Tips from a newbie on overcoming problems

Originally by Onsie Writes

  1. big soft moose
    So I thought I'd post something different which isn't a question since I'm making good progress with my novel and thought I could share some insight from the perspective and experience of someone who isn't published and isn't a major in English literature or a journalist or anything of the sort.

    Hopefully this can act as a bit of encouragement to those who are just getting started and going through there own journey of writing there first novel in a problem/solution format from my own experiences!

    P. I cant settle on an idea, too many ideas appeal to me!

    A. This is a problem i struggled with for many years. I would write 2000, 4000 or maybe 5000 words before deleting it all and changing my idea entirely, before repeating the cycle and never getting anywhere.

    The method I used to overcome this was to simply view books as not just entertainment, but to explore ideas and concepts. Human nature & Philosophy, behaviour, psychology, culture, religion or maybe even a personal experience. You can develop a story which looks to explore these issues rather than writing something for the mere purpose of entertaining.

    Books like the Da Vinci code, Game of thrones and even shows like The Wire do this very well, using real world issues and questions to create an interesting and thought provoking story. This way, regardless of what ideas you come up with it wont matter as long as the concept and meaning you explore is consistent.

    P. I cant think of any interesting or original ideas

    A. A good way to come up with interesting or original ideas is to combine multiple ideas from things you like as well as history, concepts and pretty much anything which catches your attention.

    The current novel I'm working on takes inspiration from Berserk (mercenary groups, mythical creatures), Breaking Bad (BAD-ASS CHARACTERS & MOMENTS), Game of Thrones (World building & political/social issues) & HP Lovecraft/Bloodborne (Surreal alien creatures, psychological elements).

    I also took a look at human nature to tackle the question of why we do things and how we justify it (murder is bad but we kill animals, why do we consider ourselves more civil than the animal kingdom, why do we believe in gods without evidence of there existence whilst requiring evidence in other aspects of life).

    By doing this, you can create complex characters and obstacles which engage the readers brain instead of spoon feeding them the whole goblins are evil hobbits are good narrative which is black and white rather than grey scale.

    A. DO RESEARCH!

    I know this may seem like a boring task, but research is important to get an accurate feel for the book you are writing, but there are various ways to do research in fiction. Watch TV, read books, use google and ask for opinions (this websites amazing for that). By doing this, you can start to add seasoning to your book which may be bland due to a lack of correct terminology, uninteresting descriptions and overall inconsistent design.

    A. Use generators in your draft

    Don't try and think up names for your dozens of characters, cities, kingdoms and lore related aspects in your draft phase, just google up a generator and pick one you like. This will save you so much time and brain power and will help your book feel more nice with a variety of names rather than trying to brainstorm one on the spot. Once you have finished your draft you can then go over it and make changes accordingly (you can find and replace words in Microsoft word, so don't worry about fine combing your book to make sure there are no old names being used)

    P. I hate planning

    A. So do I, I find planning kills my adrenaline rush for an idea and I tend to change too much during the plan rather than just getting the thing written. If you don't like planning, you can save it till you are half way through the book or until the draft is finished as a way to summarize what you have written and keep a record of things which may need to be changed.

    Think of this as a historical journal of decisions which have been made which you can reflect on as you work. There are a variety of ways you can plan from a fully fleshed out design document to writing notes on cards and pining them to the wall or goat or whatever you have near you.

    P. MY BOOK SUCKS

    A. So does everybody else's (no offence). Honestly, every time I researched this question, I came across other writers who thought the same thing and were full of doubt, but the difference between them and you is that they got the job done despite doubts. Don't write what you think other people will like, write what you like and what you want and those who like it will read it! Everybody is a unique individual and writing what appeals to you is one way to write something original and compelling.

    A. But at the same time, don't ignore the market. I don't know much about publishers and what they expect from writers as I plan on going down the self published route for my first book, but don't fully ignore the market demographics as they are there for a reason. Young adult novels may be popular, but that does not mean we need another hunger games, divergent, maze runner etc. You could change the young adults killing each over in a love triangle formula to something else, perhaps when people die they are forced to fight demons and aliens whilst tackling there own selfish or selfless desires in a fight for survival (Gantz) or perhaps you could take a more medieval approach to the formula of medieval children being trained and sent into espionage (pretty sure this has been done somewhere out there). The point I'm trying to make is that there are a number of things you could change to make your book stand out from others in the market whilst keeping to a genre or target audience, trope or cliche. (Also refer to TV tropes.com for a list of this subject)

    A. Don't ignore cliches entirely. Cliches are useful because they are recognisable. The middle aged alcoholic man in a trench coat with half a glass of strong yellow liquid, typewriter on his desk and pistol in his draw (detective). A young girl with a shy face, carrying a pile of books in her arms as she strides through a mob of other young people through a hall way (aspiring student). Cliches can also save word count when setting the scene and help the reader understand the scene better. But don't rely on cliches entirely and don't be afraid to make changes to them where need be.

    P. I want to make a ton of money and become famous!


    A. So do I, minus the famous part as I like my privacy. But don't let ambitions blind your creativity or hurt your pride when push comes to shove. Its perfectly fine to strive for the top and I encourage it entirely, but write to tell a story like you would if this wasn't a paid profession.

    There's no guarantee you will become the next J.K Rowling or G.R.R.M and the disappointment of being rejected by a publisher or receiving brutal criticism of your book will be softened if you write out of passion and love for the craft, not to strut down the red carpet wiping your mouth with 50 pound notes after a dinner with Gorden Ramsey.

    Hopefully this will help anyone who is struggling to overcome some obstacles and feel free to let me know your thoughts/add your own as i'm sure I've given some bad advice in there!