Good morning all! Help yourself to a coffee, tea or hot chocolate (doesn't hot chocolate taste even better on a cold day?).
Today's coffee morning is a blatant rip-off of a topic that was posted in my online writing group but it appealed to me and it's quite relevant as I start to plan novel 2.
The question is:
What have you learned from the novel(s) you've written so far?
I know we haven't all finished our first drafts but those of you still grafting on your first novels will still have learnt a few lessons along the way.
Here's my answer to the question:
1) When friends and family ask you what your novel is about:
a) don't tell them the title (they'll laugh or look at you funny. Well, they did in my case)
b) don't tell them what it's actually about. Instead tell them 'it's a bit like that film [a film vaguely similar]'. That just elicits an 'Oh right' instead of a quizzical look that just screams "That'll NEVER get published!"
2) If you work out what the first 5 scenes and the very last scene are you've got enough to get started. When you hit scene 6 hold the last scene in your brain and head in that direction. You'll get there in the end.
3) Editing takes about 3x as long as writing the damned thing in the first place (and is about a 1/4 as enjoyable).
4) Carry a notebook EVERYWHERE because you'll come up with a scene idea when you least expect it (although do expect to have an idea just when you're about to fall asleep).
5) Write your way through scenes you think are boring. Don't leave them for later. Use an exciting scene as a carrot to get you through a boring one. Who wants to go back and write lots of boring scenes one after another after writing all the exciting scenes?
6) Expect to hate your novel with a passion about 1/4 of the way through. Feel the same way about 2/3 of the way through.
7) Don't google for similar books/plots/titles/films. Chances are you'll find something similar to your 'great idea' which will give you such bad writers block you'll want to chuck the whole novel in the bin.
8) If you don't love your main character, if you don't think about her constantly and hurt when she hurts and laugh when she laughs your novel isn't working and you need to ditch it and start again.
9) Make sure you end each chapter with a hook and start each chapter with something that immediately captures the reader's attention.
10) Which ties in with... Go through the entire novel and check how many chapters you open with the main character waking up. There will be more than you think! Delete as many as possible, someone waking up is boring.
11) If you live alone and spend 2 or 3 days in a row working on your novel and ignoring the telephone/doorbell you'll feel like you've forgotten how to speak when you go to the newsagent and ask for a pint of milk.
12) When you've finished the novel you'll STILL alternate between hating it and loving it and how you feel will be hugely influenced by the comments you receive from readers/critiquers/agents.
I could go on (and on and on) but I'll leave it there for now.
So...what have you learned?