Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Lead-Lined Box Comes in Handy

by Alan

What lessons did you learn from your first (perhaps, failed) attempt at a novel?

As you might expect, I made a lot of mistakes writing my first novel. A lot. A really lot. Like so many I couldn’t even count them, believe me. They were yuge.

DSCF2502I overwrote. I dumped backstory. I stubbornly wrote in complete sentences. I used adverbs. I made a million other technical “errors,” mostly because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Here’s what I really learned during this effort: I needed to learn more about writing! So I took workshops, read “how-to” books, and joined critique groups. And wrote, wrote, wrote!



A few specific things I learned from that first attempt:

  • Don’t create a separate document for every chapter! (Way, way too cumbersome!)
  • Finish a draft of the entire thing before revising.
  • Outline the whole novel in general terms, and then refine the outline as you write, keeping a few chapters ahead.
  • Keep track of character names! (Now I use a handy, dandy alphabetic grid.)
  • Keep track of daily word count.
  • Don’t be afraid to write crappy stuff. Just write something!

Perhaps the most important thing I learned writing that (hideous) first effort: It was okay (wise, in fact) to put it aside and move on to the next project.

Public Service Announcement: Everyone will be relieved to know that my first manuscript is enclosed in a lead-lined box and buried six feet deep in my backyard, where it poses no threat to society. (The picture above is how I imagine the underground in my backyard. Sort of.)


Next Thursday, look for my flash fiction piece, “Happy Birthday,” on Shotgun Honey!


Paul D. Marks said...

All the points here are great advice, Alan!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great advice, Alan, especially the lead-lined box buried in the backyard.

Sherry Harris said...

I overwrote, I dumped backstory -- that whole paragraph sounds just like me! I never did learn to outline though.

Unknown said...

May be a blessing we don't get how bad it really can be, or we'd never get to the end of the first draft. It's like we have guardian angels casting spells of delusion over us.

Cathy Ace said...

All good points :-)

Tonette Joyce said...

Excellent advice, Alan. I may get a shovel and start digging out of sheer curiosity.