1. HoraceCombs
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    HoraceCombs Member

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    The Most Misunderstood Element of Writing Novels?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by HoraceCombs, Sep 20, 2014.

    Writing a novel takes ability, passion and technique, it is not only a job to compleet a novel. According to your guyes what is the most Misunderstood Element while writing a novel?
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The importance of regularly applying butt to chair and fingers to keyboard. It's all nice and well to get angsty about one's idea or character development, but the only thing that matters is actually writing it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2014
  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The role of an editor is widely misunderstood.
     
  5. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    Jazzabelle and Daemon both summed it up well.

    Another misunderstood element, especially for new writers starting out in the process, is how brutal a real, healthy, objective dose of criticism can be. Characters, scenes, plot line, spelling, grammar, all of that can rattle out of foundation after a few honest blows from reviewers who know what their doing.
    All of that could be necessary, though, especially in the beginning. As time goes on and as a writer learns more, a writer can feel more confident about what works and what doesn't, and should have less for an editor to review.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    After being a forum member for a while and seeing the same concerns raised over and over ...I'd say the most misunderstood aspect of writing a novel is the need to finish it ...and finish it BY YOURSELF.

    So many people get stalled during the first chapter or two and spend a lot of time re-writing every sentence to perfection ...then going over it again, and re-writing every sentence to perfection. And then throwing it out for other forum members to help them re-write every sentence to perfection, and get us to help them make decisions about what their characters should do next, and whether or not they have good names, and whether or not a three-book series in a particular genre will be saleable, and are their villains bad enough or believable enough, yadda yadda yadda....

    And they never get much beyond that stage.

    It all boils down to having a product or not having a product. If you're writing a novel, you don't have a product until your first draft is finished.

    There is a difference between finished and polished. Polishing is certainly necessary, but it's not the first or even the second thing you do. Furniture makers don't sand, polish, stain, wipe, stain, oil and polish each leg of a table before they make the next one. They cut them all, assemble them, then start polishing off the rough edges of the entire table and applying the varnish. I do believe that's the way to write a novel as well. Finish what you start.

    Finishing forces you to look at the forest, rather than just the trees. Many of the structural and character-related problems you have at the beginning will iron themselves out as you progress. Your own focus will sharpen. You will get to know what you're doing, the more you actually do. Just hopping up and down at the starting gate never wins a race, does it? Get in there and run it.

    I know, I'm starting to sound like Ben Franklin with all the homilies. But I mean it. Just finish what you start.
     
  7. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    Since I haven't written a novel yet. I don't know.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This, eternally this. I was going to say this myself, but @jannert puts it too well here. If I was to say something other than this, then I would also say 'subtext'. It is what separates your stuff from other, brainless fiction. But finish it, just finish it.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Misunderstood isn't the exact word that applies, but one thing I see writers get wrong is not recognizing when critics are right. I see this more in my critique group than here because we don't always see the reactions to the critiques in the workshop. One needn't agree with everything in the critique, but some people are so in love with their work they can't see the flaws being pointed out.
     
  10. Jakv6
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    Jakv6 Member

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    Definitely agree with you there, Jannert. I would add that spending a few extra days on your plan will save you a few weeks on the manuscript. I was stuck for ages before I went back to the plan, really worked out all the kinks and went back to the ms. After that, I knew e-x-a-c-t-l-y what was going on, every step of the way; motivation, dialogue, even the weather. That really helped me to finish. Polishing came after ;)
     
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    That it's easy. It's not.
    Plus, here's a weird one - that the story idea is more important than how you tell the story. I'm on several sites and I see time and again that a lot of writers seem to be counting on their idea to excuse their flaws. They're in a hurry to get through a scene not really constructing one and it's like a domino effect that knocks down everything. Because of that disregard for sentence variety or taking a chance or word play, all the writing in the piece suffers. The characters come out cliche, the sentences stiff, the story no matter if it's a love affair between a werewolf-zombie and a pixie-angel becomes trite and boring ( and often times reminiscent of whatever the author has just read or watched. )

    The telling of the story is the thing that really matters. Originality is not what goes on in a story ( granted it's all the reader will remember ) but the magic is all in the arranging of the sentences; the details you give and withhold to shape your characters. The way you construct a scene. The subtly of a characters' gesture. That's where the originality emerges. Readers won't notice this but it's like a great movie soundtrack moving the audience to feel what they're watching.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2014
  12. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I agree with Jannert. Good analogy, comparing writing to crafting furniture. It is best to have a finished product then concentrate on polishing it up for publication. First, I write a detailed outline so I have a good idea of where I'm taking my characters. Then, I try to write the first draft as quickly as possible, so I have something I can actually work with. Then I take my time with revisions.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Persistance and discipline.
     
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  14. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    the most misunderstood part that there is actually writing involved. it is not just sitting at starbucks with your laptop yapping to anyone within earshot that you are writing a novel.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Similar to what others have mentioned - when the technical (POV, tenses, methods) become more important than telling the damn story. Technical skills are important - but too many new writers get so entangled with how to write that they never get around to actually doing it.
     
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  16. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Yep, @jannert 's comment all the way.

    First timers really do underestimate what's involved, and even when you finally get a novel published and you think it's over, there's still more work to be done on it, changes an editor wants, a copy-editor wants, and then looking at the proofing and so on, until by the end, you're pretty much sick to death of it.

    And then, after a while you can appreciate it, only for you to pick holes in it because you've become a better writer and your first book is flawed now in your eyes.
    But the last book you write is always flawed ;)

    I'm joking though - a bit - I love the process of writing books, even the drafting stages through to the final polishing. So I'd also add that some may actually enjoy this part of writing even though so many appear to avoid it like going to the dentist.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, it's actually really really fun to do this. It takes something you've written from ...okay, I got to the end, but it needs a lot of work ...it's worthwhile, but ...well, it's okay, but ...well, it's pretty good now (big smile) ...to ...well, nothing is ever perfect, but now other people can get excited about reading and enjoying your story. In some ways, transforming your rough piece into its final stages is just as rewarding and just as creative as what it took to bring it to life in the first place. Don't dread making changes, or listening to (and maybe acting on) feedback. It's all part of the process.
     
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  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That there's only one way to write a novel.

    Often you get asked: "Oh Stephen King says you should be writing 2000 words a day. I'm only writing 500. Crap, am I doing something wrong?"

    Or, "People say you should write everyday. I don't cus I have a day job and two kids. Crap, am I doing something wrong?"

    Do I have to plan first? I intend on studying the craft of writing for 20 years before I write a single word. Now if you're a doctor, I would be glad you're approaching it thus. But it's a novel - you seriously won't kill anyone if you mess something up.

    To be honest, the motto of "write everyday" is really more of a, "Develop some discipline, and writing everyday and thus making it routine is a good way to build up said discipline." That's all it is. It doesn't honestly mean you must write everyday.

    Oh another common misunderstanding: that writing guidelines and advice are actually Golden Laws of the Bible of Writing and must be adhered it without fail, or you're a bad writer. How dare you break the golden rules! You told something here instead of showed (even if telling is the best way there). You used an ADVERB! The dreaded adverb! And oh dear, you used "he whispered" rather than "he said". Tut tut tut.

    As for common misunderstandings amongst non-writers, here are a few:

    1. You can fix all your story problems by simply writing less! Make the story shorter!

    2. You're not finished with your novel because you're too much of a perfectionist. Granted this can be true, but it is not always the case.

    3. It's been several years. You haven't finished your novel yet. Clearly it means you're either lazy or incapable. How hard can it be?

    It actually annoys me that just about anyone thinks they can write a novel. I'm always like, do you even enjoy writing? Do you have any idea how hard it is?

    I always say, unless you actually love writing, there's no way you'd ever have a finished draft, let alone an actual novel. It's too much work for next to no return. There's always the hope that someone will read it and like it, but that's never certain. It might get shelved and never see the light of day. With self-pubbing now, it's less likely that it'll truly never see any light, but still. For basically no profit and people won't even read it when it's frigging out there FOR FREE (say, when your friends request the book and you send it to them free of charge. 3 months later: Oh I'm so sorry, I'll get round to it, I promise!) - yeah, it'd be the world's biggest waste of time ever if you didn't honestly love it. Cus that's the only certain reward you're ever going to get. Improvement of your skill and with it, and with the joy of story-telling and playing with words, self-satisfaction.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Great outlook, @Mckk! I couldn't agree more. Writing for the joy of it is the only real reward you can count on. But it's so joyful it's well worth it, even if nothing else ever happens to what you write. I know the act of writing my novel is really the most fun I've ever had—and it even trumps the great pleasure I got from constructive feedback and knowing that a few other people also enjoyed my story. I even remember punching the air a few times, when I solved a problem or had a eureka moment about where the story should go.

    Crafting a novel is involving, challenging, and really is fun. Because of the size of the project, the pleasure of writing a novel is ongoing and long-term. You stay immersed in it for ages—unlike writing a short story or poem, which requires expertise and involvement, but over a much shorter period. I felt very alive during the process.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2014
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  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say these two sum it up.
     
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  21. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    the most misunderstood way to write a novel in my opinion, is that you only need to do one draft. a lot of non writers i talk to don't even know that writers actually have to edit their work... unfortunately, that's when my sarcasm lets rip quite a bit...
     
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  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Most misunderstood element of novel writing? That it's easy!

    Anyone that's never written a book, or has even thought about writing a book (or writing anything) will often say, when you mention you're writing a book, that they too "have a book in me but I don't have time to jot it all down right now ..."

    Because that's what they think we do. They think we sit down at a laptop and type the words to perfection there and then. You can see them itching to say "go on then, write something ..." like you would expect them to ask a magician to "make something disappear ..."

    They know nothing of the blood, sweat and tears, sleepless nights, agonising plot decisions, hours of research, toil over their/there/they're and through/threw/thru and two/to/too ... going and gone, doing and done ... countless revisions and bringing yourself back from the brink of giving up when that last little bit is not going as planned ... and then barring your work, your soul wide open to the people of the reading world ...

    But then, they also know nothing of the elation and excitement you feel when all your hard work comes to fruition and you hold your book in your hand.

    No, it's not easy. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do, but it's definitely, absolutely, positively not easy!
     
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  23. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or the opposite - that you have to do tons of drafts. Basically boils down to thinking there's One Way to Write - if they don't do it the way Author A does it, they're failures.
     
  24. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    ...Like they think they submit it somewhere and they make it readable?

    +1 for everyone who said just finish the damned first draft THEN worry about all the details that separate a story from a good story.

    Anecdote:

    I just partook in a 48 hour writing contest.
    Until the start of the 48 hours, I had no idea about length, theme, or anything of the sort so 0 chance to prepare (Unless I wildly guessed correctly)
    So, between real life responsibilities and work and sleep, that's less time then it sounds.
    48-8(sleep)x2= 32
    32-8(+1 travel time)= 23
    So I had 23 hours, give or take a few hours here and there for RL and stuff, to think of something, write it, edit it, and try to make it as interesting as possible.
    Then submit it and have it judged.

    So, just write your story as best as you can.
    Then worry about editing.
    It's a luxury but don't let that luxury make you complacent.
     
  25. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    yeah, thats annoying to try and explain.

    with things like this i wish there was a "Novel Writing for Dummies" kinda thing that goes through the basics of everything, including different writing styles, editing, finding the way of writing more suited to the writer etc....
     

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