Sometimes we put up barriers when we write. This is different for everyone. Some of us analyze too much, while others plan too much. Yet some may strive for perfection before moving on. My barrier is the analyze thing. I question everything. Not that questioning things is bad to do. We should do that, but when you continue questioning whether what you wrote or in which place a scene/scenes was put, it takes up precious writing time.
Another author I follow and get advice from, told of a first time writer working on his first novel. This young writer asked his advice on his first chapter. So the author read the young writer’s first chapter and ended up being very impressed with it. He asked for more. The young writer didn’t have anymore to show, as he had been working on the first chapter for months trying to get it just right/perfect. The author shook his head and told the young writer to stop striving for perfection. Why? If you do that, you will never get your book written. As long a time it took him to get chapter one finished, he could have had multiple chapters finished had he focused more on getting the story out.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to get the story written. When that first draft is finished, THEN go back to square one and change what you don’t like. This may be difficult at first, but with practice of letting go and letting the story unfold as it comes, perfection will take a back seat eventually.
I like to think of writing a novel much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces and there is so much to think about. Placement of each piece/part is key if it’s going to fit with the rest of the ‘picture’. One wrong placement can make the rest of the story appear out of place. So, where do you start? Better yet, what do you start with? That really is up to you. As long as all the pieces fit together and the ‘picture’ at the end fits together, how you get there doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all different.
Still, there is so much to think about. Please see the list below.
- Story Structure
- Scene structure
- Point of View
Generally speaking, these are the biggest elements that go into the creation of a novel. It’s quite a bit to keep track of while you’re writing. For the first time author writing their first book it can be daunting. One might ask, “How do you work with all of them as you’re writing?” It’s simple. You don’t. Yup, I said it. You don’t. What you do instead is this:
- Write the first draft to get your story down. Start from the beginning and work toward the end. Start from the middle and work your way to the end then write the beginning. Write the end then the beginning and then the end. Whichever way you go about getting that first draft done is up to you. Just get that done first without worrying about the particulars listed above. Put if away for a few weeks when you finish the first draft. This will keep your mind fresh when you go back to write draft two.
- In draft two look at the story structure. Make sure make sure each Act has the appropriate information in it (Please see my post from July 17, 2020 entitled Story Structure in Three Acts). Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a wealth of information. I highly recommend it.
- Go through each scene. Is the structure of each what it should be? There are two types: 1. Action 2. Reaction (Please stay tuned for a later post on this topic).
- Here is where I would go through and look at the character development of your Main Character. There must be character growth from the beginning to the end. Here is where their character flaw comes into play. Remember, by the end of the book they will overcome their flaw. How they do that is part of their growth.
- Setting is huge. Readers need to get a good idea/picture of where your story takes place, what it looks like, and how it’s connected.
- Point of View is a huge one. You don’t want to confuse your readers by accidentally moving from first to third person or vice versa. So, choose a point of view and stick with it. Go back and make sure it’s consistent throughout.
- Voice encompasses more than one thing. It incudes diction, detail, imagery (through description or use of simile or metaphor), dialogue, tone, and syntax (the way words are arranged). As you read through your manuscript looking for these elements as it relates to voice, you might find you need to add something here or there or change the way a character said something.
- Theme goes along with the main message you are trying to convey to your reader. What is it you want them to learn by the end of the book? Do you accomplish this?
- PLOT HOLES. This is huge. After all is said and done, please read through your whole manuscript and look for those pesky inconsistencies. Readers will find them and you don’t want them to. Keep a style sheet where you keep track of details you need to remember throughout your story. Your 31 year old MC can NOT be 42 in the last half of the book (unless they’ve been lied to and that’s part of the story). Her/his birthday you had mentioned on page 20 as being January 8, 1972 can’t be mentioned later on page 245 as being March 23, 1974. I just won’t work.
- The editing is the very last thing that’s done. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. This comes last before publishing.
As you can tell, these tasks are not done in one swoop. They are done one at a time (generally). Hey, if you are able to focus on one or more at once that’s fine too. The point is take your time. Focus, do not rush. The story won’t grow legs and walk away. It’s yours, so take your time and make it the best YOU you can make it. By doing this, all of the pieces will fit together, so that when someone else looks at it (reads it), they will be looking at something that will stay with them and make them come back for more.
What do you write when you don’t know what to write? You can know what your story is about, but you aren’t able to put words on paper. Why? This article will seek to answer this question and give you ways to find your words again.
You’re sitting at your computer, and your typing away. The words are flowing and your mind is driven. You get to the end of the scene/chapter and you feel a sense of exhilaration because you’ve accomplished something. You’ve made progress. You’re in that writer’s zone. Eager to move on with the next scene/chapter, you move to the next screen and type the scene/chapter number, hit enter and stop. Your brain says, ‘huh’? So you sit there thinking about what you should write next. You can’t think of anything. Ideas may come but you push them aside because you feel they aren’t good enough, or perfect enough. This is the left side of your brain getting in the way of progress. Don’t let it do that. Forge ahead. Write anyway even if it isn’t perfect.
Reasons For the Block and How to Get Passed Them
- As mentioned above, the left side of your brain, the analytical side, gets in the way. It can be difficult to shut this part of your head down, but you need to do it. This has happened to me on a number of occasions. What I did was write anyway, even if what I wrote wasn’t any good. Later you can go back and change it, and who knows, this may spur on more and better ideas. Brainstorming also works, and sometimes you just need to work on the development of the story itself. I keep a binder with tabbed sections for various literary items, such as Character, Setting, World Building, Brainstorming, just to name a few. Writing in your binder, or whatever you keep, can create ideas as well. Read the following book by Henriette Anne Klauser called Writing on Both Sides of the Brain: Breakthrough Techniques for People Who Write. This book helped me tremendously. See link below.
- Indecision. Maybe you have 2 or 3 or more possible ideas regarding what should come next, but you don’t know which one to choose. This is a great time to stop writing and start evaluating. Yes, I said it. You’ll have to use the left side of your brain here. Write each idea down on a note card and place them in front of you. Think about what you’ve written thus far and decide which idea will move your story forward to where you want it to go. Does this mean you have to scrap the other ideas you don’t use? No, not at all. Save them for later.
- You finished your thought process. This is huge. Another author told me she doesn’t ever get writer’s block. When I asked her why, she said she doesn’t stop writing at the end of a scene/chapter. She stops writing for the day in the middle of a scene where it is easy to pick up on the movement of the story the next day. So she doesn’t allow her thought process for the story to stop when she stops. I hope this makes sense. There is just one problem with this though. You will come to the end of that scene/chapter eventually, which means you might get hit with reasons 1 and 2 above.
- Ordering of story information. Stories are written with the three act structure in mind. Act I: Backstory, Act II: The Chase/The Attach, Act III: Resolution. Certain types of information belong ONLY in their perspective acts. Put the wrong type of information into the wrong act, and your story will be thrown way off. The result of this can lead to writer’s block. How do you combat this? There is a book I HIGHLY recommend. See below. I’ve provided the link in case you are interested in purchasing.
In the end your story will work out. It’s not the road you travel, it’s how you travel along that road that matters. You’ll get there.