1. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    When is a Novel Finished

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Donal, Dec 9, 2010.

    Ok so Im only a few thousand words into my novel. Its always been a dream of mine to write a novel (not necessarily to publish one - I just want to write one first of all). I've dabbled about in short stories an awful lot. Obviously you would write your entire first draft and essentially rewrite the novel using the first draft as a rough guide. Would you then go over it again and again, is there a thing as too much editing. Just something I had been wondering.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You'll find varied aproaches on this. Some folks spring through the first draft with the goal being simply to get something down on paper. Then they go back and rework it into something they really want. Others painstakingly review and edit as they go.

    I don't use the first draft just as a rough guide, it's what I write the first time though the story. For me, the review and editing process is mostly to trim down, as I tend to be (ahem) wordy. For others, the focus may be on grammar, spelling and punctuation. Another part of the review process is weeding out the inconsistencies (like characters popping back up in the narrative after they'd supposedly died, or inconsistencies in place names, etc). But I want my first draft to represent what the body of the novel is going to look like.

    I wouldn't worry about it. I'd recommend doing a skeletal outline first, just so you know when you start out where you want the story to go. Don't worry if it changes midstream, because something new will certainly occur to you as you develop your characters. But have a sense of what your main plot line will be, who your major characters are and what kind of people they are, and maybe a subplot or two. Then go.

    Best of luck.
     
  3. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thansk Ed. Its early days yet but I'm loving the hive of ideas in my head about it all. I have my main plot (still unsure about how its going to resolve itself), and one definite subplot. 3 major characters planned so far. As I say I'm only 2 chapters into the thing.

    Im just wondering about when it would be "finished". Obviously editors and publishers have their guidelines but this is something I am aiming to write on a personal note. After that I could look to write things to publish them but for now I think thats biting off more than I could chew.

    Step 1 - Write a Novel.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You're right about Step 1, and while you're on it, do not think about anything beyond. As to when it's finished, all I can say is that you'll know it when you see it. You'll be satisfied that your main plot and any subplots have been resolved to your satisfaction, that you're characters are who you felt they would be, that you have told your story as best you can, that all grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are corrected. You'll also know because you'll be glad to have someone else take a look at it to tell you what they think.
     
  5. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    I've written several novels, and I can tell you. . . it's never over. Even when you think you're done, you'll keep going back to spend hours digging throughs tens of thousands of words over and over again to replace a single adjective or tweak one line of dialogue.

    But if you really want an answer. . . it's over when you've told your story. It's over when all the issues you intended to resolve have been resolved in some manner or another, no matter whether the manner was heart breaking or spirit lifting. Don't set a word limit on a novel; let your heart write it, then come back with your brain for the editing.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me the story is over when I look at and think that is a good place to stop - the book is done when I can do no more to it. If I overedit then I will lose some of the good as well as trimming the bad.

    I have one I don't want to do much more to. It is good the way it is. Has a funeral and a few other bits I need to include but then it is done. It is now at the stage of being read. Want to get my current story to that stage over the next month or two.
     
  7. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    OP - When is a novel finished?

    Hopefully, long before it runs out of steam.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a 'first draft' should not be merely a rough guide, as that's the function of an outline... your first draft should be the entire novel written as well as you are able, needing only to be 'fine-tune' and 'adjusted' here and there to make it work and read as well as possible, plus edited to find goofs, glitches and typos that need correcting...

    that's what any subsequent drafts should accomplish... and yes, there is such a thing as too much editing... there shouldn't be a near-never-ending number of drafts...you need to know when to stop...
     
  9. darthjim
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    darthjim Member

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    True, but I know some successful writers that literally throw their first draft away each time and start again from a blank page. The first one's just a "run through" to get their ideas, themes and characters firmly fixed in their head.

    I am currently in the middle of brushing up my first full length MSS, and over the course of the last year or so, I've thrown away and rewritten huge chunks of it (a 40,000 word section at one point). Although you need to know when to stop, you also need to be honest and brave enough to know if something isn't working, and then ditch it and start over.
     
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  10. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Tyler! NO! He's not me! He's using my account again! Gaahhhhh! For the record, the real me hasn't written that much. My previous post here wasn't mine... *goes off to bash heads*
     
  11. Sarah's Mom
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    Oh heavens, yes. Nothing worse than over-writing the thing. When I was done with the forst novel I wrote (a subsequent resident of my round file) the hardest thing was putting it in a drawer for a couple months. Critical. But you so want to finish and show. I'd think of things during those months, make notes about what I would change when I went back. I hope I find the discipline to do that this time.

    But I've overwritten shorts until they just had no voice at all.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so, who do you know that actually does such a thing?... i've never even heard of any 'successful writers' doing that...
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check out the NaNoWriMo website. Justine Larbalestier has written in her blog about the zero draft. I got sent plenty emails over the month from others.

    I also know three personally that make enough from their writing to pay their rent and eat that write that way. Plus one newspaper editor and an academic (both write non fiction).
     

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