By nippy818 on Dec 7, 2015 at 4:15 AM
  1. nippy818

    nippy818 Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2014
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    What I learned writing my novel.

    Discussion in 'Articles' started by nippy818, Dec 7, 2015.

    Some of you might know, from following my progress journal, that worked on my first novel for a year and a half and now it is at the editor I learned many things, looking back at classic writers, Twain, Thompson, London, Frost.
    -First and the most important lesson I learned, it started as a hobby but it is no longer a game. I looked for inspiration to hit me anything to get my muse going, but I learned I had to force myself to write. I have said it before and I'll preach it again, I force 2000 words a day, no excuses. I learned if i was going to take it serious, it had to be treated like a job. There were nights I went through my notes kicking and screaming, not wanting to write, not wanting to deal with the scene I was on. I brought my laptop and all 12 of my notebooks on vacation, and when everyone went to bed I wrote. Some nights I just barely hit 2000 words and was oh so happy after the hours at the keyboard, other nights I hit it out of the ballpark and wrote 4 to 5 thousand words (and no, my words never rolled over)

    -My second lesson, sometimes you have to look at other pieces. My 2k words a night were not always aimed at my main novel, sometimes I worked on outlines, poetry, other novels in the same series. I learned that writers block was an excuse for procrastination, and above all, even if it wasn't my main piece, I was still honing my skills and abilities.

    -My inner editor and critic is a liar. I don't mean everything I wrote was gold, but I had to learn to silence the negativity and write every idea down. I tried to imagine how it would work out, but unless it was typed or written on paper, I never knew for sure if it was good or bad. Everything I was on the fence about, I cut and pasted into another document and waited on it as I wrote the scene over and over in different ways, till it was time to let my inner critic out, and let him cut and slash everything and anything.

    -Notebooks, God I love them. From .79 cent legal pads to moleskin and water proof, i keep them everywhere. Every coat I have, there is one hidden in a pocket, my toolbox at work, my car (i keep a tape recorder.), my bedroom and scattered through the house. (I do in fact have a water proof notebook and an astronaut pen so i can write in the shower.) I write every idea, every piece of the puzzle, whether its relevant or not. Every Friday night, i gather everything up, and file it in my three ring binder/outline. I make my living as a mechanic but at my heart I am a writer first and foremost.

    -Don't beat yourself up. In the beginning I took criticisms to heart, thought that everything i wrote was trash. A lot of it was, but as I learned what worked and didn't I shaped my story, and my skill.

    -Read... Always keep reading. I wrote 2k a night and I read a chapter a day. Hunter S. Thompson used to type famous pieces of work to get a feel of what the author was doing, thinking, feeling, so I read. Top sellers, free e books, sci fi fantasy everything but YA (Personal preference, I have a hard time with teenagers that save the world.) Even romance. What better way to learn than to see how published authors do it.

    I am not saying this is the only correct way to view things, but these are the lessons I learned in the last 18 months or so. If you have anything too add, I would be happy to see what everyone else has learned.


Discussion in 'Articles' started by nippy818, Dec 7, 2015.

    1. Amy Brahams
      Amy Brahams
      Good one
    2. Kelly1205
      Thank you for your ideas and how you found writing your novel.
      Which was the hardest part of the entire process do you think?
      jannert likes this.
    3. jannert
      For me, it was getting distance on the project. That's the single factor that made the most difference to the end product, but nothing gives you distance other than plenty of time away from it. And that's hard. The impulse is to keep beavering away, but that's a mistake.

      After a while, you need to look at the whole story with fresh eyes, as if somebody else had written it. That's where the flaws and strengths become apparent, and the connections (or lack of them) emerge. That's when you realise you've skipped over something important, or spent far too much time on something that doesn't really matter all that much. Or that you've focused the start of the story on the wrong thing, and the focus needs to be re-thought and re-worked.

      Achieving that distance, plus absorbing feedback from betas, were the two most difficult parts of the project for me. Time takes ...time. And you can't know ahead of time what betas are going to tell you.
      Caveriver likes this.
    4. 123456789
      This is one of the reasons I am rethinking my own approach and considering something closer to Nabokov's. Text is text. Write it down down when it appears and store it in the appropriate project folder. I do think there's a time for soldering away but maybe sometimes you have to let things sort themselves out and or grow on their own.
      Jrax16 and jannert like this.
    5. Dr.Meow
      Inspiration can come from anything, and just because something seems "silly" in concept and in first draft, doesn't mean it will be bad at all, just needs refinement later on and you will have even more experience when you come back to just write it anyway and move on. Hardest lesson I've had to learn so far, and I'm still struggling with it (especially in my current scene I'm writing, goddamn it seems so stupid).

      I'm fortunate enough to be able to handle criticism, constructive or otherwise. I've also learned not to pay attention to destructive critique, and take a grain of salt (or a bag of salt at times) with every good critique I receive, depending on who that critique came from. I want to hear it all though, good, bad and downright nasty, because there's always a gem to be found even in a pile of dirt. Take away what you think will help the most and just disregard the rest.
    6. Stormsong07
      This post is great. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sometimes finds it hard to keep pushing forward. I've thought about changing my user pic several times, but then left it alone ultimately because I think it's something I need to see frequently.
      And thanks to those who pointed out that even when not actually adding to the word count, if you are adding to the ideas, fleshing out plot points or backgrounds or world building, it's still progress. Sometimes I get discouraged bc I feel like I'm not making progress when I pause writing to work on backstory or research or whatever. This thread is a good reminder that it is all adding to the story in some way.
      I've learned, like others on this thread, that writing is work. Some days it's easier and more exciting than others. And some days I want to blow it off and just read or do something else. I have to keep reminding myself that I set a goal for the end of this year (to have my novel finished) and if I want to achieve that, then I need to work. I have a poster in my room at home- it reads "Dreams don't work unless you do."
      Remember that. :)
    7. K McIntyre
      K McIntyre
      The hardest thing for me to overcome in my writing has been my tendency to let things happen "off screen" so to speak. Since I know what happened, I assume the reader does too. I have had several good laughs at myself when this has been pointed out to me. Now I am aware of it, and am working to cut it out.
      jannert likes this.
    8. K McIntyre
      K McIntyre
      I like to let my stories "percolate" in my subconscious. That percolating is essential to making good coffee - or in this case, a good story. If you aren't old enough to know what a percolator is, think of it as an olden days Keurig.
      jannert likes this.
    9. Cave Troll
      Cave Troll
      IDK, I am still learning, and don't plan on not learning new things.
      So far it has been an experience between the first novel and now
      current sequel. Though every story is different and you learn new
      nippy818 likes this.
    10. Nik Duncan
      Nik Duncan
      Thanks for the advice. Not sure I can dedicate myself to 2000 words a day.
    11. big soft moose
      big soft moose
      2K isn't easy certainly - I'm doing about 500 to 1k currently ... the important thing is write every day whether you feel like it or not
    12. K McIntyre
      K McIntyre
      Just do what you can, when you can. Let the story flow.
    13. Sir Douglas
      Sir Douglas
      That fits my way of doing things.
    14. Sir Douglas
      Sir Douglas
      When I write a novel chapter through a viewpoint character, I feel like an actor inside the character. When I write a chapter without a viewpoint character, I feel like a human camera. I have not yet written a full screen play but I've studied how.
      Either way it's the same story. Because it's the story that gives me satisfaction, I'm expecting the screen play to give me equal satisfaction. Even if an agent asked me to rewrite my story with a viewpoint character, just the challenge of practicing a cinematic mindset is satisfying. In a sense, it's like learning another language. Also, I think writing a cinematic novel can serve as a transition to writing a screen play.
      jannert likes this.
    15. jannert
      That's a really good way to approach it, I reckon. I think it's a mistake to just write what the actor DOES, when you're crafting a novel. But writing what the actor imagines is happening inside his character ...that's another thing altogether, and should work beautifully. Very interesting approach.

      So often, new writers just write as if they were describing the actions they see in a movie. They see the POV character burst into tears, for example, but the reason behind this emotional outburst are often left to the reader to deduce. I think this is a mistake, often because the reasons behind the action aren't always clear.

      You can burst into tears because you are suddenly overcome with grief. Maybe you've had a hard day, and have been controlling your emotions tightly, but once it's safe to do so, you let them go. You can burst into tears because you're not getting your own way and are furious. You can (maybe) burst into tears because you are manipulative, and want the person you're with to feel bad, for some reason. Just describing the action of bursting into tears isn't always enough. The POV character will know why they're doing this, and this is what the reader should know as well.

      Making a reader guess the reason behind a POV character's action is same level of mistake as it would be for a cinematic camera to remain fixed and never pan in or out, or move around. It would be a case of not fully using the tool for storytelling.

      Inner thoughts and feelings exist in a writer's toolbox, and it's a shame not to employ these tools.
      Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
      nippy818 and Sir Douglas like this.
    16. Sir Douglas
      Sir Douglas
      I absolutely agree in regard to long complex novels. Optionally for simpler novels:

      Camera shots have the advantage of offering machine-gun scenes that set clues, to explain a later visual outburst of emotion. For a novel to achieve this, a huge number of very short chapters or scene sections would be useful. I have learned to think this way by a little bit of screen play reading. At first, it seems like a recipe or computer program.

      Everything has its unique pros and cons. I used to live in Florida, USA. There was no need for irrigation but it's humid there with lots of bugs. I now live in California, USA. The air is comfortably dry and we have fewer bugs than Florida. But we need irrigation and water supply is somewhat problematic. In the past, I used Windows. My leased system was on automatic, out of the box. But customization was very limited with only one distribution: Microsoft. I now use Linux in customization paradise. I have to learn how to set up some things. But I own my system. I have several hundred distributions to choose from.

      Choosing viewpoint for a story is like that. We have to choose our pros and cons. If I have one or more character viewpoints, my camera skill is less important. However, if I choose cinematic, I have to work my camera very hard. If I want to explain why a lady is crying, I have to first show some scenes. What they are depends on the plot: She struggled with jerks all through her day. She sits at a hospital bedside where an oscilloscope flat-lines. She opens a letter with a header that says: "Foreclosure Notice." In all those situations, we know why she's crying. Given all of those situations together, we know why she screams and bangs her head on a wall. Beyond this, it is no wonder that movies are heavy on dialogue. But actors make that dialogue far from boring. The cinematic effect is visually more striking.

      Long complex novels are not good candidates for cinematic viewpoint. Short snappy novels can approximate a movie if the writer is skilled with cinematic viewpoint. Character thoughts and feelings can be discovered through cinematic viewpoint as physicists discover subatomic particles, by way of clue compilation. It is not easy but it can be done with skill. When that unlikely challenge culminates in breath-taking art, we have to admire it all the more.
      jannert likes this.
    17. Tomlan
      I could not agree more with the first point.

      The best advice I ever got when I started out was to write every day. I didn't listen to begin with; I thought that so long as I came back to it every now and then it would be okay.
      No. Write. Every. Day.

      At first it became a chore, then a habit, eventually it became a part of my day; a part I think I would now be lost without.
    18. K McIntyre
      K McIntyre
      My goal is every day, but so far I have managed every other day. And I get very cranky when something, or someone, keeps me from my writing time!
      nippy818 likes this.
    19. BayView
      I've written about thirty novels, and I don't follow the write-every-day rule. I'm more of a "burst" writer - I'll write 5K one day, nothing for a few days, then another few K all in one day. I write way more on the weekends, and only rarely write much (or anything) on weekdays.

      If you're a full-time writer, I think writing every day makes sense. If you're not? I accept that it's a plan that works for some people, but I don't think it's great for everyone.
      nippy818 likes this.
    20. big soft moose
      big soft moose
      That said I've also seen new writers make the opposite mistake and describe everything to death e.g if your point of view character is holding their best friend close while the friend dies in their arms, its not then necessary to say " I felt sad because bob was dying" because its implicit in the scene
      jannert and 8Bit Bob like this.
    21. 8Bit Bob
      8Bit Bob
      I would, if I had enough time and energy to write every day.
    22. big soft moose
      big soft moose
      The thing about 'write every day' is its more accurately 'make writing a habit' - it probably isn't so important if you're James Patterson but for those who haven't written a zillion novels if you don't write habitually (whether that's every day, every Friday, or whatever) its too easy to let your writing slip away into a sea of excuses - at that point you aren't a writer but once again someone who might one day write a book

      Its what I referred to on another thread as the "Drinking in LA" scenario - do you want to actually write a screenplay, or do you want to ride around on a bus " feelin kinda groovy, working on a movie... yeah, right"
      nippy818, Megs33 and xanadu like this.
    23. jannert
      You would not say 'bob felt sad.' I hope. (Which is 'telling' in the wrong place.) What you would do is make the POV character's actual thoughts clear. When somebody you love is dying, you don't say to yourself "I feel sad." Do you? You'll have umpteen thoughts and emotions running through your head, which might even be disjointed. This is where a good writer can bring these feelings to the fore.

      And what if the character is weeping for show, but in fact, his inner reaction is something like "Goody, now I'll finally get to marry his wife." That's difficult to portray via actions or facial expressions. But it may well be incredibly important to the story.
    24. big soft moose
      big soft moose
      Point was that its not always necessary to show his every thought at all, if his actions etc speak louder.... of course if their internal thoughts conflict with the external show then they need explaining, but when you've got a guy with tears running down his face imploring his mate not to die , its not generally necessary to also show his thoughts (unless they conflict etc) as the reader can clearly tell what they are anyway
    25. Megs33
      i fall down the same slippery slope of many newbies in that i assume that "write every day" means "write something in your WIP every day". Then i look at all the disjointed crap i've cobbled together and my brain shuts down because it has no idea where to go or what to focus on.

      this month i'm going to try to start this writing-every-day thing, but it's going to be fluid. it might be about a random person i met or a situation that sounds funny. it might just be me bemoaning how hard it is to come up with something worth writing about. or i might get a burst of inspiration and hammer away in scrivener for two hours. i have no idea. and i actually look forward to it for that reason. no "you have to do this much in this way". just... flow.

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