I’ve been thinking about the first novel I published (the second one I wrote), because I’m running a free promotion on it right now, and I got to looking back on all the lessons about life and writing that novel in particular taught me. I wanted to go ahead and share some of the more useful/interesting contemplations. So here are just a few things I learned from my novel “The Crimson League.”
- Don’t be afraid to question your first impulses (especially if you’re writing without an outline). Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes they’re not. I think there are few aspects of my novel I reworked as much or as completely as the first couple of chapters. When I first started, I was so excited to get into the action that I didn’t set the scene enough. I didn’t do enough to give readers a clear image of the situation at hand and what the kingdom of Herezoth was all about. After the first draft was done, I questioned that beginning, and reworked things to give myself and my readers a proper footing in the world of the novel. It involved adding lots of material.
- You don’t have to explain all aspects of a background point or a backstory all at once. In fact, it’s better not to. I didn’t realize that when I first drafted my novel. For instance, I had a chapter that involved a really long training session in the art of sorcery, explaining everything about how magic works in the world I created. It was too much, for too long, and bored and confused one of my beta readers in particular. He suggested I find a way to split the information up, delivering it in two or more smaller chunks. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me from the first, but I took his suggestion and made the edits, interspersing that info. The novel read SO much clearer afterward!
- It’s okay if you don’t know how your novel’s supposed to end. I knew what would happen when I wrote my first novel. I knew who was good and who was bad, who would die and who would survive. I didn’t outline explicitly, but I developed the story in my head before I wrote, and I didn’t deviate from my gameplan. While I don’t consider that novel a failure, it’s not particularly well-structured or well-written. In contrast, with the Crimson League, I had no idea what was in store for my characters. I developed the background of the civil war they’re involved in, and took things scene by scene, allowing events to happen as I progressed chapter by chapter, until I had an ending. So don’t feel like you HAVE to have everything mapped out ahead of time if you want to write a novel (or a second, a third, a fourth….) If you have a workable idea, that’s enough to start writing (if you want to.)
- Don’t worry what people will think while you’re writing. Don’t let them in your head. Your story is YOUR story while you’re writing it. Take it in the direction that feel right to you, given who your characters are. Don’t stress about whether this person or that person will like the developments. Don’t alter things to please other people. Write the story that’s in your heart and that fulfills you; that satisfies the little ache in your spirit only that story calm. If you do that, your story will be genuine. And a genuine story is what people look for. They respect it. Even when I wish a story ended differently, or that other things had happened, if the story rings true, I can respect it.