is a nice, non-intimidating number. Anybody can write ten words. And once you reach your ten, chances are you’ll keep going. It’s all about unlocking the door so the words can flow.

    Good luck!

  529. Westernwilsonon 19 Mar 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Hi all, I am alternately throwing up under my desk, considering running away with the circus, and bursting into tears.

    After years of channelling all my writing talents into letters, emails, and reading voraciously, I have decided to get off my rumpus and see if I can write that first novel.

    I began by putting together a family tree as that started me thinking about all the family stories, stories about the remote and rather sad little town I grew up in, and the flow of persons in and out of time.

    A couple of the stories kept poking me in the eye. An old photograph tugged at my soul. I decided to put them together and came out with a provisional plot.

    Some characters started talking in my head. I wrote that down. I looked at the photograph some more.

    But now I have to start stringing things together, start having characters talk to each other. I feel inept, lost, a very bad writer, an egotistic fool.

    I need help, advice, wisdom, support.

    I think I can do this but I am even more scared I can’t.

    Is this typical?

  530. Brian Pon 24 Mar 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Westernwilson,

    The real question to ask yourself is, “Can I NOT do this?” The fact that you’ve jumped in with both feet is a good indication that this will nag at you until you have it on paper. That is a good thing, though. It keeps you on the path towards a finished first draft.

    I definitely know where you are coming from. I started working on my first novel last year and luckily found this site. It has been a real inspiration, and I am happy to say that I now have about 2/3 of it done. It still has a lot of work to be done to it, but every new page feels like a great accomplishment. You should take a minute to read back through some of the posts and see all the people who are going through what you are going through (if you haven’t already.)

    As for advice on where to go from here, all I can say is make yourself a road map. What I mean by this is give yourself story markers that will allow you gauge how far you are in your narrative. If you have an scene in mind, trace your character’s decisions backward from that scene to decide where they have to go to get there. Be sure to stay loose with it, because as you write things will happen that will catch you off guard. Characters will come into being that you didn’t expect, and your story will take twists that weren’t in the original plan. You have to be flexible with these changes, but don’t forget that you will have to reassess your direction a some point so that you can stay on track.

    Best of luck :)

  531. manjaseon 25 Mar 2008 at 8:25 am

    My Novel has just been published. It’s a Novel on African witch craft and other issues. The book is called Salayi and the witch doctor. Its a strange story, but in most parts of Africa these kind of stories are common. The book is on amazon and other bookshops. What do you think about African witch craft?

  532. jeanjeanieon 25 Mar 2008 at 9:06 am

    Congratulations!

  533. manjaseon 25 Mar 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks, it was hard work but i am glad i wrote it.

  534. Francescoon 26 Mar 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Hello to everybody!
    I am Francesco, italian, not a writer but would like to be.
    I decided now at 26 years old to start writing a novel. It’s something I always wanted to do since when I won a little literature price in my small town when I was young.
    I always thought I could not do it. I always thought that kind of project was too difficult to take to the end. Now, after finishing college, and closing a lot of projects at work, I said, yes, now you are strong enough to take it to the end.
    But I still have so many doubts, and I would like to share them with you.
    Once I have found your idea (that for me is the truth revealed through the book, piece by piece) I started planning the whole book, like you said between point A (the begin) and point B (the end). But everytime i read what i planned I start cutting characters, adding new ones, completely changing things…
    My question is: when you read your plan you are writing and this happens is it right to keep changing things or at one point, one must say: “Ok, that’s it. Let’s start writing the whole thing.”. What I mean is: if you don’t really like what you are writing, if you don’t feel sure about it…what do you do? go on with it or changing it?

    Thanks!

    P.S. Do not judge my english, please…I will write the book in my language, italian! :)

  535. Brian Pon 31 Mar 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Francesco,

    First off, congratulations on starting your novel. Getting everything going was the hardest part for me. As to your question, the plan you have for the book will change as you write. New characters will arise, while ones from your original idea will be changed or even deleted from the story entirely. Don’t let this deter you from writing though. The plan is supposed to be a rough “road map,” and doesn’t have to be followed slavishly (what’s the fun in that.)

    Best of luck :)

  536. Carolon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:24 am

    Hi Francesco and Brian,

    I have found a similar thing. i have finally started to write my book (well actually nearly 1 1/2 years ago). While I was working in Mongolia I finally found the inspirtaion and the TIME to start. I wrote my plan, developed my characters, made my map, fashioned my religion etc etc. Then I started to write! I wrote really well while in Mongolia, then moved back down under, this time to Australia, where I just stopped writing for about a year (busy with work etc etc). This year I have really got back into it, although i have found I have had similar problems to francesco, in the sense that things are changing from my plan. As I write things roughly follow the plan but new characters spring up from no one, or things happen when I hadn’t planned them to, it just seemed to happen then when i wrote it.

    My question is, should I just go with it, or should I rewrite it to go with the plan? I decided that I was going to just “go with it” but I wasn’t sure if I should just follow my heart or my ‘brain’/plan.

    Carol

  537. Carolon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:33 am

    Another question.

    Can I have just one POV character, or do people normally have muliple POV characters? So far I have just been following one through…I am feeling it may be getting too late to introduce other characters as POV characters. Does this make sense to anyone?

    Cheers

  538. Genre Reviewson 16 Apr 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Can I have just one POV character, or do people normally have muliple POV characters?

    Carol, I’ve read a number of books with only one POV character. If you don’t wish to write from more than one POV, then don’t feel that you have to just because it’s popular right now.

  539. Brian Pon 16 Apr 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Carol,

    I guess there is an argument for both approaches (go with the flow, or stick to the plan.) I have found that amazing things can come from going with the flow and letting the story take some turns you didn’t expect. My novel was originally supposed to be geared towards teen readers, but it takes place in a rather violent time. There is slavery and dark creatures with dark designs on the future of mankind, so I found my writing taking on a lot more serious air. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I don’t think it’s the way I would have originally gone.

    I’m still working through some issues with the tone, but it’s been a great experience. And as to the POV, some of my favorite stories are written using only one POV, and I think it is very interesting way of experiencing a story. The reader gets to discover things with the main character.

  540. Kate Elliotton 16 Apr 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Francesco and Carol:

    I’ll try to write an actual post on the question of “go with the flow or stick to the plan?” in the near future, but the short answer is: it depends. If sticking with the plan gets you stuck, then go with the flow. If going with the flow gets you so far off course that the whole thing staggers to a halt, then stick to the plan.

    I tend to think that in either case do what seems to be encouraging the writing. At these early stages of writing a book, especially a first novel, the best possible outcome is writing and more writing and even more writing, so go the way that seems to produce words and don’t worry for now about the outcome.

    Good luck!

  541. Kate Elliotton 16 Apr 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Gareth, one possible trick is to get a timer and set it for 10-15 minutes (to start with). While the timer is ticking, just write anything that comes into your head. Anything. No matter what it is, even if it is the same sentence over and over again. Do this every day for a week or two. The key is trying to get into the habit of having words flow. I think you will likely find that eventually in that 15 minutes (which can be extended to 20 or 30 or 60 or whatever) you’ll start writing actual scenes, dialogue, description and etc; the timer and the trick just serve to help you get over that very common barrier of “how do I start?”

    Good luck!

  542. Kate Elliotton 16 Apr 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Westernwilson,

    as others have said, everything you describe is completely typical for many writers. As Brian said: “How can you NOT do it?”

    Go for it. Enjoy the process. Don’t worry about how it it turns out. Revising and rewriting can come later.

    Manjase: Congrats on your publication!

  543. Kate Elliotton 16 Apr 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Carol,

    use a single POV or multiple POVs depending on what works best. If you’re not sure, then experiment, trying both ways, and see which feels better to you. Whatever works best for the story you’re trying to tell is the right way.

  544. Farrell Winteron 20 Apr 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I have been writing for years, although it is not my day job. I’ve had some short stories and film reviews published, and am currently working on my first novel. It is science fiction not because I love this genre above all others, rather because it is the genre that best fits the purpose of this novel. The novel is about half completed and has not been submitted anywhere. I plan to wait til it’s done before submitting. Sticking to one POV is my biggest problem. I know my novel inside and out; it is just the details that are sometimes slow in coming. On getting started being the hardest part: I feel like Nikola Tesla or Jimi Hendrix when I write, as the material just keeps coming. I can’t stop it or slow it down. A word or two in an overheard conversation gives me the idea for an entire short story. Am I unique in “suffering” the opposite of writer’s block?

  545. Charles Garzonon 05 May 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I wish I was like Farrell, I’ve always loved to write…but I never finish. As a first time writer, I doing something that is kinda rare for a first time writer…I’m writing a series called the memories in the blood series. Even though I have written a 70 page novella (computer pages), I still wonder if I’ll ever finish the series. Ill write huge amounts in the summer, but man I have problems keeping focused…I like a million possible stories run through my head every day, but I have chores/school/sports. Sometimes, specially after I feel drained and got big writers block. How do you professional writer manage to keep the momentum to writer another novel the next year?

  546. Fozon 08 May 2008 at 8:48 am

    Just a general query about character development and writing style – I’m curious as to whether or not my approach is typical.

    At present, I’m 40,000 words through the sequal to my first book (currently unpublished, but I’ve had positive feedback). The aim is to write a young adult fantasy trilogy, with each book around 75-80,000 words long. Anyway. In planning the narrative, I need to know character histories, major events and the climax for each volume – but that’s it. More often than not, my characters end up surprising me: it’s like directing a play where the actors keep taking my cues and improving them.

    Sometimes, it feels like I’m making things up as I go; otherwise, I’m remembering what’s already taken place. The character developments are planned, as is the information/history which allows them to occur, but the manner in which they happen is spontaneous, and the timing invairably different to how it was planned. I’m not complaining about this – it works for me, and fits naturally with the style of story. I’m just noticing it more now that I’m on the second volume, and was wondering if other people experienced a similar phenonemon.

  547. Jean (jeanjeanie)on 08 May 2008 at 9:58 am

    @Foz: I think that’s fairly typical. The characters in my novel are very different people from who I thought they were when I invented them, and they never hesitate to let me know when I’ve gotten something wrong about them. I’m 60,000 words in and starting the final act, and they still keep surprising me by revealing new details about themselves.

  548. Charleson 08 May 2008 at 10:33 am

    Sometimes, I feel like I am just a vessel to which I transmit all that information from a different world or time. Alot of times I find myself visualizing scenes that have absolutely no place or order in my book or story… or even pertain to my everyday life in anyway. Then at some random spot in the story I find myself typing that random scene. I’m bad at having everything organized…if I find myself doing that, I get bored with the story and feel like I need to move on to another.
    I believe the beauty of writing is the spontinuety, surprises one gets as one writes…of course, sometimes you have to force your writing. Writing to me is like I’m reading a story that no one in this world has ever read.

  549. Kate Elliotton 11 May 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Farrell: I know of people who, like you, are swimming in ideas, while others struggle for each word. So — enjoy! Keep writing! Good luck with the manuscript (as an unpublished writer you should definitely finish the ms before submitting it).

    Foz: what you’re going through sounds completely normal to me! I often discover things as I write, or characters make surprising choices that mess up what I had in mind for them. There isn’t a “right way” to write a story. There’s only the way that works for you.

    Charles: I find it hard to focus as well. On the other hand, I like to eat and pay my rent, so desperation helps focus me in times of wanting to spin off into spaciness. Otherwise, though, I try to find little ways to fix my concentration. Maybe a specific song that signals “time to write now” or a routine that leads into writing, or going to a coffee shop where online can’t distract me and telling myself I can’t leave until I’ve written 2000 words. Etc.

  550. VestDanon 11 May 2008 at 10:40 pm

    I finished all eight books of my saga in draft form last year–I knew they were drafts as I was writing them, so I wasn’t too concerned with proofreading and such. 780,000 after 5 years, oy.

    Last month, I finished rewriting book 1, save for one chapter to be inserted in the middle where something is most needed. Writing isn’t a problem for me… I just set myself a nightly quota, and slowly increased it as it became easy. The problem I have right now is editing/proofreading… which I’ve discovered I hate.

    Anyway, next step for me is looking for an agent… *sigh*. Here’s the steps where I need bald-faced luck.

  551. Stacyon 12 May 2008 at 12:52 pm

    VestDan – when agent hunting, forget luck – simple homework and hard work will work just fine. Remember, agents WANT good books, and they tell you what they want. Find out what they want, and give it to them. Simple.

  552. Fozon 13 May 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for the feedback! I’m a bit on tenterhooks at the moment, because of what’s happening with a (potential) publisher. Basically, I found a literary agent about a year ago, and she eventually submitted my manuscript to Penguin. While waiting to hear back from them, poor health forced her to close the agency; and about a month after that, she heard from the editor who’d read my book. Apparently, they loved it, but thought it would work better as young adult fantasy (which it is), and so has passed it on to another editor within Penguin. Now I’m waiting to hear back from this person via my old agent (who is still dealing with them on my behalf), but I have no idea of how long this will take. It was four months (industry average) to hear back the first time; so when, a few weeks ago, they said we’d hear from them ‘soon’ – well, this becomes a word with varying interpretations. I’ve turned into a compulsive email-checker, and despite the non-logic of doing so, it’s becoming increasingly hard not to hold my breath. I keep telling myself that even if it gets shot down at this point, the fact that one editor liked it is massively encouraging – which it is – but I’m caught between bracing for a hard fall and breaking out the champagne.

  553. Carolon 13 May 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I’m 63,000 words and don’t feel like I’m half way yet (according to “the plan” and what I want to accomplish in the first book). I am not actually sure how long a novel is supposed to be? Am I on the right track? Will it be too long? Should I look at rounding it up much sooner and making another book, or can I keep going for a wee way? My friends all ask, “how long will it be?” and all I can say is will be done when I have finished what I wanted to tell.

    Foz: good stuff mate! Sounds like you are on the right track, they obviously liked it, and things will fall into place, at the right time. Champange is definately warrented, cheers!

  554. Charleson 14 May 2008 at 11:04 am

    If I’m correct… your novel is only 140 some computer pages right? Well if you print your book at half a page length that’ll be around 280. I’ve seen novels that size at around 600, 700 pages long. If you want to, just pick certain chapter between the novel and make it a seires.

  555. J Hugh Thomason 14 May 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I have been starting and stopping on my first novel for several years. The last start was the most serious one, one year ago, and sense then I have started looking at the marketing and publishing side of things.

    Although it may seem I’m getting distracted from the job of writing (the jury is still out), I believe that you have to start thinking about marketing while you are writing. I guess we’ll see if I am right once the book is finished.

    I started a blog on writing my first novel, including resources I find along the way. Hopefully it will help some of the other first time writers out there.

    http://onwritingmyfirstnovel.blogspot.com/

  556. Carolon 14 May 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks Charles, I was thinking along those lines. I began to wonder if someone is looking at publishing an unpublished author that maybe they would look unfavourbly on a too long book.

    J Hugh Thomas: I couldn’t get your blog to open.

  557. Johnon 26 May 2008 at 9:08 am

    Peter dont waste time posting uneccesary comment. i am a student and am currently studying charles dickens in great expectations. i have been set the following question to answer. ‘Explain how charles dickens, in chapter 1 of ‘great expectations’ prepares the reader for what us to come in the remainder of the novel’. Now, been novel writers i suppose you couldn’t offer some help are advice are some interpretations on the novel.

    thanks

  558. Charleson 26 May 2008 at 9:43 am

    Well, yea I did. No problem… I figured a series might be easier if you have everything already written.
    I started a series and I’m afraid to disappoint the crowd… that’s if the crowd likes my book.

  559. Charleson 26 May 2008 at 9:45 am

    Ohh… by the way, do you know peter?
    —just curious

  560. Daveon 26 May 2008 at 10:53 am

    hi guys, i have just finished my first novel and it is now bieng proofread. However, the problem i always have on my mind the fact you spend a long time actually writing the novel, then when your done it is unsuccessful

  561. Kate Elliotton 26 May 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I deleted some comments.

    John, I haven’t read Great Expectations, but in general with a first chapter you can look for certain things.

    The introduction of certain images. (These examples have nothing to do with Great Expectations; they’re off the cuff and just used to illustrate my point.) Images of shadows and light; flowers;; enclosure vs. freedom of movement. etc. In other words, a writer may set the stage for the larger thematic tone of the book by using certain kinds of images in the opening chapter.

    The introduction of specific themes. These usually aren’t stated explicitly (“this will be a book about how bad people can become good people”) but are there in the underlying situation.

    The introduction, most obviously, of the major plot conflict.

    That’s three – should be enough to start with!

    Good luck!

  562. Kate Elliotton 26 May 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Dave,

    it is always a risk with writing that one may write a novel or story and then after all it doesn’t work well. For me, as a writer, I do extensive rewriting, some of which takes place while I’m still writing the first draft, and the rest of which I do after I have completed the first draft. Even so, I always live with uncertainty. I think for me that’s just part of the art/craft and I have had to learn to live with it.

    So: Rewrite, and rewrite more. And then, write another novel or story. If necessary, come back to the first novel and revise it after you’ve written a second, if it still needs revision. Writing a second, third, fourth novel will teach you more about how writing works. My novel Jaran went through 7 major re-drafts over 10 years before it was publishable. In between, I wrote four other novels. Writing them taught me how to revise Jaran properly.

    Not every writer needs as much work as I did, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you just have to keep plugging away and writing.

    Good luck!

  563. Carolon 26 May 2008 at 7:07 pm

    hey, someone is posting as the same name as me. :( Please don’t do it again, I would not say something mean like that.

  564. Kate Elliotton 26 May 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Carol, I have deleted some more comments, including the ones that purported to be from you but which were not.

  565. Carolon 27 May 2008 at 3:15 am

    Thanks Kate!
    Just finished Shadow Gate…brilliant!

  566. Jim Shannonon 01 Jun 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Hi

    I’m not sure if I need to register to post a comment/question so here goes.
    Is the “13 lines Critiques” still functioning?

    And for Kate, please, I have some of your books on my book shelves (Kings Dragon)
    If it’s not to personal to ask. Do you work from an established outline or do you just jump in and work from an idea? It seems most pro authors do this. Just wondering, thanks.

    Jim Shannon

  567. Marcon 04 Jun 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I’ve not long started to write a novel as a present for my friend for her next birthday, its a sequel to a comic i made her for her last (with the effort going into these presents ever increasing I’m dreading the birthday after).
    Anyway I’ve started by getting a small notebook and in it writing all the basic information about various things, people and mytholgies I’d creating to include and I feel it’s a great help. While doing it certain things pop up and links get made almost by themselves it’s almost as if the plot is starting to write itself

  568. spacegooseon 16 Jun 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I decided I would post before reading the entire discourse herein… as an attempt to read it all may result in infinite procrastination. So hello and thanks. So far much what I have read is of great help. I am writing my first novel. I decided I should go ahead and do something I love and make money. but foremost is to let it remain something I love. So hopefully (naivelly?) making money is a byproduct of that endeavor.

  569. Ariaon 22 Jun 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Okay, so in my book my main character has sort of “magical powers,” but I really hesitate to use the word “magic,” because in context with my plot line, it seems rather childish. I’m trying to find another way to describe it, and have used “Powers” but I can’t keep saying that all the time. I’m trying to find some other word that fits. I love the idea of “dweomer,” which, although I’ve found in another series besides Deverry, I’m still not sure how much of “stealing” that would seem, or maybe it just seems like copy-catting to me. If anyone has any ideas I would absolutely love to hear them ^_^
    Thanks!

  570. Carolon 22 Jun 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Aria, I know what you mean about what to call it. I think using “dweomer” is too similar to the Deverry books, which have such a huge following. (I’ve heard it eksewhere too, but I can’t help but think of Deverry when I hear it.) In my book that I am writing (when I have the time! LOL) I call it Qi, which roughly translates as the way, balance, and harmony. I got this from aikido, a japanese martial art that I train, which this concept forms the basic principles of. Of course I have modified to a great extent! I think you will be able to find something the works for you, a great idea hunting ground is to look at some old mythology from around the world, and how it is structured. I hope this helps!!! :)

  571. Stacyon 23 Jun 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I definately would suggest NOT using dweomer unless your character is using a Western/Indo-European/Kaballistic magic system and speaks P-celtic. Every culture has multiple words for “magic” and you should try to be sensitive to where your character is coming from. Try writing a super specific description of exactly what your character has and can do, and after you have an exhaustive concept try to sum it up in one word in a language your character speaks. There is often a “formal” and informal or vernacular term for the magic too, which can make it seem more realistic – Farahdi vs. Sunnrunner (Dragon Prince/Star,) Kelar vs. the Gift in Damar (The Blue Sword) or Allomancy vs burning metals (I’m re-reading the Mistborn books, of which I am currently very enamored.)

  572. Charleson 23 Jun 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Aria -

    In the stories I’m writing the words wizard, mage and magic never appear, though clearly there are characters with exceptional powers throughout.

    I’ve established the rules and language and culture my stories take place in and have different titles for these things. Actually, I’ve done more than that. There is no “magic” in the universe I’ve created. It isn’t something only certain people are born with. It is inherent in everyone. It is a matter of having the resources to learn and the disposition to excel at such a thing.

    If you contruct your culture that wields some form of power and the rules surrounding this, you should be able to come up with your own naming convention that fits into the naming convention you already employ for people and towns and castles, etc.

    When I think back on the books I’ve read where there are wizard-esque characters, almost none of them ever refer to their abilities as magical.

  573. VestDanon 28 Jun 2008 at 1:20 am

    Alright, so I spent several years writing an eight book series, growing my abilities in the process. By the end, I couldn’t even look at the beginning of it–the writing was so bad! I finally finished that, took a break, and rewrote book 1. But now…

    The writing is better. Much, much better. Characters that previously faded into the background come on strong. Fuzzy description has gotten a much closer shave. Symbolism and metaphor have been worked in quite well, both for book 1 alone and to set the stage for later books. I am quite pleased. And yet…

    It’s like the magic isn’t there. The original draft–horribly written though it may be–has a certain manic excitement, an inexperienced earnestness that grabbed hold of you. While I don’t want to show off inexperience, that feeling of honest excitement was what propelled me into continuing into the story in the first place. I’ve become much more analytical and professional since I first started writing this, and much less spontaneous… The more I learn about writing, the more little facets I know to keep in mind, and the less I can just write from the heart.

    So, I’ve decided I must rewrite much or all of book 1, a second time. But I would like to know… does anybody have any ideas how to get it back in the groove? How to maintain high literary standards while letting my muse take me, as it were? Has anyone else had this sort of problem? I was so focused at how much better I’ve become at most things, it never occurred to me that I might become WORSE at others!

  574. Barbaraon 08 Jul 2008 at 5:13 pm

    VestDan — that’s always a risk — not just in the rewriting part but also in the doing such a huge series. The good news is that you’ve learned what’s “good” along the way. The bad news is that you’ll probably change major plot points as you rewrite and find that characters and/or entire books may disappear into the aether. I don’t think it’s necessarily a better/worse kind of judgment. Everything evolves and you shouldn’t slam poor book 1.

    That said — now that you’ve seen where everything is going, can you use book 1 to set up the whole thing? It’s going to take some major outlining and planning to be able to tease apart all your threads and find their beginning essence or the backstory or the story before the story, but think how much cooler it will be in the end! Or …?

    [waving at everyone else ... she's baaaaaaaack]

    Barb

  575. SaraBon 17 Jul 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Hi – I’m new here {waves} I discovered this site a couple of weeks ago, and have been wading through posts on and off since then. ;-)

    I’d like to thank everyone who has ever written the simple instruction of “Just write”! I spend so much time procrastinating, any storylines are dead in the water before I come to put finger to keyboard.

    And whoever it was who suggested using PowerPoint to plot a storyline – you are a genius! :-)

    I feel now in a better position to write than I ever have been in the past – who would have thought I had all the tools at my disposal all along? Look out for me in a couple of weeks, probably something along the lines of “Now I’m stuck …”.

    Back to that PowerPoint …

  576. Carolynon 20 Jul 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I stumbled onto this site thanks to a livejournal post–this site was recommended for those interested in fantasy. That’s me!

    I was published years and years ago in mystery, life took a few evil turns, and suddenly I was widowed–the last few years have been focused on living and being there for my kids.

    Recently, I turned 46, and lamented in my livejournal that I had not been writing, was a failure, haven’t accomplished a thing….Oh Woe is Me. LOL. A fantasy author on my list poked me over that–and her comment to me was just what I needed.

    Since then, I have found my Story. I do research for a living and have been in high gear researching this, gathering information and background for my historical fantasy–sheer heaven! But now I realize I’ve reached that magical point where I have the bulk of my idea in place, and it is time to begin.

    So, of course, this section caught my eye–though this isn’t my first book, actually my 6th to write, it is a whole new ball game in that everything in the past was in the mystery genre.

    I think this is going to be loads more fun.

    Going to read back on all the comments now–I know I will find lots of inspiration there. SaraB, I am not sure you’d see this, but I would be interested in knowing about how you utilized Powerpoint. I’ve always just used tablets.

    Looking forward to continued discussion, and reading all the above.

    Carolyn
    cparagraphs@gmail.com

  577. Brian Pon 28 Jul 2008 at 1:22 am

    Carolyn,

    Welcome back into the fray! This site has been a great inspiration to me, and I’m sure it will be for you as well. I’ve been working on this book of mine for about a year now and I’m only now getting it to where I want it. I have tons of questions for you, since you are a seasoned writer, but I will pose this one to everyone. In my book, I have established that the whole story is being told by someone as sort of a “flashback.” The book is seperated into 4 acts, each one ending with the narrator encouraging the listener to come back for the rest. My question is this: should stories like this have a particular voice or can they be told in regular third person? The best example I can think of is the book Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. The voice of the narrator is distinct, and even directly addresses the reader at times. I’m not sure if this is the best way to write my story. I have also seen it done the other way. Brian Jacques Redwall series sometimes uses “the storyteller” intro as a way of starting a story. Once the tale is told, they usually end back with the storyteller, but through the bulk of the book you never here from him. Anyone have any advice on which works best?

  578. Nicole L.on 19 Aug 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Hi all,

    I’ve been away from these pages for a long time, at least posting, but they continue to serve as an endless source of inspiration. Thanks to all who make it a great place to visit!

    Anyway, while taking a break from my original WIP I wrote what I thought was a short story and it grew into a YA fantasy novel. Now for the hard part (gulp): I’m looking for volunteer beta readers (for the same types of critique as for the 13-lines section), and of course will be happy to return the favor (you can find some of my critiques in the 13-line section). Here’s the description:

    Malene is different: she doesn’t have a mother, she doesn’t have friends and she doesn’t look like anyone else in her town. Even worse, she’s hiding a secret that she doesn’t understand. Her papa is the only person she is close to, but then he is kidnapped and a menacing stranger chases her across the mysterious wall in the desert that most people don’t see. As she searches for a way to rescue her papa, she crosses back and forth between her world and the world on the other side of the wall and finds more danger, friends, magic and answers.

    (Wow, it’s hard to encapsulate an entire story in a few short sentences. BTW this will be my first exposure to the public eye.)

    It’s just upwards of 45,000 words. If you’re interested, send me an email at nicole m l at gmail (take out all the spaces) and I’ll send you the first chapter. If it’s the kind of thing you like to read, we can take it from there. If it’s not your cup of tea, no problem. Mil gracias!

  579. Stacyon 20 Aug 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Nicole L. – check out critters.org. My novel is currently up for critique there, after I posted my first chapter in the regular queue.

  580. Nicole L.on 22 Aug 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Hi Stacey,

    Thanks, but I’m staying away from critters for now, I don’t think I can stick to their schedule/critiquing requirements and that wouldn’t be fair to others.

  581. Lawson C.on 26 Aug 2008 at 8:16 am

    Hello to all. This is my first time here and after reading some of the post…..I don’t feel so bad about my block. I have written in the past, in high school, and got the fever to write again. I have had short stories published but thats about it. My problem now is brainstorming on what to write about. I know the genre I want to write but can’t figure out a new twist. I’m sure someone else has had this problem, I suppose if you didn’t you wouldn’t be a writer right? Any suggestions from some of the seasoned pros?

  582. E.H.Joneson 26 Aug 2008 at 11:26 pm

    An amazing thing happened to me this week. I got excited about my first novel again.

    After months away from it, working on other projects, I decided it was time to start submitting to some publishers again, this time without an agent. But before I did, I decided to look it over and make sure it was as polished as I could make it.

    Those months away had made a huge difference! I was finally able to look at my novel and see the flaws, minor and not so minor. (Thankfully, for my own sanity, there were few of what I would call major issues… even as it was, the book is good.) First, I found a couple of continuity errors and fixed them. Then, I found a few typos, and I also found a way to move some things around at the end to make it flow better. And finally, the one change that my agent had really harped on but that I could never make myself do, was the opening. She wanted it shortened, compressing two days into one, but I fought her on it because I believed it would kill some necessary character development. I was wrong!

    Over the past several days, I’ve been revising, re-writing, and having the time of my life! And as a result, I believe my book is finally as polished as I can make it without professional editing assistance. It’s ready! And I’m more optimistic than ever that it’s going to be published!

  583. Brian Pon 01 Sep 2008 at 3:09 am

    Here is a general question to everyone. I am almost a hundred handwritten pages into my first draft. Now that I have reached a good stopping point, my intention was to start typing out my second draft, but it is a horrible task! Every line makes me want to rewrite the whole damn thing, and when I’m not nit-picking every word, I am adding in un-necessary stuff. Is there a service out there that will type up your manuscript for you (at a decent cost) or should I just finish the first draft handwritten, put the whole thing away for a while, and tackle the second draft later (when I have a little more perspective.)

    Any advice is welcome.

    Thanks

  584. E.H.Joneson 02 Sep 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Brian P,

    There are lots of typing services out there, you can find them by doing a search on Google. However, my advice is to keep writing by hand, taking a break occasionally to type up what you’ve got, and keep going. If you feel the need to make those changes you were talking about, or adding what you feel is unnecessary stuff… do it! It won’t hurt a thing, and you’ll be revising again later, so go for it!

    When I write, I usually use pen and paper and write a detailed outline of the whole book, chapter by chapter. Then I go back in with pen and paper and flesh out the outline into prose a chapter at a time. Every once in a while I break from that and start typing up what I’ve done so far… and yes, I make lots of changes, but I have my outline to refer to so that I don’t go too far afield. By the time I’m finished writing/typing my first draft, it’s actually been through several more drafts than that, because I am revising on the fly.

    Not saying my technique will work for everyone, but it’s been working great for me so far!

  585. Stacyon 04 Sep 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I was just researching for my first novel – finally got a pronounciation for Llenlleawc, thank God! – and found something I just had to share where I know other Deverry readers hang out. I am amazed yet again by the depth of these books. I found Neb during my name search – which may be a nickname for Nerrobrantos, but alone means “someone.” The reincarnation of No One named Someone. Boy do I have work to do on my novel!

  586. Brian Pon 04 Sep 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks N.H. :)

    It’s nice to know how other writers tackle this part of the process.

    BP

  587. Brian Pon 04 Sep 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Sorry :(

    I meant to say thanks ,E.H. Jones.

    (Now you can see why I want to get someone else to type for me. I have fat, ineffectual fingers.)

  588. Ariaon 05 Sep 2008 at 9:17 am

    Brian,

    I know the feeling about wanting to rewrite every line. Here’s an idea–do it.

    I typed my entire story, thought it was pretty good, printed it out and decided to edit snippets of it. Yeah, like you said, almost every line made me cringe. Although it’s a tedious process (as I originally had 230 pages single spaced, MS Word) it feels good to actually write it the way I think it’s supposed to sound now. It’s kinda like what E.H. Jones said, but I typed it first instead of writing it (although, I find when I’m in the mood, its better to write it and type it up for some chapters, because it’s just fun).

    Good luck!!

    Stacy,

    That’s kind of a cool find that you got there. Or at least, I think it’s pretty awesome XD The depths of the books never cease to amaze me, and the quality of them too. Oi.

    -Aria

  589. Brian Pon 16 Sep 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Aria and E.H. Jones,

    After reading your responses, I gave over to my revisionist’s ways and started typing out my handwritten pages. What followed was amazing. I edited out whole sections and re-wrote them on the fly. I am just amazed at how things are gelling so well this time around. It’s like I have the pacing and the tone already set in my head, but this time I can focus on the words and sentence structure. Needless to say, I am super excited. I have been writing my book in sections, and I wanted to have the beginning pretty solid before jumping into the really meaty parts of the last act.

    Thanks for the advice :)

    -BP

  590. E.H. Joneson 17 Sep 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Brian,

    Hey, that’s good news! Glad the advice helped, and it sounds like you’re finding your groove. Good luck!

    -Eric

  591. Ariaon 20 Sep 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Alright, so I have a question that I’m looking for some advice on.

    Self publishing.

    Pros, cons, what to avoid, where to go, that sort of thing.

    I’m turning my book into my senior grad project this year, detailing the writing experience, editing, and how to get published. My ultimate goal (besides finishing the rewrite of the book-ugh!!) is to get it published. Now, I’m not looking for anything big. I dont want 100 copies (I’m thinking more around 20, as they will be going to family and friends and I probably will not be getting paid back for them as I’m not supposed to accept money for my senior grad project) and I’m trying to spend under $5-600, preferably. I’ve been looking at a place called http://www.lulu.com which seems like it will let me publish only a few copies for my price range, and I can even have a cover designed for $80.

    I’d still like to be able to get published with an actual company in the future, if possible. Could I still do this even if I get self-published. I know that I shouldnt let them assign me an ISBN otherwise it’s their contract, but if I do it right, I will be in complete control, correct?

    Any advice would be great as this is giving me a headache, oi.

    Thanks,
    -Aria

  592. E.H. Joneson 21 Sep 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Aria,

    When I began writing my first novel, it was never intended to be published. My intent was to write it and have copies printed up as Christmas gifts for family members. The desire to get published came later, when my words were well received by the crit groups and first readers I was using.

    However, I did go ahead and have those Christmas copies printed up, and I used Lulu.com. Using Lulu or CafePress or any of the other printing services does not necessarily mean your book has been published or self-published, all it has to mean is that it’s been printed. I made certain not to use their service that creates an ISBN or anything like that, I designed my cover myself with things like “an unpublished novel by E.H. Jones” on it, and at the top of every page within the book, I put “Draft Copy – Not For Publication or Sale”. I also did NOT make the book visible on Lulu’s store, but visible to me by password only. That way, no one would have access to purchase the book, which would ensure that it was not considered published or for sale. My agent assured me that these steps guaranteed that I wasn’t using Lulu as a publisher, but merely as a printing and binding service. I contacted Lulu reps as well, and they assured me of the same thing.

    Oh, and to let you know I was VERY happy with the finished product on both the novels I had printed through Lulu. The quality was excellent, as good as or better than many books you’ll see in a bookstore. I can’t speak for their cover designs, since I designed my own, but the books are well-made, durable, and they look great. Seven copies cost around $95 including shipping. I ordered in mid November, and they were there well before Christmas. So yes, when my third novel is finished, I’ll definitely be using Lulu again as a printing service. And if I ever decide to go the self-publishing route, I may go with them for that as well.

    Hope that helps!

    -Eric

  593. Ariaon 21 Sep 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Eric,

    Thank you soooo much. You just answered every single one of my questions and concerns, probably more so than I would have found researching it on my own like I was doing before. I think that’s what I’m going to wind up doing now, especially with your reassurence.

    Thanks again :)
    -Aria

  594. Gareth Bradmanon 26 Oct 2008 at 7:44 am

    I’ve been writing for about 7 months now and have managed to get down about 35-36 pages of my book. I know what to write i just can’t seem to put the thoughts in my head down on paper quick enough! I could describe the story from start to finish but getting it written down is proving difficult! Any Ideas?

  595. E.H. Joneson 27 Oct 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Well, somebody feel free to tell me to put a sock in it, I seem to be posting advice on this board a lot. I try to refrain, but it’s so blamed tempting! ;) So a disclaimer: I’m not a published writer, although I’ve finished 2.5 novels and a 4-issue comic book mini, also unpublished. I’m not affiliated with the folks who run this board, and I’m by no means a pro. My opinion should only carry weight if you think my advice is good. I only say this because, well, I tend to stick my nose in a lot, and I don’t want to seem arrogant. I’m just nosy.

    That being said: Advice for Gareth.

    Take it in small chunks. You can describe your entire story from start to finish? Excellent! So start out with the first chapter. Write down everything that’s going to happen in the first chapter. DON’T write the first chapter, just write down everything that happens. Then move on to chapter two, just writing down an outline of what happens in each section, chapter, etc. Once you get to a point where you think you’re ready (you don’t have to have the whole book outlined), take that outline of the first chapter and start actually writing the prose. Work on it, hone it, do the best you can, but always remember that it’s just a first draft. Your goal at that point isn’t to write a book, it’s to write a chapter. Once you’ve written that chapter and are happy with it as a first draft, move on to the next one.

    That’s really pretty much it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t think so big. You’ve got the whole story in your head, that’s great, but sitting down and trying to just write that story is almost an impossible task for most people. Breaking it down into smaller chunks gives you smaller, more attainable goals. And eventually, you’ll find you have an entire first draft of a book, and it’ll seem like it was hardly any work at all.

  596. Gareth Bradmanon 10 Nov 2008 at 11:20 am

    Thanks EH.

  597. Dariaon 23 Nov 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Hi everyone. I wrote my first book by the time when I lost my loving one -12 years old. He went to the children camp and never came back to my arm. I was grieved , I couldn´t understand how this world is able move on without him. I went to the computer and wrote everything coming to mine mind -every single memmory of him, of the time when we were together. I wandered by the words what happened there -because it was mystery. I know now, this helped me to survive, to came over -no it doesn´t mean I forgot my son, the oposite is true- he has been still inside my heart and I will never forget. I am 48, poor and harm, but I would like say to Jo thanks for the Harry Potter-this small wizard forced my son to read when he was 11. We had a lot of fun when we read it together. I do not give up -my son didn´t like when I was sad, so I live a normal life, brave enough to cope with every single problem..
    Despite the fact so my books were not published I continue with writing – I think they are something like life story -I am not a celebrity, I am not famous – I am a common woman, not wealthy enough to published my work. When I am feeling lonely it is time to went to computer and write, The writing is like touch with my son in the Heaven for me…

  598. Deb Son 24 Nov 2008 at 10:21 am

    Daria
    So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine…
    But writing can indeed be wonderfully cathartic. Glad it gave you an outlet for your grief and set you on the road to healing.

  599. NQLucason 28 Nov 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Hi all, I finished my first novel a while ago and I’m working on the framework of my query letter. If any of you have any critiques about the general content please let me know. It’s 300 words in total.

    Please consider reviewing my 180,000-word novel, The Family. The story is an urban fantasy that recounts the adventures of Planet Spirita, a romantic, human-like kingdom that is ravaged by a civil war which spills over into Quest City, an earthly metropolis that suffers from an oppressive gangster element. While a bloodthirsty army terrorizes the far-off kingdom and other worlds, a select few among the millions of Quest City recognize a supernatural connection to Spirita and each other. Consequently, they are emboldened to stand together against the savage enemy.

    The civil war was sparked by Spirita’s prince when he became convinced his father no longer loved him. The heroes of Quest City who come together are emerging from various family misfortunes. Thus, the story explores the anguish born from relationships that have succumb to adversity as well as the splendor and burdens of those which continue to exist. The narrative moves along with a straightforward voice and is saturated with unflinching descriptions of emotional states, urban ills, and brutal warfare.

    The manuscript unfolds via three successive outlooks. The first canvasses the challenges of living in Quest City through the life of Ethan Washington, a black ex-convict, freed via jailbreak, who unwittingly develops relationships with the story’s heroes.

    The second portion centers on Daniel Seymore, a white, devout Christian and Ethan’s best friend from prison. His adventures reveal Quest City’s connections to the war on Spirita, the intricacies of its gangster infestation, and others who may be willing to join the fight.

    The third segment exposes the remainder of the eleven heroes not yet known, diverse in age, race, gender, and social status; their various personal tribulations and shortcomings; their struggle to unite despite heartfelt differences and bitter rivalries; and their cataclysmic battle with the prince of Spirita and his army.

  600. Logan Lamechon 29 Nov 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I agree getting started is the hardest part. I think to many of us are waiting for the “great idea”. But writing itself will conjure many a great idea. I finally just closed my eyes and said there first thing I saw I was going to write about. I opened my eyes to see we were passing a mailbox. So I starting writing about a mailman and then it of course turned into so much more.

    Logan Lamech
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/LingeringPoets.html

  601. Jeanon 01 Dec 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @NQLucas – Your story sounds interesting. I hope to be able to read it some day.

    Correction-wise, you need to change “succumb” to “succumbed”. Otherwise it’s well-written. The main problem is that it’s too wordy and a bit confusing. I had to re-read it a few times to make sense of it.

    I strongly recommend that you hie yourself to http://misssnark.blogspot.com and search the archives for “Crapometer,” particularly the ones she held on query letters and hooks. Scour those entries and see how her advice applies to your letter. This helped me to boil my own complex, multi-character plot down to a single, succinct yet still (hopefully) interesting paragraph. Find your hook, hone it, and include only that in your query. Save the expanded summary for if the agent or editor asks to see more.

    Best of luck to you.

  602. Brian Pon 06 Dec 2008 at 7:26 pm

    NQ Lucas,

    I found the concept and elements of your story to be really very interesting, but your synopsis just didn’t get me excited about reading it. I think this sentence sums up what I had a problem with:

    “Thus, the story explores the anguish born from relationships that have succumb to adversity as well as the splendor and burdens of those which continue to exist.”

    Its just a bit to wordy. I think the focus should be about these three characters who drive the action in the story. If you start with them and expand into describing the setting (which is obviously a detailed and intricate world) it would give the reader something to connect with.

    Sounds like a great story :)

  603. Foz Meadowson 03 Feb 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Hi guys,

    I’ve had some fantastic news this week – namely, that my book has been accepted for publication. I’m crazy-excited, as are a lot of friends/family, and so I’ve been struggling to answer a landslide of ‘when will it come out?’ and related questions. At the moment, I’m waiting for the contracts to come through, but I was just wondering if anyone has any idea of how long editing/fixing/printing/dealing/distributing might take, given that it’s a smaller, local Victorian publisher working with a much larger distributor.

    Cheers,

    Foz

    :)

  604. Gareth Bradmanon 12 Feb 2009 at 3:29 am

    Hi everyone,

    I am on page sixty-five of my first fantasy novel and it is coming on nicely! The only thing that bothers me slightly at this point is my name. Gareth Bradman. I just don’t think i could see it on the cover of my book and look good. Any thoughts?

    Thanks

  605. Katieon 16 Mar 2009 at 10:24 am

    My biggest problem is consistency. I do just about everything halfway and then stop. That’s why I have about 5 or 6 would be novels that have about 3 to 4 chapters written and the rest of the story is just stored away in my head. It’s not that I’m busy, I went through my stage of “I”m too busy to do this, I don’t have enough time”. So in my free time, whether it’s an hour or in between loads of laundry, I’ll sit and write. But usually, I’ll get to writing a really great novel, the plot is perfect, the characters are great, and then…Oh! That idea that just popped into my head for another story is even more wonderful than the last. So I start writing it. I haven’t forgotten the other would-be’s I just haven’t finished them yet. But I am learning to store away ideas and trying my best to stay with one until I move on to the next. I am actually doing quite well at it now but it’s still hard. Especially since I also want to keep going back to the ones I have already started. And since I’m definitely a spurt writer, it’s very hard. Consistency, that’s the problem. I’ve heard discipline is the cure for this but it’s hard to discipline if you don’t stay consistent with it. :)

  606. Carolon 18 Mar 2009 at 3:32 am

    Congrats Foz! Thats great news! Please keep us all updated when it comes out. (It’s been a while since I have been on here so I might be a bit outdated on some things). What’s it about? (Or do I have to wait?… :) )

  607. Foz Meadowson 18 Mar 2009 at 7:34 pm

    @Carol – Thanks! I’ve heard the likely release date will be March 2010, and found out last week who my editor is. It’s a young adult fantasy/speculative fiction novel called Solace & Grief, and though vampires do figure in the story, I’m extremely hesitant to call it a vampire story, as it’s not a paranormal romance. Hopefully, it does OK! :)

  608. Kate Elliotton 02 Apr 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Foz, congrats! What exciting news!

    Gareth, I think this is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Get the book finished, revised, and find a publisher before deciding on what name would look good on a cover! *g*

    Katie, I think this falls under the old proverb (I seem to be full of old proverbs today) that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. I have exactly the same problem. I’ll be working away on the book I *have* to be working on, and then some other idea will seem more exciting and tempting to write. Usually I find a pause point of a few minutes where I can write down the main ideas for the other story, and then go back to the main project. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

  609. Derrick Boyeron 16 Apr 2009 at 9:25 am

    I just want to start by saying that this is a terriffic blog. Everyones insight is quite helpful with my own writing difficulties. My question for everyone has to do with character names. I have a couple great(I think) story ideas, but I can’t ever seem to get started because I have trouble with naming places and people. Every time I do I either think that it is a stupid name or to generic. So what does everyone do to get thier names?

  610. Brian P.on 17 Apr 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Hey Everybody!

    Nice to see some folks writing in here again :)

    Congrats, Foz! You must be so jazzed that your work is getting out there for the world to read. Big kudos.

    As to Katie’s question about consistency, I definitely agree with Kate Elliott. I have only two things to add.

    1. Stop watching T.V. – I recently turned my cable T.V. off and have been focusing on my book and spending time with my wife (and not necessarily in the order.) It’s amazing how centered and driven I’ve become without my oh so decadent shows. It is hard, I’ll admit, but the problem with T.V. is that it bombards you other peoples stories and ideas. There is some good stuff there, but usually it leads off onto other new stories instead of helping you focus on the one you are working on.

    2. Make character sketches – I like to draw (5 years of art school will do that) and every time I start to stray away from the story I am writing I draw a picture of the characters. If you don’t draw, pick some photos off the internet of people or actors that resemble or remind of characters from your story. Use these and scrapbook in some little character points or bio stuff. Now you have a nice little visual guide to your story, and you have done something to keep yourself focused on them.

    Hope this helps,

    Brian P.

  611. Foz Meadowson 20 Apr 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Kate & Brian: Thanks! I just finished typing up the editor’s changes this weekend, so very happy there :)

    Derrick: Try baby name websites, random name generators and mythology pages – always some good inspiration to be found!

  612. Jess Kennetton 01 May 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Merry Meet.

    First off. Katharine, i love your books. Really can not wait until the last book comes out.

    Second. I have had a love for writting since i could start writting.
    However i have been inspired, through role playing online with groups, to actually try my hand properly at writing. In my mind i have the details, the vision. But it is hard to put on paper. Again, this vision i have has many pages, possibly a novel. How do you make an idea work, make it last for a novel? Otherwise my story will just be a long shortstory.

  613. Maureenon 03 May 2009 at 5:08 am

    Hey guys,

    I’m new on this site but I just wanted to thank everyone for writing such helpful comments. I’ve just started writing a fantasy novel thats set in a parallel universe to ours and though ive only written 14 000 words I feel very happy with it and i know where things are going so hopefully I’ll actually finish it.

    i was just wondering if someone could let me know how long a stand alone fantasy novel should be? because ive worked out that by the time ive said everything ive needed to say it will be around 100 000 words. i was just wondering if that is fine or too long?

  614. Deb Son 08 May 2009 at 7:54 am

    Maureen,
    Here’s what I’ve gleaned from trolling around.

    An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre.

    Most editors at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy; for a truly spectacular epic fantasy, they’ll consider 120k /130k.

    Good luck on your ms!

  615. Dennis Siburcriston 12 May 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Hey everybody,

    This is my first time on the site. I’ve enjoyed reading some of the posts. I am currently writing my first nove. I’ve wanted to write it for about two years and finally, after visualizing the movie in my head, I decided to put it down in text. I’m about 33,000 words in and am starting to get into that realm of “just want to get it done!” The novel is going to be the first of at least three. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I can do with the next couple of novels. Is that ok? Should I focus on this novel or let my mind wonder around? What are your suggestions on rewrites and editing. Should I do it in littel chunks or wait until I”m finished?

    Thanks,

  616. Brian P.on 13 May 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Dennis,

    It’s nice to hear that other people see the “movie version” of their books playing in their heads :). I am quickly approaching the end of my first novel as well, and what I can say from my limited experience is that focus is very important. Thinking ahead to future projects, or even how to continue your current story in to multiple volumes is fun and can be a necessary break from you novel. Just don’t let it take the steam out of your current work. Chris Nolan said he threw all his creative energy into making The Dark Knight, without worrying to much of where the story would go next or if there would even be a sequel. Even though he is a director and not a writer, I think he makes a good point. Put your energy into the story you are writing now. Worry about the rest of it later.

    As for revising, I am trying my best to wait until the whole thing is done, but I heard others say different.

    Best of luck

  617. Dennison 17 May 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Brian,

    Thanks for the input. I’m new at blogging and I find it very informative, if not refreshing. It’s hard to coverse with others about writing a novel. You just don’t know what it’s like until you’ve done one yourself. I have been focusing on trying to get a website and blogs set up, and I’ve found that this has totally taken my “writing” time away from me. I’m discouraged about doing the “other” things I’ve been told to do. I just want to write and worry about everything else later on.

    I’m a teacher and I always work with my kids about writing well and being creative. I can only hope that I have been following my own advice.

    I appreciate any suggestions that come my way.

    Thanks,
    Dennis

  618. Maureenon 18 May 2009 at 2:20 am

    I’m struggling with writer’s block. sigh. im wondering if i should try writing another part of the story and come back to the part im on later?

  619. Dennison 18 May 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Maureen,

    I have done that a few times in my novel. I find it to be a good strategy for fighting writer’s block. I know how some parts will be all the way to the end, but then I just need to go fill in the blanks. Not sure if this is common, but it’s worked for me.

  620. Foz Meadowson 18 May 2009 at 10:14 pm

    @Maureen: In addition to Dennis’s comment, I often find that, if I get blocked, it’s because I’ve subconsciously realised that a particular scene or plot point doesn’t work, or that I’m going about it the wrong way. If that’s the case, I find it helpful to think about the next scene along. How should it start? Does the problem scene lead straight into it? Is there a chapter break or change in POV? What information in the problem scene needs to be conveyed in order for the rest of the story to work? Hopefully, my thoughts will then start to drift back to the blockage: what is the best way to convey this information? Does the chronology work? Is the POV correct? And so on.

    Hope this helps!

  621. Maureenon 19 May 2009 at 6:39 am

    the next chapter is from someone elses point of view and is already all mapped out. i think the problem might be that i havnt fully imagined the scene im at- as in it dosent feel real to me while the other parts of my story do. however ive written half the chapter so hopefully i’ll overcome this particular block.in conclusion foz, i agree with you… i think im having trouble coz the scene aint working lol

    and dennis: i started doing that and it has helped me a little too

  622. Dennison 24 May 2009 at 12:45 am

    I’ve been getting much written the past couple of days. If I didn’t have a family and work, I could get much more finished. I am finding time to be my enemy, but am dealing with it better as time passes.

    I have started a website and was wondering if any one had any input on posting clips of my novel on the site. Is it ok to do that before the book is even written? I’ve posted a couple clips so far, and am wanting to put some on there on a random basis. Any suggestions?

  623. JMBauhauson 24 May 2009 at 11:05 am

    Hi Dennis,

    It’s fine to post unedited excerpts, especially if it helps you stay motivated. You might get some hand-wringing warnings cautioning you that your work could get stolen, but that rarely ever actually happens, and if you date-stamp your posts, it should be pretty easy to prove that yours came first. My only warning is that if you post hoping for feedback, be prepared for the possibility of rudely-stated negative feedback from total strangers, or worse, no feedback at all, which can be extremely discouraging.

  624. Kate Elliotton 11 Jun 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Derrick,

    for naming, read history. Study languages and language families and names within language families. This doesn’t haven’t be a huge undertaking–you’re not necessarily trying to learn another language–but rather get familiar with the way other languages use names and how names within other languages, both proper names and place names, have similarities. Also, yeah, baby naming sites for personal names can be useful.

    Dennis,

    actually, I have no advice to add to the advice you’ve already received here, as it is very good. Good luck!

  625. Kate Elliotton 11 Jun 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Jess,

    the best way to find out what you have is just to write what you have and not worry about length. In my experience, the best way to learn to write a novel is to write, and make mistakes, and do it wrong, and learn; everything you learn helps you go forward. So – write your story. If it turns out to be a short story, that’s fine. If it gets longer, that’s great, too. If you write a short story and later realize that it is more of an outline that can be fleshed out into a novel, that is also okay. There’s really no downside to writing as exploration. Just do it.

    Maureen,

    some writers I know do skip around and write different scenes out of order. There is really no “correct” process; there is only the process that works FOR YOU.

    Also, these days it’s reasonable to aim for a novel length of 100,000 words, but shorter is fine if that’s what the book warrants, and of course some epic fantasies in the past have run upwards of 300,000 words in a single volume. For a new writer, the shorter length is far more marketable, but of course for a first draft I think one should just write the story and not worry specifically about length. That’s what revisions are for.

  626. Dennison 12 Jun 2009 at 12:47 am

    I’ve never been a big fan of story mapping throughout my school years. I even teach it to my students, but still always preferred an ordinary outline. I have found that I am using story maps for my book. I didn’t even realize it, until I sat back and looked at my notes. Does anybody else do this? I wish that I had an office all to myself. That way, I could have outlines and story maps all over the walls and then connect characters, events, etc. Having that visual would help me in keeping things in order. Any ideas on this tactic? Is it common…or am I a genius? :)

  627. Brian P.on 15 Jul 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Dennis,

    I’m sure you are a genius, but it does sound familiar. I sounds alot like what filmmakers do to set up scenes, or some that I’ve seen. Zack Snyder (director of Watchmen and 300) uses this method very well. I’ve been trying to adapt it to my writing, too, since I am a very visual person.

  628. Brian P.on 15 Jul 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Kate,

    Does writing novels get any easier after you have finished your first? I really, really hope so :)

  629. Brian P.on 15 Jul 2009 at 3:24 pm

    One more thing! I have for a while noticed that my story follows the “Hero’s Quest” format, and has a couple of the same character archetypes. Is that a bad thing? Is the world tired of hearing the story of the young man discovering his power and going on a journey to destroy evil?

  630. Gareth Bradmanon 19 Jul 2009 at 7:31 am

    Hi everyone!
    I’m currently on about 33,000 words and have been writing for just over one year now(notice my blogs many moons ago!) It seems the more i get into the minds of my characters the easier it is to write about them. It’s like getting to know someone and learing what they like and don’t like etc. I think getting to know your characters in the story is VERY important and will make your book flow better and in turn be a better read. It has taken me a lot longer than i thought it would to get this far but i think it’s important not to rush your writing or force it. I’m aiming for about 100-120,000 words for my first book and have some amazing new ideas for my second book. I think it’s important if your writing a series to know where it all ends up and have a rough idea about what will happen. I have read the likes of Eddings,Jordan,Gemmel,Moorcock,Hobb,Farland,Terry Brooks,Kerr,Elliot and hope one day my book will join them on the shelves!! Go me!!! (though it may take 10years but i’m only in my 20′s so nevermind!)

  631. Kate Elliotton 28 Jul 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Dennis, you’re definitely a genius! Some writers never find a process that truly works for them, but it seems like you have. That’s excellent! (Brian is right, this is a method I’ve heard others use and that I kind of use in a different way, but what you come up with on your own is your own no matter who else does it, if that makes sense).

  632. Kate Elliotton 28 Jul 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Brian,

    Do novels get easier to write after your first?

    well, um, no, and yes. Maybe. Not at all.

    I think I’m going to have to tackle this question as an actual post, coming soon.

    As for the other: is using a template like the Hero’s Quest a bad thing?

    I don’t think so. I think folktakes, legends, and narrative in general tends to follow certain templates because these are ones that resonate within our minds.

  633. Kate Elliotton 28 Jul 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Garath,

    excellent news!

    You write:

    It seems the more i get into the minds of my characters the easier it is to write about them

    Yes, I think this is very true. And exciting, as a writer!

  634. maureenon 30 Jul 2009 at 2:31 am

    this is not really a question… it’s more of a vent. I hope no one minds :)

    My book is currently at 30 000 words and while I know thats a great achievement, I find it so hard to keep going. Now that I’ve really started getting into the heart of the story, I keep having moments of self doubt- of thinking I can never finish it or if I do its going to be awful. I also have a paranoia of writing cliches and having people think I’m just copying another author sigh. Oh the frustration. I feel like when I write my novel I become bipolar- extreme highs and lows.

  635. Jeanon 30 Jul 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @Maureen – you’re definitely not alone. I always feel that way when I get to what Jim Butcher calls “the great swampy middle.” All you can do to get past it is just keep putting one foot (or in this case, one word) in front of the other, and remember that any awfulness can be fixed after it’s written.

  636. Kate Elliotton 01 Aug 2009 at 11:26 pm

    maureen,

    if you read author blogs you’ll find that many writers have these same fears. No matter how many novels I write, I always hit a point in the writing of each one where I am convinced the book is awful. Or that I won’t be able to finish it. I’ve learned over time to accept those feelings and just keep on writing, even if I think the writing is awful. Eventually, I get t the end of the first draft, and then I can turn around and revise and fix the things that weren’t working the first time.

    Good luck!

  637. Maureenon 03 Aug 2009 at 1:41 am

    Thank you Jean and Kate for replying.

    I’ve been pushing myself by writing a bit at a time and setting smaller goals for myself eg 1000 words a week or getting the characters to a set point. I also keep telling myself I can change it later when I edit the story. I guess I feel especially insecure about writing a novel because I’m 19 and I feel like in all reality, there is no hope in hell of my first novel getting published unless its really amazing.

    but even so, I’d be proud just to write a complete novel because then I’d know I could do it again later and I’d improve

  638. Brian Pon 04 Aug 2009 at 11:07 am

    Hey Maureen,

    Christopher Paolini finished his first draft of Eragon when he was 17 years old. You sound like you are making some really big strides in your work, so discount the idea that the world will get a chance to read it. I’m still growing in my writing as well, and if there is one that I have learned from this past year and a half is that you have to write for yourself and the satisfaction of getting your story out. The publishing part can come later.

    Best of luck :)

  639. Maureenon 05 Aug 2009 at 6:32 am

    Dear Brian,

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    As for Christopher Paolini… no comment. I can’t stand his novels lol

  640. Dennison 05 Aug 2009 at 10:43 am

    I’ve had to take a month off to finish my graduate school work. I was writing everyday, but it was not for my novel. It was so frustrating to have to write so much and not be writing what I really wanted to. Now that I’m getting back into my novel, after several weeks off, I’m finding it difficult to get back into the same “zone”. I am 60,000 words into the novel, and am entering the final section of the story. It’s frustrating! I’ve only been able to write two or three pages at a time before my motivation meter runs low. I’m not sure if I should force myself to write or just wait until the motivation comes back. The first 2/3rds of the book came so easily for me, but the last part is starting to render it’s ugly head at me and laugh at my feebel attempts at creating an equally appealing ending.

  641. Deb Son 05 Aug 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Hey Maureen,
    2 sites run by teen novelists that you might want to check out:

    http://teenswritingforteens.wordpress.com/

    http://kodymekellkeplinger.blogspot.com/

  642. Nicole L.on 20 Sep 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Hi all,

    It’s been just over a year since I last posted here looking for readers for my YA fantasy ms (thanks to the volunteers who were awesome! You made my book so much better.). It’s taken me that long to revise it and add a lot of words but I’m finally sending it out to agents and editors right now. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to this point and it feels great.

    Maureen — I think having a target for words per week is great. Mine is 300/day, which sounds so low, but got me there. And there are more authors than just CP who were published at a young age. The Opal Mehta book comes to mind because of the ensuing scandal, but still, she was published and she’s not the only one.

  643. Kate Elliotton 20 Sep 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Dennis, yes, that’s very true about getting back into “the zone” after an extended break. But all you can really do (in my experience) is just tough it out. Or, as they say, the only way out is through.

    Nicole: excellent! congrats for finishing revisions!

  644. Carolon 24 Sep 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I finished my first draft! yay! However I finished it in April, and now I seem to be stuck. I just cant seem to ind the time, or maybe motivation, to start revising it. I told myself give me a few weeks so I can look at it with fresh eyes. But I still havent. Life has been hectic with having to move across OZ for work and be without hubby and friends, but really, that should give me more time. What is the best way to start revising a story? What should i concentrate on?

  645. Jeanon 25 Sep 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Congrats, Carol! I’m in the same boat — finished drafting my novel early this year, put it a way for “a bit” and then took forever to get around to revising it. A couple of months ago I discovered Holly Lisle’s web site, which is chock full of excellent writing advice, and I started doing her One-Pass Revision method with my novel. I’m still going through my manuscript, but this method had given me a lot of guidance and helped me stay motivated to stick with it. I highly recommend it.

    http://hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/one-pass-revision.html

    Good luck!

  646. Carolon 27 Sep 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks Jean, I will check it out. :)

  647. Carolon 28 Sep 2009 at 1:02 am

    Thanks Jean, that website is GREAT!!

  648. Nicole Lon 07 Oct 2009 at 8:45 am

    Kate, Thanks!

    Carol, There’s a book, I think called The Artful Edit, that has a lot of different ways of tackling revisions, from reading out loud to hanging your manuscript on a clothes line that might get you excited about revisions. Holly Lisle’s site is also great.

  649. Carolon 08 Oct 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks Nicole. I have just started reading Holly Lisle’s website and its great! And also, its funny you say about reading out loud, I started reading out loud to the cats the other night (after doing a revision), and it worked quite well. Bizarre, but good. I don’t know how interested the cats were though! LOL

  650. Kate Elliotton 08 Oct 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Carol and Jean: Congrats on those first drafts!

    Reading out loud is kind of weird, but I think it can be really useful.

  651. Foz Meadowson 20 Oct 2009 at 6:29 am

    Squee! So excited, have to share – my first book finally has a cover!

    :)

    http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/solace-and-grief/

  652. Carolon 20 Oct 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Foz, congrats! It looks great! When does it come out? Hyde Park…are you in Sydney then? (I read the little snippet. :) ) I’m currently in the Gong.

  653. Billon 21 Oct 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Writing my first novel was a frightening and bitter experience. I had such hope that I brought a new voice to Science Fiction. I followed the rules. I send query letters to agents, just as everyone suggested. While I waited for replies, I honed my craft, learned how to edit, and continued to write… and write… and write. No, no, no… an endless stream of disappointment, rejection, and lack of interest. I knew I could tell a good story. I knew I had something new and different. No one would listen. So, I finally went with a POD. It was my only hope. I also went to Craig’s list and advertised for an editor (he helped a great deal). In April, I published my first novel, “The Distant Voices.” Last Monday, I published the second novel in the saga, “The Voices Arrive.” As long as my pocket book holds out, I will continue to publish my work. I am not concerned with sucess or readership or fans. I discovered over the past seven years that I love to write. To that end, I will write to my heart’s content. Good luck, authors.

  654. Carolon 26 Oct 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Kate: did I see correctly, and your new book is out now? I hope its out in Australia, I can’t wait!

  655. Lisaon 12 Nov 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I have been writting my first short novel, however with the plot complete it is only 28,000 words. How can i add an extra 10,000? Has anyone else had that problem, how did you resolve it?

    Thanks

  656. Deb Son 13 Nov 2009 at 9:11 am

    Lisa,
    Maybe try fleshing out the subplot or adding a character.
    Since novellas are such hard sells, maybe also ponder the short story possibilities. Could you condense it into a short story? Or break in down and turn in into a serial of shorts? Just a thought. There are a lot of ezines and magazine that publish short stories.

  657. Lisaon 13 Nov 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks Deb, i will definetly explore those options.

  658. Foz Meadowson 15 Nov 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Carol: Glad you like it! I wrote the book while living in Melbourne, but I was in Sydney for several years before that :)

  659. Kate Elliotton 22 Nov 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Lisa,

    my advice on your question is for you to write something else. Write another story, plot another novel and write it, and then write something else. Then, having done that, come back to the story you’ve written that you think is too short and look at it with fresh and more experienced eyes. You may find that it is the right length — that it is in fact a novella rather than a novel — or you may find with more experienced eyes that you see areas of interaction and events that you inadvertently left out (that’s common with inexperienced writers) that need to be written out.

    Also, don’t forget the old adage that oftentimes 50 pages of “showing” (writing out the scene as a scene) reads faster than 10 pages of “telling” (the author telling the reader what is happening).

    Good luck!

  660. Kate Elliotton 22 Nov 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Carol,

    Yes, Traitors’ Gate should be available in the USA, UK, and Australia/NZ markets (in English). Thanks for asking!

  661. Kate Elliotton 22 Nov 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Foz — that’s a really nice cover, simple and effective.

  662. Kate Elliotton 22 Nov 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Bill, sometimes self publishing (POD) is the best way to go. That’s great news about your writing project. Good luck!

  663. Red McGailon 23 Nov 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Kate, ( and all others who can help)

    I started to write a book and wrote about 14 pages which is pathetic, and I started to feel blocked and started to lose interest in the story so I decided to work on a different story and come back to the other one after a while. Is it a bad idea to stop a story and start to write a completly different story that is in a complete different genre, and expect to be able to come back to the other and just pick up where I left off? HELP! Please. Thanks.

    – Red

  664. Kate Elliotton 24 Nov 2009 at 4:05 am

    Red,

    There’s definitely nothing wrong with setting aside a story that you’re having trouble writing and working on something else. Plenty of writers do it; sometimes they set aside a story for months or years and come back to it when they have finally figured out how to make it work. Also, some writers work on several different projects in different genres at the same time, and jump back and forth between genres and projects, so it is certainly possible to do that.

    Just beware if you start a lot of stories and then never finish any of them. In that case, you would need to teach yourself to finish a couple of them to have the experience of doing so. But if you are finishing some stories, and get stuck on one, then it really is no problem to put it aside for a while until you’re ready to get back to it.

  665. Red McGailon 25 Nov 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Kate,
    thanks for answering my question so soon.
    red.

  666. gareth Bradmanon 28 Nov 2009 at 11:23 am

    Hi there people,

    I am at 136 pages and very happy with my progress. I’m aiming for 160-170 pages before christmas and i’m excited about getting to the halfway stage (200 page approx). I find that having my wife and my mum read my latest helps me write better and motivates me a lot. My mum always gets on at me to keep it up and write more before I next see her which really helps. They’re not too critical with their feedback and give mostly positive advise. My mum was the one who introduced me to fantasy when i was young (LOTR) and i trust her opinion as she has read all i have and does not beat about the bush as they say. I think it’s important to have someone that can do this though and feel it really helps when you get block or just lack motivation.

  667. gareth Bradmanon 28 Nov 2009 at 11:40 am

    ps can’t believe i put gareth instead of Gareth lol I’m glad my wife will be going over my book when i’m done as my grammer is quite appaling!

  668. Red McGailon 29 Nov 2009 at 4:52 pm

    That’s so exciting “G”areth (LOL) keep going and tay motivated. You’ll be there before you know.

    P.S Don’t worry about the grammer, you can fix it all once you’ve finished writing the stoory down. That’s more important any way ( isn’t it?)

    -Red

  669. Lizon 13 Dec 2009 at 8:04 am

    I have finally started my first novel that I am actually serious about. It’s funny, starting for me is simple. I have the idea so fresh in my head, its easy to begin. The middle, now that, that is the beast.
    My first novel, I started last month for NaNoWriMo, and I will admit it was my personal experiment. I just wanted to prove I could finish it. I did, and honestly, it sucks. Well, okay, the plot is pretty good and the characters are entertaining, BUT it has so many issues that I really really don’t feel like fixing. So I set it aside, figuring one day, I may go back and attack it and see if there is anything worth saving. The my new project started off as a short story that wasn’t supposed to make it past 5000 words. I don’t even know why I bother guess the final word count. After 4 days to write, it is 7000 words and no where near done. Lol.
    I have come to realize, that I also don’t know the quality of my writing, until I go back and reread it. Yes, I know that makes almost no sense.But most of the time I write down what is going on in my head, and I am so wrapped up in the lives of my characters, their feelings, their atmosphere, I honestly have no idea if what I wrote. I will walk around all day, convinced that it must suck, and then I ‘ll go back and realize that it was actually decent.

  670. Red McGailon 15 Dec 2009 at 11:09 pm

    thats really cool Liz. I do the same thing. I don’t really know what I just wrote until I go back and read it and I either think, wow that was one of the worst things that I have ever written, or hey that wasn’t too bad after all. Keep going on the story and don’t give up

    -Red

  671. butterflyon 18 Dec 2009 at 2:21 am

    I like writing, I like being creative, but I find the novel-writing process frustrating. I’ve written 3 drafts of my first novel and it still feels like it hasn’t “gelled.” And I keep changing the first chapter, because I can’t decide how to start. I keep thinking, “would an agent like this opening…how about this one? how ’bout this one?”

    Is this hand-wringing normal? I’d like to work on another draft because I still like my story and hope for a better version but I also feel overwhelmed.

  672. Kate Elliotton 18 Dec 2009 at 2:58 am

    butterfly,

    yes, handwringing is ENTIRELY normal. If you haven’t yet asked some friends to read the novel, try them out and see what their reaction is. Another suggestion? Set this novel aside for the moment and write a different novel. Then, when you’ve done that, come back to this one, and see if the process of writing the second one gives you some additional insight into #1 that will help you with your revisions. Good luck!

  673. Kate Elliotton 18 Dec 2009 at 2:59 am

    Gareth: good for your mum! She sounds like a fabulous first reader.

    Liz: I often can’t tell if what I’m writing works as I’m writing it. It isn’t until I got back and re-read, just as you say, that I begin to have an idea if I think it reads well, or poorly.

  674. Gareth Bradmanon 12 Jan 2010 at 8:32 am

    Hi people
    Boo i only managed to get to page 140 over christmas( laughable i know!) but i’m ever going foreward. I have found the parts i write that seem bad at the time are in fact really good when i re-read the newly written parts! I think writing is very much like when you are drawing a picture. You think it is bad up until you finish it when you realize it is in fact rather good!

  675. Red McGailon 14 Jan 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Oh so true I always think that my characters are either being too tortured or not tortured enough while i’m writing it but when I go back and re-read what I’ve written I fall in love with it.

  676. John Robinsonon 07 Feb 2010 at 5:37 pm

    @ butterfly, if you’re revising your first chapter that much, I’d highly recommend ditching it, and make your second chapter, the first chapter as something to try. As entering the scene as late as possible, is a good idea to play around with.

    I’ve read a few times now, that this is often the practice, many times the first chapter is dropped although obviously that will depend on the narrative itself.

    But, whatever you’ve left out – ie, whatever was in the first chapter – the important parts you can slip in via dialogue or use it as a piece of tension to resolve and explain which adds an instant sense of mystery and/or depth – don’t explain everything, allow it to come out like meeting a person for the first time, tease out the details.

    One of the most important things I’ve learned, is that, if I have an issue with it or some aspect, then more likely than not my readers will have more of a problem with it so something needs fixed and the thing about agents, is that, often it will not be the first chapter but the summary and synopsis that will get their interests – this is often overlooked as the primary selling part of the pitch. If an agent or publisher likes the brief, they’re more likely to read your sample chapters – at least that’s been my experience.

    Hope that helps

  677. Shell Pepperon 23 Mar 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Wow! I have read almost every post and am overwhelmed by the amount of people in exactly the same predicament as myself. I am writing my first novel and have hit just about every brick wall there is. After two nights reading everyones questions and advice I have realised I just need to take the bull by the horns and plough on, also not to worry so much about things I can put right later. I am now looking forward to getting back to it, enjoying the experience and my characters and seeing where it takes me! Thanks to everyone.

  678. jonakon 03 Apr 2010 at 6:22 am

    i have a huge story which is not totally fiction and wanna start writing a novel. I read many of posted ideas and feel a bit challenged. However, I think it would be very interesting for readers. It is about 40 years full of actions and realities in Afghanistan. It covers around a dozen different governments from monarchy to republic to marxism style government, to Islamic style government, Taliban extremism, Karzai and western allies. It covers lives and activities of ordinary afghans, warlords, soviets, americans, pakistanis, iranians, arab extremists. Children rights, women rights, human rights as a whole, fighting destruction, family disruption, reunions, converting from one idealogy to another, defecting from one party to another party, ….

    The main story is about a man who was pro-Nazi in childhood, became pro-Mujahidin in 70s and 80s, studied in the USA, served Government of Mujahidin and Taliban, escaped Taliban detention, went to the USA on 09 September 2001 to cross border and ask asylum in Canada but 9/11 happened and all airports and land ports were closed. he had to wait for one week in Boston and go to UK and seek asylum. However, he was detained by UK police and was sent to NY. he spent 3 month in NJ…….
    released
    went back to afghanistan
    worked…..

    it is very interesting

    thant person is now in australia and wants to write the story.

    I need someone to ensure publishing of the novel. I can submit the first product in one year time. You can contact me at:aansari2@gmail.com

  679. Gareth Bradmanon 09 Apr 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Hi
    I’m at 170 pages now (nearly half way) and motoring on so Waterstones watch out here i come!!!! lol
    I’m really excited about this part of the story this is where i have introduced most characters, plot etc and am now starting to bring in some thicker stuff.
    Ps has anyone read that new book ‘In the name of the wind’? It’s very good!

  680. Gareth Bradmanon 01 May 2010 at 12:54 pm

    No one goes on here much it’s a real shame. Does that mean not many people are writing books? I do notice the ever shrinking fantasy section in bookshops and think it’s a real shame . I think people these days prefer to spend their lives with their heads in their phones or on these twitter or facebook etc sites. By the way 179 pages wooooo! Having the feedback from authors whose books i love to read always helped motivate me more. Where have you all gone?

  681. Carolon 03 May 2010 at 4:43 am

    yes, where has everyone gone?!? This is still one of my favourites sites, I will make more effort to come back on here, just been so busy with life. Hopefully others will drop back in, too.

  682. Farah Khanon 10 May 2010 at 5:51 am

    hello writers,

    I am new to this site. I am writing my first novel and am a bit worried as it has very little dialogue….is that normal I am worried about getting accents wrong?!… not sure how many words it should either..right now its 34000 is there an ideal lenght? I was aiming for 50000 but not sure if thats normal.
    Also, I am in the UK, does anyone know any proofreading sites?

    Help!

  683. Charlieson 17 May 2010 at 5:31 am

    I’ve never had a problem starting a novel. I’ve started about 15 since highschool. Finishing is always where I trip up. I always think up a more fantastic story half way through and get lost chasing another book.

    My current novel is the first that I’ve written methodically. I’ve literally had someone tie me to the chair some days and I’ve refused to eat until I’ve got my minimum 500 words scribbled out. Occasionally even the best torture methods don’t work, but I’ve had far fewer lapses working this way and when I get stuck it only lasts a day or so. I’m an angry writer I guess! I have to beat my brain into submission before it agrees to work. I finished a basic plotline before starting any real writing and I’ve currently filled in about 50,000 words of it since Christmas. I’m aiming for 100,000 for the first draft. It’s been a painful challenge, but I know I will do it again. I’m sure I have some psychological problem. My blood pressure is definitely higher than it was before I started!

    I don’t know if the novel is any good. I doubt it as it’s my first. But that’s alright with me. I wanted something to give to my nieces and nephews when they grew up and that is still my main goal. I have a low paid job, so any money I can make from the book would be very appreciated. But if it doesn’t make a penny, it will still be the best gift I can give my family.

    Thank you to all those that have shared their experiences and advice here. I’ve learnt a lot of good things! Best of luck to everyone with their projects and hope to see some of you in print in the near future! : )

  684. PlatinumRealityon 18 May 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Hi!

    Aspiring teenage writer here… *cringes*

    I’m 16 and have already started two novels. The farthest I’ve gotten though is the third chapter, averaging about 2500-2750 words a chapter. Starting is definitely the hardest. I have problems becoming inspired. Most days I just say to myself, “I just came home from band, I have two hours of homework to do, it’s 9:45 at night and I still have to take a shower. No writing today, maybe tomorrow.”

    Any suggestions? Summer is coming up (I get out on June 3rd), so I might have some extra time, but still…

    Thanks for any ideas. :)

    Sarah

  685. Red McGailon 24 May 2010 at 8:54 pm

    FINALLY someone like me! I thought I was the only one starting novel and getting side tracked with other ones! thank you “Charlies” ! I am corrently working on a novel that am really inspired on. Not that i am a professional writer at all, but some advice on staying focussed is DON”T TELL ANYONE about the plot line of what oyu are writng about. It takes the excitement out of it it seems. You start thinking about different things that eventually turn into different Novels.

    As for “PlatinumReality” I am also a young writer. But even you have more years than me. I am only 14 and I thin it is awesome that some other teenagers loves writng as much as I do. If you are looking for other tips from teenagers on writng I would check out

    teenswritingforteens.wordpress.com

    Actually I found that site by reading all of the posts here. It has really cool teens who are like us. trying to tell the world that we aren’t too young to write and that we can do it! it is POSSIBLE!

  686. Garethon 10 Jul 2010 at 2:14 am

    Hi people
    I’m on page 207(72,000words) now and by my reckoning have reached the top of the mountain and am now slowly decending! I’m 28yrs and have 2 children, one 3 and the other 0 , and find it very difficult to find time to sit down and write. I work about 60hrs a week and any spare time I have I like to spend with my kids and wife so it’s only when I have small bits of time to myself that I write. Writing is a pleasure for me and trying to rush it just ruins the experience and probably lessons the quality of writing. You have to immerse yourself in the the writing, the place your writing about. Living it while your writing as it were to fully capture the feelings your characters are having. I’m not too sure how much to write for my first book any ideas?

  687. Chandleron 24 Jul 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Ever since I was little, I would try writing what I was interested in, whether it be magical unicorns or dangerous vampires. I had very little patience with these, and never finished any of my started stories. Now that I am older, I am giving my best effort into a particular book that I hope to eventually finish and (hopefully) publish. It slightly discourages me to watch writers such as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer launch off with their books, while the rest of are left with either mediocre readers, or very few at all. Nonetheless, we all put our best efforts into these stories that we very badly want others to read and appreciate. I understand this and appreciate that we all try harder instead of giving up.
    God bless you all.

  688. Mark Petersonon 26 Jul 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Oh wow no way Carol Berg wrote in this forum that’s awesome I absolutely loved the, “Books of the Rai-kirah” trilogy.

    Other then that lately I’ve found that I’m less then impressed with my writing abilities and I’m completely amazed that I passed College English because I don’t know squat.

    That’s the hardest part for me, I’ve read tons of books on grammar and still I suck at it. My other problem is describing what I’m seeing in my head. I just can’t seem to do it worth a damn. I start to describe my dude just hanging out in a sterile boring doctor’s office, then he gets a headache and bunches his brow and uses his hand to rub his forehead and when he opens his eyes again he almost poops himself from the ghost standing right in front of him noses almost touching.

    I mean suuuuuuuuuuuuuuure I know I should describe his annoyance at sitting in the room and the crinkling of the paper his butt is squashing on the examination table. The fluorescent annoying lights that laughingly try to imitate the sun. The fact that she’s partially see-through with all black eyes that are as reflective as mirrors, or her bloodless lips and corpse white appearance. I could tell how he gets a whiff of sunflowers and fresh earth like that of a grave, but nope I can’t seem to do that. I could tell how he cringes at the sight of her and then blinks his eyes in disbelief only to find she’s gone and his nerves are frayed, but whenever I try and write what I see I get crap like this,

    “Simon squinted and unsuccessfully tried massaging the pain away that was threatening to erupt from his forehead. A long broken sigh escaped as the pain started to ebb and his vision was beginning to return.

    “Holy @#%@!!” Simon jumped as he opened his eyes to see a woman the picture of death standing with her nose almost touching his. The paper on the examination table he was sitting on crinkled loudly and stuck to his ass as he tried to escape the momentary ghostly figure standing right in front of him. Her pale face and bloodless lips sent chills down his spine and he thought he was going to shit himself as he stared into the consuming black pools that were her eyes.”

    All and all yup I want to scream and maybe take some candy from a baby and give it to a puppy so the two of them will fight over it, and sadly that’s how frustrated I am. Thanks for letting me rant.

    Mark

  689. Mark Petersonon 28 Jul 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I agree with the one post further up, I’ve noticed the shrinking fantasy section and overall books available lately too. It is sad. Maybe that whole concept in the movie the Village isn’t to bad after all. I find that I am not overly fond of a majority of the stuff that seems popular today. I like to read my e-mail and scan for sites like this but other then that yuck.

    I think I would take a set up like that movie the Village, but I am rather fond of medicine when I’m sick so I’d still like to reserve the right to my horse and buggy into town and get checked out by a doctor. Hmmmmmmmmm maybe I’ll go Amish. Welllllllllll maybe not I do like treated water as well. Hmmmmm guess I just need something in between then.

  690. Gareth Bradmanon 11 Sep 2010 at 7:34 am

    What was that last post about???????

  691. Garethon 27 Sep 2010 at 3:32 am

    This site is dead i think i’ll stop using it now, very dissapointing.

  692. Stephanieon 14 Dec 2010 at 2:49 pm

    The hardest part for me is to write the ending! I have trouble finishing everything but now that it’s time for something good to happen I just can’t bring myself to do it. I enjoy making horrible traumas for my characters to endure, I think.

  693. Kirsten@Cold Readingon 20 Dec 2010 at 11:02 am

    Cold reading has always blown away many people. And what’s not to be very impressed about? Even if the person cannot genuinely read your thoughts as he could read words in a novel, there’s still something indisputably striking about a individual who can profile you immediately.

  694. Farrell Winteron 04 Jan 2012 at 12:15 am

    I first had the idea for what became my feminist science fiction novel at age 7. That was the other coast and more than 50 years ago. It is now written and revised and ready for line editing. Despite all those ideas kicking around in my head all that time, I didn’t start pulling the pieces together and actually writing the story (ion the computer) until 2006. I’m grateful for all the help I’ve received along the way.

  695. Tom Gondolfion 04 Mar 2012 at 1:28 am

    I’ve heard that so many authors have problems with getting started, or finishing novels. My problem seems to be just the opposite. I have six novels under my belt and in each and every case, the beginning and the end were a piece of cake. I have problem with the 80K words in the middle ;D

    I’ve also never understood writer’s block. I’ve got a backlog of writing to do. I figure if I complete 2 novels a year that I”ll still be writing the when they put me in the ground and won’t have made a dent in the pile.

    Key areas I’d give as suggestions:

    Write! That seems simple but I’m sure you’ve all heard it before “I always wanted to write a book.” The only thing that separates writers from wanna bes is DOING IT.

    Get honest, independent critiques! I spent years in F2F critique groups and while great, there still was a bit of that “I don’t want to upset him. He’s a nice guy.” The online critique groups are, without a doubt, the best thing since sliced bread. No one has the slightest need to care if your feelings are hurt or not. You get solid, honest critiques.

    Professional Editing! I have to admit, my grammar SUCKS. No matter how good you are at writing, you will make errors, sneak in cliche’s and otherwise mess up. Having a professional editor catches many of these.

    All for now. Hope you enjoy my novels as they hit the market in spring of 13

    Tom Gondolfi
    TANSTAAFL Press

  696. Stacie Brownon 02 Jun 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Not many using this site anymore. I’m going to rant anyway.

    I’m not very old, only 18, but I absolutely love books. Reading and writing them, making up stories in my head – if anyone emptied my head of ideas, they’d have enough for millions and millions of books.

    Problem is, writing down what I imagine (dragons, faraway magical lands, Egyptian gods living on Earth) is my way of exploring the idea. When I start writing, I only know the setting. Hell, when I started the last one, I thought it would be some kind of magical rewrite of Snow White – now it is about a girl, who realises that she is half dragon and also Princess and Heir of a hidden kingdom in another world – I mean, where does it end?!

    It is like opening and closing doors when I write, and when I sit down to write, I’ve only just entered the house, and the doors lock behind me where ever I go. But then, when I finally know what kind of story it really is, my interest sort of… wane. Now I know what will happen, all played out in my head like a movie, and then writing the whole thing seems so… endless and pointless. I have tried writing stories, posting them on sites like FictionPress, to force myself into writing not only for myself, but also for others, but nothing seems to help.

    Books are my greatest passion. I’d rather stay inside all summer with unlimited access to the greatest fantasy novels in history than go somewhere, like the beach, or party with my friends. Years and years of reading has sparked my imagination, lifting it to an almost ubearable level where I just NEED to satisfy it. Whether it is with other books, or my own. It tingles in my fingers and gives me headaches, and my head feels ready to explode – then I read four or five books and write twenty pages, and it’s gone.

    And then I feel… flat, I guess, and stupid for thinking that it could actually be something great. Then, the next time, I start something new – the ideas are never alike, so I can’t make myself continue with the last one – and the same thing happens.

    I’m beginning to think that writing just isn’t my thing. But then, it’s one of the only things I know I’m remotely good at, using my imagination. Then I remember that I can’t get it written, plus the fact that I am not English, and make the stupidest grammar mistakes when I finally get some written. Eh, I hate it sometimes. Then I wish my mother never gave me her books when I turned 10. Always the strange girl, caught up in her books…

    Aaaand off goes my imagination. It could be the start of an epic romance – or a fantasy, where she found herself suddenly surrounded by things she’d only dreamt about…

    Good gracious, that was a nice rant. I’m trying not to go back and reread it, because I know I will delete the whole thing. So, sorry for the bad grammar and whinyness!

  697. Thomason 08 Jun 2012 at 3:49 am

    Hello Stacie.

    Don’t give up on yourself, you’re 18 and you have your whole life ahead of you. You don’t have to make writing your career, but you shouldn’t discard your imaginative thoughts just because you’ve already read the story in your head.
    I love to read and I love to write, the two go together, like breathing in and breathing out – you can’t have one without the other.
    So, having said that, I must admit I’ve been writing for eleven years. I started when I was fifty-seven and I will stop when they place the coffin lid over me.

    Write what you feel, and go and join:

    http://softeampact.forumcircle.com/portal.php

    Softeampact.com is a new site based in London. I’m one of the moderators there.

    And it’s not a POD publishing site in disguise (although one does advertise there, it was part of the deal).

    We aim to help authors who are desperate to publish, but aren’t sure if their work is good enough. We hope to show them how they can become better writers. We don’t offer courses or competitons with prizes, all we offer is advice and freindship.

    So, don’t despair, join today, its free.

    Thomas.

  698. Catoon 31 Jul 2012 at 11:25 am

    Before the birth of my now two-year-old daughter, I had so much more time to write. I finished the first version of MOREENA’S TRUTH in a little over nine months. Thinking that it was ready to submit for publication, I asked a few friends to read it. I’m certainly glad I did. They identified things I could work on to make the novel stronger. I realized as a first-time author that I had more blindspots than I could see (hence the term blindspots). I made a list of over thirty items that could be improved.

    Instead of revising, I scrapped the entire book. Working with the same story frame and a similar arc, I completed the second script two weeks ago. It took me two years to rewrite, but I know that it is so much stronger. I have it in the hands of twelve people. Two people have read it and have had some extremely positive things to say about it.

    As I await more reviews and try to distance myself from the story so that I can do one last pass before searching for an agent, I am hopeful. For now.

  699. Terraon 18 Aug 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Five years ago, I bought a laptop with every intention of it being used to write my EPIC novel…

    Could you believe that it has been used for everything except writing???

    I even quit my 9-5 to sit down and focus on my writing… I’ve been unemployed for 9 months now and still the sheet is blank.

    My living space is full of writing books… but still… nothing.

    I write everyday, yes. But it never amounts to anything. I have a million and one starts but no story line developed.

    I love to take it as a learning lesson… writing is living. You won’t have a single line if you have no experience!

    Now to get back to my blank screen… ;)

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