My Struggles With Novel Writing

As I have mentioned before, I am currently working on a novel and I have to admit I am struggling mightily. My main problem, I believe, is pacing. I am so used to writing these 300-600 word stories (which I seem to be good at) that I’m having a really hard time trying to get the novel going.

I would not say I have any type of “writer’s block”. I have roughly 2000 words done, and these are good words, stuff I will be able to use. I’m just having such a hard time putting everything together. I’m also having a difficult time translating my normal style (funny) to a longer form. It’s not that I’m trying to force myself to be funny in my writing, but it seems to me my stuff works the best when there is some humorous elements.

Anyhow, I have heard a lot of writers say how difficult it is to tell a story in a small amount of words. That, I think I can do, but for the life of my I don’t know if I have it in me to tell an interesting story in 60,000 words without writing a 600 word story and then just repeating the word “umm” 59,600 times followed by “The End”.

I guess on the positive side I did get a little idea this morning and was able to translate that into the novel. I just may have something here. I feel excited about it, at least for now.

P.S. I’ve posted a picture of “Frank” I made in Microsoft Paint a while ago, because I think he’s pretty cute. I created him for a little story I posted here last year. If you want to read it, use the search thingy on the right of this blog and search for the word “Frank”.


11 thoughts on “My Struggles With Novel Writing

  1. there’s no right pace, and there is one mistake in what you think.
    you don’t have to wonder how many words will you write, but you have to wonder who you’re talking about, how, which viewpoint you can use. try to imagine the background and all the flashbacks.
    don’ look for a pace, look for what you’re going to write in the next page.
    let you don’t know what you’re telling, where you going.
    you need more words? let’s happen something tragic, wrong and unexpected.
    last but not least, show exacly in you novel what’s going on, and do not tell what’s going on.
    create a world with its rules.

  2. Dude, you have 2000 words done. You can’t have a pacing problem yet 🙂

    You seem to be struggling with the same thing that always gets me. Focusing too much on writing something good.

    My advice, not that I’ve ever paid attention to it myself, is to just pound out the rough draft. Don’t correct or edit or fret about anything. Just write, write, write.

    When you have a few hundred pages and type “The End” that’s when you get to go back and make it a good book.

    Now give me 2000 words and call me in the morning. Type faster not harder. I can’t think of any other pep talk phrases to butcher so I’ll get back to work now.

  3. George Orwell says, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bought of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

    So here’s my unsolicited advice:
    Step 1.
    Write a one page outline. Just the basics of where you are starting and where you are ending. Include the absolutely necessary plot elements that will take you from point A to point Z. Only worry about character development in this outline if you feel you need to.
    Step 2.
    Write the words “Shitty First Draft” in the place where a title should be and in the header of every single page.
    Step 3.
    Write like a madman. Get the story from the start to the end on paper (or in electrons) were you can see it. Writing is rewriting. Once you are done with the “shitty first draft”, the REAL work starts. Rewrite, clean-up, adjust, tweak, toss some stuff out and write some more stuff. It’s easier to mold your art work when you have something to work with that’s not just bouncing around in your brain.

    WRITE ON! Good luck.

    One more thing: If you’re not struggling to tell your story in less words, maybe you simply have a longer short-story on your hands. Set out to write your story in 5,000 words. If you can’t try for 10,000. Still no? Then try for 20,000, then 40,000. If you still can’t, only then write a book. It’s about the story, not the word count.

  4. I don’t write much flash fiction, but I do tend to write things in 300-500 word spurts, so I think I know where you’re coming from. As recently as two years ago, a lot of my stuff was reading like an abridged novel. That is, all the plot points were there, but I wasn’t fleshing out the story well enough. The result was that I’d have a novel’s worth of plot, and it’d all be over in twenty or thirty thousand words.

    So, what I did was this: Instead of cutting stuff out of the draft as is the norm with most writers (who tend to write too much on a first draft), I ended up adding stuff. I concentrated on adding description, I added scenes that would add depth to my characters, etc. That’s how I wrote my first two novels – which, by the way, still sucked. They’ll never see the light of day.

    It’s still the main problem with my writing, but I think I’m slowly improving. The key, I think, is not to be overly concerned with getting from point A to point B.

  5. Cairno – that all sounds like good advice. Thanks.

    Mike – thanks for the pep talk 🙂

    Catherman – I’ve seen the Orwell quote. Thanks for reminding me about it. That really does apply to me. I really do need a 1 page outline, but I’m allergic 🙂

    Cavan – Thanks for the advice. I’m glad I’m not alone.

  6. You see, I have the opposite problem, but it still paralyses me, that I have this constant explosion of ideas in my head – far too many. I have to prune, prune, prune. For every sentence I keep I probably delete twenty more. I get so annoyed at myself and sometimes want to give up but this week I realised that I was crippling myself trying to follow other people’s rules. The point of this is that there is no “right” way to write. The story will be written, you just have to find the way to write it that is best for you.

    I’ve actually got a few writing/planning templates that I keep meaning to put on my website. I find them useful and maybe other writers might. When I get them sorted out I will let you know.

  7. Pingback: La nostra battaglia contro la Scrittura [Pt.7] « Resuscito, quindi sono.

  8. I had quite a time getting going on my first “long” project. But then I did NaNoWriMo in 2005 and ended up with a 55000 word first draft! For me it was about shutting off the internal editor. The other thing I found really helpful was warming up by journaling in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way — stuff that no one would see, ever — it would really prime the writing pump, so to speak. Good luck with the novel. I hope you have fun with it!

  9. I did NaNo last year too, just to get the ball rolling. What I ended up with is 50,000 words that ALL needed to be rewritten. Multiple times. But I learned a valuable lesson about my writing process. I am not a seat of the pants writer (AKA, a pantser). I’m a plotter, and I would have been much better prepared had I done a little more homework and knew where I was going with the darn thing. Then again, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I probably would still be doubting it I could get that far one way or another.

    What kept me going through the first draft? One quote pasted everywhere:
    “The first draft of anything is shit” ~Ernest Hemingway

    It’s so freeing to know that it doesn’t matter what you write. It can all be fixed later, you just need to get it out of your head and on paper to see it.

    Have you tried any visual techniques? I’m very visual, and my stuff really started coming to life for me when I started collecting images and collaging.

    It’s a marathon. Good luck and keep at it!

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