Monday, August 18, 2008

The Secret to Writing Books: Part 1

Don't snicker at the title. We both know there's no secret to writing books. The title for this series was almost "Hot Dogs and Books: The Gory Underbelly of Novel Writing," but I thought that it might be seen as tasteless.

Anyway..... my twisted sense of humor is showing tonight, but you have to keep your sense of humor when it comes to writing novels.

So, you've decided that you want to write a book. There are several aspects to this process that you have to keep in mind, which I will go over during the next couple of nights.

Okay, this is your last chance to walk away. Are you really sure you want to write a novel and try to get it published? Sigh. Yeah, I thought so.

Step 1: Mental Preparation

It may be hard to believe that more than half of this game is mental and your biggest enemy is not time, skill, or creativity. It's yourself. You will sabotage yourself with a lack of determination and doubt. You will either get bored with what you're working on and start working on a new project because "it's more interesting" or "it's a better idea." I guarantee you that if you start down that path, you will never finish a book. I know, I walked that path. I've got dozens of books started, a scattering of really good scenes with no endings, because I never finished a project I started on. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was frequently nagging me about handing him the next chapter in the book. I finished the book not only because I loved the story but also to please my audience of one.

The other half of that is doubting that the idea is good enough for a novel. You can't doubt your skill, your idea, or creative flow. You have to create for yourself a "doubt-free zone". This is hard, I know, because I struggle with it today. You have to create a mental and sometime a physical spot where you can work without worrying about whether your idea is good enough. Part of this will be conquered by creating a plot outline for you novel. You will create a path for you to walk on that will help give you a sense of security, and when you're feeling strong and brave, I promise that you will be able to confidently veer from that path on occasion.

So, here is the first check list:

1. Are you determined to finish this novel once you've started it? The average novel length is around 100,000 words. Nightwalker was just over 115,000 words, or 370 pages. Dayhunter, so far, is coming in right around 115,000 words. I've heard that the average Young Adult (YA) novel comes in between 60,000 to 70,000 words. Ask yourself, are you willing to stick with something for that long. Not every one is. Some people are brilliant short story and novella writers. They can accomplish everything they need to accomplish in a shorter construct.

2. Have you pushed your doubts aside? Part of this comes with being able to say: "Yes, my first draft is crap and I'm okay with that." You know, the first draft is most likely not crap, but you have to be willing to be less than perfect. Perfection comes with the second, third, fourth, and tenth draft. Nightwalker did not sell in its original format. It didn't sell in the second, third, or fourth draft. I edited that monster for close to two years while trying to sell it. And even after it sold, it went through massive revisions. That's the nature of the beast. Just write the book and let yourself enjoy the story. Perfection will come later.

Okay, go look in a mirror. Do you see a lean, mean, writing machine staring back at you?
Are you going to finish what you started?
Are you going to stick with it even when you are stuck writing a somewhat boring, transitional scene?
Are you going write at least 500 words on the nights that your really, really don't feel like writing?
Are you going to put aside all other story ideas until the current one is done?

If you can answer "yes" to those questions, then you're ready for the next step: plot outlining. Unfortunately, I've rambled way too much already tonight so we'll look at how I outline my plots tomorrow night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, rock on! I'm going to do it! I'm pumped! I'm going to write my first novel! I'm going to finish what I sta...wait, I forget. What was about to do?