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Getting It Right

March 25, 2010

Earlier, whenever I read a really good book, one I couldn’t easily put down, I inevitably thought, “Wow, that story must have just flowed right on to the page.” I figured it was so clear in the author’s mind, it had to fall on the page with equal ease.

That may be for some authors, but not this one. When I first started writing book one, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted it to go. In fact, I’ve kept many of the same characters, plot lines, and themes as my original concept. But all of these elements have evolved over the four years I’ve been working on them. They’re taking somewhat different shapes and subtleties, and plot lines unfold a little differently, but the essence is all the same.

I didn’t know if I’d been moving closer to my original vision or farther, but I kept going until I hit a wall last summer. I finally heeded the advice of writer friends who suggested it might be time to start a new project.

So I moved on to book two. I brainstormed and outlined until National Novel Writing Month, last November, when I actually sat down to write. And surprisingly, that partial draft is not half bad. I certainly think I’ll keep more of it than I did from my original first draft of book one. Soon, I was raring to go again, getting excited about mapping out books three and four.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with going from the first story to the next in the series is in timing. I’ve learned so much and have evolved greatly as a writer since I began the first novel.  Keeping myself focused on improving my craft, trying a new outline technique, and mastering dialogue made writing the start of the second book easier, but it also left me with the burning desire to polish the first book until it, too, was up to par.

With my enthusiasm level way up, I went back to finish what I started with book one. So I’ve gone back in, pulling it apart, word by word, chapter by chapter, deleting scenes, adding new ones. I wish I could move on to the second book already, but I can’t until I rewrite and revise the original to the best of my new abilities.

It’s painfully slow, picking at every tiny element, but in the end it will be worth it. I’ll have not one but two books I can be proud of (and hopefully sell). I don’t plan on being one of those writers I often hear stories about: “He wrote fifteen books before the first one sold.” While I currently have a love-hate relationship with book one, I do believe the process is making the novel as good as it can be and me a better writer.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 8:53 am

    My stories flow from the my head right on to the page, but I’m the only one who sees it that way…LOL!

    Man I HATE the walls, but you really show how putting a novel aside does wonders for your editing when you pick it back up.

    • March 25, 2010 6:45 pm

      Hey, Superwoman, it’s harder than for some of us. 😉

      Yes, I need to get better at shifting between projects.

  2. March 25, 2010 9:46 am

    Book One – we love it so much – but it takes forever to get it right!!! As they say, the work is in the revision. I’ve rewritten my first book (and I mean start over and make up a new story) three or four time now.

    Second book – the one getting published – I wrote in 30 days. But I still love my first book and we’re going out on sub this spring, so we’ll see if all the hard work and revision pays off. But with every pass through that manuscript I grow as a writer (hopefully) and can apply what I’ve learned to future books.

    So keep at your revision Supriya – it will pay off in the long run!!

    • March 25, 2010 6:47 pm

      I’ve heard that story so many times, about the first one not being the favorite with the agents and editors. I hope they’re wrong, because, yes, it’s like your first born. You have to see it succeed. Thanks for the support!

  3. March 25, 2010 11:30 am

    The way I work evolves over time, but mostly I approach my wips with a concept and general idea of how I want it to end. Then I sit down and write. Most of the time it flows and when I doesn’t, I take a break. Sometimes I’ll write a short story to sell to a magazine to give me a sense of accomplishment before moving on with the novel. I also find I usually get unstuck when taking a shower. LOL.

    Definitely keep trying to sell the first book, but there’s nothing wrong with building up your library of stories to sell. You may find it’s your third or fourth book to generate the first sale, but then you’ll have all those others ready to go.

    I’m trying something new with my third book, which is almost complete. I’m going to post it for crits to my group, but save them to go back to later. I think a little distance may make the editing process easier. In the meantime, I’m going on with book four in my series and possibly working on another story I have in my head at the same time. I’ve already started both.

    • March 25, 2010 6:52 pm

      Distance does make going back to edit easier. Also, since I’m working on a series, it’s good to work ahead and find out what happens to these characters so I can come to the first one and see them in another light. For example, it’s easier to make bad things happen to them and think, “don’t worry, sunnier days are ahead,” or the opposite. 😉

      I haven’t written short stories since I began book one years ago so the idea of writing one now feels like learning a new language. But this is the year for that, certainly.

      Congrats on books three and four coming together! That’s a great accomplishment. Tell us about your series, please.

  4. March 25, 2010 7:45 pm

    I guess that the biggest challenge in writing the next book is being organized. I admire people like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, L. Ron Hubbard, Samuel L. Delaney and Laurell K. Hamilton, who can write multiple books.

    Maybe we’ll be up there with them in the near future.

  5. Harley D. Palmer permalink*
    March 25, 2010 8:38 pm

    I just love coming to this place! It’s so nice to hear others talk about working on book one AND two. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one trying to write three different plots for the same group of character, and another 4 with all differents set of characters all at the same time.

    But it works for me. If I get stuck on one, I can move over to another. It makes sure that I never have “writer’s block” as they say. Like once a year I have a time where I can’t write anything no matter how hard I try. This happened to me over these past few weeks but I can feel myself coming out of it. So the rest of the year, I’ll be golden! Woo!

    • March 26, 2010 6:31 pm

      Seven books, Harley? Wow. I’m glad to hear you’re coming unstuck–keep us posted on your progress. I’d love to learn your process for keeping so many projects going on at once. As Greg says, we’ll get there one day.

  6. March 26, 2010 3:51 pm

    Great discussion going on here.

    Looking at the page, the amount of white space, is a good indicator for me as to whether I’m dialogue heavy or narrative heavy. And then I can go back and double check the narrative for telling.

    Congrats, Kiki, on your book!! Can’t wait to read it!!

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  1. The Headaches Caused by Those Darn Serial Novels « By W. J. Howard

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