As I said before this book (or rather trilogy) began from a dream. I was disconcerted by the dream and wrote it down. Suddenly the dream blossomed into characters and scenes and plots! It flowed through my mind like a movie on a big picture screen.
Having never written a novel, I was overwhelmed. Where do I start? The first thing I did was join Facebook and search for writing groups. The groups offered good and bad advice. The following is a listing of what I did.
Allow my muse to speak
That’s right. I let my character(s) fill my head with their story. I found that it happened mostly in the shower or grocery store, but there were times it happened late at night. I found myself asking them things like “Why did that happen?” Guess what? They answered me and backstory flooded my poor, overflowing mind. Within a few weeks my brain was so full that I literally had to do something about it. Which brings us to the next step.
I already knew what the characters looked like in my mind, but I needed a similar digital picture. I spent hours going through images on the Internet until I had found the bulk of my digital character faces. I saved the images to my computer in a sub folder named “character images” and renamed each image accordingly. It’s amazing how a digital image can motivate you to write about that character. But, that’s not all. I then made a file for each character listing ages, height, weight, strengths, weaknesses, etc. And since my characters insisted on handles, they each were given a nickname. Next came the harder part.
I had already begun to write chapters, but it was helter skelter. I found myself writing a chapter in book 1 and the next for book 3. I was all over the place like a mad woman. Frazzled and frustrated, I stopped. I made myself spend a day writing an outline. In this outline I focused on a small paragraph for each chapter of what I wanted to see happen. By the time I finished oh, 8 hours later, I had written an outline for 1 1/2 books.
Now that I had reference files and an outline, I began to write with gusto. However, I didn’t know all of the “new” rules. Keep in mind, I’m an old fuddy duddy. My last writing class was when I was 17 and that is almost 30 years ago. (Whoever said that a lady never tells her age is a woman who is terrified of aging. I don’t care about all that nonsense. I am 46 and pretty proud of it. I’m alive and kicking!) Now back to the story. In my golden days, adverbs were not bad, passive voice was not bad, dialogue tags were not bad, purple prose was great, and so on and so forth. I wrote like I had learned to write.
During this time, my oldest daughter was boarding a plane (finally) to come back to the United States. She’d been in Japan for two years with her husband and my two grandchildren (one of which I had not gotten to meet). I was determined to write as many chapters as I could for her to read on her flight home. I pounded away relentlessly for hours on end, trying to capture the “movie in my head” in black and white text. I made it to chapter 12 and my sweet husband slapped it in a PDF. Off it went to my daughter for her flight.
Then I did the unthinkable. I shared a chapter with my Facebook writing group and quickly learned all the new rules. I was devastated. I sucked. The book sucked.
Instead of giving up, I set out to learn every new rule there was. I read countless articles, did online free classes, worked with others in critique groups and … I learned. Well, for the most part. I still have trouble with that tricky show vs tell thingy ma bobber. Sigh.
I edited my chapters to remove all of the adverbs and passive voice I could. I was so proud of my work, those first twelve chapters, that I started begging people to read chapter one. Within days I was deflated. The remarks were quite unkind. But that’s the deadly mistake I made as a writer and one you should never make. I didn’t finish the story. I stopped. Draft one should be written solely for the author. It’s the characters telling you the story. It’s not a story to be shared.
After the snarky comments from not so nice authors, I quit. I didn’t write a single thing in the book for months. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t written, though. My characters still haunted me day and night. So around late September 2015, I pulled out the manuscript, dusted off the cobwebs and started reading. The story came back in full color. My characters forgave my hiatus and began screaming their story to me.
By mid October I had edited the story as well as I thought I could and I started “NanoWriMo”. I know Nano starts November 1st, but I thought that as long as I wrote 50k words by mid November, I still participated and won. That’s exactly what happened.
I believed in myself and my story. I wrote as I never have before. My story grew from 25k words to 79k words. I was thrilled, until I realized I had a load of bum.
I think this post is long enough. I’ll continue this in the next post! In the meantime, tell me about your experiences. What did you do?