Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lessons from an extended writing project

Anybody who reads this blog from time to time knows I've been writing a fantasy trilogy for going on three years now. The first draft of everything is completed, and I'm down to rewriting the last few chapters of the third book.

Along the way I've learned a few things, and thought I'd pass them along.

1.) Plotting really does help. When I began this fantasy trilogy, it wasn't a trilogy. It was just supposed to be a novel. About 50,000 words into the story, I realized I had more than one book. At the least, I had two. Then it became three.

The first book is plotted pretty well, I think. And the second book isn't too bad, but the plot there is very simple. The third book, however, is where I've run into major snags. I had to start over from scratch after writing about 45,000 words. Then I also am right now having to rework the ending.

The lesson: Plotting really does help.

2.) Go with the flow. When you're writing, write. Don't do a lot of editing. Don't do a lot of time fumbling through the thesaurus for just the right word. Write. You can always go back later and rewrite and edit. If you're constantly breaking your flow while writing, your story could suffer, and your text could suffer.

3.) Editing doesn't have to be a chore. Most writers seem to think the actual writing part is the fun part, and editing is boring. That does not have to be the case. It helps if I set something I've written aside for a while, usually the longer the better, but after a few weeks or months I've found I enjoy getting back into a story to fix it.

4.) Trust your instincts. What this means is, if you think something you've written sucks, guess what? It probably does. That means you've got some writing or rewriting to do.

5.) Don't always trust your instincts. Yes, I'm backpeddling some. Keep in mind you are writing for other people, or at least you are if you want to be a published author. With that in mind, you've got to recognize your audience will have certain expectations. I'm not suggesting you write cookie cutter Hollywood stories, but I am saying that sometimes you have to give the readers what you think they'll want. I myself have a tendency to write big, wordy, dialogue-filled climaxes to my stories. But that won't work usually in action fantasy, such as my trilogy. The end of the story needs to have that big fight scene, or at least something action oriented.

6.) Realize that no one knows what they're talking about. Again, this is sort of another "trust your instincts" post. But I've read enough author's blogs to realize that no single editor, agent, writer nor anybody else has a clear idea of what's going to sell well. They might have an idea of what WON'T sell, but they can't truthfully tell you what the next big mega-hit bestselling novel is going to be. So, again, trust your instincts. Pay attention to what the professionals have to say, but take all they say with a grain of salt.

7.) Beware those who definitely don't know what they're talking about. You know these people. Or you SHOULD know these people. They're the ones with no writing credits, no editing credits, no nothing ... yet they're going to tell you the ins and outs of the publishing business. Run away from these people. Especially if they are trying to sell you something.

8.) Writing isn't about speed, its about endurance. It doesn't matter whether you write 10,000 words a day or 10 words a day. Just try to write every day.

9.) Writing is writing, not something else. Sipping a latte at Starbucks with your writer friends is fine. But it's not writing. Starting up your own magazine could be a lot of fun, and a worthy cause. But it's not writing. Taking out the trash might be a necessity, but it's not writing. Writing is writing. It's that simple. If you want to be a writer, write.


cyn said...

fantastic post, ty!

Howard von Darkmoor said...

yup, great post, Ty. Long one, but still epic. In both senses ;)

My probs are numbers 1 and 2. 2 I've fought my whole life and am getting better at it. 1 . . . ah, I pretty much am learning that now. Regretfully.

Hey Ty, you really bailing on SFReader or was it just that thread?

Ty said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

And HvD, no, I was just bailing from the thread. I've learned to expect better on SFReader, which is one reason I hang there and have dropped other places. But, with that recent blowout, plus another one a month or so ago, if that's the recurring trend ... yeah, eventually I'll stop going to SFReader.

Unfortunately, some people just have to prove every little thing they say or think or post is 100 percent right no matter what.

Howard von Darkmoor said...

Well, I'm glad we don't have that problem. I mean, what with you always admitting I'm right, how could we?


(I sure wish blogger's emoticons would turn into real ones like on Steve's Wordpress.)

Lori McNelly said...

You are absolutely right about everything in this post. It doesn't matter the genre. I'm working on a Regency romance, and it's the same.

Rock on, and keep writing!

Ty said...

Hey, Lori!
Long time no talk!
Welcome aboard, feel free to peruse my other ramblings and leave your own messages.