Monday, June 20, 2011

How I Get Started on a New Novel

Hey guys. 

I mentioned that I would be moving some of my posts from the writing blog over here and today the first one is going up.  Here it is.

When I’d originally typed up this post the thing was extremely long with a lot of blah blah blah in it.  I then had to remind myself that I’m not a fan of long post and that I prefer a post that is short and to the point.  If you’re going to make it a long one, at least add some headlines so that I can skim over it.  It’s true what they say, the longer the post, the less likely a person is to actually read it.  Especially after you’ve had a long day at work and your Google Reader looks like it started a family while you were gone.  I’ll try and keep this version short. (didn't happen, sorry)

Starting a novel is probably one of the most exciting things about writing for me.  I have all these idea bouncing around in my head, just waiting to be used.  My characters talk to me, demanding their story be told and in a way a whole new world is opened up to me.  I meet new people, go to new places and get to experience things I’ve never thought would be possible.  What’s not to like about that?  Then comes the daunting task of actually putting those people, places and experiences down as words.  And this is where the work/fun starts.  We all have our own routines and there are enough agent and author blogs out there so I’m not going to spout on about what you should do.  Instead I’ll share my thoughts on attempting to write that first book.   

Decision vs Need.
I’m curious to know what everybody else’s method is. 
Did you sit down one day in front of your computer or while you were busy buying groceries and decide, ‘I’m going to write a book’?  Did you actively make the decision to do it?  It is a big decision and an even bigger commitment. If you stick to it and see it through, it really will be worth it in the end.
Or were you, like me, almost driven insane by your characters and the need for their story to be told.  Your ideas goad you and hide around corners and in shadows until you think you’re fine and they finally left, and that is when they jump out at you again and laugh because that’s just what they like doing.  And that’s when you throw your hands up in the air and yell FINE, I’LL DO IT, and sit your ass down and get started because they won’t leave you alone otherwise and deprive you of sleep, make you grumpy and impossible to live with.  Characters can be very spiteful sometimes, but that’s why we love them so much. 
Getting your ideas in order 
So you have your idea and other ones are slowly starting to creep up all over the place and you’re stuck with six different things you have no idea what to do with.  I’m having this problem at the moment, truthfully all the time, but somewhere online I once read that if you’re in this position and have no idea which way to go, just see how many of these idea you can combine and use them as part of one story.  You never know, four of those six ideas could form part of your storyline and make it much better and add more depth to it.  Now take those four ideas and do something with them!
Whenever I start a new novel I put everything in a notebook and carry that thing with me everywhere.  If I have a spare minute, I’ll open it up and start building my story, characters go in the back, plot lines, thoughts, structure, scenes, etc. go in the front.  That notebook has the added benefit of being close enough to use if I can’t get to a PC or laptop.  I wrote my first novel, in pencil, in a notebook from start to finish so I have a huge love of both.  Find the system that works best for you.

Get your story together
Now you have your ideas in order, start thinking about how you will string all of them together and get them to work with each other.  This is where that notebook will come in so very hand.  You’ll need a proper plot, storyline (yes there is a difference and we’ll be looking at it a little later), structure, etc.  I don’t outline my novels because I want to be as surprised at what happens as whoever will read it one day.  What I do have is a start, middle and end.  The surprise is in how I’m going to get there and what will reveal itself on the way there.  It’s part of the fun.  Keep in mind that everything has to work and fit together.  Do enough research to help you get things, mostly, right the first time.
When you’re sure you’ve got everything you need to make things easier for yourself, plant your behind in a chair and start writing.

Get ready to suffer and stock up on coffee and support
Fair warning, just so you can’t say you weren’t warned.  This is hard work.  Really hard work and it’s going to take up a lot of your time.  Be prepared to say no to invites from friends, stay up late nights, get up early, frustration and discouragement.  But also the joy of spending time with your characters and learning what makes them tick and the reasons behind what they do.  They whole process will be full of ups and downs, times you will think that this was a bad idea and times when you’ll think this was the best decision you ever mad.  Goodness knows, I’ve had more than my fair share of those but I still think it’s worth every second.

Start reading blogs
This is the only advice I will give though (aside for the whole ‘read a lot’ and ‘try and write every day’ that we all already know) is to read as many author and agent blogs as you can.  You’ll be surprised at how much you learn and very thankful for it.  I’ve learned so much on what to do and especially on what not to do.  I think reading these blogs have made me less hesitant to one day send out queries and I understand where agents and authors come from.  When I get the inevitable rejections it won’t hit me as hard and I'll probably be depro for five minutes then send out the next one.  Trust me on this, it helps, so go load up your readers and spend half an hour a day or so going through the post and see what you learn.  It might just save you a lot of effort later on.

That’s it from me, a little insight of how my head works most of the time.  Hope you found this helpful.  If you got this far I’m giving you an internet high five.  Well done.

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