Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing Novels: 5 Things that Don't Work

I am spending the month sharing this and that about my novel writing journey. Today I'm going to chat about 5 things that have absolutely not worked on my journey. Perhaps my missteps will help you.

1. Changing POV because someone suggested it -- I have changed the POV from first person to third person and back again a number of times because either a critique group partner, a teacher, an agent or an editor suggested the move. My experience with this advice is that the first couple of times it was a good exercise but ultimately I learned that POV is a decision that a writer must chose from her internal sense of how her story should be told. You need to dig into yourself and find your POV. Never change POV unless it is an internal decision. If someone suggested it, you better go into it with your reasons and no one else's.

2. Hurrying -- I have found you must let your novels grow at their own pace. Revisions must be performed at their own pace. Get to know your rhythms and don't rush. I know that the whole NANOWRIMO thing helps some folks move past procrastination but this advice is different. Every author finds a natural rhythm to create books. You may find you are not as fast as other writers. My best advice if you are slow, embrace it and don't hurry. Find agents and editors who can relate to your natural rhythms.

3. No Project Management -- Novels are big projects and they need project management. If you do not have a document aside from your book filled with character sketches, setting notes, outlines or summaries, spread sheets with scene pacing, etc., I doubt your novel is going to fly. I know my won't. Get a three ring binder, a beautiful blank book and some note cards or try ONENOTE or SCRIVNER or DRAMATICA and move into the world of successful novel creation with decent project management.

4. Focusing on the first chapter -- Oh, I have done this and I have seen so many others do this. A novel is a journey through multiple chapters. You must balance your attention on each chapter. If you have rewritten that first chapter 40 times and you have not rewritten your fortieth chapter 40 times, you are messing up. Every chapter must receive balanced attention to create a master work.

5. Staring at the computer screen -- I found that my novels were not getting polished enough because I was not searching out the reader experience. I find that I must print out my novel to get a good sense of where I'm at. Write a book that is shelf ready. I put my books on my Kindle. I change the fonts. I read the book aloud and then listen to the recording while reading the pages at the same time. Search out the experience of a reader reading your book. This will help you create a viable novel.

I hope my thoughts here help you write your own work. Come back next week. Seize the day.

This week's doodle is "From My Sketchbook":

Something true but I don't understand it.
Great, big, serious novels always get awards. If it's a battle between a great, big, serious novel and a funny novel, the funny novel is doomed. Neil Gaiman


Vijaya said...

What a wonderful insightful post. It's taking me a long time discovering my process, esp. for the long form. Last year I realized that I do have it in me to stick it out. I have to have short things to work on intermittently to keep the sense of accomplishment.

Faith Pray said...

Good, good words, Molly. In the middle of revising the seven year novel, I'm at a crux. Not just a crux. A sticky, ticky, won't budge, keep rewriting the other chapters state of blankness. I've been doing a lot of Google image searches, looking for this particular place in my setting that is missing. Days have passed. Sigh. Thank you for your blessing. I will try to take the pressure off. There is so much pressure just to keep the kids alive and fed, let alone tie up this dang novel. Thank you!

Molly Hall said...

Love it, Molly! This is perfect timing for me. THANK YOU!

Janet Lee Carey said...

Sage words Molly and so useful! Partucularly about the blasted first chapter 40 x around. Thanks :)

HelenL said...

Great tips. I can relate to every single one of them, especially the urge to rush myself because I see writers around me completing novels more quickly than I do. Thanks for giving me permission to work at my own pace.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi all,

V. I'm glad you know you can do this. I know you can. I just know it.

Faith, I get sticky, ticky, scenes. I find thinking just before bedtime, falling asleep with the idea and keeping a pen by the be for when I wake up. I can bring my subconscious into the creative mix. Totally hear you about the the pressure of life. Be kind to yourself.

Molly H. You are so WELCOME!

Janet. I glad we are in the same boat. Nice to know.

Helen! Lovely to hear from you. I'm glad you were helped by this advice. I always get the idea that everyone is rushing, rushing and rushing. I'm positive that it means that great works of art are being skimped on.

Deb Lund said...

Wonderful, Molly! Great post. While the first page is so important, it doesn't help to revise it over and over if you never move on. Especially love that one... I finally had to force myself to not reread and rewrite the first part of my novel until I was done with the whole thing. So hard! I'll be sharing your list. Thank you.

Annie Gage said...

Hi Molly- I may never attempt to write a novel again, but if I do, I will remember this advice. Wise, practical, and from clearly from a spot of experience.

MollyMom103 said...

Hey Deb, Thanks for dropping by. Share away!

Hi, Annie, glad the advice was helpful.

Kjersten said...

There's an underlying nudge towards authenticity with all of these pieces of advice that I find refreshing. Thanks, Molly,

holly cupala said...

Agreed, this is an excellent post!

MollyMom103 said...

Kjersten, I am totally after authenticity. Well said! I want my books to ring true and be on fire at the same time.

Holly, Thanks for popping in. Hugs.

Dawn Simon said...

So much wisdom here!

Candy Lynn Fite said...

Hi, Molly! Thanks for this info. It's helpful to keep these things in mind while revising my YA novel. I like what Faith Pray says above. I ditto the "sticky, ticky" part!

Do you tweet? If so, email me your twitter name :)

Revising is a blast, but so exhausting.

MollyMom103 said...

Glad to inspire, Dawn.

Hi Candy, Thanks for popping in!
I've been taking a breaking from tweeting for a few months, but I'm going to start up again soon. I will send you the new tweet account when I set it up.

Hey, something tells me that Faith Pray and Candy Fite ought to know each other. It feels like a harmonious, serendipitous encounter. I commence to introduce you! Faith, Candy. Candy, Faith.

Candy Lynn Fite said...

Candy *waves* to Faith. :))

Yes, let me know about the twitter, Molly. I'm working on creating my writer-inspire're one who every time I see you, I'm inspired, moved, & motivated. I'm @candylynnfite.