Everything I wish I knew about First drafts when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about first drafts when I started writing.Unlike me, I’m sure most writers never have any trouble finishing a first draft. Okay, maybe a couple do.

I like to tinker, play, and revise to distraction. In fact, I sat on the opening three chapters of my first novel for about a hundred years.

Years, anyway. Quite a few of them.

Which brings me to today’s subject. First drafts. How do you go about writing them? What’s your best advice to a newbie on the subject?

I’ve found the best way for me is to rush through them – write every day until they’re done, and then take a break. NaNoWriMo is perfect for this.

So my advice: Get it on the page – it doesn’t matter how good or bad it is. You can fix it later.

Here’s some more great advice you might like to consider:

“Your first draft is your plan or outline. It’s much easier to take your ideas and characters out for a spin in the virtual world of an outline rather than manage hundreds of pages of a rough manuscript that may end up going nowhere.” Luke Mercieca

“Bad news is, it will suck because you’re not perfect. Good news is, you can make it better. Even better news is, that means you don’t have to worry about what you write. The first draft is for yourself and yourself only.” Era Metko

“The first draft of a manuscript lies in the midst of a great journey. What you do next will make all the difference.” Chantelle Griffin

“A large part of what goes into a first draft will not appear
in the finished work.” Giulio Zambon

“You will see things that need to change, how a different structure would enhance a scene or a chapter. Take notes, move on, and make those changes in revision.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“Chapters 1, 2 & 3 are about to become Chapters 2, 3, 1 & 4. Oh yeah and you need to tear out most of them and re-write, because they’re bad.” Charles Murray

“In the middle of the draft, if it gets hard or boring or you feel like it’s the worst thing anyone’s ever written, that’s completely normal. Keep on writing anyway.” Kyra Halland

“You might end up rewriting 90 per cent of it, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid of it.” L.K. Evans 

“Writing is like making a jigsaw puzzle without an image of the finished work, and the first draft is like working on the edges of the puzzle and on the parts you can easily recognise. Expecting to be able to write a first draft from the beginning to end is like attempting to solve a puzzle from top-left to bottom-right.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll discover so much more about your world, characters, plot than you had planned.  And that’s okay.  Don’t try to force it into a box, even if you do have an outline.” Vanessa Maclellan

“Don’t get distracted by little details that you think you should fix – keep the momentum going and save your edits for later.” Drew Briney

“You can get port in goon-bags.” JW Arlock

“First Drafts are first drafts. It may only be a very small step on a very long journey especially if your intension is to write a series and its the first book. The first draft may be an experiment to see if the plot works or even an expedition to discover both the plot and the characters, and after a analysing it you might find yourself transplanting these elements into a decent story structure…” Mark Mercieca

“Don’t waste time trying to polish up a first draft.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll get bogged down somewhere around the middle. Don’t give up. Push through, and finish it.” Keith Keffer

And there you have it. I think the general consensus is ‘just write it and worry about making it great later’.

What’s your advice?

If you liked this post, check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Author PromotionPoint Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story DevelopmentWorldbuilding and Writing.

Things I wish I knew about worldbuilding when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about worldbuilding when I started writing.Here we are for another collaborative blog post, this time on worldbuilding!

Worldbuilding’s a personal weakness of mine – I tend to write stories first and then go back and enrich the world. That, of course, changes the story and the characters and everything else, requiring further rewrites.

My own lesson is: “If you love a world you’ve created then reuse it; setting subsequent stories there will save you a lot of time.”

That is just one simple piece of advice I’d give to my younger self. There’s probably hundreds more I could impart. Here’s some more great tips from wiser and smarter people:

“Treat your real world locale like another character.” Penny Ruggaber

“You don’t need it to make sense. It just has to be internally consistent.” Hisui X

“Tools, philosophy, folklore, and spirituality. And don’t forget the little touches, like minor superstitions, and foods. Even if you don’t use them, they will inform the way you write and add richness.” Robyn McIntyre

“Make sure you create some kind of map to know where everything is. The last thing you want to do is send your characters north when the city is actually south.” Chris Mentzer

“1st check. Do YOU believe your world could exist, if you don’t, no one else will.” JW Arlock

“Don’t throw capitals at me every couple of pages.  You remember what they mean because you wrote the book.  I’m not likely to remember all those Circles of Pollyanna and Three Faces of Musili.Stanley Morris

“Always make sure your reader knows whether your story is centered in the northern or southern hemisphere. For instance, a reader in north America would get confused if your character heads south and the temperature got colder.” Roland Boykin

You don’t need to do as much thinking or research as you think you need to do before beginning.Mark Mercieca

“I’m a sucker for worlds in weird shapes. Flat worlds are awesome (I mean, who doesn’t like the ability to literally sail off the edge of the world?)” Joseph Stoll

“Just don’t forget that when worldbuilding, whether it’s in this world or another, every subculture has its own favoured art, music and symbols, as well as ideology. Hone those, as well as the history of the place.” Zena Shapter

“Don’t set the “World Map” in stone too early on–let it solidify around your story. I drew mine out and named every mountain range, forest and town years before the story had fully come together, and my uncle surprised me with an artist’s elegant, framed illustration of it. It’s been sitting in my closet for years, and would require a monster glob of white out to be updated.” Charles Murray

“Don’t forget that food, clothing, shelter, and all the other goodies come from resources, both local and imported. Knowing those plants, animals, minerals, water, etc., can go a long way to showing your characters living in the world instead of living on it.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“World building is by far one of the most magical moments that take form before putting pen to paper; an ever-evolving beast that grows with every step. Without it the story would be a shadow, but add too much and the damage can be catastrophic. The intertwining link between the two plays out like a lover’s embrace, and when done well creates a world of delight.” Chantelle Griffin

“To bring the world alive, it’s not just the social and geopolitical aspects you need, its economics and how alien topographies might affect the story.” Mark Mercieca

“Creative boundaries set by your world can be great creative starting points.” Rik Lagarto

“A world needs to have it’s own myths, religion, heroes, villains… these kind of stories should come out naturally in the narrative and it can make your book stand firmly in a reader’s mind.” Vanessa MacLellan

Check out some of the other posts in the Things I Wish I Knew About series: Author PromotionPoint Of View Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, and Writing.

Things I wish I knew about story development when I started writing

Text: Things I wish I knew about story development when I started writingSo here we are for another round of writerly advice from the friendly writers of Google Plus. This time I’ve asked people for their best advice on story development.

My own personal favourite: “Figure out the worst thing that could happen next, and do that.” It works particularly well with humour where one white lie quickly becomes a disaster zone, but it works almost anywhere else too.

You’ve got to watch it as the worst thing that can happen isn’t necessarily the best thing for the story, but if you use it sensibly to generate story twists and turns, it’s magic.

Enough from me.  On with the fantastic advice from some other writers!

“Don’t worry if it fits right now; it can always be fixed later.”  Glendon Perkins

“Know what your characters want, why they want it, who or what is getting in their way and why, how far they will go to achieve their goals, and the consequences if they fail.” Kyra Halland

“Most of the time it’s the characters who seem to make the story, since, chances are, readers will already have seen your plot somewhere else, and will keep on for interesting or amusing characters and worlds.” Quinn Miczo

“If you plan your novels (plotter), concentrate on the story milestone scenes. Except for these, inevitably everything will change so don’t go into too much detail with the supporting scenes or don’t even bother planning them at all.” Mark Mercieca

“For me, the best stories are character driven and you can’t have a successful main character without a strong cast of supporting characters.” Roland Boykin

“Sometimes it’s better not to think.” Quinn Miczo

“You always need more backstory/world building than you think you will.” Ann Smyth

“Build a story bible.” Charles Barouch

“Writing is the easy part. Revision–now that’s the tough part. Suddenly you question every scene, every paragraph, every word! Everything you love could wind up on the chopping block. And it takes way longer than writing it ever did.” Traci Loudin

“The tendency to avoid conflict in life is very strong. You need to be vigilant for signs of that in your writing. Don’t necessarily shower your reader with one disaster after another (that too can be off putting) but give the characters and therefore yourself, as the author, story obstacles so challenging that you have no way out of in your head, then wait for a way to appear.” Luke Mercieca

So there you have it, fantastic advice on story development from some wonderful writers on Google Plus. What’s your best advice?

If you liked this, check out last week’s post: Things I wish I knew about writing when I started out.

The Top 10 (Hidden) Elements of Novels

It took me a long time to figure out there was more to writing a novel than creating a hero with a problem, and playing it out over the loose scaffolding of a beginning, middle, and end.

1. Conflict and Threat

Internal, external and interpersonal conflict is essential to your story, and each has an entirely different impact on how events play out. While conflict is not the same as a story’s threat, it’s often tied into it in some way. Threat is the potential. Conflict is immediate. You need to work them out and incorporate them.

2. Emotion

The emotional needs, desires and problems for your characters, which if done well (and combined with the story’s threat and conflicts), will generate empathy among your readers and lead to an unputdownable page-turner. Character is story, and for a story to work your characters need to care (desperately) about something.

3. Theme

A novel needs a deeper meaning, and that meaning is a concept neatly wrapped up in a slippery little word called ‘theme’. Theme isn’t something along the lines of love or sacrifice or hope – at best those are expressions of a theme. No. Theme is a statement – with your story acting as the stage to debate it.

4. Beginning

Beginnings, middles and ends seem so simple – but each part needs to achieve something very specific. Believe it or not, the beginning of your novel isn’t actually the beginning of your story – it’s the introduction to your characters and their world. The story starts when the beginning’s over, because that’s when the protagonist leaves their comfortable world – by choice or otherwise.

5. Middle A

The middle makes up half your novel and is divided into two parts. The first part (Middle A) lets your protagonist discover what they’re really in for. It’s the fun part of your story, culminating in the realisation that there’s no easy option – and certainly no turning back.

6. Middle B

The third quarter (Middle B) is where things get serious and everything they’ve been striving for falls apart. This is where you raise the stakes to the point where all is lost, climaxing with some sort of false victory or defeat that sets the scene for the final battle.

7. Ending

To conclude your novel, your hero(s) regroup, form a plan and take the actions that eventually see them reach a satisfying resolution (or, at least, it better be satisfying if you want people to recommend it to their friends). It helps to tie up loose ends and if necessary, set the scene for sequels.

8. Sequences

If you’ve never heard about sequences, look them up. They’re mini-stories within the bigger story, often spanning several chapters – like how a character becomes a werewolf, or how a couple meet. There needs to be an equal number of sequences too, the total divisible by four and divided into the beginning, middle A, middle B, and end.

9. The Premise

Whatever else you do, make sure you meet the promise of your story’s premise. If you promise a story about a girl trying to survive assassins, everything that happens must contribute to setting up, sustaining and resolving that promise.

10. Cause & Effect

Even when you think you have everything right, writing a Cause and Effect can pick up problems. Every cause must generate an effect, and every effect has to lead to a new cause. Look hard at your story and if necessary rework it to create an unbroken chain of effects from beginning to end.

To see how most of these structural elements fit together, take a look at my Novel Structure Diagram. Other elements can be found in The Craft.

If you liked this post, you might also like two additional elements I forgot to mention, Hooks and Buttons.

New Year’s Resolutions

2013 has struck, but oddly enough I haven’t planned what I want to achieve this year. I’ve got a few things in motion already, so I thought I’d better write it down and build on it.

So, here’s my resolutions:

  1. Keep putting my epic fantasy out there until it finds a home with an agent/publisher.
  2. Finish editing my mermaid novel and start sending it out.
  3. Write the first draft of my blind swordswoman novel.
  4. Give at least two writers workshops.
  5. Attend at least two conventions.
  6. Firmly establish the Fantasy Writers community on Google+.
  7. Write and find a home for at least one short story.
  8. Write at least three guest posts on other blogs.

I could go add to that (considerably), but I think it comes down to what you’ll be happy with, rather than pie-in-the-sky stuff that’s largely unachieveable. With luck I’ll exceed it, but the plan is just to get it done at this stage.

Outlining a novel? What’s a pantser to do?

I’m a pantser – I like to start with an idea, concept, character, situation, whatever, and see where it leads.

Writing a novel for me is an exploration. Plotters do the opposite – they discover everything they can before they write, or at least enough to be happy to write.

Quite often I won’t have a clue what a story’s about or where its going until I’ve written it, which is fine in its way, but really makes it hard to edit without an ingrained knowledge of story structure.

The best solution I’ve found is that with a bit of pre-thinking, I can generate the key points I’d like to hit while writing, so my story comes out with all the right elements in the right place.

I won’t necessarily stick to whatever ‘pre-writing points’ I generate, but if I know them in advance I can change them as needed.

So, if you’re a pantser, study up on story structure. Even if you don’t sit down and prepare before writing something, it helps to know what your story’s going to need.

Check out my Story Structure Diagram for the basics.

Leife Shallcross – On Getting and Giving Good Crit

Q. What was the most & least valuable pieces of advice you took away from your critique?

Leife Shallcross at the beach
Leife Shallcross

One of the most useful things from the crit session was the feedback that reflected my own doubts about where the weaknesses in the story lay.This was (extremely usefully) coupled with some great suggestions about where I could take it to address some of these weaknesses.I especially valued the comments that picked up on things about my characters that I could extend and use to make the story more compelling.

It’s given me a much needed dose of motivation to work through those things and some really useful direction about how I might go about that.

As my story is essentially a novel-length rendition of a well-known fairy tale, some of the feedback I received was that I need to make the very well-trodden path of its plot take a few more interesting and surprising twists and turns to keep it fresh.

However, some of the (er, more light-hearted!) suggestions were for fairly major deviations that wouldn’t really sit well with where I wanted to take the tale. They gave me laugh though!

One thing I did find interesting (and I’m not really sure if it’s actually a problem) is that while I envision my main readership for this type of story would be female, the crit group that month was all male (except me!).

So if there’s any girlies out there who feel like reading a 107K version of Beauty and the Beast…

Q. You’re on the tail end of this year’s crit group. What have you learned from giving critiques that has helped you on the receiving end?

Hmm… It was good knowing what sorts of things the others picked up on. That gave me a bit of a sense of what I could expect.

I’ve usually given a couple of pages of notes, then sent back an electronic copy of the manuscript with more detailed comments throughout.

A couple of people have done this for me, too, and it been very valuable. But now I still have to wade through it all!

The pages of notes have been great, though. They have given me a real sense of what direction to take for giving it the next coat of polish.

Q. What changes, if any, do you plan to make to your novel following the feedback you received?

That’s a really interesting question. I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

It’s all about the characters, really.

There were a couple of points on which the feedback was fairly consistent, and those points were probably the things I’d earmarked as potentially needing work.

Then there were some really interesting comments that really struck a chord for me – you know, that moment, when you think ‘Oh, yes!’.

Those were about increasing the role one of the characters plays, and about roughening up a couple of the other characters.

My protagonist, especially, is going to get a bit darker, I think.

It’s the changes that I will make coming out of those suggestions that I think will carry the other stuff with it, the ho hum sort of stuff I knew needed to tweak, but didn’t know how.

Q. Having both given and received novel critiques, what do you wish you’d known when the group started compared with what you know now?

Ha. That’s easy. Don’t drink your glass of red wine too quickly when it’s your turn. It makes it harder to focus!

Seriously, I think the main thing is – this being the first time I’ve participated in a novel crit group – that I feel much more confident in my ability to critically assess a story (including my own).

So, it’s not so much a wish I’d known, more like a ah, I’m glad I know that now.

Q. What advice would you give to anyone considering joining a similar group?

Do it. It’s an invaluable experience.

Why? Because:

  1. (obviously) You get to road test your novel & find out where it needs more work. You get to find out where the plot holes are, which characters were unconvincing, which characters rocked, where you’ve clunked the info dump, where your masterful description swept your readers away and where your amateurish use of parentheses ejected them firmly from the flow of the story. Basically, why fork out for a manuscript appraisal when you can get this kind of in-depth critiquing for the very reasonable price of a return crit?
  2. You get to find out where you are as a writer. What your strengths & weaknesses are, what stuff you need to work on, what your comfort zones are and where you need to challenge yourself to step out of them.
  3. As per my answer to Q 4, you also get to hone your story critiquing skills, which you can then apply to your own work.
  4. This last one is maybe not something people think about when considering joining a critiquing circle, but involvement in a community of writers is a big part of what makes this an invaluable experience. The guys in our crit group know stuff about stuff I’ve never even thought about. And it’s difficult to describe the great feeling you get when you finish a truly awesome manuscript and you imagine being able to see it in a bookshop somewhere and think ‘I knew that when it was just and RTF doc. I helped that get there.’ *Goosebumps*.

Regarding points 3 & 4 above – as you can see, you don’t even have to have a manuscript for others to critique to benefit from joining a crit circle. We’ve got a couple of members who are there just to give us ‘bonus crits’, presumably for similar reasons.

Q: What are your future plans both for the novel you submitted and other novels ‘in the works’?

Publication followed by the accumulation of enormous wealth, obviously.

Seriously, publication is absolutely the goal. Or, more accurately, having a manuscript that is so good that someone wants to publish it.

The idea of creating a story that someone else can lose themselves in makes me feel euphoric.

On the other hand, I’m fairly risk averse, and the idea of having something out there with my name on it that is substandard makes me want to crawl under the bedclothes and hide.

As I said, I’ve had some great feedback on the story I submitted to the group that is generating some good ideas (I can tell because they feel right), so my first goal is to work all that into a second draft.

I’ve got a couple of other novels (um, four) on the go in various stages of completion, so my second goal is to finish the first draft of the next one and submit that to next year’s crit group!

I have vague fantasies about trying to complete a new first draft each year, but that might require giving up work and renouncing my family, so maybe not. Maybe every two years.

Winds of Change Cover Image.
Winds of Change Cover Image.

Leife lives in Canberra with her husband and two children. She fits in her writing around looking after the kids, and almost full-time job in the public service, baking yummy treats and playing the fiddle (badly). She’s also struggling against a recent addiction to Pintrest. She’s been making up stories ever since she can remember. She is fascinated by fairy tales and folk tales and frequently steals weaves elements of these into her writing. Her first published story, ‘The tether of time’, appeared in Winds of Change in 2011. She has painted her house turquoise.

Follow Leife on Twiter @leioss or Follow Me on Pinterest

Read more interviews.

Make your story both intellectually and emotionally stimulating!

There are two sides of a story, but they’ll usually fall toward one side or another, some more strongly than others. On one side are stories with a stronger intellectual pull, and on the other, stories with a stronger an emotional pull.

Different genres generally lean toward one of these categories, but the best stories, no matter their genre, do both.

Take Hard Science Fiction for example. Hard SF is likely to feature complex science and ‘big ideas’, and would therefore be more likely to draw readers looking for a high concept, original story.

Murder Mystery readers would fall into the same category, but for different reasons; there’s a mystery to be solved and that’s what works for them. Its the intellectual pull that draws them in.

On the other side of the fence are the readers looking for emotional content. The obvious example is the Romance novel.

Romance readers already know how the story’s going to end, yet romances sell better than anything else.

Why? Its the emotional rollercoaster.  Fantasy readers would also sit here – it’s a hero they want, and it’s a hero they get. Usually.

For readers looking for emotional content, how it happens is more important than what happens. You can almost be certain the ‘dark lord’ is going to lose in the end or the romance will work out.

So how do you make this work for you?

Do both. Throw in a high concept and blend it with emotional content.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some examples:

Harry Potter – Orphan Boy must defeat Dark Lord – standard fantasy tropes. Throw in a mystery or three, exceptionally clever plotting, and then make the boy the object of almost everyone’s ire – whalah! Bestselling series.

How about Dune? Hard SF revolving around the ecology of the planet Dune and the byproduct of giant sand worms which more or less grant supernatural powers. Throw in a couple of romances and a hero that must rise up and defeat an empire – whalah! One of the biggest-selling SF novels of all time.

Titanic (the James Cameron movie). A ship hits an iceberg and sinks. Its inevitable – history. A documentary would just show the facts – a tragedy. However, throw in a romance between two starcrossed lovers, book-end it with a search for treasure and show it from a survivor’s POV, and Shakespere couldn’t do much better.

How about The Hunger Games? Twenty-four kids from a distopian society get thrown into an arena to fight to the death – as high-concept as it gets. However, give them something to fight for – something even bigger than their lives – and suddenly you’ve got a story everyone wants to read. It’s about them, but it’s bigger. Its a love story. Its a story about defying the unjust authorities.

The Girl Who Played With Fire. It could easily be seen as a standard mystery, but it’s not. There’s something of a romance between the two protagonists, but that’s just part of it. They also have their own stories – one is unfairly put in goal while the other gets physically and emotionally abused -and suddenly you’ve got a story thats bigger than all the parts put together.

So how do you use this to your advantage?

Simple. Borrow from both sides of the equation. Make your story both emotionally and intellectually stimulating.

Read more on the craft of writing.

What’s the worst thing that could happen next?

Ever hit the wall and have no idea what to write next? Maybe you’ve just reached that point where nothing exciting is happening and you’re losing interest. And of course, if you’re losing interest, forget about your readers.

You might call it writers block. You might call it all kinds of blue-coloured words. You might simply take a break in the hope that inspiration strikes.

Worst scenario: you might give up.

Don’t! If you give up, you could be losing a fantastic story.

Instead, try this exercise:

“What’s the worst thing that could happen at this point in the story?”

Write it. Now. I’ll wait.

Very possibly, I’ve led you astray a little. The worst thing that could happen is all your characters catch a rare form of the flu and die, or an asteroid strikes the planet and they all die, or the sun explodes and they all die… you get the drift.

Okay then, lets peg it back a bit.

Your character tells a white lie – he’s had a fight with his wife, so she’s left him alone to deal with the business of running their ice-skating rink (or maybe something as simple as organising a dinner with friends). He’s too embarrassed to admit it, so he tells everyone she’s sick – caught a chill, and is resting up in bed.

What’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone’s got some medical qualifications and insists on helping.

Of course he could admit to the lie, but…

He tries to cover his lie and convinces someone to ‘play sick’ (maybe an employee, perhaps a neighbour), which not only deepens the lie, but draws someone else into it – and now you can see the snowball effect. “Oh no, it’s VERY contagious…”

And the worst thing that could happen at that point is…?

Okay, lets get back on track. We’re not actually building a story.

However, that sort of thing works particularly well with comedy, but also translates quite well into most genres.

Genre, you say.

Yes

Imagine you’re writing an action story – two tough cops go into a den of drug lords to rescue a kidnapping victim.

It’s time sensitive, and they make the call to go in early. What’s the worst thing that can happen – maybe one gets wounded and has to be dragged out – and the mission fails.

And of course, there are consequences.

Because they went in early and without backup, the kidnapping victim gets killed – and they get the blame. Suddenly they’re off the force, leaving them with the only option available – prove they did the right thing. Yet one of them is in hospital recovering…

You see where I’m going?

More than likely you’ll want to discard the first option (or four) that comes to you, but if you ever get stuck, if things slow down, or you simply can’t figure a way out of the mess you’ve created, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that can happen next?”

How I wrote a novel in 60 days!

One of the most common questions/problems I come across, and one that I find is a problem for myself too, is how to find enough time for writing.

Back in my student days I had all the time I needed to write, but rarely took advantage of it.

Fast forward a few (cough cough) years and there’s far too many demands on my life to allow me the luxury of writing when I want to – job, family, social life, house/yard work etc.

So how did I manage to write the complete draft of a novel in under two months (November/December) – about 90,000 words, with so much else going on in my life?

Well, here’s how it happened.

  1. I did Nanowrimo (and decided to do it to write a new novel, just just to finish).
  2. I kept the pace up afterward and finished what I started.
  3. I told my wife I was doing Nanowrimo, and asked for a little slack.
  4. I got up half an hour early and wrote before work.
  5. I wrote after work whenever I could.
  6. I wrote on weekends when the opportunity presented itself.
  7. I aimed for an average of 1667 words a day, but wrote more if I could in order to make up for the times I couldn’t.
  8. I still did everything else I normally would.

Essentially, I stopped wasting time and used whatever spare time I had for writing.

  • I got up when the alarm when off instead of lazing in bed.
  • If I wanted to watch a show on TV, I recorded it and watched it when I’d got ahead (as a small reward) or when I was too wiped out to write.
  • If I had to do housework or yardwork, I tried to get through it faster.
  • If I had to run the kids to sports training, I took the laptop or a notepad.
  • I did simple things like turning the computer on when I got home so that when I had a spare ten minutes I could write a couple of hundred words.

And the funny thing is, the more I did it, the easier it got.

I started thinking about the story all the time – planning ahead in spare moments so that when I sat back down again I was ready (and keen) to write the next scene or chapter.

I didn’t go back to ‘fix’ things. Just soldiered on, making notes of things I wanted to change later.

As often as not I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write next – but when the time came, I wrote anyway. Apparently, Muses are overrated.

It was a little tough at the beginning – there was a certain amount of discipline I had to develop. Inspriation only took me so far.

After that I relied on discipline, and from there it all changed.

Find out more about novel structure.

When planning goes to… something starting with S.

I prefer writing to planning. I just want to get on with it. Sometimes, even stating what goes in the Beginning, Middle and End is too much effort.

However, to write something more complex than a single POV story I’ve got to plan out the storylines and how they fit together, otherwise I’ll stick with one or maybe two.

For the Welcome To Earth novel I’m in the middle of, I’ve got five Points Of View, and I developed them all pretty thoroughly.

The problem is, once I start writing a story, it almost always takes an entirely fresh turn from anything I’d planned. Sometimes lots of turns.

That can be good. I love finding out what happens as I write it.

But that doesn’t work with multiple storylines that need to interconnect.

Problem is, I never planned this story as a novel. I planned it as a pilot television script, and that’s how I originally wrote it.

And that’s why it all fell apart – it wasn’t suited to becoming a novel, but I thought it would be. I didn’t do any more planning to flesh it out.

And so there it was – forty-five pages of outline in script form, ready to be drawn from, and it wasn’t filled with enough detail.

The big divergence happened when I added an entirely new beginning, changing it from sets of two sequences to three (ie, three for the Beginning, Middle A, Middle B, and the End).

That means I now have to find and develop three entirely new sequences spread out over the entire novel – about 30-40,000 words.

Obviously, I got ‘writers block’. Or, in this case, ‘what the heck do I do with this mess now?’.

The only way I can see to fix it is to shift the main plot to a sub-plot and bring forward the story I’d intended for the sequel, and overlap them. Two storylines, one story. There simply isn’t enough happening in the original script to fill an entire novel.

If only I’d seen that before I began and reworked the outline/script.

The question now is, will it work? Is it even what I really want to do?

I guess I’ll find out.

If you liked this post, you might like my post on creating a writing/editing plan for your novel.

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