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  1. Antonio Eros

    Antonio Eros New Member

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    Novel writing tips?

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Antonio Eros, Dec 6, 2018.

    Hello,

    I'm currently writing a novel that will be apart of a bigger series. This is my first book and I've never done anything like it before (longer works). I have about 12k written and most of it is notes because when I have a hard time writing through the crap, I make a note to come back to it, but I never will.

    I have a few questions and I need some tips about how to get over this hump.
    • How do I get through writing my draft while ignoring the quality of the prose?
    • How do I write when I don't have the inspiration?
    • How do I find better sentence starters other than the main characters name?
     
  2. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Banned Contributor

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    First novels always (almost) suck. So let it. Write it fast and then put it away and start another. You'll probably want to throw the first one away by the time you get done with the second. That's just the process of learning to write novels. Tried and true.
     
  3. Antonio Eros

    Antonio Eros New Member

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    First off, thank you for the feedback. Although, if I could afford to store it, I would. But, it's a piece I have already committed to contributing to, therefore, I have to push through it. Which is why I posted questions, as well.
     
  4. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Best option: don't write crap in the first place. Rough a scene out, go back and fill it in with good stuff, then move on to the next one.

    That's kind of like asking 'how do I flip burgers when I don't have the inspiration?' You sit down and write, just like that guy puts on his McDonalds' uniform and flips burgers. I usually find the easiest way to fix problems in a story (which is usually what causes lack of 'inspiration') is to just start writing. At times I've been stuck for days on a plot problem and then I write two paragraphs and realize I just fixed it.

    A lot of the time that is the correct way to start a sentence, though there's no need to repeat the name if the reader knows which character you're referring to. Then you can use 'he', 'she', 'it' or whatever they prefer.
     
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  5. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
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  6. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Allow me to solve all of your problems!

    1) Your first draft will suck. It just will, and there is no avoiding it. And that's fine, because by the end of it you'll have an excellent base to start working from. There's a great video on that exact thing right here.

    2) You have to conjure the inspiration. Genuinely wanting to write doesn't come until after you've already succeeded in doing something. To get to that point, you have to inspire yourself, even if it ends up not being used. Throw some change into your story, try something new, kill a character--get just excited enough to write a little, and then let yourself write until you're bored with it. Then do something else crazy that makes you want to write about it. I get excited to write when I watch other people's successful creations that remind me that's something I want to do.

    3) Don't worry about this. This comes later. Editing comes later. Write as sloppily as you need, and just get words onto the page. Dialogue, notes, scenes, whatever you need to. I find it easiest to write in scenes and connect them later. For example "I want a bar fight", well, write a bar fight. Figure out the text you need to get from the bar fight to the dragon later.
     
  7. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Whenever I write a scene I'm uncertain about, I ask myself whether it's something that's easy to change in the revisions.

    For example, something easy to change: a scene where the wording quality is insufficient, but the story is on point. I can rewrite this scene later. It isn't a big deal if my prose isn't flowery enough, or is too flowery, in the first draft.

    Something that is harder to change in the revisions: a scene that moves the story in the wrong direction. These scenes will cause problems in every scene that I write after it, because now the story is off-point from where it should be.

    If you spend time on quality control as you write, spend it on directing your story in the right direction, more than in quality of the words. You'll want to improve the quality of your writing of words, but you can often do this in the next scene. Unless you can't, and that's cool. But don't let it drag you down too much.

    Raise the stakes in your story. Take your hero, and toss them from the frying pan into the fire.

    The best way to do this is to read a lot. Particularly the types of books that are similar to the type that you want to write. You'll pick things up. Some more pragmatic writing books like Stephen King's On Writing will also give you some tips in how to improve your wording, such as using the active voice, cutting superfluous details, focusing on the story, removing adverbs, and focus on the emotional details readers and characters care about.

    In what way have you committed? It's good to commit yourself to write I guess. I'd recommend being realistic though about how genuinely long it takes to produce a really good novel, and just making sure you plan for the long game, not the short game.
     
  8. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Banned Contributor

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    Okay, then to respond to your questions having already delivered the caveat " First novels suck."

    My answer to the first two questions is the same, JUST WRITE.
    To the third. Once an attribution is made, the reader will assume (in general) that the same character is performing the action so the name or pronoun is not necessary. If you drift away to set the scene or something you will have to reintroduce the character of course.

    There are quite a few writers of quality on this board even if they're not making the big bucks. Find a story that you admire and see how they do it.
     
  9. LadyErica

    LadyErica Active Member

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    First of all, do you understand why I outlined those three things like that? I don't mean to be rude, of course. Far from it, I want to encourage you to write as much as you can, and I hope you succeed. But that said, read those three things I outlined again a few times, then consider what you just read.

    Writing a book is difficult, even for experienced writers. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication just to finish writing a book, and I think most of us have thrown away quite a lot of unfinished manuscripts over the years. When I first started writing, it wasn't uncommon to write half a book, then throw it away and start over. Having a good idea for a book is easy, but making it last an entire book, and keeping it interesting the whole time? That's a different matter entirely. That's why I outlined the first two things there. This is your first book, and you're already planning a series. I highly recommend against it. Writing a series is not easy. I really think you should focus on the first book only, and leave the rest for later. Maybe it will be a series, maybe not. But if the first one is bad, who is going to want to read the next one? And that's especially if the second is a direct sequel to the first book. A series with a new story and the same characters is usually fine. Leave the second as stand alone as possible, then people have a choice where to start.

    Furthermore, 12k words isn't a lot. My last book had about 110k words in it, and I still left out quite a bit, to avoid the book being too long. But a big difference is I don't "write through the crap". I truly enjoy writing every word I type down. I'm always thinking about where the story is going, how to develop the characters, if there are fun twists I can use in the story, and so on. Even when I'm not near the computer, I still think about how to write the story, or come up with ideas for new stories. In a way, I live and breathe stories. I get that everyone have a different writing process, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I do think if you feel you have to "write through the crap", maybe the story simply doesn't want to be told. I don't mean you should stop writing entirely, but maybe try writing a different story would be a better idea?

    That said, did you know Stephen King almost didn't bother become a writer? He finished up the manuscript for Carrie, but thought it was so bad that he threw it in the trash. His girlfriend at the time read it, and she was the one who convinced him to try to publish it. If it wasn't for her, Stephen King might have quit writing right there. And look how it turned out in the end. ;-)
     
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  10. LadyErica

    LadyErica Active Member

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    Sorry, don't mean to double post. I just wanted to comment on this one a bit. In my last book, I had a "perfect" ending planned, that I was quite happy with. The problem was getting there. The story sounded great in my head, with the MCs going on an Indiana Jones-inspired treasure hunt, solving one clue after another while looking for some ancient mystery. The problem was that they kinda figured out the truth with the very first clue, and the second clue just hammered it down. So what was the point in the next four or five clues? We already knew what the answer was? So I tried something new, and skipped all of that. I let them follow one final clue, then got to the end - halfway through the book. Then I just took things from there, raising the stakes quite a bit after the epic climax that should have been the ending. And to be honest, I'm glad I did that. It changed the story quite a bit, but it turned out a lot better than I thought it would.

    And it's not exactly the first time I've changed stories like that. I had one story where I really loved the MC, but couldn't figure out a story to build around her. So after far too many attempts, I reduced her to a secondary MC instead. The entire story was told from the perspective of a different MC, but was still about the original MC. And once again, I was very happy with the result. It was still the original MC's story. She just wasn't in it all that much. And yes, that makes perfect sense. Think about how Freddy Kruger is the real star in the Elm Street movies, yet he's not even in them all that much, and they are certainly not centered around him. But no Freddy, no Elm Street movies.
     
  11. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Word Painter

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    Yes - try using a squid, or alphabet pasta.

    1) Think of it more as sculpting I guess - a process of refinement.
    2) Breathe deeply, be calm, and write until an idea takes hold of you.
    3) Just start a sentence with something other than the main character's name and see what happens.

    Good luck.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Every writer deals with those issues in their own way. What I'm doing is:

    - I don't ignore the quality of the prose. When I started, I ignored the quality of the plot, ignored whether I was headed for any clear ending, ignored whether this scene had plot holes produced by that scene. But I did, and do, polish each scene to a fair level of quality. That's because I enjoy editing, so it's the opportunity to edit that adds enough pleasure to keep me writing.

    - I keep saying 'scene'--my unit of writing is the scene. I imagine a situation, usually one with some conflict. Not necessarily big helicopter-exploding conflict; it might be as simple as the cook being offended that one of his guests doesn't seem to like the main dish. But that conflict--really, I think of it as emotion, but emotion usually results from conflict--is what makes me interested enough to write the scene.

    Though quite often I don't have anything that interests me when I start, so I just start. I put my characters down at a dinner table, or walking down the street, and I write and see what comes to me. I give myself permission--in fact, I encourage myself--to make the scene potentially over-dramatic and over-angsty. I may write the scene several times before it takes on a shape. I polish it. And then I go on to another scene, which may be nowhere near the scene I just wrote.

    (I should note that I tend to be under-dramatic and under-angsty, so giving myself that permission is what causes my writing to have any drama at all.)

    After enough of these, it was possible for me to string a sequence of these scenes together, with some holes in between, and I kind of had a plot. I also had a lot of scenes that didn't fit. And that's fine. That seems to be how I write. Before I finish this 100K novel I will probably have written at least 250K words.

    - Your third question would probably be better addressed by giving it a thread of its own--it's a fairly nuts-and-bolts mechanical question while your other questions are more philosophical.
     
  13. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    How does a taxi driver drive if he does not have inspiration?

    How can a plumber work if his musa is elsewhere?

    How do mothers breastfeed their babies if they are tired and uninspired?

    You do what you can when you can.
     
  14. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    • How do I get through writing my draft while ignoring the quality of the prose? Try to write as well as you can. Temporary solutions have a habit of turning into permanent ones.

    • How do I write when I don't have the inspiration? Don't. If you have to force yourself to write, readers are likely to have to force themselves to read and probably won't. Try editing or planning at those times.

    • How do I find better sentence starters other than the main characters name? Presumably you're relating what people are doing and defining who's acting. Try describing the scene and use he/she. Start a sentence with dialogue. There are many options. Pick up a book and see how other authors do it.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I am not a fan of over-polishing scenes to the detriment of continuing on with the story. However, I would also caution you not to be in too big a hurry to get to the next scene either. I wouldn't over-worry the quality of the prose at this stage. Instead, I would make sure you are saying exactly what you mean to say—and saying everything you mean to say.

    So many new writers, in my experience on the forum and elsewhere, are in a huge rush. They just plop the 'facts' down, tell us what the characters are doing and what is happening to them, and that's it. The stories read more like news reports than novels. The facts are there, but the reader doesn't get immersed or emotionally invested in the story.

    Don't be afraid of writing too much. It's easily pared down during an edit. Instead, worry about not leaving anything out.

    It will be very difficult to recapture the enthusiasm you have for your story as you write it. So make sure everything that makes you enthusiastic is there, in your first draft. We need to identify with the characters, the same way you do. What are your characters thinking? What are they are feeling? And why? What do they say to one another? How are they moving through the scenery? What or who interacts with them? What underpins the scene? What are they focused on? What do they want? What is bothering, upsetting or scaring them? What do they feel good about? What do they notice? What do they miss? What do they wish would happen? How do YOU feel about your characters and what is happening to them? See what you can do to make your readers feel the same. Don't tell your readers how you feel; show them what makes you feel that way. If you do that, they will feel it too.

    Ask yourself at the start of every scene: What do I want this scene to accomplish, in order to move the plot along? Be as specific as possible, and make sure you can articulate the reason before you start. Things like: I need to show how my main character doesn't get along with his family. Or: she needs to mess up her job interview, but get the job anyway. Or: the reader must realise that the guy and the girl are attracted to each other. If you know why you are writing the scene—not just what you want to put in the scene, but where the scene is headed—then you will automatically focus on what needs to be told. That will do more than anything else to keep you on track.

    How to write when you're not inspired? I don't know. I'd say get inspired. Go think about your story. Take a walk. Listen to music. Do whatever it takes—for however long it takes—to get to where you are excited about your story and want to write again.

    I know others don't agree with me, and maybe some people do find inspiration after churning out several unenthusiastic pages of words, but I know I don't. Forcing myself to write when I'm not inspired just results in pages of uninspired writing that will need to be cut out. That's just as much a waste of time as if I had taken the day or the week off anyway. The whole exercise also contributes to me feeling discouraged. It makes me feel that I can only write crap. That, for me, is a consequence of just soldiering on when I'm not in the mood. Instead, I try to do what I can to get back into the mood.

    As for not starting every sentence with the name of a character, just read a few paragraphs from any writer you admire. See how they handle this issue. Varying sentence length can help, as well as not always using the same sentence structure. He did this. He did that. He did something else. You can start with a thought he's having instead. Or somebody else's reaction to what he's doing. Or a short description of the place he's standing or walking. Lots of ways to do this, but I'd recommend you look at how other authors do it. You should get the hang of it fairly quickly.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2018
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  16. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Contributor Contributor

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    Hello, my friend. Let me first telling you this regarding your questions.

    1. Your first draft will always be bad. Is alright, why? Because all you are doing is putting all your ideas on paper. Doesn't make sense? Is okay, at least an idea is there. Did you forget a scene? Or suddenly your brain got a scene in mind? It's fine, write apart, and then on your second draft, you will include it. In other words, the more you look on your drafts, later your story will have all the ingredients :)

    2. That depends on your personality. Usually, music helps, especially if you are looking for a specific scene. But remember, until you start writing nothing will come out, do it. Don't even think of hesitating.

    3. I will give advice to not look for good sentence starters unless they have a special meaning or message. Look more of what your book is trying to say. Your character's name doesn't need to be on the sentence, a friend or family member of your MC can just tell his/her name and ton a conversation. Let's say your MC is a prisoner. Instead, you saying, Paul the prisoner wants to escape, you can just for starters build the tension of his plan him leaving the prison. And then another prisoner calls his name.

    I hope this helps, and have fun :)
     
  17. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    At the beginning of this year, I wrote a story that in my head was pure gold - I was so excited about the project and I wrote and wrote, and on one day I wrote five chapters. On the very last day I hammered out the last three chapters like nothing. I was so invested in the story and so determined that it just happened. In four months I had 105,000 words.

    I never once read a chapter through after writing it, never thought oh maybe I should try editing this. I recently looked back on this "pure gold" book and found that actually, it's unusable. It's so terrible. Maybe I could salvage some of it, but on the whole it's just crap.

    A few weeks ago, I had an idea. Why not change the voice (I wrote it first-person, why not try third) and focus on the things I missed. Character development, not only for my MC but all the major characters I neglected in my rush to get it finished. Why not take things back to way before the start of the original novel, show how people got to where they did. Show who they were "before" and who they are "now". Take out some of the more *ridiculous* elements that, in my rush, I barely noticed. Tone down the weird, ramp up the straight, flat horror.

    It's taken me three weeks to write the first three chapters. They're not perfect, definitely, but I'm calling them my "second draft".

    My point here is that I wrote an entire novel thinking it was great, and now I've put it to one side as a first draft for something which, now, is completely different. If you find yourself "writing through the crap" then don't you ever use that in your final novel. Not ever. Because sometimes an author can think he/she is writing something amazing and it'll turn out to be shit. If you already think you're writing shit, then there's nothing else it can be.

    That doesn't mean throw it away, though. Put it somewhere, look at it separately. Think, which parts are crap and what do I do to change that? Write a second draft, cutting out the crap. Changing things. Write a third draft. Fourth? Point is, by the time you've perfected it, it'll probably be completely different. But when it is what it's meant to be, you'll know.

    I can't remember who spoke about rushing projects, but I agree. I did it. My new version of the novel is going to take Christ-knows how long to finish, but it's going to be better, and that's all that matters. Take your time. 12K is a good start, but relying on wordcount as a measure of how well your book is going is going to get really depressing as you get on with it. One second it'll be "yayyy I'm at 30K", next week it'll be "wait how am I only at 31K". Focus on the words, not the numbers.

    Talking about timescale, let's talk about being inspired to write - sometimes, you're just not going to want to. Maybe you don't know where to take your story. Maybe you just can't be bothered with it today. And while I'd say stick with it, even read it, taking time out to think is okay. I told you it took me three weeks to write three chapters. What I didn't mention yet is that I've spent the last week and a half struggling to carry on. I know what chapter four needs to mean, and I know where I'm going with it, but how do I start it? And I keep thinking up new situations or scenarios, but none seem quite right. So I don't write them down. And last night I figured it out, and I started writing. First draft of that chapter is done, and today I'm looking back, and it's crap. But I know how to make it better, and it'll take a few days but I'll put that time in.

    Of course, in those days where I wasn't working on this one, I was still writing. People might write in journals, focus on other projects, write poetry, short stories, flash fiction - the point is, if you're losing inspiration, just write. For me, it's introductions. First scenes, first chapters. Most get filed away under "future projects" but I know I'll never look at them. The best advice I can give is something people have already said: just keep writing.

    I know this seems hugely self-indulgent but I hope it helps. In terms of good first sentences, it's a struggle for everyone. Once you find the right words, get them down. If it happens to be the guy's name then why not? As long as it reads well. And again, keep re-writing. It takes time, of course it does, but eventually you'll have something you're truly happy with.
     
  18. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    1. Don't read over your work when you finish writing for the day, open a fresh word doc for tomorrow and paste the last paragraph in it.
    2. I use music, books, pictures, movies to get inspired. Sometimes I take a sheet of paper and brainstorm -- I write out the setting or the scenario and I start branching off every idea/word that comes to mind. I let words spoke out other trails until I have generated some new ideas.
    3. You don't just want your character to be the center of everything cause it will sound like you're over explaining. Imagine going to a party you wouldn't say - I have arrived at the party. I see Jason already shit-faced. I notice that Darla has dyed her hair pink again and looks like an obese My Little Pony. You want to mix it up. You can mention setting or descriptions - The house was practically throbbing from the base apparently Rick was DJing again. Start with a verb -- Strolling in I notice Darla has dyed her hair pink again and … The idea is to angle details away from the center point of your mc rather than constantly referring to your mc. Read more and take note of how your favorite authors do it.
     

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