Writing a Novel – Day 2

Dec 4 2012

Did you know that words sound way better in your head than they do on paper? Finished my first chapter yesterday and hated, hated, hated it. If it wasn’t for this noose I’ve tied around my neck in the form of daily updates, I would just scrap the whole thing and give up.  But I’ve made a commitment and I intend to stick to it (as of now).

So how did the first chapter get written so fast? The truth is that, before I embarked on the actual process of writing my book, I had worked out a rough outline of each chapter. Then each day, as I walked my puppy Korra, I fleshed the first chapter out in my head till I was fairly clear of the pattern. Yesterday, when I began writing I had a beginning, middle, and end for this chapter. (Not so for the book itself, where I have not the foggiest idea of how the story will end. When I mentioned this to my daughter, she gave me a look and said, “Mom, you’re the one who is always telling me that the end will figure itself out.” What can I say, she is a smart cookie.)

Some roadblocks in writing that first chapter –

–    Character names. Some writers say their characters are alive in their head and just step onto the paper when they are ready. While this was somewhat true for the principal character, I still did not have a name for her. I finally decided on Lara as a title holder, since it is close to my daughter’s name. I figure that thanks to Word, I can just substitute the name en masse if I change it later.
–    Lesser characters. Obviously the heroine is not the only character in the book. But what to name the other characters? And descriptions? As I was writing a new character popped up, and turned out to be vital to the story? What should I name him? What does he look like? What is he wearing? It was surprising how much time and focus these insignificant decisions took. Again, I used a placeholder name (which is pretty yuck) and hopefully inspiration for a better one will strike sometime.
–    What if you need to do research? Using Freedom means no access to the internet for the entire 120 minutes, so this is a problem if you want to be somewhat accurate. Fortunately, my story is set in the future, so I can afford to take some liberties. But I anticipate some rewrites as I fix glaring scientific/biological anomalies.

The second chapter, unlike the first, is only a very rough outline, so I expect this one to take a long time and sweat.

More tomorrow.

If you have some tips to share or experiences of your own, please leave them here in the comments instead of FB so I can keep a record.

3 thoughts on “Writing a Novel – Day 2

  1. meena srinivasan

    Don’t some books take years to write? By that token, getting the first draft of the first chapter done in one day is quite an accomplishment!

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  2. Jeanne Fredriksen

    Vidya, the best piece of advice I ever received/read from an author is:

    Let it pour out on the first draft without worry. The second draft is for story/plot. The third is for character. And the subsequent drafts are for enhancements, tweaking, serious editing.

    That’s the method I’ve settled into, and it works for me. It may or may not work for you, but I wanted to share that with you.

    All writers write under different situations, constraints, methods. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works best for *you*. One thing I had learned early on is that if I edit and re-edit the same chapter or chapters over and over until I think it’s “right,” I never move forward. But that’s me and my quirks.

    Another piece of advice I’d gotten from a middle-grade-moving-into-young-adult author was to never label what you’re writing until you’re done with it. The intent and the major characters will determine whether it’s for emerging, independent, middle grade, young adult, or adult readers. Ever since I was told that, it has freed me up to move forward faster, and I’ve experienced how things changed as I drafted.

    However, if you’re planning to write for a particular “group” (i.e., 10-year olds, 16-year olds, etc.), I encourage you to read as many books as you can that fall into those categories to get a feel for what’s out there and what kids are reading. And, if you like, I can send you some great reference materials and titles of books on the subject.

    I applaud you for deciding to do this! And I’m so tickled to be able to follow your journey. Word of caution … don’t let your blog cut into your novel time ❗

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  3. Vidya Pradhan Post author

    Great advice Jeanne! My original plan was to let it all pour out in the first draft, but I am beginning to realize that’s not my style. Today was spent mostly on the chapters already written, fixing some of the foundational elements and rewriting for clarity. I was happier when I had done that because a) I felt better about my output and b) it showed me a way ahead for my characters..at least to the next chapter.
    As for the blog, I’m finding it to be a source of motivation for the book..can’t keep writing the novel all the time and this allows me to take a breather, put down my fears in writing so they appear small and, in general, practice the craft of organizing my thoughts and ordering them on paper. Plus, I get to hear from writers like you. 🙂

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