Bad Ass Writing Blunders

Creating my first novel, Learning Levitation, was a fascinating process and a hell of a lot of work.

Writing Lies and Legends will be different. Sure, unknown BABs await but, honestly, I can’t wait to get started. My new characters are knocking at the door. I have exciting things in store for them – and I know they have secrets and wonders to show me, too.

I did learn a lot,  and I’d like to share it with you in only 500 + words.

Write a synopsis first unless you want to make up the story as you go along. For a disorganized thinker like me panstering just won’t work. Because I didn’t know to write the synopsis first, I fell into the following pits of festering words:frustration-was-threesixtyfive-day-244-8_l

1. Bad Ass Blunder numero uno: Leaving major elements out of your plot. In the heat of writing things get lost. It wasn’t until my beta readers were half way through LL that I realized  I’d omitted crucial information about challenges facing the characters. So, paste the following sentence on your monitor: MY NOVEL IS ABOUT — YOU FILL IN THE REST.

2. Make a second sentence for the theme. Your novel isn’t limited to action, love story, and fascinating off world concepts. It needs a message, and if it doesn’t have one, get one.

3.  Don’t make your chapters separate files. What bonehead would do that, you ask. See me blushing? If you’re using Word, you can start and finish your book in one ginormous file. (In the old days one big file in Word would crash your computer.) This way  you always know how many words you have at any moment.

4. Which brings us to word count. Decide total count first. I’ve decided to estimate chapter word count also. Anal but necessary for me.

5. All of the steps above prevent a truly terrifying problem. I ended up with 120,000 words, too much for a first novel. I had to cut over 18,000 words. Yikes. I took out some great scenes which, btw, I will resurrect in my second novel.

6. How long is the story time span? My action took place over six months – ok for Game of Thrones but way too long for an adventure/romance novel. This time ten days max.

7. Plan your scenes carefully. Again, this may be too rigid for some writers, but precision keeps me writing.

9. If you are (like me) a careless typist, a lousy speller, and somewhat lacking in punctuation skills, proofread each chapter as you go. You’ll have to do it again when your book is completed, but this extra bit of effort will keep you from banging your head against the keyboard later. thinking-in-mirror-image

10. Spend serious time on character sketches. I knew my characters well, but my readers didn’t. My people turned out one-dimensional, and I had to tweak them until they screamed for mercy. I’m using Five pages per character, but worth the work.

Does this sound like the accumulated knowledge of a complete revision of a completed novel? It is. Thanks to Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course, I made it!

stars-thWhat have you learned writing your novel? Are you ready to start another one?

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10 thoughts on “Bad Ass Writing Blunders”

  1. Thank you for the link to a complete character sketch. I’m going to use it as I start a major revision and completion of my children’s novel. I’ve received some excellent reactions from the Cultural Director of the Northern Ute tribe. It’s time to dust all of the Colorado history books off and repair the flaws. The only publisher I submitted to said the book was too incomplete. I’m sure I can juice it up this time.
    I can’t wait to hear some of your new novel.

    1. The positive feedback from the Northern Ute tribe will be your inspiration! Let me know what you think of the character sketch forms. They are a little daunting, but once you start filling them out you can’t stop

  2. I learned a lot from writing my first novel, but I learned even more revising it! Now I keep my story Sentence at the top of every scene planning template, and keep track of all my characters as I go. Lots of good stuff here, and I agree with you about the proofreading. Typos and spellos drive me nuts while I’m revising, so I just fix them as I go. It’s worth the few minutes it takes to clean up the mess. (and my first novel was 126k too! Way too long. Yikes. We live and learn don’t we?)
    I’m so ready to write the next one!

  3. These are great lessons, thank you. I too ended up with 20,000 more words than necessary and cutting was very difficult. I thought everything was essential but as I went though I realised that I had words that didn’t need to be there. I learned that simple is better. I learned to used Scrivener 🙂

  4. I am working on my NaNo attempt. I had a clear idea of what the book was about and am now sorting out a natural flow. My problem is I must ADD 20,000 more words and I am as I fill in the holes.
    This is great advice and I shall list them and put on my bulletin board.

    1. So far adding words hasn’t been a problem for me but, as I begin my second novel, I see a lack of words looming in the future. I do have a synopsis written, and I’m already changing it. I keep reminding myself this is the process. Don’t panic.

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