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52 Week Challenge: 52 First Chapters

Discussion in 'Writing Groups' started by Philip Overby, Dec 28, 2013.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    So I'm trying to make this an annual project for myself, doing a 52 Week Challenge of some sort after reading about Dean Wesley Smith's 52 Short Story Challenge last year. While I came up short, I did manage to complete several short stories, probably ending up in the 40s somewhere. Of those stories, several were published both online and in print/e-book. For 2014, I'm trying a new project, which I shall chronicle here and at my blog. I'd love for others to join in, especially those who have Creative ADD and just like having several irons in the fire so to speak.

    The idea of this project is to develop 52 first chapters, one a week for a year. This means each of the 52 chapters will be from, theoretically, 52 "potential" novels. This doesn't mean I'm going to write 52 novels from these first chapters, but if they turn out good, hell, I just might! Some may evolve into short stories or some may just stay first chapters, forever floating out there in space to never be completed. Yeah, I know, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth as well, but it's one of those things that might just happen in a big project like this.

    So my hope is that people will visit my blog and leave comments on the first chapters that they like so by the end of 2014, I may have several good first chapters to turn into potential novels. I'm not sure what's exactly going to happen, but I'm excited about the prospects.

    While 2014 is going on, I will be editing two novels and probably begin working on a third (of which I already have planned.) If I finish the third one in 2014 (which I fully expect) I may pull one of the 52 first chapters from my "pool" and start working on a fourth novel. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet! :)

    Anyway, I hope people will either join in with me with this project or devise a 52 week project of their own. I don't necessarily think something like this has to be someone's sole focus, but it's good to have in order to train your writing muscle and get ideas for future projects. That's my take anyway.

    I'll be beginning on January 1st for Week 1. I will post updates here and I hope others will post their own updates as well. I haven't decided if I'm going to post the actual full chapters, but I may post the first bit as a teaser and then discuss what I think about the chapter, how I think it would pan out as a novel, etc.

    Here's hoping for a productive and fruitful 2014!
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
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  2. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    I'm still in the middle of doing the 52 weeks of character-focused flash fiction. Along the way in doing those, however, I've come up with novel ideas and have some first chapters written out (or at least heavily planned). Maybe I can add in a novel beginning into the rotation once a month or so.

    I'm kind of having a hard time with not continually writing about a couple of my favorite characters. I've thus far only done up two flash fiction pieces with my femme fatale fighter, but I have the plot ideas for at least two or three more floating around in my head. (And this is one of the ones that will turn novel length once I figure out how to write suspense and unraveling mysteries.) I'm trying not to cheat and just write another novel and post a chapter a week when I complete the rough draft. (And it's really hard not to cheat when I already have the thing plotted and I dangled working on the novel as a carrot for the last month.) I think the new random character prompt app may help with that though (it's called "Ideas for Writing" and I have it on my Kindle. There's character prompts, first lines, title ideas, and five words.)

    Just committing to writing something every week and polishing it within the same week is giving me a lot of experience with the writing skills I wanted to improve. I'm seeing less and less: passive voice, "had had's", dangling pronouns, use of adverbs, use of vague words, use of "thoughts" and "felts" and "wondered's". I'm seeing more active voice, better verb choice, clearer description, more emotive description, more showing. (Yay!)

    I'll follow along to see what you end up with Phil, because I'm curious. And it'll probably help keep me a little bit motivated, as I've kind of slacked off the last couple of weeks (combination holidays and frustration that I had to delve into back story to complete the main short story that I'm working on). I owe the blog 2 entries, and coming up on a third. I think I can slam them out this weekend. Is it cheating if I reuse one of my previously created characters?
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    So I'm assuming you're posting your progress on your character studies on your blog? If you want, I could come by and keep up with your progress and keep you on track if you feel like that would help.

    I don't think it's cheating if you reuse a previously created character. Do want you have to do to progress further. I think one thing that kills progress is thinking too much or wanting something to be perfect. With any 52 week challenge, things are going to be messy sometimes, but the goal is to have something to work with. Well, that's my goal anyway.

    I'm still working on technical aspects of my writing (which I assume is an ongoing struggle for all writers) but my goal with this is to be able to develop "hooky" beginnings. If you learn that skill, you can get almost anyone in your stories if you feel confident the middle carries readers to the end.

    If you want, we can use this thread to discuss both of our issues with our 52 Week challenges. I'm happy to do so!
     
  4. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    No, I'm posting random bits of putting a character through their paces on the blog. It mostly turns into flash fiction pieces that tell a bit of story, something that really distills who they are. There's a bit of cross-posting between the showcase here and the blog, as some of the ideas I need to run by someone who didn't write them or hear about them in that nebulous stage where I'm still creating. And I like to know if my idea of where I'm struggling is anywhere close to where I'm actually struggling.

    I think I originally wanted it to be a fresh character every week, but most of the time I'm looking at what I'm in the middle of and going "there's no way in heck I'm going to have it finished this week no matter how hard I try" and I end up scrambling to put something else together. Some efforts are better than others. I never officially laid out the "rules" for how I was going to do it, but I'm trying to keep it to as many new, original characters as I can so that I get the practice in of writing different characters and different journeys.

    I'll write your hooks, if you'll teach me how to create tension. ;)

    If you wanna take a look-see at what I'm up to and keep me on track every now and again with suggestions for improvement, I can do the same (if that's something you want/need).

    Anyhow, you are a braver soul than I. I can barely keep up with what I have going on, without adding in the challenge of creating a new novel idea a week. Good luck with it, and I can't wait to see what you come up with.
     
  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Well, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it), I'm only working part-time until late March, when I go back to work again full-time. So I'm trying to take advantage of the time I have off and hopefully good habits will stay with me even when I start working a regular schedule again. I don't want people to think I'm some kind of prolific writing master or something and I perfectly manage my time at the moment. I have nothing but time. :)

    I'll check out the blog and see what you have happening and if there are any specific comments you'd like or thoughts, let me know and I can pinpoint any issues I may see.

    Yes, I'd love to have anyone offer thoughts or suggestions, one reason I'm doing this is for feedback. If I get decent feedback on certain ideas, that will encourage me to go forward with them.

    Full disclosure: some of the novel ideas I'm going to turn into first chapters will be recycled from old ideas. So I don't think I'll be coming up with completely brand spanking new ideas every single week. Right now I've actually been compiling a list of ideas to get me jump started. So far I have about 20 something. Those will be enough to get me started and I'll come up with more as I go along.

    For thoughts on your character ideas, would you like me to comment on your blog or PM you or what?
     
  6. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    Generally speaking, if there are any blatant POV issues or characterization problems, I'd like to know about those. Otherwise, anything else you feel like commenting on would be helpful. If you'd rather comment on the blog while you're there, that'd be fine. PMs work too. I think I have a few that aren't tagged as "character sketch" but I do differentiate between normal blogging content and the stories, as I introduce the stories and block text the relevant portions.

    I completely get what you mean by feedback encouraging you to continue going with an idea. I hate just sitting around thinking, well it's so horrible that no one knows where to start with the feedback. Since I very rarely think: OK no feedback means it's good to go.
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    OK, so anything with blocked text is a character sketch then? I was just looking at your blog and wasn't sure which were character sketches and which weren't. Although I didn't look for tags or anything.
     
  8. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    Yep. There's a couple of story-poems that are block texted as well, but I think those are fairly obvious. I did try to intro the stories to distinguish from general rambling about ideas. The only exception I can think of is the half finished one about Kristina, but that's not sf/f and I'm not sure what I'm doing with it.

    I'll probably go ahead and shift the character sketches onto a separate page for ease of reading for those of you that want to follow along, that way I can leave the main page as rambles about writing. It should be fairly simple. I think.
     
  9. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    That sounds like an interesting challenge. I won't be attempting the same - my goal is to finish a first draft of my novel this year - but I wish you all luck in it and I'll be keeping an eye out on your blog.
     
  10. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    If you want to follow along at the blog, it's all properly tagged and mostly appropriately titled to give an indication that it's a short story versus general posting. (I messed with it, I broke it, I'm not messing with it any further. I think this is why it took me years to learn how to use an electric can opener.)

    Or, if it'd be easier to keep things here on MS, I just remembered there's a portfolio thingie that I can post the shorts to. Would that be more helpful?
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Whichever you'd like to do. I think it shouldn't be a problem to follow along on the blog since you've tagged everything now so it's easier to find. I'll try to start looking at them beginning in the New Year. My posts will all be listed here: Philip Overby's Fantasy Free-for-All: Fantasy Writing: 52 Week Challenge, 52 First Chapters

    I'll also probably update this here in this post as well. I'll probably update my progress here every week, so just visit the link above for any new info.

    Thanks!
     
  12. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I finished my first first chapter today and overall I'm pretty happy with it in rough draft form. I think what I'm going to do for now is just post a monthly update on my blog, detailing my progress and if anyone cares to read one of my entries, I'll be happy to share it. I'll probably write some kind of synopsis for each one I'm working on. That way I don't have all these potential novel beginnings posted on the internet.

    I intend to take a look at your progress as well, buyjupiter. Maybe linking to one you want feedback on may help? (if you're cool with that)
     
  13. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    The way I look at it, Phil, is that by the time what I've posted as "character sketch" gets woven into the larger piece it's designed for, you won't be able to tell that's where it originated from. I imagine first chapters get the most reworking, as new ideas pop in and as the theme/motif structure changes and you realize that you need to foreshadow a lot more than you're doing for it all to work.

    At least, that's my take on it from my experiences drafting and revising. If you don't want to post it, that's cool too. I was just looking forward to reading something where my first comments weren't going to have to be, well, you need a thesaurus and an ax to cut out the passive voice. :( :(

    If you'd rather do critiquing back and forth in private via email, that works too. I'll PM you details so you can take me up on that if you want.

    ETA: http://writingouttakes.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/harbinger/

    This wasn't intended to be a first chapter for something, but it turned into one.

    It's also in my sig line, and I'll try to keep that updated as much as possible. I don't mind if you publicly comment on the blog or PM me here. Whatever's easiest.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
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