My First Novel

My First Novel 0

Back at the beginning of April I started work on a novel. This is not the first time I’ve tried working on a project of this length—in fact, I’ve started at least three novels, two of which were meant to be part of epic series. One of these previous attempts got three or four chapters in before it got set to the side…permanently.

Those early efforts were fifteen or twenty years ago, back when I just knew I’d be a writer. I didn’t really have any clue as to what I was doing outside of reading a lot and knowing what worked for me. I didn’t plan, either (I did compile general notes on the ideas) because I felt the story and instinctively knew what to do. I had already written a bunch of short stories and had some success—in class, through positive feedback—and a novel was the next logical step.

And now, so many years later, I restarted this dream of mine. What’s changed?

I’ve had some success with short stories over the past year, but this time through actual publication. Peer feedback is also positive, but I don’t let that hold too much sway any more. I believe I have a healthy confidence about my writing future, and that I can have success if I just stick at it (and never settle for good enough).

Also, I’d say I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I know a lot more than I did, and I continue to learn every chance I get. I’ve read books on writing, blogs and more blogs on the craft, and I discuss the process often with a few writer friends. I also pay much closer attention to what I read, trying to glean as much as I can from novels—and shorter fiction.

I do plan out what I’m doing, and I think this is a big thing for me.

For this current work-in-progress, I’ve been contemplating the piece for a good year before jumping in on it. I’ve documented as many of the ideas as possible, and I’ve continued to refine the base of the story over many many months. Finally, at the start of this year, I created an outline—more of a synopsis, really—detailing the structure of the book and what each chapter should include and achieve. I worked this over until I felt comfortable with the plan, and only then started working on actual writing.

On top of all that, the biggest change between my early attempts and now is that I’ve matured. I’ve lived some, I’ve paid attention to the world around me, I’ve read a lot outside of the typical genres that I’m drawn to, and I feel like I have more to bring to the table. I think about what I want to say, and how I want to say it.

Maybe in twenty years I’ll scoff at these thoughts, but I do hope that however I feel in the future, I can point to the last year as the real start to my writing career. This is the first novel that I will finish. There is no doubt in my mind. It may not be great (I will work my ass off to make it so) but I will complete it, and start on the next, and finish it. And the next.

I also plan to blog about this process. I don’t think I know enough to say that everything will be informative or a must-read for others just starting out. I do hope that some of the information will be useful and occasionally entertaining. At a minimum it will help solidify my own thoughts on my journey. My goal is to post a weekly entry on different aspects of writing, using my own experiences as the examples.

I’ve even outlined the first ten or so blog entries—maybe I am learning.

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