Thursday, May 14, 2009

novel writers: new, experienced, or not yet started

I'm still fighting a nasty cold I picked up at jury duty last week, so instead of the regular 14 week novel post, I thought I'd ask for comments and opinions from anyone that's written a novel (or novels), is writing their first novel, or hasn't yet started writing but wants to.

Feel free to share any insights or aggravations about novel writing, or answer the questions below (if you like questions):

* What made you want to write a novel?

* What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started writing your first novel?

* What author would you most like to have coffee with, and what questions would you ask them?

* Have you ever tried a new format, POV, or genre that was different from what you usually write? Did it work?

* What obstacles have you faced in writing your novel(s) and how did you overcome them?

As always, whether you're on the 14 week novel plan or not, keep your BIC, and happy writing!

8 comments:

  1. * What made you want to write a novel?

    When I was six, my mother read us The Outsiders (not a typical book for a six-year-old, but I had older sisters and Mom read to us all together). When she revealed that the author was only 16, I decided at that precise moment to become a novelist. I knew grown-ups wrote books, but no one had ever told me kids could write! I started "noveling" that very day, in a green notebook I found in my mom's purse. My handwriting was big and clumsy and I could only fit ten or so words on a page, but for several days after, I happily chronicled the misadventures of "Tina Telanium, horse rider." All I remember is that she wore elbow and knee pads to ride her horse, and that she at some point battled a panther (probably because my big sister had recently read me Danger on Panther Peek.)

    So writing a novel as a grown-up made sense; ever since I picked up that green notebook, I've been trying.

    * What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started writing your first novel?

    I wish someone had told me to avoid adverbs. Apparently I love adverbs.


    * What author would you most like to have coffee with, and what questions would you ask them?

    Esme Raji Codell, author of Sahara Special, and I would mostly ask her pedagogy questions.


    * Have you ever tried a new format, POV, or genre that was different from what you usually write? Did it work?

    I played around for years with the idea of writing from the point of view of a character with a disability, but I was always too scared to go through with it. Then I pledged to make it my NaNoWriMo project and had to go through with it, and it worked better than I could have hoped.


    * What obstacles have you faced in writing your novel(s) and how did you overcome them?

    I always get to a point with a novel when I think, "Okay, this has no plot and I hate it." I have probably half a dozen 30-page false starts sitting in notebooks and on harddrives all across the state of West Virginia. Eventually, I learned to just keep writing. If there's no plot, just let the character get up in the morning and go to bed at night; let her argue with her sisters and forget to turn in her homework. Eventually, the plot always comes back. I'm in the plotless stage right now with my WIP, and sincerely hoping that I can take my own advice.

    Well, that was wordy! Which I guess is to be expected when you pose a question to novel writers!

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  2. I'm trying something new now... I write lots of stuff - YA historical fiction, contemporary YA, and picture books - now I'm trying a YA fantasy/ghost story. I've only just started so I can't answer the question about how it turned out. So far, it's fun.

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  3. Wow! fun questions! I'm sorry you're not feeling well. i hope you're up and at'em again real soon.

    OK. Here I go.

    1) The first novel that I wrote started w/ a dream. A literal dream. After that dream, the story idea kept taking shape and I KNEW that I wanted to write the story that was forming in my head. I had always wanted to write, but I never knew WHAT to write. This dream gave me my focus.

    2) OH gosh. . . so many authors I'd like to talk to. Shannon Hale, Neal Shusterman, Avi, Lois Lowry. . . If I had to pick just one, it would probably be Neal Shusterman.

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  4. Catching a cold on jury duty just doesn't sound fair! Hope you feel better soon.

    1) Every short story I've ever written has gone over 5,000 words. My idea of hell is trying to whittle a short story down to 1,000 -- though I've learned to do it. I clearly need a medium to run on in.

    2) We have to pick ONE thing? I wish someone had been able to convince me that having a certain amount of talent was just the tip of the iceberg -- that putting in good hard work was the real meat of becoming a proper author.

    3) Kazuo Ishiguro. I would grill him for as long as he let me on every writerly question I can think of.

    4) I did a full length play, and yes -- it really helped me with dialogue. Haiku helps me with brevity, which is something I truly need.

    5) I'm too verbose. I've made my protagonists act out of character out of sheer laziness and the desire to just get the piece finished. I've left out poetry and sensory touches, and I'm an adverb addict.

    I go through everything now and grill myself: Would she really say that? Would he really do that? I try to replace adverbs with pithy descriptions.

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  5. I've never attempted to write a novel, but I am writing my very first chapter book. I've written five chapters so far and love it!

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  6. * What made you want to write a novel?

    It's just something I do, like taking walks and going swiming...put the people who grow and speak in my head into words on paper.


    * What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started writing your first novel?

    "Angela, I will clean your house, cook your meals, carpool your kids and bring you ice cream every day if you write me a book."

    * What author would you most like to have coffee with, and what questions would you ask them?

    Hmmmm... I think I'm really lucky to have a change to mingle with great writers on and off line. I do wish I could take a voice worship with Vinx because I love his voice and song is story.

    * Have you ever tried a new format, POV, or genre that was different from what you usually write? Did it work?

    Yes and sometimes. I love to experiment and sometimes when I have too many ideas at one time I'll just spend an hour or two on a 'special project' This is usually something silly for my kids or a charcter that I love who doesn't have a story yet or something else that I have no intention to shop or even show to friends, just fun.

    * What obstacles have you faced in writing your novel(s) and how did you overcome them?

    I'm continuing to face and overcome obstacles. Good question. Because I think that is what writing is. There are some scenes I put off because I know they'll make me cry. I'm lucky to have great critique buddies who tell me the truth: It reads like you really didn't want to write that part. The only way to overcome is to dig deep, write with emotion....and keep trying!

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  7. Angela, if you ever find a person who will do all that stuff for you, I'd like to borrow them. :)

    I didn't decide to write until I was in college. I read Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, and it felt like the universe took a giant step to the left and all of a sudden I was looking at things differently. I wanted that, and I wanted it bad. So I started out by writing these serious, thought-provoking books in which pretty much everyone dies.

    Yeah, that works with my personality. Snarf.

    Eventually, I came to my senses and realized that just because that book gave me the writing bug, that didn't mean that I had to write similar things. (Or attempt to. Badly.) I decided to write things that I like, and BAM! I ended up with YA plus zombies plus humor.

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  8. Sarah, it's great that your mom read The Outsiders to you when you were 6 and it made you want to write. (I didn't know until I was an adult that SE Hinton was 16 when she wrote that). I love that your NaNoWriMo project was one you were scared to try but it worked out. Yay! Thanks so much for the advice about working through the no plot problem. I need all the help with that I can get.

    Meg, good luck with your YA fantasy/ghost story! Let me know how it goes. I love ghost stories and I hope to be able to read yours some day.

    Christy, thanks for the well wishes! Dream books can be really cool (no matter what people say). Sometimes I think dreams help us to work on stories we're already thinking about subconsciously.

    Mary, thanks for the get well wishes! I wish I had known how much work it was when I started too. I think it would have helped me to work harder and not be so disappointed. Writing a play and the questions you ask are good tips. Thanks!

    Kelly, a chapter book counts, especially if it's something new and longer for you. Good luck with it!

    Angela, I like the answer that it's just something you do. I hope that someone will clean, cook, carpool and bring you ice cream so it's easier to do what you do :) I like your special projects idea and I totally understand not writing the deep emotional parts.

    Carrie, I started writing late too, but it was (bad) spy novels for me. It sounds like your old books could work really well with your new ideas. Just throw a few zombies or vampires in to kill everyone and you're good, right? (Wish it worked that way.)

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