How Does An Author Adjust His or Her Approach from Novel to Novel?

frustrated-girl-writingHello authors! Have you ever thought about how not only every writer, but every NOVEL is different and requires a different process?

This is why I say that flexibility is so important to us writers. You’ve got to adapt.

My experience with “The Esclavan Abductions” (my current project) is definitely reinforcing that. I am rapidly realizing that the book is going to need at least one more read-through, and I have never, ever done multiple read-throughs before. Not through five novels that I’ve written.

(A read-through, for me, is when I read a draft with the aim of getting through it as quickly as possible. While reading, rather than stopping to edit anything, I just take notes on what isn’t working so I can fix it later. That helps me get through the novel faster.)

I’ve been editing the work’s first draft, working with notes from my first read-through and also changing things according to a breakthrough I had about the plot after the read-through.

I’m about a third of the way through my first edit, which seems more of an accomplishment than it is because the bulk of all my plot changes will be coming in the second half.

  • I’m adding whole subplots that haven’t come into play yet (at least not substantially)
  • I’m altering subplots to fit the new stuff and make the story more credible overall
  • I’m changing the dynamic of a relationship that constitutes a large part of the second half
  • I will be cutting and/or rewriting entire scenes

I’ve never overhauled a first draft quite to this extent. Which is fine: I’m enjoying the process, which is why I’m continuing to edit rather than throwing in the towel and rewriting from page one.

I’m starting to realize how radically different my approach to editing this novel will have to be from any way I’ve edited before, though.

The changes I’ll be making are so expansive, so sweeping, that the result will be much more like a first draft than any previous second draft I’ve produced.

As that’s the case, this particular second draft will benefit, I’m sure, from its own read-through. There’s no way for me to get a global image of the new version’s flow and cohesion by reading it scene by scene, piece by piece, adjusting things here and there as I go.

So remember when you get to writing, or even editing:

  • DON’T DO SOMETHING ONE WAY JUST BECAUSE “THAT’S HOW I DO IT.” There is no right way to edit and to write that will span your entire writing career. The key to successful writing over multiple projects is making adjustments as necessary. If your usual approach isn’t working this time around, it’s time to try something different.
  • IF YOUR GUT IS TELLING YOU TO BREAK YOUR PATTERN, BREAK IT. If your muse is whispering to you to do things differently, try doing things differently. Break your mold. If that doesn’t work, you can always backtrack and apply your usual method.

So, what do you think about this? Have you ever developed a mode of writing and editing, only to change your process as needed?

Feel free to leave your thoughts and share your experiences. If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these other posts on read-throughs.

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28 responses to “How Does An Author Adjust His or Her Approach from Novel to Novel?

  1. Well, I’m just about to begin editing my novel for the first time, but I can imagine that I would just go with what works until that method doesn’t work anymore. Plus, as you edit you become a better editor. You learn. I can’t imagine that one would edit their twentieth book like they edited their first.

  2. I’m with you on this; every story comes with its own set of needs. It’s the author’s job to discover what those needs are and handle them in a way that’s appropriate for both the story and the author. Each story will be handled differently, unless the author is telling the exact same story twice. (I think that’s called a reprint.)

    Admittedly, I only have my WIP and other partially completed novels to draw on, since I’ve never published any of my previous novel-length works. My processes are different for my WIP than those previous attempts, and I’m confident that I’ll have a publishable novel this time.

  3. As always, good practical advice, Victoria. I agree, flexibility is a must for writers as they need to portray different characters and viewpoints as they move from novel to novel.

    • Flexibility is SOOO important. It’s surprised me through the years to discover how important it actually is. I always thought writing a novel meant one thing…. It totally doesn’t.

  4. I think it’s a good sign that you are doing something different, as it shows you’re willing to progress and evolve as a writer as well. I’ve really only written one full length novel, but even starting the first drafts of my second and third, my approach has been vastly different, but mostly because I’ve improved it!

    • I think writing is always experimentation… You try one thing, and if you’re smart, you make adjustments to make things work better for you the second time around. I think I’m kind of lazy not organizing myself more than I do, but… my approach is my approach and I AM always tweaking it, at least 🙂

  5. Especially if you are new to writing, I think it helps to use a guide by an experienced author. I just did the best I could with my first novel, and thought several times I was “finished” editing only to discover as I learned more that I needed some changes. For my second novel I am using the checklist from James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication (I highly recommmend it!) and anticipate the whole process to be more organized and thorough. So, my experience is, what you learn between novels will shape your next novel’s editing process.

    • that’s a FANTASTIC idea, Melissa. I used “On Writing” as a starting point to shape my personal writing process. I don’t do everything the way Stephen King suggests there, but his suggestions got me thinking about my approach.

  6. I haven’t really switched projects yet, so I don’t know. I think I’d be differing my style in the series after Legends of Windemere. At least in the way that there is less humor and more darkness because it’s vampires. Not them as the villains, but the origin of the vampire nation in Windemere. So my focus might change. It’s really hard to tell.

  7. Interesting post. I am actually having the opposite problem. I have written three very different novels and my approach has been different on each one. I think that each of my stories needs a distinct “personality” as they were stand-alones. Now however, I am working on my first sequel and the biggest struggle is getting back into the same frame of mind as in the first novel so as to keep the style and pacing consistent. I worry that if I experiment (even by approaching the editing differently) it will not seem like a natural continuation of the first story.

    • I can see how that would be a worry!!! I worried about how different the sequel to first novel was. They’re both part of a trilogy but the tone of the second is a bit different. The first is an adventure story about a resistance movement; the sequel is more of a coming of age story, or at least, AS MUCH a coming of age stoyr as it is anything else. It’s tough to find the connections sometimes. Using a similar approach to writing and editing helped me connect them I think as much as they could be connected.

  8. Oh, my writing process changes almost constantly. I love to print out pages and edit them with pen, but that’s not always the way I do it, and I never do it the same way either. I tend to follow the same pattern, change the big stuff on the computer, then print it out, but other than that, I follow what feels like the best path at that moment. All of the novels are different, why shouldn’t the editing process be the same way?

    • I agree. I do what I feel like doing and what I think will be effective at the moment. That’s part of the fun factor for me. I have to maintain the fun factor or I won’t write at all.

  9. Every time you start a new book it’s like trying to remember what falling in love feels like. It’s different every time, and you always think, “Yes! This is it! This is what it’s supposed to feel like,” and then you finish that book, get a new idea and it’s “Man. What was I thinking? *This* is love!”

  10. I agree that writers do need to adjust and adapt. They need to change their approach in writing once in awhile to keep abreast with their readers, although I know it something that may be hard to do. Think positive and see if there is a need.

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