Challenges of Writing Your Novel (After Your First Draft) & Resources to Help You Survive and Thrive
I know this blog has taken a turn towards fiction, but I promise you it’s not absolute or permanent. I’ve always written fiction, and I’ve become addicted to non-fiction as of late 2009 (aka when I discovered blogging).
However it is hard to find a balance between the two, and with many contest deadlines being in spring, summer or early fall, I’ve been cheating on my non-fiction a bit. That, and I’m still waiting for my text-to-speech software, which endured a long adventure on the way to me, which soon you will read about.
Completing your first draft is no easy task. You need to fight blocks, doubt, urges to edit and give up. But while it is an essential step on the way to getting published, it is still way down on the ladder – with so many more steps left to climb up.
My first draft for my first novel (attempt) was finished some months ago. Now it’s being re-read and edited. I’ll soon be submitting it to two contests and later to agents and publishers.
- Editing: It goes without saying. You need to pay attention to punctuation, grammar, story flow (are the events in the right order?, do the scenes follow each other smoothly?, etc), fact-checking, research to you left to be added later.
My favorite editing resource is Sigrid Mcdonalds’ Be Your Own Editor.
- Formatting: You need to correctly format your manuscript including anything from spacing to font size. There’s a lot of software (both free and paid) for novel writing on the web. But while I adore my scriptwriting software (Final Draft), I couldn’t find one I prefer over Word when it comes to writing novels. Old-fashioned Word-lovers like me shall not worry, though, because formatting with it is not that complicated. I use a lot of Writer’s Digest books as resources, and I own Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino.
- Writing your synopsis: Well, this is a form of torture. Yes, it is a necessary evil. I can’t argue with that. But I doubt there are many authors who claim to love writing this one-page (or two) summary of their manuscript where you have to give all the main points without the freedom of space. Oh boy.
Burdened with this obligatory task, I dug into the Internet, and I found Jane Friedman’s article and list quite useful: Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis. I also recommend: Movie Synopsis Examples on Writer’s Digest.
- Prologue or no prologue: My story starts in the present with some necessary flashbacks (yes, I’m adamant they’re necessary). However I have two scenes involving the male protagonist that take place before the flashbacks’ (these flashbacks belong to the same year) date. They aren’t description-heavy scenes, but rather dialogue-based bits that tell us plenty of information about the main character. So yes, I wrote a prologue.
Obviously if judges/agents/publishers like what they see but insist on I give it up, I’ll. My story is my child, but I’m not above cutting her hair so that she’ll get accepted to a prestigious school. I’m just saying.
- Chapters: How long and compelling are your chapters? True, there is no obligatory maximum or minimum length, and every story is different. But you might want to check if the events are separated optimally.
- Flashbacks: Do you have flashbacks? And do they add to or take away from the flow of your story?
In my case, I have no story without the flashbacks. They strengthen (and give the reason for) the main conflict. They make you care about the characters more. They also provide motives. So, for this particular story, I say “Yay!” for them.
I’m all for applying tips from industry veterans, and most writers aren’t crazy about flashbacks. But don’t forget there’s always room for breaking some rules.
- Frustration: Whether it’s loneliness, writer’s (or editor’s) block or just general frustration that makes you want to connect with people who go through similar ordeals, I suggest you have writer friends online and offline. I happen to know more writers online, and this Facebook group is awesome when it comes to support, response rate and being fun.
- Collecting agents’, publishers’ and contests databases: Where will you try to sell your book?
It’s important to construct your database so that you can get right into action as soon as you’re finished editing, formatting and polishing. You might (and probably will) get rejected in the process, but not sending out work (to the right markets) prevents acceptance too.
Where to Find Free Market Listings by Jane Friedman is a good start.
- Preparing for, and accepting rejection: Since it happened to a lot of the writers you admire, it’s safe to assume it might happen to you to. The secret to success is knowing how to deal with it. Below are several articles to guide you through the unpleasant, but usually unavoidable, event of rejection:
One of the benefits of writing a blog for writers is that I get to share my to-do list and advice in a fun way. I enjoy helping out other writers, and frankly, blogging is more fun than a boring to-do list written on a piece of paper to be forgotten later…