Saturday, April 17, 2010

N is for Novel Doubting, O is for Outlining

Yes yes, I'm trying to catch up in one post. :) I have a Stats take-home exam to work on, so I have to focus on that (boo).

Novel Doubts. Lately I've been having some doubts about sending SHARDS out, which are difficult to even pin down. Sometimes I wonder, Is this ready? If I even find an agent and get published, do I want this to be my first novel? 

Pro's to keeping SHARDS back:
  • First novels are generally supposed to be bad. The advice I've read often is, now shelve it and write another. 
  • I can better revise SHARDS later, when I am an older and wiser writer, and have it published once I've sold other projects. Since this story is so personal and dear to my heart, I want the story to be told as perfectly as possible.
  • Novels about assisted suicide are apt to be a tough sell. Lots of people do not appreciate my subject matter.  Do I want my first novel to be something so controversial?
Con's to shelving SHARDS:
  • This is a great story, that I've slaved over for YEARS. I'm not the best writer I'll ever be, since I'll gain new skills with practice, but I'm not going to be that writer until I, like, die. And I'm not interested in posthumous publishing. I want to share my work.
I've never had so much insecurity about a project. Updates on this decision to follow, anyway.

Outlining. Of course, if I am going to shelve SHARDS, why the fiddlesticks have I been re-working it so long? I should have dumped the version I finished in '08 and gone on to write something else. However, it was easy to keep working on SHARDS because while I had lots of ideas, nothing felt ready to write.

I used to think that it was because none of my ideas had finished percolating yet, and I didn't have clear images of plot and character from which to work from. Which is certainly true. But going off the progress on THE GODDESS, I'd have to say that outlining is a really nifty way to bring the plot and characters into sharper relief.

Right now I have multiple other ideas bouncing around in my head. There's Bodie's Men, of course, and then an idea I had about a science geek who brainwashes his girlfriend to make her perfect, and she ends up being TOO perfect (and much smarter than he is).  At times I feel frustrated, because I have no time to write these stories -- I need to stay focused on revisions of SHARDS (if not shelved) and writing THE GODDESS.  But then I realized: I can outline these stories. That way they're  ready to go when I finish THE GODDESS.

The other up side to outlining another project as you write the current WIP is you have someplace to go when you finish WIP #1. I felt so sad when I finished SHARDS the first time, like I was being kicked out of this world I'd spent so much time in. I needed a new world and new characters to dive into ASAP!


Aubrie said...

I have mixed feelings about my first novel which is coming out this summer (small indie puslisher) Will people like it? I don't write that way any more. That was before I knew anything about agents,e ditors, POV, etc. But that's also what makes it so neat and original. I hope this helps. It's a big decision.

Jen said...

I love to see the multi-tasking!!!

Novel doubts drive me crazy but I understand what you mean!! After all is said and done you know something is missing... but what is it?!

Old Kitty said...


You hang on to Shards and see where your other ideas take you! I feel that you really believe in Shards but are still holding back because of your writer's insecurities. Is there a way you could get an objective view on your first three chapters say? If someone else reads it with a professional eye - maybe give you some indication as to whether it's ready? Sorry if you already know this! I just feel that something you believe in so much that you've created and nursed and cared for needs to be set free at some point too. It's just knowing when!


GOOD LUCK with Shards and all your other projects - it's great that you are keeping the ideas flowing!

Take care

Jaydee Morgan said...

Oh, I so relate to this post. I can't really give you any advice on what to do - just know you're not the only one who feels this way.

Shelley Sly said...

I completely understand. I battled on and off with my first book -- my baby -- wondering, "Is this the one I want to be my debut novel?" etc.

I wrote Book #1, edited it, queried it, and then decided it wasn't good enough. So I put it away and wrote a completely different book just for fun, and that second book really helped me tighten my skills (but really isn't something I'd want published right now.) Now I'm going back and completely rewriting Book #1. Plus, I have beta readers now to help me even more. If I have no luck with queries, I have an outline for Book #3.

Don't feel like SHARDS is lost just because of this limbo that you're in right now. Just because you begin writing something else doesn't mean that you can't go back and edit SHARDS after having more experience with writing. If this is one of your favorite projects, you don't have to "shelve" it -- just leave it to simmer for a while, then come back to it with a fresh eye.

Hope this helps, darlin.

Ann Best said...

Response to shelving it and coming back to it when you're older and wiser. From experience I can say that this is sometimes what you have to do. Or at least let it sit for a while. What Shelley did: write something else, then come back. And as Old Kitty says: if you can find someone with a professional eye to read it. Time, distance, and more experience can work wonders.

laurel said...

Lots of good advice here. I wonder if having some chapters workshopped at a conference would help you get perspective?

I do think you should trust your gut, though, especially if you sense some aspect isn't quite what you want it to be. It is true that developing experience and wisdom will help you make a solid idea more awesome. I met my main character in (brace yourself) 1992 and after doing character sketches, shelved the project for over a decade. I couldn't write loss of a parent till I'd experienced it.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It's just so hard to know, really. I've gone back and forth on my manuscripts all the time. All you can really do is try to listen to your instincts. if you're not entirely sure still, try moving on to another project. And if you keep feeling pulled to return to Shards, then perhaps that is what you're meant to do?

Raquel Byrnes said...

Sometimes it helps me to let go of a book if I use a character in my next one...even if its minor, to kind of hold on to my favorite stories.

Ann Best said...

Raquel: The late great John Updike kept following his (autobiographical) characters from story to story. I had thought about doing this a while back, then forgot. I'm glad to be reminded that this would probably be an excellent thing to do, as you say to hold on to your favorite stories.

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Guinevere said...

Aubrie, that is definitely helpful to read... it's good to hear from someone who's made it to publication and still has doubts! I hope your novel is very well-received. :)

Jen, that's it exactly -- what am I missing? It's good to know I'm in good company, at least. :)

Old Kitty, that's a good thing to bring up, the professional eye. Thanks! I really appreciate the suggestions and the good luck wishes!

Jaydee -- thanks, it is very good to know I'm not alone!

Guinevere said...

Aww Shelley, thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate hearing your story so far and the kind words. I don't know how I'd get through this writing business without you guys to pick me up when I'm down!

Ann, that's good advice... thanks!

Wow, Laurel, that's a long time for a story to germinate! Thanks for the advice... I do like the idea of having some chapters workshopped and getting some more serious input on whether or not SHARDS is ready for the world.

Carolina, I think that makes a lot of sense. I don't "lose" anything if I do decide to shelve Shards and work on Goddess for a while. I can just pick it up again whenever I'm ready!

Raquel, Ann, I like the idea of holding onto a character in some little way! In GODDESS, the Burnt Sugar Cafe that Lauren works at is also a setting for another idea -- I'd love to have Lauren make a cameo in the next WIP!

Anonymous said...

Isn't insecurity the worst? It's hard to distinguish between true concerns and the jitters. Good luck making the choice. I wish I could say something to help you decide, but I think this is one of those times that only your gut matters.

Kasie West said...

I think it's hard to have a set rule for all writers across the board. I know plenty of writers who have reworked and reworked their first novel to the point that it is as if they had written several novels. I'm the kind that shelved my first novel and wrote a couple others and am now back to perfect it. I don't think there is a wrong or right way. You just have to feel good about it.

Sa Toya said...

I am so glad I've found your blog via Bang out the Prose. I will be back...yes I even said like Arnold in my mind :D

I'm attempting a novel of my own so being a total newbie I'm afraid my advice won't match the others...besides there's lot of good advice here :)