A Beginner’s Tale: Writing a Novel (Part 1)

Back in November I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and “won” by writing a little over 50K words in the month.  That was pretty exciting, and I had a lot of fun doing it, but those 50K words didn’t add up to a book.  Now that the holidays have passed, I’ve decided to get back to those words and see if I can actually turn them into a completed book.  I’ll give myself bonus points if the completed book actually makes sense.  Double bonus points if it’s entertaining.

Last week I read all 50,199 words since I never did that in the frenzy of writing them down, which is kinda the point of NaNo.  Sure enough, there were parts of the book that I didn’t remember writing at all.  Sure enough, there were great black holes in the plot, and characters who seemed to wander in and out of the pages based on no logical reason or plot structure I could find.  But, to my surprise, I could follow the bare-branch framework of the story I had in mind.  I even found a couple of passages where the writing seemed . .  .not horrible.

Since it’s winter in Michigan, and I’m currently unemployed, I don’t have a lot of other activities taking up my time, so I’m diving into the next stage of writing.  And since I’m also trying to be more structured about writing this blog, I’ve decided to keep a journal of my writing process as I try to finish this book.  I won’t bore you with every detail, but once a week or so I’ll update my progress, which I hope will also be incentive for me to, you know, actually make progress.

After reading the words I had, I jumped into revising the first few chapters.  That probably shouldn’t have been my first move, but I really needed to feel like the beginning was an actual beginning, which it wasn’t because during NaNo I’d moved chapter 8 to chapter 1, so the chapter made no sense at all just sitting at the beginning.  Then I needed to rewrite chapter 2 since I’m alternating point of view between the two main characters and the second chapter made no sense following the new first chapter.  And chapter 3 started off as chapter 1, so I had to redo it.  All three are still very rough, but at least the early stages of the story are now in the early stages of the book.

Next, I had to give the characters and places actual names.  This detail became more and more important as I read the very rough draft.  Turns out I didn’t even use unique names for all the placeholders, so figuring out who was even in each scene was tricky.  I started this over the weekend and now have names for all the major players, but still have generic placeholders for some of the minor characters and the people and places in the background information.

Establishing the details of the story’s setting should have been the first thing I did, but I didn’t realize that until I got stuck naming minor characters and places because I didn’t know that much about them.  Since this is set on another planet at some unspecified point in the future, I have to establish clear details of the world I’m building.  Not all of this will end up in the novel, but I need to know it.  I’ve been working on this for a couple of days, and I’m starting to get a good sense of what this world is like.   Turns out there’s lots of corruption in the leadership of the government and military, and that those trying to do good often get overwhelmed or destroyed by those trying to make themselves richer and more powerful.  Hmmm.

Intertwined with the details about the world are the details about the characters.  While I already knew who my two main characters were, I realized that I needed to provide them with more history.  Again, I needed more details, the kind of information a person might reveal in an offhand comment or memory.   Do you see the recurring theme here?  I need to focus on details, which is neither my first instinct nor my greatest strength.

Yesterday I had to stop and think about my two main characters.  Both or them are strong successful women, but in the book I want both to doubt themselves, and have to fight through a lack of confidence.  The situation in the book set up that self-doubt for one of the characters, but not the other.  I could see anger and frustration as her response, but her sudden lack of confidence didn’t really make sense, and made her look like one of those dithering “oh I lack self-esteem” female characters I hate reading about.

After some deep thought, and several hours of playing with my mini-Slinky and cleaning out a drawer in file cabinet, I had nothing.  Then later in the day, when I wasn’t even thinking about the book, an idea suddenly popped up, an idea that (I think) will actually work well to justify her doubts about her abilities, and also–added bonus–fits perfectly into one of the main back story points about the second main character.  Way to go, subconscious!

Today I’m going to explore the secondary characters–the two three bad guys, the love interest, the fellow Enforcers, the leader of the refugees.  And wait for my subconscious  to come up with a reason for the murder of those two bodies that now open the story.

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About notthatCindyCrawford

I like books, music, movies, television, sports, food, travel, learning, laughing and sitting around thinking. This blog is a place for me to have fun writing about the things I love. Let me know how I'm doing.
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7 Responses to A Beginner’s Tale: Writing a Novel (Part 1)

  1. Jeff says:

    Sounds like a compelling start to a quirky, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, women’s fiction, whodunit novel. Pretty straightforward 🙂

  2. Should be simple enough to write, right? Right.

  3. jane says:

    Based on Jeff’s comment, you’ll need to be clear prior to publishing which section this book should be shelved in. And also any cross-shelving you want to recommend to booksellers. Aside from the front table, of course. 😉
    Also, can I request that none of the bad guys have the name of ‘Jane’? Thanks in advance.

  4. Are you sure you’re not my evil twin? Because I had the exact same problems when I sat down to write MY novel. Well, not EXACT same – similar problems. Well – when I DO sit down to write my novel, I imagine that I will have the exact same problems. I, however, intend to name one of the bad guys “Jane.” Who isn’t scared of Jane??!!

  5. Pingback: From the Beginning: Writing a Novel (Part 2) | I Am Not a Supermodel, and other observations

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