1. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    first time novelist blues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NaughtyNick, Jul 28, 2011.

    Hi

    Last New Year’s Day I decided that I would start my first novel and that I would try and complete it by the end of the year. Seven months down the line I am 63K words into my first draft. I have become obsessed with my book. Sometimes I believe in it, sometimes I feel like giving up. I am frustrated, neurotic, with fragile self-confidence but am underpinned by a determination to see it through. As Magnus Magnusson would say, “I’ve started so I’ll finish.”

    Here is a summary of my current neuroses. Any words of advice or comfort would be much appreciated.

    1) My plot is too thin and predictable, and my ending is weak. Each scene lurches clumsily into the next.

    2) My lead character is lifeless and lacking dimension. I am concerned that the reader will not care what happens to him.

    3) I have several supporting characters with distinct personalities, problems and agendas but am not sure how to bring any of them to a resolution without making the overall story seem cluttered.

    4) I have not found my writing style. This is a big problem. My style seems to shift day-by-day, week by week depending on which author I am reading at the time and what mood I am in. If I feel lyrical and contemplative I turn into Ian McEwan’s talentless twin. When I feel wired I write like Nick Hornby on speed.

    5) My story is music based. I am passionate about music but I have never “lived” the music industry and am concerned that no matter how much research I do, my prose will seem at best uninformed, at worse farcically inaccurate.

    6) I have a demanding job, a wife and a young daughter. I only find the time to write at 9 at night when the house is quiet. As a result I rarely communicate with my wife anymore (some of you may see this as a positive).

    Well, they are all the negatives. The positive is that I am enjoying the process. It is cathartic. The pleasure of stimulating the creative part of my brain after years of dormancy is making the whole thing worthwhile.

    Are there any other first time novelists who can identify with any of this?
     
  2. Mr Grumpy
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    Mr Grumpy Member

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    The good news is I'm in exactly the same boat as you and you're roughly 50K words ahead of me - so congratulations for getting that far.

    I wouldn't worry too much about finding your style etc - hopefully that will start to emerge by the time you finish and will become clearer by your 2nd/3rd/4th draft/pollish. By your 2nd/3rd/4th book it will have evolved even more.

    Just keep cracking on and moving forward with it.
     
  3. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    Thanks mate

    I will finish it and make it as good as I can. If no-one likes it, so be it. I will weep quietly and withdraw from public life.
     
  4. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I'm writing my first novel as well and some days it feels like there's an impossible distance to cross and that I'll never get there, but there's nothing to do except keep going. A week ago I got kind of freaked on how bad my writing was so I spent the time reading and re-reading pieces written by authors with styles that I love, hoping that some of it would sink into my brain. There's lots of research to be done on all the topics in my story I know hardly anything about. Re-drafting the whole thing will be a nightmare. And I'm not even finished the first draft yet. Everything needs to be improved, the characters made more believable, the plot thickened without becoming convoluted, and the boring/useless scenes ripped out.

    Nothing to do but keep going... even walking the road is worthwhile, carry on, carry on... KBO. :)
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just another post to encourage you to keep going!

    I wouldn't worry too much about the 'quality' of your first draft. You'll go back over it and revise later, right? :)

    I sympathise with the 'time' element. I don't have kids, but I work long hours plus commute a fair distance. I often wonder where to find enough time (and energy!) to work on my music and writing. Not always easy.

    Perhaps you can keep a couple of nights free to spend with wife/family?
     
  6. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    NaughtyNick,

    Sure we aren't brothers or twins? I completely sympathize with you. I am only at about 16k words on my novel and I sometimes feel like giving up, but other times get so excited about it. I have a long commute, a job that drains my brain (software), a wife, a 1-year old kid, and a lot of stuff on my plate.

    Not to mention I often feel like my writing sucks, my main character isn't likeable enough, and my style keeps changing. I worry that the plot as it is might be too weak (Not enough twists), but I absolutely love what I've created and it would be a disservice to myself and everyone else to not write it! Even if it sometimes feels like I have no right to hole up and write, you know what? I have every right. And so do you. No matter what your life circumstances or how you feel about your book.

    I guarantee that when you finish your first draft, before revising, you will feel something amazing about yourself. You actually completed it! You have to make it better, but you reached a huge milestone. Don't let your worries and your life get in the way of this dream. It's a hard road, but most often hard roads lead to fantastic rewards, even if they are just personal rewards.

    Now, if only I could follow my own advice, I'd be set too :p
     
  7. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    You are doing fine. I started a new novel (my second) at about the same time as you and am at 77K, but I have more time than you do to work on it. Everything you are feeling is normal for someone who cares about doing a good job. Get through it and then fix everything in the rewrites.

    Take a look at my avatar. That book took me four-and-a-half years to get right, but there it is. Trust me, the first time someone comes up to you and says, "I didn't get anything done for two days because I couldn't put your book down" it will all be worth it.
     
  8. beaver777
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    beaver777 Member

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    Haruki Murakami spent four months on his first novel, writing one hour every night. I think anyone could do that. Once you have the first draft done, then it's time to flesh it out, edit it further, and re-edit, etc. :)
     
  9. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, completing something feels great.

    I know when I started in earnest on something novel-length, I told myself it was just an experiment, to see if I could do it. Less pressure.

    Since then I wrote lots of other things, but last year I returned to this project and started revising it. Almost done now. Sometimes it's a long process, but worth it. :)
     
  10. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    First off, it's kind of hard to comment because I have no idea what your book is about, but I can look at what you wrote and keep it to generalities, I suppose.

    I'm not sure what you mean be a predictable plot. All plots are predictable. In Stephen King's latest novel, The Dome, I mean, you know the townspeople are going to survive. Plot kind of runs on a continuum: the less predictable, the less probable; the more predictable the less interesting. As long as there's a main question that isn't answered until the end, you're plot's fine.

    As for the clumsy transitions, all rough drafts are made up of clumsy transitions. You can't fix those until you revise. You have to have a complete rough draft in front of you in order to know how to create the transitions.

    Unless this is your sixtieth novel of which is being ground out according to a very set formula. You know something with a title like: Z1a: is for Zebra Murders. Then you can probably create the transitions as you go.

    Be careful with that. 1. You are either right, and you need to work on it, or 2. you are wrong and you're going to bore the reader to death describing the minutia of your characters wardrobe. Most main characters are not very well described. Johnny in "The Dead Zone" sounds like Stephen King to me, and so does every other character in that novel. Don't focus too much on bringing your character to life. If you keep talking about him (which you have to do), then he will seem alive to your readers. Let the reader fill in the detail with their imaginations. They will anyway. Johnny is Stephen King, but when I read The Dead Zone, Johnny is me.

    Oh God, I'm reading a novel like that now. You really need to watch how much life you give to your supporting characters. The novel I'm currently reading has practically lost her main character for all the minor characters who keep taking the stage. I can't hardly tell what the story is about anymore, and I certainly can't keep track of all the names.

    You can't do anything about your writing style, so stop thinking about it altogether. Besides, you just described your writing style. However, and again this will have to wait for revision, you will need to control your pace throughout the story.

    Just keep it to generalizations. Most writers have never worked in the fields they write about. Don't try to teach the music industry, just keep it very general. People aren't reading your book to learn the music industry.

    You know enough just from movies you've watched. Why not buy a book from Amazon Music Industry for Dummies or something. Then you'll know more than you could ever hope to put in a fiction novel and still keep your readers awake.

    This will be your bane. There is no doubt about it. A demanding job is just that--demanding of your time and energy. Ultimately, it may mean you can't be the author you want to be. This is especially true in today's world where an author is usually working on a rough draft, editing a recently finished draft, self-publishing a third work, and promoting the current work that is already published via various on-line activities. That in itself is demanding.

    Everyone has to make a living, and the world really doesn't need another writer. In fact, becoming a novelist is often just a bum's fantasy--kind of like the fantasy of becoming a professional gambler or opening a bar. You should not let writing novels interfere with your family life or the work you do to support them.

    Because realize this: chances are your books won't make a lot of money. And not because they're "your" books, but because the market that used to exist is essentially broken. It used to be a gamble to even get published. Now everyone can be published, but there is a flood of dreck on Kindle. So, success now is defined by the Amanda Hocking paradigm (in my opinion). She was very prolific with very low talent, short, easy to read novels for teen girls. Then she self-published them and sold them for $0.99 a piece. She made a million dollars doing that and then got a 2 million dollar deal from a traditional big house publisher for a series of novels.

    Mind you, her flame already seems to be dwindling (because she basically no talent and is terribly unoriginal) but, she won the bum's lottery, didn't she?

    If you have a family to support and a marriage to maintain and a job to hold on to, then write your novel on legal pads during your lunch break. If it takes five years to complete, so what? At least by then, perhaps, someone will have figured out how to market a novel in the new world of Kindle.

    We all want to work from home. We all want to be significant to the world. We all want to create something of quality in our lifetime. Writing a novel is one possible way to achieve that. But keep things in perspective.

    Good luck.
     
  11. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    Just remember; you don't have to get it right the first time. All of those "neuroses" you describe are very common to new-ish writers. But most of them don't have to be problematic. Simply because the first time through should be mainly about story. Once you've got the story down, then you can go back over it with a fine toothed comb and make your character fuller and fix the plot so that it isn't so naff.

    Don't panic.

    And also, allow yourself some time off writing to talk to your wife. Maybe she can help you with stuff if it becomes too much of a burden.
     
  12. Soapage
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    Soapage New Member

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    I am in the same boat so I am taking some writing classes. From fiction to blogging. I will turn my novel into a short story because I want to take baby steps
     
  13. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    My daughter is one year old and I work in software too. How bizarre.

    I am feeling a bit more positive having read all these comments. I reckon I'll finish the first draft in the next couple of months and then it'll take perhaps another year to polish. Many of the scenes take place in real places, so I am going to spend a happy couple of days sauntering around London with a pen and paper for accuracy.

    One of the hardest parts to wrting is dialogue. It's funny how life is full of speaking nuances, wit, emotion and such, but it's hard to get that down on paper. Giving each character a distinct voice is easier said than done.

    I guess one thing I have learned from reading the comments of others is that it does not matter if the first draft is a bit shoddy. Like someone else said in this thread, we have all the time in the world to turn it into something worth reading.
     
  14. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    Thanks mate for taking the trouble to give such a lengthy response. I have been resisting the urge to join a forum but I am glad I have finally succumbed. Your advice is well received.
     
  15. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Your welcome, and welcome to the forum! :)
     
  16. sprirj
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    I think JK Rowling spent 7 years handwriting the first Harry Potter. I don't think time is an issue. I'm just starting my 2nd draft and spent about 2 years on this current project. All your other insecurities are perfectly normal for any self critical author, and a sign of a good craftsman. Quality control is a vital part of story telling, and having doubts should also bring hope. I hope it goes well. I also intend to write about the music industry at some point. I would recommend buying a few music DIY books, or guides to the record industry books to help. If you need a second opinion on anything I might be able to help, as I know the drummer of Welsh rock band Lost Prophets (his dad was the manager of 'The Wonderstuff', I know the dad of the Klaxons bloke who is dating Kiera Knightly, and I know a Roadie for now split 'nu rave' band ****Disco.
    Hope this helps?!?
     
  17. Jewels
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    As someone with a grand total of one romance novel under my belt I'm not very qualified to give you advice on this subject, but I've never let that stop me before.

    I believe the worst thing any writer can do is become obsessed with their work and start neglecting other areas of thier life. Focusing on your work too much will only make you more critical / neurotic / depressed, whereas if you continue to make time for other things, especially relationships, then the positive energy will flow into your work.

    It also helps to keep things in perspective, because at the end of the day, not matter how much joy writing might bring you, it's the people in your life who really matter and who provide the inspiration to write, for me anyway.
     
  18. mattyb
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    mattyb Member

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    Good to see Luke is doing well! We were never friends or anything but we are from the same town and same age, so I saw a fair few of his gigs before he hit the big time. Top drummer.
     
  19. mrsnazilli
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    mrsnazilli New Member

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    Well if it is any consolation to any of you I am about to embark on my journey. I have nothing but a title although I do know my main character inside out.

    You can only do what you can do and I think the best piece of advice I ever heard was to walk away from it for a week and then come back and see it with new eyes..

    Rosie..x:cool:
     
  20. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Dude-- I'm totally in the same boat as well. Demanding job. (Summer reading program with which I am grading junk over the summer month and a half!, Master's coursework to complete, and then once full-time teaching hits again, forget about it.) Also have a hubby and 2-year-old daughter. My daughter goes to bed at 8:30pm, and I'm lucky if my brain is even working at that hour.

    I have a complete 1st draft of a romantic suspense novel, but some of my scenes won't work at all, my characters are inconsistent in many ways, motivations and plot details don't make any sense whatsoever in places.

    Worst of all, I have NO idea how to revise it or even if it can be salvaged. I've put it on the shelf for now and decided to work on short story writing, perhaps take some short story/novel classes in order to get some things clear.

    I also have a research problem. I get these really great ideas, but sometimes it includes professions or settings that I do not know enough about or lack personal experience with. It means that sometimes the way that I picture something happen would NEVER happen realistically in real life, which ends up sometimes nixing my entire plot!!!

    So, no worries. You're not alone, even if it feels like you're the biggest loser of the universe. I think there's something masochistic about writing. I write, get a huge writing high, and then come crashing down. Then I scrape myself off the floor, write on the forum and get myself back on track again.
     
  21. Nalix
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    Nalix Member

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    Sounds like my experience with my novel. I don't mean to scare or discourage you, but if you enjoy writing, don't worry about the rest, keep it up!

    But include your family on it. I may not be married, but I definitely include my brother and father on my writing process. And my novel is in its eighth revision, so if you're anything like me, be prepared to re-write what you have a few times. I doubt anybody ever gets it all out the way they want it the first time through.

    Your complaints about characters especially resonate with me. My characters on my first draft were practically a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Most of my subsequent drafts re-wrote the personalities of the characters at least as much as they re-wrote the story itself. And make the characters sympathetic to you, don't worry about what other people think. Then focus on making sure that they really are characters you sympathize with. Look for other characters you sympathize with in other stories for inspiration.

    Two big suggestions:
    1) Don't worry too much about it and keep writing. Practice and perspiration are the lifeblood of writing. Inspiration too, but that belongs in the second point. Read some good books and learn from the writing that you like.

    2) Write what you know. If you don't know about the music industry, learn about it, or find some way to twist what you do know into the story. Music is one of my primary inspirations for my writing, so we have some common ground there. Let the music you love build scenes in your head. When your writing falls short of your imagination (and it will, believe me) start asking yourself questions and compare what you imagined to what you wrote. When you're stuck, go relax or do something else for a while. Return to the initial source of your inspiration and look at it from a new angle. That always seemed to help me.
     
  22. NaughtyNick
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    Thanks

    Some of my scenes take place at real UK music venues, which I have attended as a paying fan but of which I have no backstage knowledge. I will have to use my imagination.

    I am trying to do as much reading of rock star autobiographies to learn about what bands get up to, particularly on gig night, but its difficult. I hope my story does not end up lacking realism due to gaps in my knowledge.

    Ideally, a chat with someone who has been in a moderately successful band is what I need.
     

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