1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.


Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Shine Magical, Apr 16, 2014.

  1. Shine Magical

    Shine Magical Dreamer

    I had finished the first 40 pages of my novel last month.
    After going to a critique, it became clear that there was a lack of plot and that the characters would need to be severely re-worked.

    In essence, they had told me I had written 40 pages of character development, rather than the start of a novel. I know that I essentially have to start from scratch, only being able to migrate a few ideas.

    Since then, I have a firmer grasp on the plot I want to write and the main character has an actual goal throughout the book, but I still feel like it is not fleshed out enough to justify writing again.

    So here I am, floating in limbo, not wanting to write because I don't want to repeat the same unnecessary work, yet having difficulty fleshing out the plot without actually writing.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    The only way to learn to write is by writing. Though people may progress at different speeds, there is no substitute. You just have to put the work in to learn craft.

    Don't think you have to sit and write a great novel on the first go. If you do, you're likely setting yourself up for failure. It's okay to write poorly as you learn new techniques. Allow yourself that freedom.

    The good news.... No writing effort, taken in earnest, is wasted. The more you write, the better you'll get. The more you practice craft techniques that fall in line with your desired style, the more proficient you'll become. Even exercising your mind in this creative way will enhance your ability to develop plot & characters.

    So don't sweat the product too much at the beginning. Just keep writing and trying to get better. I also recommend you read articles and books on the craft of writing. Having an understanding if effective technique early on can save you a lot of struggle.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  3. Michael J. Tobias

    Michael J. Tobias Scribe

    Can't improve your craft or your draft without writing. Also, you may be surprised how the plot develops as you write. One of the sheer joys of writing for me is being the first to find out what's gonna happen next, because when I sit down with my laptop and start pounding away, I'm often not sure where the heck it's going.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Getting better at anything means you're going to have to fumble, bumble, and make more mistakes than you'll be able to count. The only sure way not to make progress is not to write.

    My first novel was a 275k mess that I spent years writing. But in fumbling my way to the end and actually finishing the thing, I learned so much about writing and what it takes to write something as complex and big as a novel. Like T.A.S. said The only way to learn to write is by writing.

    I'll also add, as you write, try and become a student of writing. Find a few books on it and learn some theory from some pros who have been there and done that. I'd recommend a series called Elements of Fiction. You can find it on amazon and maybe your local book store. The books in the series helped me build my foundation for understanding story and how to tell one.
  5. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    Every novel has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It sounds like you may be starting at a point that isn't really the beginning of the story. It may be too early (you're filling in backstory and showing who the characters are without anything actually happening) or it may be too late (something happened and now the characters are dealing with it without their motivations being grounded). So maybe you need to step back and look at where the story really starts.

    There's a lot of discussion about the 'inciting incident' and the 'point of no return', but I find that everyone has a different opinion of what those are. I like to think of it as a tipping point: the moment that tips the main character out of his/her normal life and changes everything. He/she may not yet be committed to doing whatever it takes to resolve the situation, but *something* changes. That is often the ideal place to start the story. Once you have that, the rest of it will follow, and the 40 pages of character development can either be fitted in along the way, or works as background information to inform your writing and add depth.

    It's hard, this writing business, but you're obviously serious about it, so keep working at it. And good luck!
  6. Your first novel/project/ serious bit of writing, will be seriously terrible.

    And no, I'm not writing that to be mean and make you sob and crawl into the nest you've likely built under your desk. :)

    No. Way back, two years ago, at the heady heights of fifteen with all the knowledge of an arrogant teenager, I knew my first novel would be amazing; great plot, great characters, great world. I knew it would take the world by storm.

    Its rubbish.

    I've done about 180,000 words on that project, and it had massive plot shifts, character shifts, its a mess.

    Two months ago, I started a project I'd been thinning about for a year. I've done 78,000 words so far. you need to accept that you need to learn the craft. I now think that, whilst I have an off day, it takes about 200,000 words to develop your own style and prose, to make everything flow.

    You also need a passion for your work, a love for the characters, an affinity for the world. You need to write what YOU WANT TO WRITE. Not what you think will sell or get you published,d or what you've seen other writers do well. You need to live the novel, and it will be good. You'll WANT to go back and rewrite it, to nurture and shape it.

    And also, first drafts are your basis; they can be terrible, its okay. I get nearly everything down in my first draft, but you might not, everyone writes differently. Write, write some more, and find your own style. Ohhh, and DONT GIVE UP. SIT DOWN, OPEN UP A WORD DOCUMENT, AND LET YOUR FINGERS SPILL YOUR MIND JUICES OVER A PAGE OF AWESOMNESS!!!!! :)
  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    My first novel was terrible. I shudder when I think about it. And the rejection letters that followed...I'm lucky I even got them with as awful as the story was. So the first one is always a learning experience. I can't think of any authors that published their very first novel right off the bat.

    That said, writing is tough but I bet you're even tougher. As others have said, we only get good by continuing to write. Its natural to feel discouraged, and its natural to suck. But you won't suck forever. Being a student of the craft is fun. There is so much information out there: books, youtube videos, blogs, etc. I really recommend Brandon Sanderson's youtube series on how to write a good story. He's great at explaining things (and entertaining).

    Have you thought about writing short stories for now to get more practice in? One thing I've been doing is writing short fiction about the characters in my project. Its helped me develop them further and its given me extra things to write.

    You can do this.
  8. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

    Nearly every writer I know thinks the first draft is garbage and won't show it to anyone, AND has to keep reminding themself of this. Mine certainly are crap. One useful analogy I heard is that the first draft is shoveling the sand into the sandbox, the revisions are where you get to play with it.

    Also, I sometimes write scenes I know are not going in the book because I need to learn something about the characters. 40 pages of character development is 40 pages of you learning things about your characters that will influence how they behave in the rest of the book.

    There's not necessarily anything wrong with starting slow. I spend a lot of time setting things up, which makes it look like not much is happening, then there's an event that starts the landslide. A lot of people would start with the landslide and work in the other stuff as backstory, but I prefer both reading and writing at a slower pace. You do have to have a beginning, but it doesn't have to be all plot action. My beginning is the point of irrevocable change -- to a character, to the world, to a struggle that has been going on for a long time. Sometimes no one realizes it's irrevocable change until later in the book. The beginning has to be compelling, but it doesn't have to be explosive.
  9. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    “The first draft of anything is shit.”

    ~Ernest Hemingway

    Thinking about this quote liberates me from the unrealistic burden of expecting my first attempt to be "good". I'd like to revise that quote:

    "The first draft of anything is a lump of clay that may be reshaped through loving iterations of re-writing into something that may be enjoyed by another human being."

    I also like to break down the word: Re-vision

    Revision is often equated with correction, the fixing of something that was broken. That can be true and often we do a lot of that, but I think that's only half the story. It can be a process of re-seeing, re-dreaming, re-creating. That is a creative, not merely corrective process.

    There is a kind of nervous excitement I get from putting new words, new ideas on the page for the first time. It is wonderful, but exhausting in a way. Revision gives me a break from that nervousness. I can sit with the words I wrote and work on them. I find that much more relaxing than the fever of "first time creation". It's a kind of dance between the two processes, and I need to put each in its place. The revision process slows down my creation mode, dampens the fires. Entering creation mode while revising can be positive, but it can lead me to become scattered and not really finish what I was working on. Kind of like two horses trying to pull the chariot in different directions.

    I have to bear down on my tendencies and try to manage my energies in the right way, else I end up feeling like I am wasting my time and not getting anywhere. It's a funny business, writing! Good luck.
  10. Addison

    Addison Auror

    It's always best to start a book with a conflict, whether it's something external like the in-laws driving a car through your living room or something internal like having to kick your room mate out for not paying their half of things. Remember the four layers of conflict (internal, external, interpersonal, antagonist) and choose the one that will help your story shoot off.

    Each layer can provide different motivation. Either motivate the reader into reading on or motivating the character which, in turn, will pull the reader along by the nose.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  11. Shine Magical

    Shine Magical Dreamer

    Thanks for this resource, Chesterama. (linked below)

    & Thank you to everyone for the encouragement I needed, I am back on track now. :)
  12. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    You're welcome! Glad we could all help you feel better. :)
  13. Addison

    Addison Auror

    You're Welcome. Happy Writing! :)
  14. TheokinsJ

    TheokinsJ Troubadour

    From what you've said, I'd say you need to sit down and have a look at your plot and characters.
    I have been in the exact same boat as you for the past two years- I'll write 40-50 pages, then scrap it and start again, I've restarted twice, but I decided the best thing to do would be to take a break from writing it, and spend some time planning the chapters thoroughly.
    If you've spent 40 pages addressing the characters but not the plot, I suggest that you plan out your book, chapter by chapter. This can be really difficult to do, as I have discovered- I can usually only see about 5-6 chapters ahead of me as to where I'm going, but it can help you with keeping things moving and getting the plot progressing, so that you have a goal for each chapter, about what information needs to be given to the reader and what is the next stage in the story.

Share This Page