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Old 12-04-2012, 09:25 AM   #1
Alex Bleach
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The difficult second novel\story

I've abandoned one short story I was working on for NaNoWriMo. Simply, because it didn't feel right, it was a light, Christmas story and the words didn't feel like my own or maybe the style didn't. Has anyone else experienced this?

I've now started another short story that I really want to finish.

Has anybody got any tips on staying focused?

Also is it easier to write and finish a third novel or story, once two have been successfully completed.

Thanks
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:19 AM   #2
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The third novel in my series has been so far the most difficult yet. (I'm about 32k words in, expecting it to go 150k.) I know more about what I want to happen in this than I did my first two, and yet I'm finding it hard to find the way I want to tell it.

I keep reminding myself of advice I saw from Neil Gaiman about being a writer - an article with lists of rules from various well known authors, it was Gaiman's that stood out because he said it all so simply. I don't have the link to hand but the first rules in his list were all effectively the same: Write! A later rule said: Finish what you start.

That advice is what got me through the first books, and what I'm hoping will get me through the next ones. Nothing happens for me unless I write. The story goes nowhere until I get in there with my characters. It could be just me, but that's why Gaiman's first rules struck a chord for me.

Also, I tend to be schizophrenic about my writing. One day I won't like what I've done, the next day I will. This was especially bad with my first book. And yet, when I finally got the end and read back over it I thought: Hey, that works. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was what I wanted it to be. And once I had the completed story I had something I could really work on and polish and adjust. And that's why Gaiman's later rule still rings in my head, I would never discovered if the story worked if I hadn't finished it.

Not that I've actually finished everything I've started, but since reading that advice I try to give everything at least a good chance. Some things just refuse to move.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:14 PM   #3
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The best advice I've read about that problem is, "Don't edit. Write." If you stop to edit yourself the story can lose momentum. Books and stories aren't written, they're re-written. If something isn't working right in a story/novel it can be fixed in a re-write, but only if the words are there to start with. Middles always sag as I understand it. What's important is getting the words down on the page to begin with.
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Old 12-04-2012, 05:57 PM   #4
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The best advice I've read about that problem is, "Don't edit. Write." If you stop to edit yourself the story can lose momentum. Books and stories aren't written, they're re-written. If something isn't working right in a story/novel it can be fixed in a re-write, but only if the words are there to start with. Middles always sag as I understand it. What's important is getting the words down on the page to begin with.
This is one of those rules that I find is best taken in moderation. While I agree that too much time in editing - or too much concentration on editing for technical correction - can make you lose momentum, there can be another side to it. I write under constant review because when I sit down to write I generally review what went before (sometimes a small amount, sometimes quite a lot) - not for technical issues, but for the feel of the story. It's that looking back that I use to help get back my momentum after a day of dealing with other crap. I guess it may be different those fortunate enough not to have their writing time limited to the wee hours of the morning.
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Old 12-04-2012, 06:17 PM   #5
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gmw

Everyone has heard that simple maxim:

"Do what works!" or "Do what works for you!"

Sometimes you want to draw a close bead on the rascal that is spouting that inanity, and let fly.

Maybe this will help.
If I am on a roll, in that magical groove, then I can write anywhere, while doing something like driving (I use a recorder - various kinds, including a clipboard) or watching a ball game, or while eating, or while listening to music, or in the quiet which is my preference.

But how to get on that roll, in that groove?

Try changing your venue. It it is quiet (too quiet) put some music on. Try different music.
If it is too noisy seek out a quiet place. Buy some noise canceling headphones, buy a white noise generator. Get a CD or device that produces those "going to sleep sounds." Waterfalls, brooks, meadows with birds, the sea shore with and without seabirds, etc.

If you don't like a section about going from A to B that you just wrote, and the rewrite isn't going well, just write a new way to get from A to B, or write something different.

Don't worry so much about everything fitting unless you are in the mood to make things fit and "it is working."

If nothing works, if no change seems to be effective, if you are getting really frustrated, do something else. Another story, watch a movie, go to bed but with a recorder or clipboard by your bed.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:20 PM   #6
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Yeah.. I edit/write in a constant iterative fashion. It helps me to keep all my threads, and not forget things I left pages behind. Works for me, but it is not for all.

On HUGE thing that helps me (and from what I understand, most authors) is READ, READ, READ, and occasionally catch a movie, then read some more.

Finally, as GMW said, sometimes you just have to write. Get words on the paper and fight through it. Who cares if you trash it all later, just write something. It is like exercising in a way. The more you fight through it the better you get at it.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:09 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by crich70 View Post
The best advice I've read about that problem is, "Don't edit. Write." If you stop to edit yourself the story can lose momentum. Books and stories aren't written, they're re-written. If something isn't working right in a story/novel it can be fixed in a re-write, but only if the words are there to start with. Middles always sag as I understand it. What's important is getting the words down on the page to begin with.
You got that right, Critch70. Just let it flow, and if you introduce something that's going to need a change earlier, make a note and make the change later. Just run with it till you get to 'the end' or you'll never get there.

Last edited by James_Wilde; 12-06-2012 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 12-08-2012, 11:02 AM   #8
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Thanks for the quick responses. I think the tips about writing and re-editing later are particularly useful. I think one of the things that I have realized is: "the harshest critic is yourself" after re-reading my story some parts of it were quite good. Hopefully, I will get another story finished if not by the end of December, then early next year.
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Old 12-09-2012, 12:57 AM   #9
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Thanks for the quick responses. I think the tips about writing and re-editing later are particularly useful. I think one of the things that I have realized is: "the harshest critic is yourself" after re-reading my story some parts of it were quite good. Hopefully, I will get another story finished if not by the end of December, then early next year.
I think that's almost always the case. We may expect the best effort from others, but we tend to expect even more than that from ourselves. The ironic thing is that a lot of the time we're probably not aware of that. We tend to think we're just being through and making sure to dot all the i's and cross all the t's and it's easy to overdo it to the point where the writing suffers. I think that's one reason they say to give a piece of writing a cooling off period before going back to edit. We're too close to whatever it is we've written if we edit right after finishing it. A couple weeks or a month or so cooling off time gives us a chance to approach the edit with fresh eyes.
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Old 12-16-2012, 07:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Alex Bleach View Post
I've abandoned one short story I was working on for NaNoWriMo. Simply, because it didn't feel right, it was a light, Christmas story and the words didn't feel like my own or maybe the style didn't. Has anyone else experienced this?

I've now started another short story that I really want to finish.

Has anybody got any tips on staying focused?

Also is it easier to write and finish a third novel or story, once two have been successfully completed.

Thanks
Another thought on this thread: in one sense it gets easier the more you write. Your writing muscle gets more and more trained, and starts giving you that substance in the brain that is a reward mechanism, is it endorphines or something?

On the other hand, you can run into a situation you have a problem with. I started my third novel with a very clear idea of what I wanted it to be about, but it describes a very painful life for a couple of years for two nice people, and I'm having a problem with that bit, even if I expect a happy ending for at least one of them.

So I've stopped that one and started on my fourth book instead. Much more fun, and now I've got to decide whether to go back to the original number three and push myself, or stick with the new number three, or even put them both on one side and tighten up number one, which was way too long, and had a lot of other faults.
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