1. MacEviL
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    MacEviL Member

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    Struggling with my first novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MacEviL, Mar 19, 2008.

    I've tried to write a novel many times before and I've always ended up scrapping it. This go, I've managed to complete an entire outline and it has helped because I've gotten further than I've ever gotten before. The problem is, looking back I can see that I'm just jumping from event to event with no real descriptive depth in the story. I want to write the kind of novel that I admire, one that describes the environment to the point that you can imagine every detail. My story is lacking those details and more importantly, the emotions. So now I'm there again. Thinking about scrapping this novel and knowing that I'll never finish one if I keep doing this.
    A friend of mine wants to look over what I have so far and help with editing. (he is fully capable). But I'm too ashamed to show it to him.
    .... Any advice? Or if you'd had a similar struggle, how did you deal with it and move past it?
     
  2. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    I'd say just show it to him anyway. It's not like he'll laugh at you.

    And try to describe what you see, and then use that as a jumping off point for describing things in writing. I like to do that while I'm watching TV, "The detective slammed his fist on the table, an inch away from the suspects hand. The man couldn't help but jump back. 'Where's the girl?' the detective shouted, loud enough to rattle the two way glass.'

    something like that. Of course, its hard to actually do that throughout an entire scene, and it's even harder to keep it up throughout a plot. People watching works too, but I've always found the activity to be a little hinky. Trying to keep a running description (transcription?) of something that's happening is a good mental exercise though.

    But then again, I'm at that same junction and have yet to get through it. I've started writing the same story twice, but thought the pacing was to fast, the characters too shallow, and it just went bam bam bam from event to event. Sometimes an event would last half a page and yet it was going to be important. It's like I just want to get the events out and I could go back and fix them later. To fix that I'm going to try and have a target number of pages for certain things. A character is introduced it wont just be this is X, they're tall and have brown hair. something important happens it'll be more than just a sentence or two.

    Hope that helps, they always say those who can't do teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym.
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    This is a hard problem I still have trouble with. WHat I find is easy to do though is to write the story point A to point B style and then when its done you can go back and find places that can be used to expand on characters and descriptiojns or places where a new chapter or scene can be inserted to do it for you.
     
  4. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    I've got the same problem. It also depends on the story, too. I found that writing dialogue for a scene between two more more characters and then going back to expand on that dialogue helps. I guess, it makes me focus more on who my characters are.

    Listening to real life conversations are good also to get into the swing of it.

    I think I got that from a writer's conference in santa barbara. Can't be too sure.
     
  5. -NM-
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    Well if you've got the outline of the story that's a start.

    Now you say that you are just skipping from event to event and leaving out descriptions. That's not too much of a problem, as the first draft's main purpose is just to tell the story, to get from the start to the end. When you've done that you can go back and edit it many time, adding more descriptions here and there, changing bits, adding bits, etc...

    So don't worry too much about the fleshing out of it yet, you can always do that later. ;-)
     
  6. MacEviL
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    MacEviL Member

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    Ok guess what. I sent my friend the outline and he RIPPED IT APART. He wrote me back this crazy long email telling me he didn't like the name of the main character, he didn't like that it was good against evil - not realistic enough he says, there are more shades of gray. He didn't like anything about my plot at all. Said it didn't make since for a laird to kill off other peoples crops to gain their land - if he was so powerful he would just kill the people and take the land. And why does the main character have special powers? Does she have metachlorians or something? I hadn't explained that part to him, because it was only an outline. But he found SO much wrong with everything I can't possibly send him any more. He didn't find a single thing he liked in my whole outline. Mind you, this isn't my writing, it's just an outline.
    I made a big mistake.
    Now I really don't know what I'm going to do.
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Well quiting is not an option. Remember the only true failure is to stop trying!

    Also its just your friends opinion. All opinions are worthless (Unless they come from the Rich, the Famous, Me, or the Pope and even then, they're not worth much). Also it is just an outline. The exact point doesn't always get across in an outline so who knows what your friend may have lost in transition. It may make perfect sense to you because you have the full picture but the outline may not provide said picture to one who reads over it. You should try writing a bit and see how it goes.

    BTW: It never hurts to write some short stories before starting the Novel. A short story is a good way to build concepts and skills needed for the novel.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    some of your friend's comments may be valid, such as the taking over land bit... and all of them may have some merit, so don't dismiss them just because they stung... take a good look at what you sent him, with those comments in front of you and see if perhaps he's nailed some problems you hadn't seen on your own... we often get so wrapped up in our own work, it takes a fresh set of eyes to see what needs fixing...

    that said, this is a perfect example of why i counsel new writers to never show their work to anyone they're related to, sleeping with, or consider a good friend... they'll either lie and say it's great to ok, not to hurt your feelings, or tell you what they really think, hurting the relationship...

    so, don't take his comments personally, thank him for being honest, and see if some/all of what he said does need to be dealt with...

    if you want a totally neutral opinion, you can send it to me and i'll let you know if the guy was honest and on target, or honestly mistaken... but for heaven's sake, don't give up!

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  9. MacEviL
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    MacEviL Member

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    Ok. I've thought about everything you guys have said to me. And I went back and reread that email. My friend does have some good points about some things, but most of the things there he is making assumptions based on the outline. He's saying "This needs to be this way because you don't have x." But really I do have x, it just wasn't in the outline. And I wasn't ready for a 3 page long critique over a very rough outline. It's not my friends fault. He was truly trying to help me, and he has in some respects. I am going to be a lot more careful to answer any questions in the book and make sure that it is logical enough (even in a fantasy world) that the reader can believe it.
    I know I'm not going to abandon my story, even if it isn't interesting to other people because I've been daydreaming this story since 2002 and it hasn't gone away. I really appreciate everything you have said and I will listen to others carefully and consider all input.
    Thanks again!
     
  10. -NM-
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    Good luck. :)

    And if you're looking for an impartial review, feel free to PM me. Although i am quite harsh sometimes, but it's all for the greater good :p
     
  11. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    x_X Maybe I was wrong...

    Don't give up though. It is also a good idea to write a short story first. One thing I've seen somewhere as a writing practice assignment was to rewrite a faerie tale. Doing exercises is helpful. Stephen King writes ten pages of material a day (then again, he's also crazy). Practice makes perfect. Or good enough.
     
  12. Shreyass
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    Shreyass Senior Member

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    Okay, I've just got my first novella in place, approximately 30000 words, World War II themed. Just consolidating it, but don't want to put it up and stuff, any ideas on how to get reviews here?
     
  13. Hulk
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    Hulk Banned

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    Just post a chapter or two here and PM the reviewers. Or you could also e-mail mammamaia.
     
  14. Shreyass
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    Shreyass Senior Member

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    Thanks.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    coulda sworn i'd answered this yesterday... must be a brainglitch...

    first, there's virtually no market for novellas in the us, though there may be in the uk...

    if you want some neutral feedback, you can send me a brief synopsis and the first couple of pages...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  16. Endeavour
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    Endeavour Senior Member

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    Writing short stories should actually be your first step. Not only does it help you develop your writing style but it keeps it short, reducing the level of frustration incurred when things go wrong. Writing novels takes a lot of commitment and you can only achieve it when you've got the right tools. Jumping to write novels straight away and failing time and time again does more harm than good. It can definitely discourage you for good. Start with a short piece. Go over as many times as possible, improve it until it's virtually free of any mistakes - let it be grammar, punctuation or even spelling - and make a good note on your writing style. Is it appealing? Boring? Put this piece aside and write another - note how this helps you to develop ideas - with the same principle as the others before. Now focus on writing short pieces that are slightly longer than the previous ones you've written in the past. The longer the pieces, the more dialogue and scene descriptions the stories are bound to have, hence slowly forcing you to improve on skills that address various aspects of a novel.
     

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