Lessons from novel number 2

1219898_old_books____2I’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.”

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.

 

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14 responses to “Lessons from novel number 2

  1. I think that point number 4 is essential to the creative process. Sometimes I’ll find myself second guessing a line of dialogue or a situation and then I make myself stop. This first draft is the novel that I have to write – in later drafts others can have an opinion – but not this first time through. Just me and the characters are heading for the finish line. Great post, as always!

  2. In my current WIP I seem to be constantly worried what my family will think–and not my sisters so much as my ultra-conservative parents. It’s YA Fantasy, but it’s on the gritty side, so I guess I’m worried they won’t approve of some of the necessary plot points/violence. Hubby says not to worry about them.

    We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is OUR story, not someone else’s. If it was theirs, they would have written it themselves. Thought-provoking post!

    • thanks Michelle! You’re right, it can be really tough to worry about other people will think. If you parents get around to reading it, I hope they reaction is better than you’re expecting! Maybe they’ll understand that writing about something that includes violence doesn’t necessarily condone violence, especially depending on how it’s portrayed overall, considering tone and such

    • I only worry about my kids reading things. I write “clean” books (or cozy, which is apparently the term), but in my romance someone said I needed more explicit sex. (It’s Christian romance – sex is implied and embraced but not explained!). I didn’t think it was appropriate for the story, but I also cringed at the thought of my daughter reading it. Or my 99 year old grandmother… yikes. Other than that, no problem! haha

      • I totally agree with you! There is a difference between implying sex in a respectful manner and writing erotica!!! I have to say, if a reviewer said you needed explicit sex in a Christian romance, where sex is always treated respectfully, clearly that person misunderstood the genre, the story, and the intent in every way!!!

  3. Hi Victoria! Thanks for sharing your lessons. Lesson 4 struck me in particular as well because it’s so easy to let external forces dictate our creative process. I’m just beginning to accept that my story is mine and I am in control of where it will go. Thanks!

  4. Very helpful advice, especially no 3 and 4, for me. Thanks for sharing, Victoria.

  5. Point number 2 is something I try to keep in mind. My favorite part of the creative process is world building and sometimes I’ll page long explainations for how magic works or the history of this region etc. I had to cut a lot of that stuff out before publishing A Mage’s Power because it was bogging down the plot.

  6. Great advice. I especially agree with the last point. Thinking about what others (especially friends or family!) will think is the surest way to choke your creativity I can think of!

    • it really is! sometimes you’ve just gotta write what you’ve gotta write and block the rest of it out! otherwise, like you said, you’ll just choke. I had to do that with my first novel. I could never, ever ever publish it. But I learned so much from it. I can’t imagine my life without having written in, and if I’d worried about stuff like that I’d never have written it!

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