The Actual Process of Novel-Writing (told with 10th Doctor gifs)

A lot goes into writing a novel.  Different authors do it different ways, and there’s no “right” method of bringing a book to life.  Today, I thought I’d just lay out the process that I go through to write and edit a novel, from first dream until finished product.  Also, I just finished re-watching seasons 1 through 4 of Doctor Who, so… here’s some David Tennant gifs for your eyeballs to enjoy.

1. The Dream

My novels usually begin with an idea.  I’ll be minding my own business doing something, and BANG!  Out of nowhere, a story idea shows up and is just like, “hello.  I’m your new novel.”

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My novels seem to start with characters.  Usually a character or two and a scene or two.  It’s a mad bunch of brainstorming and dreaming and going, “this is gonna be AMAZING.

 

2. The First Draft

Usually, there’s a bit of time between the FIRST IDEA and the First Draft.  I gather my strength.  I stockpile caffeine and twizzlers.  (Sometimes, I wait for November and a good old NaNoWriMo.)  Then I buckle down and write, pretty fast and messy and furious and rambly and incredibly fun.  It’s like, ALLONS-Y, THIS IS IT!  ROUGH DRAFT TIME!

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3. The Second Draft (Aka The Re-Writes)

After another break in time, I’ll buckle down and start on the Second Draft.  I being by reading through the entirety of my messy manuscript, making notes and trying to work out a plot.  Usually, I realize that I need to re-do about a third of the book.  I generally end up writing about five brand new chapters.  So I write new scenes and edit old ones, stitching together the narratives, brainstorming and trying to figure out how the plot points all fit together.

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4. The First Round of Edits

After another little break, I read over the entire novel, focusing on the Big Stuff.  Plot points, character arcs, and overall flow.  I change stuff around if I need to, and fix obvious issues.  Do I focus on sentence structure or passive voice or adverbs yet?  Nope.

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That all comes later.  The First Round of Edits is for BIG fixes only.

 

5. The Second Round of Edits

This edit is for the Smaller Stuff.  Usually I like to print out my manuscript at this point, as it’s a lot easier to see my flaws on paper than on the screen.  This is where I focus on using strong verbs, making sure my dialogue is tight, touching up the setting, and examining things on the paragraph and sentence level.

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6.  Getting Critiques/ Reviews/ Beta Readers

At some point, it’s time to get my work critiqued.  For my first novel, I actually got my first critiques a lot earlier (which I highly recommend for your first novel).  But now that I’m an “experienced writer,” this is when I start to let people read my work and get feedback on it.  So I SEND IT OUT!  BETA READERS!  CRITIQUE CIRCLE!  WRITER’S CLUB!  MY MOTHER!  MY BOOKISH FRIENDS!  RANDOMS STRANGERS ON THE STREET!  Everyone who will read it.  I get feedback.  Ask questions.  Take the helpful suggestions and leave the rest.

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7. Repeat Steps 5 & 6 Indefinitely, Until I Either Hate My Novel or I Get it Published.  Also, Move on and Write New Novels!

I keep editing and getting feedback until I’m ready for submitting to an agent.

10 Oh I'm ready

(And then realize I wasn’t actually ready, and work on it some more, and finally decide to move onto new writing projects instead.)  Also, the process of publishing is something entirely separate from the process of writing and editing a novel, so I’ll save that one for another blog post.

// I’d love to hear if your writing process resembles mine at all!  Also, who’s your favorite Doctor?  What do you think of the 13th being a female?  How’s your writing going?  Leave a comment and let me know!  Also feel free to check out the Guest Book and introduce yourself and leave a link back to your own blog. //

 

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NaNoWriMo Thoughts

 

20160921_164639_29805381896_oIt’s almost October.  While all normal people are starting to plan their Halloween costumes, we writers are starting to plan our novels for November.

Or, if you’re me, you’ve just jumped into an editing frenzy.

(I seem to remember doing this last year as well.  Good job, Beth.)

With the leaves starting to fall, I think it’s time to have a discussion about NaNoWriMo that’s been a long time coming.

Last November, I won NaNoWriMo.  It was my first time truly participating, and it was 30 days of late nights and strong coffee and writing with strangers who became friends.

It started out with me loving the fact that I was finally getting this new idea out of my head and onto paper.  But then it turned into me abandoning all concept of “plot” in favor of meeting a wordcount goal each day.

The end result was a very quickly-written, but not very cohesive novel.

It took me only 30 days to write 50,000 words.

My previous novel had taken me 2 years to write 100,00 words.  (The novel’s about 80,000 words, but the first quarter had to be re-written mostly from scratch.)

So, NaNo’s great, right?!  You basically speed through the rough-draft process!  Yay!

Well, yes.  And no.

‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’   -JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

NaNo is great because it gets you writing every day.  It connects you with other writers online and in your local area.  It makes writing fun again in a new and exciting way.  And at the end of the month, you will (hopefully) have 50,000 words of a manuscript done.

But here’s where NaNo fell short for me:  At the end of November, I walked away from my NaNo novel.

I was terrified to even touch it because I knew it was an utter train wreck.

I am just now brave enough (or curious enough) to have read through that novel and see if it’s worth salvaging.  I’m happy to report that it is, and that I’ve started the editing process.

But I think that for some of us, NaNoWriMo is too intense.  We burn so bright that we burn ourselves out.  We write something so fast that we lose sight of what we wanted it to be in the first place.

So while I am planning on signing up for NaNo2016, but I’m not going to beat myself up to meet a daily word-count goal.  I’m going to try to follow a plot of some sort while writing.  And I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity.  My tentative plan is to do a “half-nano,” where I write 25,000 words in the month.  They’ll be 25,000 words that follow and actual plot and make sense.

imag0539_27457904034_oSo, back to editing.  I’m finally working on last November’s novel.  For me, the first step in editing is reading through my novel and mapping out the plot points on index cards.  This first picture is the plot of The Sound of Color, and it was done on my closet at home.  The second one is for my 2015 NaNo novel, and it’s done on a wall of my dorm.

I love having the visual of what’s happening in the plot, and being able to see how one thing leads to the next.  I can also move the cards around or put up other cards with notes on them like “ADD A SCENE HERE” or “Come back and fix this!”

It allows me to focus on fixing the Big Issues with my plot before touching the Little Issues of chapters and words.

 

 

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Wherever you are, whatever your feelings are for NaNo, whether you’re editing or writing or working on query letters, or re-writing chapter 1 of your novel for the 18th time, just don’t quit.  You’re an amazing human being and the world needs to hear what you have to say.

And I hope to see you all this November.

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That Evil and Illustrious First Chapter

It’s no secret that I want to begin querying soon.  But there’s just one more thing (well, five more things, but mainly one) that I need to work on.

That evil, infamous, obscure being; that illustrious yet arcane thing called Chapter One. The thing that hangs elusively dangled above the Unpublished Author’s head like freedom above a teenager.

Bad analogy.

My apologies.

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But the fact remains that a lot of us find Chapter 1 hard to write.  Or rather, hard to get right.  Chapter 1 of The Sound of Color has had probably 12 or so revisions and two complete re-writes.  And I’m still not 100% sure this is the version I’ll end up using.

I think it’s because there’s so much resting on Chapter 1.  It’s the handshake, the first interaction.  It’s where you either catch the reader in your net or you let him swim away.  (I’m full of strange analogies today.)  Almost like a delicate recipe where there needs to be just the right ratio of action to backstory, dialogue to narrative, characters to scenery, etc etc.  And if you add just a tiny bit too much of one thing, it will catch on fire in the oven and burn your whole house – er, story – to the ground.

I’m not here to tell you how to write chapter one.

(Although here are some good links if you’re too lazy to Google this info:)

http://annerallen.com/2013/06/10-things-your-opening-chapter-should.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1y_E6sTYfA

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/29/25-things-to-know-about-writing-the-first-chapter/

Right, I’m not here to tell you how to write chapter 1.  I’m here for comradery.  I’m here to let you know that I too struggle with perfecting chapter one.  And that’s okay.

That’s why I love blogs about writing.  I love to see other people struggling with the same things I am.  One blogger I follow, John Berkowitz (fabulous author and quality blogger) said this recently about first chapters:

Writing the first chapter of a novel is hard. But it is hard over a long period of time; you will work on your first chapter longer than you will work on any other part of your novel. And you will be working on it until the moment it goes to press.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  And then he goes on to talk about how hard Chapter 1 of Book 2 is, and let me tell you, folks – I’m glad I’m only on Book 1.

It Seems My Antagonist Isn’t Good Enough

Sorry for a bit of a hiatus on the blog posts.  It’s still winter break for some, and for those of us on the East Coast, there’s been a lot of snow and a lot of snow days.  My time has been spent shoveling, reading, and shoveling some more.

But something of great magnitude happened this past week besides the unnatural amount of snow:

One of my great Beta Readers for The Sound of Color finally got back with me.  Overall, she gave me very high praise (which felt amazing).  But maybe even better, she gave me some really good insight into what the story lacked.

And what needed the most work?

My antagonist(s).  Both my Main Antag and my Sidekick Antag are characters that we THINK are good but turn out to be evil.  (*cue the menacing laughter*)

But this Beta Reader suggested that I needed to work on them a little more.  You see, I’d never really stopped to think about why my antag(s) wanted what they did.  Sure, power always looks good.  But why?  Why them?  Why would they do what they do?  And just as important, how did they get people to follow them?

In other words, my antagonists read as plot devices instead of characters.  They were an evil force instead of a warped individual.  The result was a fatal flaw in my story.

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In most of my favorite stories, the villain is someone with a distinct personality, a concrete set of goals, a thought-out plan, and – most importantly – strong motivation.

Part of the issue is that I never took the time to really get to know my antagonist.  I’d never given much thought to his motivation, his personality, his goals.  He pretty much showed up to cause some trouble and then disappeared again.  He wasn’t someone I know very well.

Voldemort, Loki, Darth Vader, Moriarty, the Joker, Saint Dane, President Snow – they are all people that I could describe to you better than I could describe my OWN antagonist.

So here’s to getting to know my Antag.  (I can’t say his name cause it’s a spoiler.)  To adding some scenes that show us his motivation.  To giving him more personality, more life.  To making him the hero of his own story.

If you struggle equally with writing a quality Bad Guy, let me know!  An antagonist always seems like an afterthought to me.  Or, if you’ve developed some tricks and tips to making your antag fabulous, I’d love to hear that too.

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Line Edits

Well, folks, I’ve really enjoyed my week off of writing/editing.  I did a project for my Graphic Design class, worked on a college application, and watched some Harry Potter movies.

But yesterday, it was time.  With NaNoWriMo looming just two weeks away, I decided I’d better hunker down and get to work.  Therefore, Chapter 1 has now been line-edited.  It’s a really awesome feeling just being able to mark up a piece of paper.  I like it.  A lot.

The photographic proof:

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So far, I’ve noticed a few things:

  1. I’m making a lot more notes/ corrections than I was expecting to.
  2. I actually really like this story
  3. Sometimes I just didn’t convey things well.  Having a definitive knowledge of where the story is going really helps me sort out characters and plot points and such.
  4. It’s actually really fun to edit.
  5. I’m gonna have to work really, really hard to get it done and corrected by November 1st.

But hey, NaNoWriMo is all about crazy deadlines, so why not get some practice with ’em?

That’s all for now, folks.  I’ve gotta run – teen writer’s club at my library tonight!

Happy Writing!

Two Months

With the beginning of September, a lot is happening.

School just started (I’M A SENIOR!  WOOT WOOT!)

I’m working on getting my driver’s license.

I’m even having a Lord of the Rings marathon this Saturday with a bunch of friends.

But on September 1st, I realized something else:

November is two months away.

(I can hear the groans of all the experienced writers – oh no, not NOVEMBER.  She can’t be talking about NaNoWriMo already!)

Well, yes and no.

I’m talking about my goal for the next two months.

My goal for the next two months is to get my current WIP – The Sound of Color – off to Beta Readers.  Which means I need to finish this second draft, do a read-through to catch any remaining plot holes, and do another read-through for paragraph/sentence/grammar editing stuff.

Two moths.

And then it will be finished, and my Beta readers can have at it in November.  While they do that, I’ll be busy writing.

Because this year, I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  And I’m gonna win.  (Or die trying.  Or both.)

I already have the next story in my head that I want to write (the one I mentioned here) and I’m soooooo excited to make it into novel form.  It’s weird to be more excited about writing my second novel than I was about my first.  But, I guess the first was so much fun, let’s do it again, right?  (Or rather, the first was so much hard, let’s do it again!  ‘Cause I’m a masochist!)

But I can’t even express my excitement.  To be FINISHED with TSOC (though I love it dearly) and to be WRITING my NEW STORY!  OH GOSH I’M CANT NO NOT WAIT EEK LIKE NOVEMBER COME ON HURRY UP JUST KIDDING DONT CAUSE I NEED TWO MONTHS TO FINNISH MY CURRENT NOVEL BUT STILL HURRY.

*deep breath*

What are y’all doing in the next two months?

Forgetting the Setting

I’ve discovered a great oxymoron of my life: I’m a visual learner, but I hate description.

When I’m in class, I always wish the teacher would shut up and draw a picture.  When I’m reading, I always wish the author would shut up about the picture and tell the story.

I remember things through pictures, but I use my words to make them.

I received a crit today that suggesting I offer more setting — a request I’ve gotten often.  And my reply was “yes, I’m working on it.”  But the truth of the matter is, when I read, I skim the setting.  I don’t care what the heck the forest looks like, just what the trees are saying.  Forget the smell of the cooking bacon, give me characters fighting over it!

And that’s how I write.  Characters interacting, talking, laughing, fighting, swordfighting, doing magic, occasionally observing a tree or some grass.  But that’s it.  I love dialogue.  I write excellent dialogue!  (I’ve been told so from multiple different sources.)  But setting?  Hah, what’s that?

I’m stuck in the oxymoron box, knocking on the walls, trying to figure out how to get out, into the Land of Setting with all its sights and smells and sounds.

How to get out?  I guess the first step is to train myself to stop skimming.  Read the darn descriptions and figure out what I like and what I don’t.  And keep working til I get it right.

What do you skim when you read?  Is that what you skip when you write, too?the-setting-sun-1