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Thread: Attn: Accomplished Writers

  1. #1

    Attn: Accomplished Writers

    I would like to hear from people who have written a novel (whether it was published or not), or are in the process of doing so.

    Writing a novel is an aspiration of mine... I'm beginning to wonder what I am waiting for and have started preparing the concept/characters/etc.

    I would love to hear personal experiences, insights, lessons learned, helpful hints, do's&don'ts - ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    You might do better if you read a few books about planning and writing a novel, but I will admit that such books aren't very useful.

    i would suggest that you start it. Don't wait, or someone else may write it for you.

  3. #3
    Thank you for your advice. As simple as it might be, it's quite resonant.

    I have started writing, and since I haven't even scraped the surface yet, it's been pretty painless up to this point. I know that ultimately, I am just going to have to rough it and learn from experience (what it takes to write a book), but I also feel kind of in the dark... The only experience I've ever had with relatively lengthy writing is pretty much limited to essays and short stories for school. You always have DVD extras on the making of movies, but when you do ever hear in-depth what happened behind the scenes of writing a book?

    More than anything, I am just curious... I don't know anybody who's written a book, so it is a mysterious process to me.

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    Congratulations on beginning your novel!

    Writing a novel can be a pretty consuming venture. I've written two. My first novel, a romance, took me ten years to write. I'm currently working on the second and that's taken 11 years. It's a fantasy and it's very long. It could be broken down to a trilogy or "dualogy" if needed. Or it could be one really long book. Neither book has been published. I'm hoping to send the current one out to publishers, once I'm done with it. My goal is to be done with everything by my birthday, Oct. 2, but it may end up being by Thanksgiving. Or maybe Christmas.

    I'm really slow at it. Most people don't spend a decade on each story. But my excuse is that I work full time and I'm the mother of twins. There isn't always time for writing.

    There are two schools of thought on how to go about writing a novel. The first school says that outlining is essential. These people wouldn't think of beginning a novel until they know exactly where they're going, how they're going to get there and how it will end. They plan and plot and create extended character diagrams before they ever sit down and write the first line. They're the organized left-brained people.

    The second school is the opposite. These people start writing as soon as they have a germ of an idea and let the story go wherever the characters want to take it. They don't know where they'll end up till they get there. They tend to be more intuitive and right-brained about writing. This is the way I write. I don't know what my story's about until I start writing it and hear the characters start interacting in my head. (And this is another reason it takes so long.)

    There is also every shade of gray in the middle. Don't let anyone tell you it has to be one or the other because everyone has to discover their own way and their own style. You'll just have to do it and see which one works better for you. Writing a novel is a hands on experience and the only way to learn is to get down in the trenches and do it.

    I would suggest that you try to start with an outline, since that is the more organized and efficient way, but don't be afraid to just take off and start going if that seems to work for you.

    I would also suggest that you pick up a how to book. It's a good idea to learn from people who have already done it. You don't have to read a lot, just enough to get you started on the basics. It will save you from making all those beginners mistakes later.

    You could look into "This Year You Write Your Novel," by Walter Mosely. It's short and he gives you all the basics and has good ideas. Also, Stephen King's book, "On Writing," has some good advice. There are tons of others, if you're browse the library or bookstore's aisles.

    Feel free to write me if you need further advice or a pep talk. Good luck!
    Last edited by worddance; 07-30-2007 at 02:46 PM.

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    Hi,

    My best suggestion would be to value rewriting above all things. It's far better to get something, anything down on the page. At least that way you have something to work with, to hone and improve. The worst thing is to never start at all, which is a writer's worst enemy. There are always other things that are more inviting to do. Clean out the garage, channel-hop looking for something mildly interesting to watch, stare out of the window at the clouds, you know, the important stuff

  6. #6
    Something's gotta give PrinceMyshkin's Avatar
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    My most emphatic advice would be do not get even close to a how-to write book! And forget about writing a novel because that will evoke the ghosts of all impossibly good ones I assume you read in the past. You are writing a story, of which Bassevis Singer once said the essence is: "There were two men in who lived in a town. One day, one of them moved away."

    My only other suggestions are: set aside a place if you can where nothing else goes on. Begin every day (every day) at more or less the same time. Take a break after no more than three hours. Go for a walk. Don't read any other fiction while you're writing it.

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    I've never written a novel, although i have been saying I should for well... 5 years maybe. Not even a single line of poetry or one letter typed. Don't know enough about anything to even start. Too hard, but from what I have heard the main hints are:

    1) Write about what you know
    2) have a meaning to your work
    3) write clearly, cohesively and with as little ambiguity as possible.
    4) read all day
    4.5) write all day
    5) read lit. theory and criticism/philosophy/theology --:> yuk! Im too post-modern for my own good<> many will disagree here
    7) write in your own style
    8) ignore bad fiction (unless you want to write like that)>> "the good artist knows what to read, and what not to read... he knows what he has to, and what he doesn't have to" wish i could remember who said that. Problem here is what is 'good' and what is 'bad', but (5) answers that.

    Two good essays on writing that I would recommend you read are-- sorry for my lack of titles, I have very poor short, long, and medium range memory -- critical essays by T.S. Eliot and E.B. White.

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    I agree with Markhockley. You should expect to rewrite whatever you write. If you have the beginning and the end in mind, together with a general concept of the middle, and if you have some of the characters, write until the characters have gotten as close to the ending as they can. Then take a vacation from writing, until you can sit down and read the first draft from beginning to end. It will need a rewrite.

    I am acquainted with a couple of published novelists, and from what I can figure out neither of them has more than a general idea of what the novel is about until they finish. Build your characters well, and they will write the story for you. The characters tell the story, not you.

    One item that I have found difficult in the past was finding a frame for the story: Why is (are) the character(s) there to start with?

    If you decide to consider Derringer's advice; ignore points 4, 4.5, 5, 7, 8, and the unwritten 6 (whatever that may be.
    Point 5 may be followed, but only if you read Umberto Eco and no other post-modernists.

    You might want to read Mark Twain's essay "FENIMORE COOPER'S LITERARY OFFENCES".

  9. #9
    I really appreciate all of the thoughtful feedback - thank you!

  10. #10
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    I'm on maybe my second or third go at a book. The first, I just sort of wrote. I didn't really plan or think it out too well, and oops I killed my main character and couldn't figure out how to change things without some idiotic I-was-supposed-to-die but didn't moment. I wasn't going to do that, so sixty pages in, it went in the garbage. That was the end of that story. My more recent one, started as a short story. Then I trashed that, kept the main character and a really general concept of the idea and started a new one. I'm six chapters in, but I'm planning better. I'm laying out characters now that it is set up, and I'm even planning a couple more. I'll let you know how the whole trilogy thing goes when I get there. I never planned on any sort of publication, so I'm struggling with that a bit now that I'm really considering the idea. Good luck to you. My best advice is plan carefully, but roughly. If it is too specific, you get a good idea and can't write it in because it is too hard to fit. It also kills a bit of the joy in writing. For me half the fun is seeing what happens next. You may figure I should know, but its a surprise to even me.

  11. #11
    This or That Literary_Cat's Avatar
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    The best ever book about writing fiction (and I've read a great number, as well as written my share of novels) is without doubt Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I found it extraordinarily entertaining and relevant. You can't go wrong to pick it up.

    Good luck with your novel...
    I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

    ~Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear. Dune.

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    Rather Bewildered brainstrain's Avatar
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    I don't have any advice, being a 16 year old aspiring writer, but I found a lot of the posts here very enlightening - thanks!
    "...thought is the arrow of time, memory never fades."

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    Quote Originally Posted by brainstrain View Post
    I don't have any advice, being a 16 year old aspiring writer, but I found a lot of the posts here very enlightening - thanks!
    At 16, with an aspiration to write, is a damn good trait to have. I wish I were as intelligent in those year of my free spirited youth.

    But, as they say, you just get tossed aside in this trial called life. Nobody perfects their own future at such a young age, but at any rate, you're off to a good start.

    I can only offer nothing more than to 'read' as much as you can and 'write' as much as you can. The more articulate you are, the better.

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    I love Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird. I think it's one of the best inspirational writing books out there. Also, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones is very good. These books get you started and help you get past the fear that comes with facing the blank page.

    Mary

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    Haribol Acharya blazeofglory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThousandthIsle View Post
    I would like to hear from people who have written a novel (whether it was published or not), or are in the process of doing so.

    Writing a novel is an aspiration of mine... I'm beginning to wonder what I am waiting for and have started preparing the concept/characters/etc.

    I would love to hear personal experiences, insights, lessons learned, helpful hints, do's&don'ts - ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!

    Thank you!
    All I suggest is write something different, for a writer is likened to a creator. All that a writer does is assemble fragments of ideas array them in logical order and magnify them with carefully selected words and organize them in to impressive sentences paragraphic structures.

    Nowadays we are at liberty when it comes to writing a novel. We do not become too much concerned about the plot as it was the standard a couple of decades ago only. All you need do is organize your ideas or experiences into beautiful order.

    You should have to have elemental knowledge about how to start it and how to end. Between these two exttrmes you can stuff anythiong but artistically.
    As a writer you must upsize your vocabulary.

    The most important quotient is philosophy. There are too many novels and too many get published too and evaporate after some time. Why can they not stand or endure the test of time. The one and only answer is there is substance in their novels.

    It is up to you to decide. But as far as my advice goes, you must equip yourself with many things before leaping to a novel, or to put this way, if you really want to be a first rate writer you must pass through sleepless nights msuing and musing to come with something tour de force.

    I do not know you like the idea or not.

    “Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremonies and music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature””

    “If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.

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