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hard yakka

ian181

I do not think many readers understand how much hard work is involved in writing a novel. I have been trying to write a novel since 2005 and have 500 pages of research and 500 pages of notes and 5 pages of drivel. Based on my current progress i will have to live to 163 to finish it. My question is does anybody know where I can buy some cheap eternal youth pills so I can finish the bloody thing.

Centaur

@ian181

let me know when you find them.

I only research when i need to be more technical then necessary or when i need to find who what and where something happened in history. history nuts go ape shit if it's not right. unless your changing it.

Ernest Bywater

Now you know why once I've done the hundreds to thousands of hours of research and area or period I wrote a number of stories set in the same place and time. I making the most use of the research that I can.

richardshagrin

@ian181

i will have to live to 163

That's good, when you are 81 you will be middle aged.

Switch Blayde

@ian181

have 500 pages of research and 500 pages of notes and 5 pages of drivel.


Sounds like you're buried in detail which will stifle you. First, write what you know so you don't need all that research. Second, 500 pages of notes is insane. Your novel won't even be that long. Can you have a fear of writing the novel so you keep writing notes about it?

Try something. Write down the following. With 500 pages of notes you must have this information:

1. the main characters and their relationships.
2. the plot's conflict (what the protagonist wants/needs and what's in the way).
3. the inciting incident (what sets the conflict (and story) in motion.
4. the conflict resolution (which is the plot's climax — how it ends).

Now start writing, keeping those 4 things in mind. You know what the basic story is about (the conflict), how it starts (inciting incident), and how it ends (conflict resolution).

Put your characters into situations and see how they react. You'll add more characters as you go along and create mini-conflicts (challenges) that will be resolved only to have new ones pop up. Your novel will unfold without realizing it.

Then go back and read the first draft. Without a detailed outline you'll have to revise it a lot, like put something in that you'll need later on. And now that the first draft is done, make sure the beginning is in the right place. In my first novel, I ended up deleting the first 2 1/2 chapters.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

WOW, SB! What fabulous, practical advice.

Ian, please follow the advice Switch has given you. You MUST get something written!

I would go as far as saying, "Write something, knowing you will throw it all away."

I am only half-joking in suggesting this. AFTER you have completed the steps 1 to 4 SB listed, write something than only needs to be 20-40 pages; don't even think about grammar, punctuation, even readability; just write enough words to tell a story to its completion.

Then throw that away? Perhaps it would be better not even reading it! At that point, you should have overcome whatever fears are holding you back now and you can begin writing something good.

richardshagrin

Heinlein said something about having to write a million words before the good stuff came.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
lemmy.havvaluk

Sorry, Ian, but with this low productivity you're not eligible for a share of youth pills. ;-)

You've already got some good advice, but I'll give some more anyway:

Other than Switch, I see no problem with 500 pages of notes - and why should the novel have only 500 pages or less?

I do see a problem with 500 pages of research; not per se, there are successful authors who do a lot of research, but there is a certain smell of analysis paralysis here.

I sniff another smell in 5 pages of "drivel". Could it be that you're standards are too high to get anything written? As various people have said, in differing words: Lower your standards to get the first draft written - then raise them again for revising it!

Maybe you need some kind of coach, someone who just helps you to get anything written. It would be ideal if you can find someone you can't just shrug off, for whatever reason; someone you have an obligation to, and if this someone says "Write", you do it.

Well - if you'd like to try any other help than those pills, you can contact me via the volunteer editors list. No promises, but if you tell me more, maybe I'll have more specific advice.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Second, 500 pages of notes is insane. Your novel won't even be that long. Can you have a fear of writing the novel so you keep writing notes about it?

Even more importantly, is your keeping such detailed notes actually preventing you from writing the story itself.

Switch's first advice, "write what you know" is always a guiding principal in fiction, as the author's familiarity with a subject speaks much louder than extensive academic research (which always sound remote and overly format, and the 'in the trenches' remarks which makes readers feel a part of the story.

I also like Switch's 4-point list, though I simplify it a bit. I write the story description first, when I focus on the main conflicts in the story. Since it's a basic 1 or 2 paragaraph overview of the story, I ALWAYS refer to it as I'm writing, to keep the story focus on THOSE conflicts.

You can easily add secondary conflicts, but the secondary conflicts I've found the most positive are the intercharacter conflicts, so I'd list each characters' motivations. This helps, because during the slower discussion chapters, if you have two or more characters arguing what they encountered acutaly means, or how they should handle it, it really makes otherwise boring chapters much more intriguing.

Finally, with your current work, I suspect you've gone overboard with the research. Unless this is specifically a historical piece in a foreign language, I see little need for such detailed notes. I'd suggest you simply write the story, and whenever you hit something you're unsure about, either do the research then, or use this forum to ask if anyone has any particular knowledge of the field that you can draw on (asking for specific examples helps with the 'real-life' experiences in the story.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Heinlein said something about having to write a million words before the good stuff came.

That's more about finding your 'true' author's voice, where your stories only become truly relatable after writing that much (much of which was accquired during an extensive literary education and before they ever first become published). It also reflects many famous authors (noteably Hemmingway, who's write multiple versions of each chapter, until they finally settle on 'the perfect version', and then they'd go through multiple revision and editing versions. With all that going on, a million pages passes pretty quickly. I don't count my work in pages, but my very first post ended up over a million words, Add in my next 10 books, and I've no doubt I've reached the magic number.

According to several readers, my latest books, after all that effort, are my best, but they're also my lowest downloaded books to date too. So don't chalk up too much to reaching that particular milestone. :(

Crumbly Writer

@lemmy.havvaluk

Other than Switch, I see no problem with 500 pages of notes - and why should the novel have only 500 pages or less?

As you say, but don't explicitly point out, the biggest trouble with 500 pages of research is, once he does start writing, he'll feel obligated to use it, meaning many, many more than "5 pages of drivel".

Many authors dump a tremendous about of 'back story' into the first chapter, often resulting in a thoroughly unreadable book, simply to prove how much research they've done. There are ways to include the research with this 'data dump', but it takes experience to get the feel for it (and often an experience editor can walk you though it).

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