Sunday, August 8, 2010

What I learned from the first 1,000 words

I've written the first 1,000 words many times, for essays, letters, blogs, and fanfiction (etc.). The first 1,000 words of a novel, however, are much different.

Something you need to know about me is that I like to plan. A lot. I would be an excellent event planner, I'm sure. I also like to get things right the first time.

 Because I like to plan, and because I like to get things right the first time, writing the first 1,000 words of my novel was like pulling teeth. I like to think this was both good, and bad.

1)Outlining is good, but don't let it hinder you

Outlining was my first obstacle. I know I say I like to plan (and I do), but all of my previous writing experience was actually spontaneous. I would have an idea, and run with it. This is where wanting to have a plan conflicted with the way I write. Because, how could I possibly write the beginning if I didn't know what was going to happen in the middle? What if I needed to add something in the beginning to make the middle flow better, what about foreshadowing, etc. ?

Basically, I was freaking myself out.

So it was bad because even though I do like to plan, writing spontaneously just works better for me. By worrying myself over the outline, I was refusing to work in the manner which suited me best. Beginning the story seemed beyond difficult. I agonized over it, and procrastinated endlessly to avoid it.

But guess what? Once I finally started writing it, it was so easy, lol.
Outlining was good because I forced myself to sit down and outline the entire book. It's true that a lot of (the better) inspiration actually hits while writing, but that doesn't mean you can't write a loose outline, right? Creating the outline helped me get from "They leave the castle" to "The end", and also filled in the middle (which was previously non-existent). Writing the outline itself was hard until I figured out something amazing(I'll post about it another time). I've never had an outline before, but now I love it, because I always know where the story is going next (I just have to figure out how).

2)There's always tomorrow a second draft (and a third, and a fourth...)

Trust in the promise of a second draft. Wanting to get it right the first time really tripped me up here. I was so focused on having the perfect opening line, I was literally getting no where. I wanted so much to write every sentence perfectly, and place every comma the correct way that I was sucking the fun right out of the whole process.

But I learned. Write now, edit later. Later can be as soon as you receive revisions from your crit. partners, or as late as when the MS is complete. So long as it happens AFTER you've actually written something. :)

3)When you're done writing for the moment, end mid-thought

I think this method is invaluable. For example: "She wanted to go, but she didn't know how to ask. Maybe if she met him by...." If there is always a sentence waiting for you to finish it, it will always be easier to continue your thought process. Of course, if I have an idea for what will happen next, I do leave myself notes (ie. She meets him in the stables, gets invited, picks the blue dress, etc.)

4) Having a crit partner is essential

Ok, so I already knew this, but it's still important! It's easy to critique the writing of someone else, but it just doesn't work that well on your own stuff. I think it's because while the work of others is fresh and new to your eyes, your own work is too well known to you. Believe me, I tried to polish my first chapter to perfection before I sent it off. And you know what? I was shocked at the OBVIOUS mistakes I had missed, which my wonderful crit partner (kindly) pointed out for me. A little embarrassing, but 100% necessary.
5)Le Sigh

Another thing my soul-mate crit. partner pointed out. Have you ever noticed how much your characters sigh? As if there's a huge oxygen shortage and everyone isn't getting enough air? Sometimes, we write our characters too idle. "She looked at him and sighed." or the arms "He crossed his arms, avoiding her gaze." etc. If they don't contribute in some meaningful way, there's almost always a better verb to help describe what your character is doing.

So yeah, just a few things I learned. Some I already thought I knew, and just had to experience it to realize I didn't, and others were completely new to me. :)

In other news, I got a few giftcards for my birthday, and am now the proud owner of "Heroes of the Valley", "The Amaranth Enchantment", "Incarceron", "Aurelia" and "Princetta". I also wanted "The Fool's Girl" but could not manage to find even one of the 3 copies we have in stock (someone has hidden them from me, I just know it! T_T)

Oooh! Also, a book I'm excited about which comes out in November... "Matched". I found it on Amazon, and thought it was already out... But, there is good news! Alexandra Shostak is giving away an ARC of "Matched" or "Beautiful Darkness", so someone is going to ultra lucky (I hope it's me, lol!)

(Oh yeah, and as for the picture in my blog background. Did I shoot it? No, sadly I did not u_u)

1 comment:

  1. The first thousand is always important. Terribly important.They say each word leads the next, and there is no beginning, there can be no beginning middle or end.

    As I tend to always say. You need to distill the maximum effect of the first words so that the momentum will carry you till the end.

    Perhaps it's due to my habit of being brief in my wordy writing. I try to make every word essential to my needs.