1. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    What should be your first novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tonguetied, Aug 1, 2015.

    After reading many posts responding to members working on their first novel and struggling with it, it seems that very often the experienced members say their first work was terrible and it will never see the light of day. This however bothers me since generally it seems that many members are inspired by some concept that leads them to try their hand at writing, and if they follow that same path their inspirational concept will likely never come to fruition. My question is should you not really work on your inspirational concept first since generally you will learn so much more about how to write as you attempt to write and edit your early works, in an effort to save your inspirational story for when you feel more qualified? Writing short stories is not the same as writing a novel for many aspects so I am referring to actual first/early novels to hone your skills before reaching for your dream.
     
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  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I guess the first story should be the story you're excited about. I mean, you could be writing anywhere from 40K to 100K words, so it should at least be fun and enjoyable.

    Now whether that novel can actually be published is a different subject, but in my mind, whatever you feel has potential and that you enjoy should be your first novel.
     
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  3. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the advice. I will take it that it doesn't have to be your mental masterpiece or what you think would be the cornerstone of your writing "career", but something that inspires you enough to be something you would hope becomes worthy to see the light of day.
     
  4. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    No. When I feel inspired I write. Sure maybe in a couple years when I go over my first published novel I will think "it could have been better" but so does everybody else. Hell even Steven King has said he has done this. Your story will never be "as good as it can be" so why try and wait for it. If you go through that line of thought then you will never publish your 'first inspiration for a book'.
     
  5. Quixote's Biographer
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    Quixote's Biographer Member

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    And there's nothing stopping you from scrapping that first inspirational story and rewriting it later. I currently have half a first draft lying around that I've just started rewriting. I like the idea of the story, but the writing is pretty bad and I've learned a lot since I first wrote it. Now I'm rewriting the same idea, using the 1st draft as an outline, and hopefully it'll turn into something a lot better :)

    The same could be said about a short story. Writing short stories at first could be a good idea (although I know the view on this is divided on the forum and I'm not looking to start a discussion here :)). You actually get to finish something and then work on it until it's good (or at least better); you can learn a lot from doing the 2nd, 3rd, 4th draft and so on, getting feedback, figuring out what works and what doesn't, and it's also a good feeling having finished something, rather than the feeling of working forever on the same first draft. But there's nothing that stops you from taking that short story idea later and turn it into a novel either. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to find the right format for a great idea.

    Basically, like others have said already, write what you're inspired to write (although don't just write when you feel inspired. Sometimes inspiration come because you write, not the other way around) because you can always improve or rewrite it later :)
     
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  6. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I published my first story and it sold reasonably well. It's still selling today.
     
  7. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first idea for a story was okay but now I'm not excited about it. I started writing it, got about 50 pages in, then realized I didn't know how to write a novel. By that I mean the logistics: how do you keep up with character histories, plot points etc? I was confusing myself. Then I discovered all the software and organizational tricks people use. By then I decided I didn't like the story, then I delved into short stories and workshopping on this website. Only recently I've rekindled a different WIP I had, which may never see the light of day. I'm okay with that.
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Well for me the reason my first novel was garbage ( good idea - awful execution ) was I was about 14, my grammar was lousy, I didn't understand how to do a second draft ( without altering the scene drastically - sometimes when you're a newbie you think a scene is stilted because it's boring not because the sentences are stumpy. ) I sort of understood sentence variety but not enough. And the subject was a little over my head - Police procedures.
    But here's what really kept my novel unpublishable - I never showed my work to anyone. No beta readers. No critiques. Nobody to point out the plot holes or tell me my characters were dry. Nobody with experience to show my how to make my work better.
    There was no internet and I was too shy to approach any English teacher.
    Someone on here has a better chance of publishing their first novel than I ever did.

    I think you should always work on what you want to work on. No use wasting your time on practice pieces that you have no interest in or aren't passionate about. I have a novel, I'm very passionate about. Came up with the idea in 1998. Wrote a first draft a few years later and a second draft and a third and a fourth. My last draft was probably a little after 2006? I couldn't do the subject justice so I decided to put it aside. But I don't feel like I wasted my time. Nothing learned is a waste of time. And I learned four ways not to write it. Lol.

    But even though I love this story idea it's not the be-all end-all of my story ideas. I've had wonderful story ideas since then and wrote some stuff I'm really proud of. I think the main trouble with new writers is they get hung up on one thing. One great idea. They need to loosen up their expectations.
     
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  9. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Becoming a good writer and writing a story are two separate, but symbiotic, goals. Becoming a good writer helps you write a good story, and writing stories helps give you a basis for learning to become a good writer.

    Unfortunately, it seems a number of forum members here express a sole interest in the second goal, writing his/her dream story. Personally, I think this is a losing method (maybe not always, but usually.)

    By becoming a good writer, you build the stamina to finish the stories you want to write, and more importantly, you make your stories readable. Writing in and of itself is its own reward, but that's another story.

    Becoming a good writer isn't just writing a story. It's reading, dissecting, critiquing, living, learning, and perhaps most importantly, writing many stories, both short stories and novels.

    As for your specific question, once you're ready to start working on novels, I'd say write something that inspires you, but is also something you feel comfortable with right now, something close to the heart, and most importantly, something that doesn't depend on masterful prose.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I can't picture it, you have a great idea for a novel and you're excited about it, so you set out to write something else for practice?

    Makes no sense to me.
     
  11. LolCasanova
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    LolCasanova New Member

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    I'll admit I frequently mull over this, as I'm approaching that terrifying milestone of actually finishing my first novel (editing and all). I'll reread it and think...is it good enough? Is it something people will want to read? Do I want to read it? Will anyone enjoy it? Is there a point?!? And then I'll think to myself, surely I can do better, surely the next one will be bordering on brilliant and I'll know straight away...

    But I don't honestly believe that. I believe writing is a skill which develops through time and practice and I could spend the next forty years of my life knocking out stories, declaring them 'not the one' and trying again and again...And I tell myself frequently, we all have to start somewhere. Daemon mentioned Stephen King and I read that too, that he doesn't think much of Carrie, but it got him started, right? It was the first step.
     
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  12. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    I was so excited for my first novel, to this day i'm in love with the concept. But I didn't like certain aspects of the story, and there is a lot I want to change. I plan on going back to it when my writing ability is better. Looking back I've come a long way. Its a valuable learning experience though, because at least for me it showed that to get something i love to the point of excellence where I want it to be, i still need a lot of improvement. It was humbling, and a needed lesson.
     
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  13. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    To that I first say read 9! post (mathematically that is 1*2*3*4*5*6*7*8*9 which is what I always see with that forum name), as usual I seem to understand his/her responses best. I have several ideas that I think would make great stories, one is my particular long time favorite. I don't think I have the patience to write out a whole novel, edit it several times and then say I will put it aside and work on it again in a few years, as Peachalulu has done. Writing is a learned skill and someone like Bryan Romer publishing his first novel is the rare exception I believe, but it is worth noting.

    This is a poor analogy, but I like working with wood, however I am not very good at it. I see a beautiful chunk of wood and think what it could be, but if I go straight at it and try to build something with it, it will not turn out well. So first I practice with a less beautiful chunk of wood and make the same object, learn what the issues are and that gives me a bit more knowledge of how to properly use the beautiful wood. If you are not a wood worker you are probably unaware of the issues with how simply cutting a block of wood into parts has to be planned out to get the grain pattern to work with the final object, etc. I see the complexity of writing a novel as having similar aspects, many different issues have to mesh for a story to work well, short stories don't have nearly as many dimensions, IMO, so they only give you a glimpse of the complexity of a novel.

    Thanks to all for your responses, it seems the general consensus is to simply go for it and write what drove you to this madness to begin with; if you're not pleased there is always another idea in your head. It does make sense, but for me I keep seeing this "beautiful block of wood" in my story concept and want to approach it better. I realize that in writing you get a second chance to rewrite it unlike that block of wood, but for me that block of wood is in my head and I have found making a serious modifications of what I have written is difficult to do, seems easier to scrap it and start over if the changes are significant.

    Sorry about the rambling reply, and thanks again to all.
     
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  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    He tried throwing it away. He thought it sucked so badly that it wasn't even worth keeping on the shelf as a manuscript. His wife found it, read it, and managed to change his mind over it. We've got her to thank for Carrie.
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hence the expression, "Carrie on."
     
  16. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure it makes sense! You consider your WIP to be so sacred that you don't want to make it all ugly and horrible from your lack of skills. So you do stuff like, ahem, enter into short story contests on a writing forum to see if you can learn from your mistakes... then get stoked if you win one and return to your WIP! Not that I followed this process at all...
     
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  17. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I think the best answer will be, "depends".

    I have a mega inspiring idea that I want to write. Have been researching it for months.

    Then I came to the brutal realisation that my writing experience and knowledge is at novice level. Simple things like POV and tense, which we don't even notice when reading, are still things I am wrapping my head around.

    So I have come up with 2 new ideas for novels, in separate genres, and am going to write them in different POVs, for practice.

    I am still passionate about the novels I have chosen to write, no question. I sincerely want and intend for them to be a success, but I am definitely using them as "practice" before I embark on my magnum opus.

    This is going to push my timeline back 2 years - with an intention to spend 12 months for each practice novel and then 2 years for the "real" one.

    And I will be doing flash fiction and poetry comp submissions in the interim as well, for snack sized practice.

    There is a concept in writing that I think everyone would agree on, from here: http://io9.com/5916970/the-22-rules-of-storytelling-according-to-pixar

    #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

    As @peachalulu wrote:
    I think this applies to ideas within a piece of work (rule #12) as well as the idea that defines the piece of work overall.

    Consider the pattern. I am not saying that what you want to write is obvious, or not worth writing. I am saying as an author you should be able to come up with something else, in fact a number of something elses, to write about. It's not easy, neither is the "rule". It took me about 3 weeks to unload enough of my original idea from my head to even begin to think about other things. Everything I saw or read was filtered through my original idea / premise. It absorbed my attention completely.

    I am now really excited about writing the first of my practice novels. I managed to choose something I am already passionate about, that will require little thought or effort to come up with countless ideas for story arcs and conflict and MC development; all those things I was struggling with in my original idea.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Note the first and last two words: "I can't" and "to me". As has been said many times in this forum, our individual writing styles run the gamut.

    For me, I'm passionate about the book I'm writing. I have yet to get tired of going over each chapter until it is perfected. And while the final edit may indeed be a daunting task as it nears time for that, I won't have to force myself to do it.

    There's another reason to leave a manuscript to rest and then coming back to it besides being tired of it. You see new things that you missed when you do that. That happens to me when I go back to some of the earliest chapters I consider almost if not completely ready. I expect I'll see things I want to change even after the book is published. That's just the nature of the beast.

    But I'm not surprised different writers have completely different writing styles and experiences.
     
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  19. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I'm kind of confused, because what is stopping you from later on taking your first "horrible" attempt at a novel and rewriting it later on when you've gained some experience?
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't really understand the concept of "saving" your favourite story till you're more experienced. Truth is, if you didn't love the story, would you really write it? So if you save everything you love for when you're better at it, then just when would you actually start writing? And if you never write, how on earth do you hope to ever get better at it?

    So yeah, the concept of it baffles me. Write whatever inspires you. The sad thing is of course that first novel may never see the light of day, but if you've enjoyed the journey and developed your skill as a writer, then you've only gained in the end :) and that first novel will always be there for you to rewrite, and no matter how much it sucked, you could still look back and be proud of it because you know you've worked hard for it. That sorta experience is what gives you the confidence you need as a writer.
     
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  21. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    The fact that most writers feel like they are never good enough for their story no matter how many years of experience they have. They always "Need to get better before writing it." but will never reach that "better".
     
  22. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    But that isn't the impression I'm getting from the OP. They are making it sound like a writer will get better, and that it might be worth putting off the best ideas until later.
     
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  23. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    But that's just it, most writers I talk to always think they need to get better and better. Even SK looks back on his old work like that. So if you wait for you to get 'better' you'll be waiting for an eternity. Instead it is better to write what you're inspired to write and what you love to write because you will always get better but you will never be good enough for what you're working on. And nothing is ever perfect.
     
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  24. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    That's why writing is so much trial and error. If at first you don't succeed lower your standards. (Mother Goose and Grimm)
     
  25. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Maybe I am just lucky. In the software world, you learn very quickly that "does it work" trumps "is it perfect". Software development is an iterative process and you go back and edit things all the time, but you're rarely going to consider it your "master piece". ie it's rarely an expression of who you are.

    When it comes to art, and the length of time it takes to put together a 100k word novel, I have no issue with the coaching concepts I use and impart to athletes:
    • practice the skills you need - corner, descending, eating and drinking on the bike, riding in bunches
    • get comfortable with training on the terrain and duration / distance of your goal event
    • race your goal distance / terrain
    • now race your goal event.
    You're always improving as an athlete, and you can put off competing, hoping to be that little bit better, etc.

    But if you really do want to compete in a particular race, you will enter it and compete.

    Not all people train that methodically or conscientiously. Doesn't always work, either.
    But it's what I do, and the people I coach, and the pattern fits just as well for me and my major literary goal.

    It's always about the patterns for me.
     

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