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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What a week!

I  word counted my novel, and I have too many words! I never thought I’d end up with more than 120,000 of the little buggers. Uh-oh.

What should I cut? What are the parameters for cutting? (Back to HTRYN directions.) How long should a debut space opera novel be, anyway? Should I play the game in my query letter and follow the rules set by publishers? Could I divide my monster into two books? Is self-publishing an option?

Honestly, I did think about all this when I started the novel, I really did.  According to my plan, I estimated I’d barely make 100,000. Because my writing is so lean, I sold myself short. Keeping the balls in the air, chapter to chapter, page to page, and scene to scene obliterated all but the most immediate problems from my frazzled mind.

Panic overwhelmed me, but TX from the HTRYN forum  comforted me with an upbeat and encouraging discussion about agents, editors, and publishers. I’ve made my decision, and now I’m working revision again. Turns out it’s not as bad as I thought, and there’s something reassuring about writing tight and struggling to cut. I’m telling the story with grace and clarity. I am where I want to be as a rookie writer.

Sort of.

How about you, fellow Word Wizards? Are you over or under, or do you care?

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