1. cblumenstock
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    cblumenstock New Member

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    Beginning tips?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cblumenstock, May 26, 2011.

    Im working on my first novel. I've finished brainstorming, I've researched as much as I can at this point, and I've completely outlined my novel. Now I'm stuck. I've written a chapter, but after reading it, it just doesn't feel right. I'd love some tips on how to begin a novel.
     
  2. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    Keep writing. After you have more of the story on paper, you will be able to envision the beginning to that story much more easily.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Start with action, dialogue or something foreboding that sets up the major conflict. Avoid starting with a chapter of the character waking up and starting their mundane day (There are always exceptions, like Harry Potter, but the Dursleys were satirical and quirky and HP's predicament with them made for its own conflict itself. But I think you know what I mean.)

    Can you briefly (in 5 sentences or less) explain what your plot's about and what the main conflict is? Maybe then I can help suggest a more specific beginning scene.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    What doesn't feel right? Does the writing seem cliched? Does it seem immature? By that I mean, is there too little left to the reader to work out for himself? That's a common mistake among beginning writers, often born of a sense of wanting the reader to see things exactly as the writer sees them. Too much dialogue that doesn't really advance the plot? Too much backstory? Overly simplistic characters? Poor grammar? Painful spelling?

    I ask all of this because in order to be able to correct your writing, you need to be able to see the flaws in it. You need to be able to recognize good writing when you see it, and then correct poor writing when it doesn't measure up. The best way to do that is not, I'm afraid, coming on to a writing forum and asking how to start a novel.

    There are lots of folks here (including me) who love to offer advice on the how-to of writing. But the truth is that if you have to ask how to start a novel, you're probably not yet ready to write one. OTOH, if you can answer (for yourself) some of the questions I posed at the beginning of my post, then you are in a position to objectively critique your own work.

    Hope this helps.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    One thing you may want to do as a start is to take a look at the novels section of the writing workshops on this forum.
     
  6. Mr Grumpy
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    Mr Grumpy Member

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    I was in exactly the same situation. My way around it was to not be bothered by my initial scribblings - did they measure up or not.

    Now 6 weeks in I'm no longer bothered about the quality of my writing. I'm now well aware that I shouldn't expect a brilliantly told story or prose for my first draft. Not even my second draft. Maybe not even my third. The only thing important at this stage is to get the story down on paper.

    I'm starting to learn to not rewrite things I've written the day before, just keep on writing.

    The headers and footers on my word docs have the following copy in big red letters:

    DON'T REWRITE OR RE-EDIT. JUST GET IT DOWN.

    I've started to write in longhand then once a scene is completed I'll type it up almost word for word - crap writing and all. Once all my scenes are complete I'll then re-edit and compose them into the chapters I've set out. Once I've done that I'll then re-edit them all in place - My first draft.

    After that I'll go back and re-edit again.

    First thing to do though is gto get it down on paper. Your writing will have changed by the time you come to the end and then you'll start back at the begining.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it doesn't "feel right", it sounds like you have the wrong tone, the wrong voice. This sometimes happens to me. I go back and rewrite using a different voice. I don't know what tone you're aiming for, but if you're writing in third person, it may help to imagine yourself (your third-person narrator, I mean) as a kind of character him/herself. What kind of person is narrating the story? Is this a New York cop talking about the murder case he worked on last month? Is this an English grandmother telling a bedside story to a child? Is it a crusty sea captain talking about how he survived a shipwreck when he was a young man? All of these people will use different diction levels, different imagery, different vocabularies, and all of that will change the tone of the narrative. So narrating, in a way, is like acting - you, the writer, adopt the voice of someone else, the narrator, and write the story as though they were telling it.

    Find the right character to be the narrator (I don't mean a character in the story, I mean a voice for your narrator), and you get the right tone for the story. When you have the right tone, your story will "feel right".
     
  8. TyUnglebower
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    TyUnglebower New Member

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    Your first mistake was to pay too much attention to your first chapter of your first draft. It can't feel right yet. And the more you read it, the less right it will feel. Don't fall into the trap of editing what you have already. The beauty of the first draft is that you can write chapter two into a world that is totally at odds with what you set up in chapter one. Same with chapter 3 and so on. It doesn't have to be consistent yet.

    Don't ever read any more than a paragraph of what you have worked on during the rough draft stage. Get out the first chapter, and don't read it again until you are done with the entire draft. I finished my first draft after 18 months of writing back in April. Other than the momentary glimpse of the first sentence I would get when I opened the file each day, I have read nothing of the first chapter, or even the first page, since I put it down. And I won't do so until I start first revisions.

    You could go back and try to rework chapter one so it "works". Or you can acknowledge it doesn't work and make a better attempt in chapter two. The different between these two tactics is that at the end of the day with the latter strategy you have two chapters completed. With the former approach, you have just part of one chapter.

    Just keep cranking out the chapters, and it will even out.
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Read a lot of published works, both in and outside of the genre you want to publish in, and ask a lot of questions. Treat the things you read like puzzles, your job being to try to figure out how it all fits into place.

    Then, also trust that your early efforts are probably going to be terrible and only get significantly better after years of study, practice and countless revisions.

    Imagine if an apprentice plumber, first day on the job, was asked to do the pipes for a kitchen sink. Think it would be perfect? Probably not. Think the foreman would just tell the apprentice a few quick, obvious rules, like 'don't let it leak' and 'make sure pipes fit' thinking that can replace practice and experience? Nah. Think the foreman would tell him to just keep trying, botching jobs until the apprentice finally got it right, costing everyone involved time and money? No, not likely. Most likely the apprentice would be told to observe and learn and given small tasked, told to ask questions about what the other plumbers were doing, told to practice stuff on the side or under supervision and guidance, not to just keep banging away on pipes hoping it all works out or the apprentice happens to learn the right things.

    Now, the tricky thing is that writers are on their own, and have to be their own supervisors, but that doesn't make the writer is anything but an apprentice who should perhaps not be starting a big project, thinking they'll just figure it out on the job, but instead observing and learning and asking questions and building skills and testing those skills on side projects, etc.

    The good news is we, as writers, have virtually an endless supply material that allows us to do these things, and often cheap or for free. Reading. It's how writers learn. The best part is if you learn enough, you can then see exactly what's wrong with your own manuscripts, so don't need to ask vague questions requesting general advice, and can at least know which questions to ask when looking for help.
     
  10. Ed1972
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    Ed1972 New Member

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    Enjoy!

    You have to enjoy doing it!
    (with "enjoy", also, involving hard work)
     
  11. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    Write write write. There's nothing else to do at this point. Don't like it? Keep writing. When you're done writing your first draft, you start the real process. Rewrite rewrite rewrite. Fix it and tweak it until you like the polished version. Then reread it and search for any more problems to fix. When you finish with that, submit. Then, when it comes back with a rejection letter, take the advice offered and start the editing process over again. Eventually, you'll get it published. Just don't lose your way or determination.
     

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