23 January 2011

Learning Curve

Last April I made a goal to have a novel ready to present to an agent at LDStorymakes 2011. The idea for said novel came to me about 2 weeks later. By the end of May I had a world built and an outline ready. The second week in August I had the first (very) rough draft of a manuscript completed. I was supposed to have it revised once before I went to Death Camp the first week in November. Tried, choked . . . died . . . didn't happen.

I started afresh at Death Camp. A new outline, and about three weeks later, I had the first section written. Three or four weeks after that I had the second section written. Four weeks after that I'd re-edited (with the help of all the comments from innocent victims I called readers) the first two sections and finished it to the end. That was last Friday.

I don't really know how long it should take someone to write a novel, but I feel like it took me WAY too long. There was definitely a learning curve—and not just for one thing. For everything. The really depressing part is that I'm not finished yet.

So what did I learn? Plenty. First off, I would never send the manuscript for people to read in chunks again. Although I may send the first few chapters just to get some feedback on the basic idea and beginning. It was too hard trying to revise part two while comments and redlines were pouring in for part one and I was trying to make sure part three still worked.

This isn't my first novel—I've written three others and Nanowrimo-ed two more. Unfortunately, this time I neglected to make character sheets for all of the characters in the book. I have basics written down through my notebook, (I seriously brainstorm better when I write things out with pen and paper) but I never did make official character sheets. This is important—I know it's important—and I neglected it. My bad. It won't happen again.

Outlines are awesome! Even though between my first and second revisions I completely changed the middle of the story, having an outline made writing so much easier. I'm not chained to it, but the outline helped me to keep writing when all I wanted to do was toss my laptop across the room. In the next couple of weeks I plan to go through the novel with a fine tooth comb and capture all of the try-fail cycles and put them on a chart so I can see if there are any imbalances. I probably should have done this long ago, but I didn't feel I had to have it to finish the novel. In a few weeks I may be telling everyone that I'm dumb and should have just done it in the first place.

One of the most ground breaking moments of this entire process for me was when I couldn't figure out what my protagonist should be doing. It was killing me until I read Dave Farland's Daily Kick about outlining. He suggested you should outline your villain's story as well. This is what actually re-started my drive to finish this novel. Just as soon as I saw what the villain needed it was easy to put the protagonist where she could affect him the most. I know, sounds dumb, but I'm slow sometimes. Most of the time.

One thing I feel I did right was my world building. When I started, this was going to be on a totally different world, but in the end I decided to use our world. Easier for me. Our world with some twists, which is always nice. I spent a great deal of time working on the magic system of my story and the history behind it. Parts of that came in handy throughout the novel, and will continue to do so in books two and three.

I'm a self-confessed freak about goals, deadlines and practically killing myself to get them finished. There were about half of the deadlines on this project that I didn't make. (Which, I'm not going to lie, made me pretty mad) However, the half that were made, were made through sacrificing other parts of my life, encouragement from people around me and pure determination. Goals and self-imposed deadlines will continue to be an important part of my writing process.

That's all I've got right now. There is more editing in my future, and then the really scary part. Trying to get published. If the query letter doesn't kill me this week, I'll have hope for the future!


Lisa said...

Great job Jo! I'm happy for you. I'm a wannabe writer and half proclaimed crafter/art-something the rest. With all my wishy-washiness, it's nice to see some one grounded... You're all ZEN!

-Jo- said...

Zen? Oh goodness no. I'm grounded because I have a "low center of gravity", which is just another way of saying that I have a big butt.