Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to write a novel... after a break.

If you have been following this blog, you know I took a detour to write a screenplay for a family movie. It is only a first draft, but I will edit the screenplay with the whole family since it is a family project. So for me personally, I am free to spend my morning writing time on my novel again.

What was my novel about? Who are the characters? Where did I leave off? I quickly find myself drowning in a sea of questions without quick answers. I know as writers, we will all be in this situation from time to time, so I will try to lay out a game plan not just for my benefit, but for all those returning from the detour.

1) Read everything that you have written so far - This seems like a simple and obvious choice, but if you aren't careful, you can derail your writing efforts quickly. Just because you are reading your novel, it does not mean that you are editing. However editing, for me at least, seems the natural tendency when reading my work. Therefore be deliberate in reading for content, tone, plot, character, and flow... not for editing. Use the reading time to get back into the mindset that you were in when writing that which is complete.

2) Read your character summaries - If you don't have character summaries, this may be a good time to write them. Otherwise, review your character summaries to remind you of background history not revealed in the story. Get back in touch with who they are and how they fit into your plot. Which characters cause natural conflict and natural harmony? Are their key events in your plot that are driven by aspects of certain characters? Ask these types of questions to refresh your memory, and prepare your mind.

3) Review your plot outline - During step one and two, you may find that your outline is slightly off, or that the story has moved some in a different direction. Take this opportunity to modify your outline some if necessary, but don't get bogged down. I don't consider this editing since it is not finished words committed to the page, but just an outline. And if you make some quick outline changes now, you are really just getting into the flow that you were in when writing your first draft a month or two (or more) ago.

4) Prepare for your next chapter - When you are writing a first draft, you may not do much preparation from chapter to chapter. You are writing in a flow. However, after a break in the flow it can be scary to return to your manuscript. What if I can't do it? What if it does not flow? What if I am a pathetic excuse for a writer and I have no business killing trees to preserve my writing? Push these questions out of your mind because by the fact that you constantly question yourself, it proves that you are a writer, regardless of skill level. I suggest preparing for the next chapter with maybe a more detailed approach to give you the confidence to start typing again. If you are like me, confidence is the attribute always in short supply.

After the next chapter is written, hopefully you, and I, will be back in the flow again... pressing on to the end of our novel. My challenge to you and myself is not to allow fear of failure to prevent a return to the vulnerability and challenge of writing a novel.

We are capable of finishing. It is a decision.

So until next time, let's all keep on, or start, writing.

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2 comments:

admin.it said...

There are some great tips here. I particularly like the idea of creating character summaries - I'm in the process of putting together something similar, and I'm finding it a very useful process for getting the personalities better defined. More importantly, it's a lot of fun!

Jenaveve said...

There are some great tips here. I particularly like the idea of creating character summaries - I'm in the process of putting together something similar, and I'm finding it a very useful process for getting the personalities better defined. More importantly, it's a lot of fun!