The Healer and the Pirate

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Just Do It


The last chapter and epilogue were very, very difficult to write, because I had to close up a huge mess of plotlines as well as I could. It's a very complicated story that I'm just not a good enough writer to pull off at this point. Someday I'll revisit it, but I'm SO grateful that day won't be any time soon! You can read a little about it at my About Me and My Writing page.

So I have a co-worker who would like to write a novel, but he worries that he wants his novel to be GOOD. (One cure for that problem is NaNoWriMo. It's a great way to see that yes, you can write something if you take the pressure off.)

For most people, it seems, the first draft is really rough, and the edits come later. In other words, the art of writing is really the art of RE-writing. Even if you have a solid outline and a solid plot, you can always polish your writing to make it sparkle. But first you have to have something to polish!

Animation is the same way:

Even rough/imperfect drafts can be really beautiful, as in this line test for Beauty and the Beast. And if those rough drawings hadn't been done, the movie couldn't have been made.

I hate to see anyone not write just because they're worried it won't be good enough. Frankly, some authors have become fabulously wealthy with novels that critics (and fellow authors!) don't consider to be remotely well-written. And I think the best way to learn to write is to just do it (and once you're strong enough, solicit feedback). I learned more about writing for publication from six months of giving and receiving critiques on Critique Circle than I did from my Creative Writing degree. And Critique Circle currently costs as little as $0 a year (free membership; $49.00 a year for some excellent perks; $89.00 a year for no ads).

Now, all that said, it's easy to give advice and much harder to follow it. I struggled with those last two chapters because I was afraid they wouldn't tie up the story satisfactorily. Yup; I fear they're not good enough!

Still, the best advice is, just do it.

If you write, you will eventually have a manuscript. 500 words a day for about 7 months will give you 100,000 words (the very HIGHEST word count most beginning authors should strive for). Unless you have exceptionally short chapters, one chapter a week will give you a novel in well under a year.

Of course, as I found out through NaNoWriMo, if you just start writing with NO plan, you may end up with a story that's incredibly hard to edit. (Especially if time travel always creeps in to your stories, like it does into mine.)

One brilliant idea for conceiving a book is the Snowflake Method. The basic concept is, start with a little kernel of a story idea, and then build on it until you have a coherent storyline. Eventually you'll get a detailed plan to write your novel! As a bonus, you'll end up with an outline you can use when pitching your work to editors and agents. From the site:

There is no reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150. Counting the 100 hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time.

I actually attempted to use the Snowflake Method before I started "Flight from Endwood" in 2006. It didn't work so well, but I was pressed for time and didn't pause to actually think through how the story would actually work. I ended up plotting a romance for two characters (Edwin and Miss Liang) and they had absolutely no attraction. Had I actually considered my Snowflake more critically before I started, though, I might have saved myself literally years of edits, and might have a pitch-able novel right now.

But I'm going to try the Snowflake thing with my next project (Chosen: Bonnie of Sheshack). That's another novel that I wrote and substantially edited about a third of...but I'm going to get working on it in earnest presently, and get something out there. Still, I'm not going to rush it before I get a very solid outline in place.

Anyway! I think I'll celebrate the completion of my manuscript by the adding of chocolate to milk. :)

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