Welcome to Hardwick House

Just a Friendly Reminder

This past few weeks I’ve been struggling. I’ve never tried to write a novel before and just kind of started on a whim. I wrote my first draft of the first chapter and posted it to my first ever Online Writing Group. It got good reviews and I got lots of good suggestions and critiques. I kept writing and wrote up to four chapters. Then on a drive out of town, discussing my ideas with Michael, I decided to do a revamp. I like the revamp idea, however, ever since going back to my chapter 1 to start over, I’ve been stuck. Writing and rewriting the same damn chapter over and over to the point where I just look at scrivener and cringe. So, I did a little rant to my group about my frustrations of trying to meet a word count, my strange phobia of posting things out of order to the group, and how I didn’t feel I could move on till I got that stupid chapter one perfect, but I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I got a lot of great advice which I wanted to share, for any other newbies out there who just don’t know what direction to go and as a reminder to those who do πŸ™‚

  1. Write bits/scenes as they come and worry about fitting them in order and together when the time comes.
  2. Β F*** perfect writing. Get the idea out. If you delete everything you have nothing to work with or fix.
  3. Use the index cards on your scrivener. Do a basic plot of the conflicts you want your characters to get through in your story.
  4. Try writing at the same time every day.
  5. Set a goal and try and meet it everyday.
  6. Β It’s hard — if not impossible — to make it perfect, and the more you rewrite it, the more you want to rewrite it. My advice is to move on, continue writing C2 and C3 and keep going. You can always go back and do rewrites later
  7. Forget about the word count. A chapter can have three words or three thousand words, if it fits the story. As long as it feels natural to stop at that place, stop there.
  8. If you sit down and can’t figure out what to write. Just have something crazy happen to your characters.
  9. Treat your novel much like you would during Nanowrimo. Just get that first draft down, take all the ideas and notes swimming in your head and put them to the page, no matter how crappy the writing is.
  10. Also NaNoWriMo is fabulous practice for “sit butt in chair and write”.
  11. Podcasts, writing programs, and books on writing can help so it never hurts to try stuff like that.
  12. It’s not good to think too much, especially when we are just starting on our manuscript. Forget about dos and don’ts and just write.
  13. Keep it fun!

Some of these things already knew but I still let them get in the way until I had it pointed out to me that that’s what I was doing. I even gave some similar advice to a friend, only to have her turn around and give it right back. It’s funny how we don’t always listen to ourselves.Β  – so I give props to all my fellow Misfits out there. Where would we all be with out others to encourage us when we’re down and kick us Β when we’re being ridiculous and should know better πŸ™‚

I have a busy life, like so many others, and finding time to do what I want to do is hard but it’s also important to me that I make time for myself. It helps keep me sane and right now, what I want to do is write. So, I’ve done rearranging of my schedule, and am going back to the way I was writing before – JUST WRITING! and seeing where it takes me. It’s my minds adventure, time I let it run its course πŸ™‚

Comments on: "Just a Friendly Reminder" (9)

  1. That’s all some very sound advice.

    There’s nothing wrong with doing a quick-fix on a recent scene, or one you decide to revisit because you have a sudden better idea.

    But I agree with the suggestions that – barring any need to fix actual plot issues – revision can be done when the thing is finished and you can focus just on revision.

    I tend to think of having a “creating” mindset and a “revising” mindset, and I don’t really switch between them. I like to be finished with the initial draft, and then let it cogitate for a month or so, before looking at it with a fresh perspective.

    By the time you finish your story, that first chapter might look a lot better. Or, you might have new ideas of things to bring out in it.

    Opening chapters are tough. You feel a lot of pressure to deliver what has been driven home time and again, about how the first sentence or first page or at least first chapter must grab a reader by the shirt (or blouse) front and hold them so they keep turning pages.

    I’ve read openings that hooked me and the rest of the novel failed to deliver. I can think of a bestseller that did that, and another book that had a super opening chapter and devolved from there into a disappointment that kept disappointing.

    But most opening chapters aren’t mesmerizing. Yet we still read the books. I’ll take a wild guess based on my own typical buying experiences. If I run across a book completely at random, I’ll glance at the opening chapter and samples to get a feel for it, and probably glance at a few reviews. But probably most books I buy, I go looking for specifically. I’ve heard about them from reviews, heard them recommended or mentioned as worth checking out, and when I glance at the opening chapter I mainly want to just get a feel for the writer’s style and a sense of the story. The reviews and recommendations hold more weight than that supposedly “critical” first impression.

    I think the first chapter needs to reflect confidence. Beyond that, maybe just ask yourself, “What am I trying to do here?”

    All stories have a theme, a mood they’re trying to bring a reader into. Your first chapter isn’t really “about” describing characters, introducing them, setting plot points into motion. It’s about collecting the essences of the mood you want to convey and transmit that feeling to a reader so they can grasp it. The other stuff is just the window-dressing.

    So I think when you do finish the story and return to the opening chapter, you’ll have a real sense of those feelings because you’ve felt them washing over you for months of writing. You’ll have a grasp for the words that make them come to be for others. Carrie Ryan’s “Forest of Hands and Teeth” evokes a fairytale sense of myths and isolation and longing in the first chapter. Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Lestat” brought his brashness to the forefront right away. Patricia Briggs’s “Moon Called” reveals a protagonist who’s confident rather than brash, choosing to be methodical in her life even as complexities are unveiled one after another.

    I believe that by the time you finish the story, you’ll have a good feel for the parts of the opening chapter that work right and you’ll be able to finesse the rest to match.

    Good luck!

    • I know what you mean, going back and doing a quick fix is okay with me, I just need to stop reading the same thing over and over. I have so many things and holes I’m not sure of yet that it leaves room for much variation but I know the general feel of it and my MC is very strong in my mind. She’s slowly showing me the way πŸ™‚

      There is a lot of pressure about the first chapter, but I agree with you, I don’t always buy a book based on the first chapter and I’ve had several myself where the first chapter is amazing and the rest just left me wanting to feel that excitement again. I have a couple versions so after some time, I’ll go back and see which one really gives the feel I want. The more I write, the more I get the “OH!” excited feeling when new pieces start to fit into the puzzle. I love that feeling πŸ™‚

  2. Great advice E.R. and I hope it takes you flying all the way into the creative stratosphere – where you can soar around for a bit before spying the juicy, wriggly bits of inspiration just waiting for you to pounce on them from on high…

  3. I know the feeling of having read something so many times that it turns into gobbly gook, or it just feels like you can’t mentally grasp it any more because you have seen the same things over, and over, and over again thus making it feel to be not getting better or getting worse.

    All of those things are fabulous ways to break the cycle

  4. I like to call it:


    It might seem silly but Sane Juice makes me laugh and relaxes me.

  5. Great Post!!
    Even though I took part in giving some of the advice, this list is helpful to me as well. It is an upbeat reminder of what I try to do every time I sit down to write. πŸ™‚

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