Why Is This So Complicated?!

My first novel is officially in the works. I didn’t realize how much planning goes into novel writing until I decided to actually do it. This is nothing like anything else I’ve ever written, and there is a lot that needs to be sorted out beforehand. Usually I just sit down and see what comes from my fingertips as inspiration hits. The problem with novel writing is that even though inspiration is needed, it simply isn’t enough to sustain the story in a way that people will be willing to commit hours to reading. I mean, I get bored after a few paragraphs when I’m reading blogs. And there are a lot of amazing novels and novelists out there, so competition is huge.

If anyone is thinking about writing a novel or is just curious, here’s a few of the struggles I’ve come across so far.

1) Characters. My characters need to feel real. They need to be believable, sustainable, but intriguing. If my story is going to work, I’m going to need the reader to fall in love with the protagonist, otherwise the whole plot won’t work. If you don’t take her side, there is no story. So how do you make the reader fall in love with your main character? I still haven’t figured that part out, so right now I’m just trying to get down on the page exactly what each character is like. Special emphasis on each person’s motives. What drives them? What do they want? What makes them interesting or easy to relate to? What will be their downfall?

2) Plots and subplots. A novel isn’t just about one specific thing. Unlike every short story I’ve ever written ever, a novel has intertwining plots. There are many things going on, and they somehow all come together to create one major climax. This is taking a lot more planning than I expected it to. You can’t just start writing and assume that it will all work out. I also realized that I need to know exactly which scenes are going to take place and when. This is way harder than it sounds.

3) Climax(es?). I’ve been reading up on how to structure a novel, and have realized that there need to be several small climaxes before the big one. This means there need to be smaller but still significant issues along the way. And they need to be somehow resolvable in a way that pushes the plot forward.

4) Voice. This shouldn’t be as big of an issue as I’m making it in my head, but I simply can’t decide what the best type of voice for this story would be. Should I be telling the story? Should it be from my main character’s point of view? Should I switch between characters to get their opinions heard?

5) Where to begin? I wrote what may serve as an introduction, letting the reader know a bit of background information on an experience from the main character’s past. And it is… terrible. Awful writing, without a doubt. At least I can see that it is bad. But knowing it is bad isn’t pointing me in the direction of how I should actually begin. And I want my novel to be something that drags you in the moment you open it up. I have all these ideas about what will happen, but I can’t even figure out how to start it off. Maybe I’ll skip ahead to a new scene, and then come back and write the first chapter later.

Ah well, perhaps I’ll take a break and come back to it in a few days when I’ve had some time to bounce ideas off of someone and figure out a better plan. It is only day two of writing, and I already have profound respect for authors. Let’s hope it gets easier!


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About janinerussell

The transition to adulthood; reflecting on the past to create a better future.

7 responses to “Why Is This So Complicated?!”

  1. sabcooke says :

    Everyone writes their novels differently, but not planning it seems to work for a lot more writers than it doesn’t.

    When you write with little to no plan, you will usually have some sense of direction. After all, you know the type of novel you want to write. You know the general reason this story stands out to you above all else. But you don’t know it yet. You can’t know it yet. I write with a summary of each chapter before I start it, and yet the novel still veers in many different directions that I’d never expect. The novel breaths. The novel lives its own life. It sounds crazy, but when you release the reins and let it run free, you can be taken to startling, beautiful and frightening places.

    Your voice, character depth, suspenseful subplots and more are often easiest established when just giving in to the writing. Non-fiction is structured and pre-planned. Novels are more wild. Let it loose and let it surprise you, that’s when your best scenes come out.

    And most importantly: Switch off that inner editor. Your first draft will suck. Accept that. There’s nothing you can do about it. The first drafts of Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy all sucked. It’s in editing, revisions and constant repetitions of it that the true craft of writing begins. Good luck!

  2. Julia says :

    The beginning of my novel was by far the hardest part for me to write. There is so much pressure to hook your reader, without being too obvious or cliche in how you want to hook them. I rewrote that part about a million times, from a million different angles.

    I say keep going, and once you pick up steam the writing will get better! Once you make it to the end, you can go back and rewrite the beginning. Don’t let it discourage you.

    Ditto what sabcooke said about the first draft sucking, and the real craft being in the editing! You gotta love the work of it all; else, why do it?

    Good luck!

  3. xxalikatxx says :

    I completely re-wrote my first two chapters about 4 times before I was happy with them, but I found the hardest part was starting. Don’t worry so much about whether it is good or bad, first just write, because you can come back and edit later. I realized that if I could just write out my idea’s then at least I knew where I was going and had something to work with. Some scenes took me days to work out before I was completely happy with them, but at least they were written.

    Once you find out how you want to write the novel though it gets easier. I wrote mine in 1st person from my main characters POV, and I would get into grooves once I started writing because I would no longer be in my head but my characters head. Most of my chapter planning got tossed out the window because as an author I would toss a plot point at my character and then my character would react and I’d be like “Oh shit, I didn’t expect so and so to react like that… now what’s going to happen?” Because even though you are writing the story, its not really you, but your characters. And like people, at least for me, I found my characters constantly surprising me and then something I had planned for chapter 13, wasn’t getting written until chapter 15.

    Also the more you write the better you’ll get. So I found for me, by the time I got to chapter 20 my writing was leaps and bounds better than chapter 1, so it was easier for me to go back and be like “Ok, I need to change this, this and this.” and work out sentence structure, and fix plot holes, etc.

    Also don’t worry about writing the book in linear order, if you have a scene in your head and it doesn’t happen until chapter 10, and you are only on chapter 5, go write chapter 10 because you don’t want to lose that scene. Or find that by the time you get there you’ve forgotten how you wanted to write it. I had a bunch of scenes written before I even knew what chapters they were going to be written into. Key in point, write, keep writing because you’ll get better and who cares if you think it sounds like shit. I thought a lot of things I wrote were shit, but I never erased any of it. Even if I re-wrote a scene 5 times, I’d keep every one because I’d notice the progression of where I wanted to go get better and better and then when I finally got it to a place I was happy with then I would start erasing the older scenes that I really hated.

    Good luck though!! I’m sure you will do great, writing a book is such an accomplishment and seriously its one of the proudest moments I’ve ever felt about myself. To actually look down at a manuscript that says “Draft 1” and be like “Holy shit, I wrote that!” It’s an amazing feeling!!

  4. xxalikatxx says :

    P.S. Sabcooke has it right about the first draft. Mine was practically illegible by the time I was done editing it… that’s why its the first draft πŸ˜€ And you’ll have a lot of drafts, I’m still on draft 3 myself.

  5. Victoria Sawyer says :

    It definitely takes a long time to figure out how to write a novel. Took me about 3 years and still I think I am learning all the time! That being said, I’ll give you a few pointers about the things I’ve learned a long the way. For me, I can’t plan ahead of time or else I get stuck and won’t write even one word or if I do, it will be telling and not showing or just backstory and not action. So I have to jump in with what I know. Write the scene that is in your head first. Whether you use it or not doesn’t matter, just write it out.

    For me, I plot as I go. And things…sort of magically come to me as I go. It’s a pretty amazing process, almost like the right things just come to mind at the right times and they fit, they work. Sometimes I’ll struggle for a few days to figure out how something should happen, but it pretty much always comes together right in the end.

    Also honesty is a big thing. Just be honest with your writing. I think in my first novel, writing a sex scene was difficult for me, but from reading other books and thinking about it, I’ve realized that honesty is key. Don’t try to go too big or too cheesy, just write what comes naturally to you. It takes a while to be honest with your writing, but it will come, the same with voice. I probably wrote for 1.5 years before I found a voice for my book. And once that happened, it was thrilling. My character had attitude. I also think choosing the appropriate POV for the story you are telling is key as well. My story was he/she and I changed it to I and when I did that, things started happening because my book is a story that really must be told from the first person point of view.

    I think there are people out there who can write only after they know the story, but that doesn’t work for me. My writing is a journey in itself and I solve plot problems as I go. Having an idea of what kind of story you want to tell and some plot points is good and especially having scenes in your head or dialogue. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night, this stuff just comes to me. I imagine a scene, the dialogue and it flows. And then I write it later. It’s cool stuff. Best of luck! There are so many ridiculous considerations. Check out my blog if you want, I have some writing on there about process, such as Voice etc .

    There is also the entire decision about suspense and how to tell the story. I chose non-linear, but you’ll have to pick whatever works best for you. Decisions, decisions. Best!

  6. janinerussell says :

    Great advice, everyone! I’m doing more research on what exactly I want to do with this before I continue. But when inspiration strikes, I’ll make sure to get it on paper. πŸ™‚

  7. dollypossible says :

    Wow, I truly admire you because I just don’t have novels in me. I write tons of short stories (I think I posted one on here) but I just don’t have the patience to write such incredible works, like I am sure you do! You are going to be accomplishing something most only dream about!

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