big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk September 9, 2014 - 2:07am

Hi Everyone, 

Sorry I've not been on here much recently on the boards or in the workshop but I've made my first fool hardy attempts at my first novel. 

Not going too bad so far - seven chapters in.

Still unsure if I'm going it 'right' so at the moment my process has been using a moleskin A4 notebook and writing in shorthand, after each chapter I'm leaving a blank page for chanages and updates or fixes it needs and then move on to the next chapter.

I'm not one for rewriting the same parts over and over again in early drafts which I've tried before and I just get bogged down so here I'm trying to just bash it out and make notes for improvesments later when I type it up, which at the moment are loads. 

It's first person and rather foolhardy the book filps between two characters so in my book when I write one character I use blue pen , the other black. Trying to make it easier at first glance which is which. 

I've have planned out a few chapters ahead just to get me going - the origin was a story in the workshop blow one down but I've not mapped the whole thing out and have yet to figure out an ending for one character, see how it goes. 

Hopefully should have time for getting a story or two in the workshop and some reviews when things get tough.

Any hints or tips would be defo welcome. 


Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks September 10, 2014 - 5:45am

Corkboard with notecards. Each note card is a chapter with a short descrition. Color coded if its specific to a POV, place, character, etc. Then you can move these cards around, see the big picture while you're bogged down in the book, or insert little cards here and there with ideas for new scenes, notes, etc.

I'm about 60% into my novel, but it's like... my fourth attempt. I definetly believe this is the one I'll finish. It's tough though. I did short story work for about two years, just cranked them out until I couldn't do it anymore before trying the book cause I wanted the practice. You might find that helpful in case you hit a wall here. Either way, don't lose heart. Maybe this will be the one. Maybe you'll burn out on it half way through and start again on something else.

Also write every day and don't juggle projects. I see alot of books get abandoned by people working on more than one at a time, things like that. Just work on this one until it's finished, and work on it a little every day. Gets to a point where it'll become kind of routine.

Deets999's picture
Deets999 from Connecticut is reading Adjustment Day September 10, 2014 - 5:55am

Good luck! The first one is a lot about perseverance more than anything else - to prove to yourself that you can go the distance on the full story you want to tell from start to finish - and as much as editing and re-writing can be a challenge, getting that first draft out of your mind and onto paper is the toughest thing to do!

Agree with Americantypo - juggling projects can be tough. May want to hold off on reviews and short stories until you have your first draft complete. Writing every day is tough and sometimes just not feasible in my view, but at the very least four or five times a week of legit progress to the point where it becomes routine - that is the flow you want to get into. Also, just because you don't know what to write next, doesn't mean you don't sit down and stare at the page until inspiration hits - eventually it will (unless you are a very strong outliner of stories - then that won't be as much of an issue).

And the best advice is the most cliched advice - Don't Give Up!



Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb September 10, 2014 - 12:37pm

Good luck Dave. If in doubt, give up. Enjoy how it feels to just say 'that didn't work, but oh well.' Then go back a few hours later when you're pissed off with yourself for having given up. Works for me almost every time.

Agree with Deets how juggling projects is tricky. I remember renewing my workshop membership last August only to find myself not using it because I was writing so much I just couldn't spend any more time at the goddamn computer to do critiquing. Before that though I always did find using the workshop to take a break helped. Your call, whatever works for you.

One piece of advice I'd give workshop wise is this: do NOT workshop any part of your draft before you've finished it. There's enough self-doubt involved in a first draft, especially if it's your first novel, without bringing in any more courtesy of highly critical workshop reviews. Subject it to people's scrutiny only when you've completed it. I learned this after doing it with my last novel. The workshop stuff was mostly good, but a few comments almost had me do the wrong thing with it at one point, because I was working on the trees before I could see the forest. My fault for letting other people see both too soon.

If like me you've got a couple of workshop buddies who always say the right thing even when they're critical, drop them an excerpt if you're really stuck. That worked well for me. Otherwise, that first draft belongs only to you.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk September 11, 2014 - 9:04am

Cheers for the advice chaps, will let you all know how it's going - or hopfully still going :)

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries September 11, 2014 - 2:36pm

Good luck, Dave! Although I have no personal experience with finishing novels, Chacron's advice seems sound. I believe Stephen King recommended something similar, writing the first draft with the door closed. Or something to that effect. Keep at it.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami September 11, 2014 - 6:28pm

I would also say, write the first draft with the door closed. And the music blaring.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 12, 2014 - 4:58am

I've had good luck with learning to follow the spirit of the advice instead of the letter.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk September 18, 2014 - 1:24am

Nine chapters in now but a really slow week on the writing front, been out on the road for work. Two 12 hours days have stopped the flow this week as I've got home tired so need to get back on the saddle. I had planned things up to around chapter 12\13 but I'm already straying from the plan, be intresting to see where it goes.