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First Novel

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ThatGreenWriter, Oct 24, 2020.

  1. ThatGreenWriter

    ThatGreenWriter New Member

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    Hi, I'm new to Mythic Scribes and, as a young author, I am trying to write my first novel. Genre: Fantasy. I have always really enjoyed reading fantasy novels, and would love to know if anyone has written a fantasy novel before?

    I'm really enjoying the process so far, but I'm not sure I'm doing it right. I'd love any tips on writing fantasy (specifically novels) or critique on my first page, which I have pasted down below. I would appreciate any feedback! Have a nice day!



    The Demon I've become:

    Anya Calhorn woke with a start, a throbbing pain growing in her head. She had been to ‘The Ultimate Party of the Century’ hosted by the local youth club that her parents made her attend weekly. Last night the club supervisors proved just how foolish they were. The party began at 7pm and the adults made the under 15s leave around 10pm, but as soon as they’d left, that’s when the real ‘ultimate’ party had started. The adults moved to the corridor to give them space, with regular quick checks, and it failed. By the first quick check, half the teens disappeared, and the remaining kids shattered many, many windows in practically every place in the rented town hall. Things just went downhill from there. Where else could they go? By the time the adults sent them all stumbling home, they were almost tripping over each other as they fell through the door of Peter’s (one of the many suspects of the broken windows) flat, where the loud rock music remained dominant through the rest of the morning. She agreed to let loose and go to an afterparty. Anya had drained a few too many.

    She sat perched on her bed and gazed at the wall. Last time something similar happened, only last month, she’d promised herself to never get drunk again, and promised to never do so much as look at a bottle of ale. So much for commitment. She slipped her feet into the slippers her mum bought her last Christmas; they were a shabby shade of yellow and, like most of her wardrobe, looked like they hadn’t seen clean water since 1995. After standing, she walked towards the door of her bedroom and felt her way towards the stairs. Anya, better than anyone else, knew how to cure a hangover at 5:05 in the morning. Coffee. But, to her surprise, she saw her mum sitting on a stool at the kitchen table, muttering to herself.

    Yulia Calhorn was a woman who would shout at you for flossing your teeth with a piece of floss too long. She spoke with a heavy, thick Russian accent, and black hair - always pulled into a high, neat bun. That morning, she was wearing her cotton pyjamas with blue polka dots. She wasn’t much of a variety person, more of someone who enjoyed leading a life of organisation and structure. It was unheard of for her to be without her planner or glasses and was someone who most people think didn’t understand fun. Anya’s mother did in fact understand the word ‘fun’, as she did with the rest of the 171,146 words in the English language, that was another thing about her, she loved dictionaries. She had a kind, but not friendly smile and was tall for a woman. That morning, this Yulia Calhorn was not at the kitchen table. Instead, a woman with a stressed face and deep creases in her forehead took her place.

    “Mum?”

    Yulia looked up and struggled to cover whatever it was she was reading at. Whatever it was, Anya was unaware of it. “What are you doing? You’ve got work today.” As she spoke, Anya could taste the stale alcohol in her mouth.

    “Nothing, nothing. I could ask the same of you, what are you doing at this time of morning?” Her daughter could practically chew the lies as they bounced off of her mother’s tongue.

    “I can’t sleep.”

    “Well, try counting sheep then.” She waved her hand, as though she was dismissing her like a tired school teacher. She knew this was pointless, but just wanted Anya to leave the room and forget this.

    “Fine. Goodnight.” Anya said, with a slight tinge of annoyance in her voice.

    “Good morning.” Her mother called after her, as she made her way back towards the stairs. Anya let out a grunt, typical of her mother. She just had to correct everyone and everything, all the time. As she maneuvered herself back round the stairs empty-handed, she could hear her mother fingering the paper she had tried to hide so desperately, well whatever it was it would have to wait, without coffee she had no hope of making it through the morning. She glanced at her antique watch. 5:13am. She’d just have to hope that sleep would somehow find her in her hungover state.

    She woke up an hour later with worse pain than before. She had snatched an hour’s sleep. It would have to do. After crawling her way out of the room, she found her way to the kitchen.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    Welcome to the Scribes! For new writers, I enjoyed your sample and came up with some feedback. :)

    First: Consider your main character's point of view. While reading I got the sense that we were supposed to be in Anya's POV and yet when she leaves the room, she somehow knows what her mother is still doing in the kitchen. As a writer you want to avoid confusing readers by trying to stick to what your character can observe from their POV. Of course, there are other writing styles that allow the reader to see everything that's going on but it seems like you're writing in Anya's POV just based on what I read.

    Second: There are some ideas that need tweaking.

    By the first quick check, half the teens disappeared, and the remaining kids shattered many, many windows in practically every place in the rented town hall.

    - This sentence because it leaves me with more questions than answers. Why did they shatter the windows? Were they just being teenage dickheads and making a mess for the hell of it, or were they running from something? I wasn't a crazy partying teen in my youth, but a group of teens realistically wouldn't cause so much property damage in a public place that's being monitored by the city. Not if there wasn't some big sort of threat that made them want to get out.

    Anya’s mother did in fact understand the word ‘fun’, as she did with the rest of the 171,146 words in the English language, that was another thing about her, she loved dictionaries.

    -This is a run-on sentence that you can fix with a hyphen. Something like: "...English language-- that was another thing about her..."

    Yulia looked up and struggled to cover whatever it was she was reading at. Whatever it was, Anya was unaware of it.

    -Try not to use the same expressions within the same paragraph. This sentence could be trimmed to: "Yulia looked up and struggled to cover her reading material. Whatever it was, Anya was unaware of it."

    Overall, I think your writing will get stronger as you go, there are just some things that need polishing. It seems like you're hinting at Anya's special powers, but the foreshadowing is kind of blurry to a reader. It's easy to miss the bread crumbs you are leaving which I sense you want your readers to pick up on.
     
  3. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    I think you're focusing on the wrong thing at this point. Having us give you feedback on your first page when the story isn't finished is like picking out the tablecloth for the dining room table when your house hasn't even been built yet. As you write your story, you are going to learn about your story and characters, so it's very possible that what you discover is going to change what's in that first page. Spending time trying to make that as good as possible at this point is going to be wasted effort if you're going to change it later anyways.

    There is no right or wrong ways to write or to tell a story. The only rule is that there are no rules, so if you see anything like "always do this" or "never do that." But there are norms and conventions, which are good to follow if you're still learning. But you can break them if you have a good reason to, if you execute it really well. To learn to do that, you need to consume more stories and you need to write more. You're going to end up writing a lot of crap, but that's okay. As you make mistakes you'll learn from your mistakes, just like anyone does with any skill.

    All stories need a start, middle, and end. It needs a character who faces a problem that they want to solve and things that keep them from accomplishing that. A novel is a very long story, so you're able to have lots of characters, lots of worldbuilding, subplots and such, but it's also easy (ESPECIALLY in fantasy) to infodump or get sidetracked. Just because you've bought a fantasy novel at Barnes and Noble that is 200-400k+ words doesn't mean that anyone is going to want to publish your story at that length, or that anyone wants to read it. But getting into the subject of sales-ability and publishability at this point of your writing journey is also putting the cart before the horse. What you should focus on at this point is making your first draft. As you do this, you're going to improve and learn more, so your early chapters are going to look like total garbage and you'll want to re-do them, and that's totally normal.

    Are there specific things to doing that that you'd like to know more about? Like writing tools/programs? Building a writing habit? Creating an outline? High-level plotting of the story?
     
  4. ThatGreenWriter

    ThatGreenWriter New Member

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    Thank you so much for your feedback! I will definitley make sure to make some improvements based on the advice you have given me. Thanks again!
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  5. ThatGreenWriter

    ThatGreenWriter New Member

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    Thank you for giving me this feedback. I know it might seem weird trying to ask for feedback this early in my novel, but I've never written a novel before, and would like to get some feedback throughout my writing.

    Thank you for offering to explain certain areas of writing a novel. There is something that I would like to know more about: Building a highly detailed plot. At the moment, my plan is very vague and only outlines the key events of my story, but I'd love to get some advice about developing a detailed plan. Thanks again!
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Hi. I'm Joe.

    So you've decided to take the plunge and become an author? Congratulations. Welcome to hell. Pour yourself a drink; you're gonna need it.

    In all seriousness, though. You wanted to know about plotting.

    Below is a reference I've used quite a bit. These are variations on the three-act structure--Setup, Confrontation, Resolution (or, one of my favorite ways I've heard it referenced, "Put the characters in a tree, set the tree on fire, get them down again," which is pretty much how I wrote my debut novel), with nods to the writers so that you can refer to their work and deconstruct it a bit more to see what means what and how it was done.

    These are not, absolutely NOT, the "only" ways to plot a book or story, nor is any one of them the "right" way. They're just tools, but extremely powerful ones. Using a map like one of these to plot and build your book is like using a 3D walkthrough program to design and build your house, to carry on the earlier analogy.

    I'm currently working on one WIP using the third Vogler method below, and another using Duncan's method with a couple of modifications.

    103700273_3766420340052789_5789514299145718480_n.jpg
    For an idea of what my outlines look like before I get to actually writing, see my post in this thread: I can never finish anything. And again, you do NOT have to do it this way.

    Some people write entire novels never plotting anything; they just forge ahead until they reach a satisfactory ending. And that's great, if you're wired that way. Point is, you'll need to find your thing. The more you write, the more you'll develop a process for everything. It took me about 15 years and around six or seven finished novels to find what really works for me, and I found it by accident.

    Most of all, HAVE FUN! Even the miserable parts of writing--and there will be many--are fun.
     
    S.T. Ockenner, Devor and A. E. Lowan like this.
  7. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    How do you define "highly detailed plot"?

    So, it's widely considered to be true that there are two types of writers: architects and gardeners. Architects, or plotters, write an outline before starting their story and they stick to that. This allows you to make stories with lots of foreshadowing and lead up to things, but your characterization can suffer. Garderners, or pantsers or discovery writers, "make it up as they go along" or "go by the seat of their pants." Their characters can be really good but their stories can meander or plot things seem to come out of nowhere. In actuality, everyone is a mix of both. Even the biggest pantser still has some idea of where the story is going to go, even the user of the strictest outline still has to decide what happens moment-by-moment as they write; if their outline included those things, well, then they've already written the story.

    And here's a big secret for you: once you start editing, your reader isn't going to be able to tell which one you are. Once you've written your first draft you will see the issues and you'll fix them. Nothing you read is the first draft, so if your plot isn't as good as you want it to be as it's happening, you have the chance to fix it later. So if you want a story with lots of foreshadowing but writing outlines feels too restrictive to you, then you put in that foreshadowing in a later draft. If you get paralyzed by choice at the prospect of pantsing, then make yourself an outline and add more scenes later if it needs it.

    The biggest thing that keeps anyone from publishing their story is that they don't write it. But once you have the first draft done, you've done most of the hard work. You need to build the bones and musculature before you can put on the skin and teeth.
     
    Malik likes this.
  8. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Just clarifying this point: first drafts are crap. All first drafts. Yours, mine, GRRM's. Everyone's. My third and sometimes fourth drafts are crap. This is not as simple as just writing a story and typing THE END at the end. It doesn't work that way. Writing a book is not enough writing to write a good book. It can take years to finish a novel, and that's fine. That's how this works. Hell, it takes years just to learn how to write one.
     
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I’ll say this for posting the first pages of a first book... Go for it. People can’t judge the story by the first chapter if it’s your first or twentieth novel, but what they might be able to tell is what writing tidbits you need to beef up on, and why the hell wait for page 500 to get better at writing? Writing skills are the easiest to judge and bone up on, even if you get a whole lot of bad advice. Which advice to take and which to ignore is probably the greatest skill to have.

    Consider everything. Ignore most.

    Things such as this: awaking with a start is about as overcooked as a weather opening. BUT, that does not stop it from working. BUT, if an agent/publisher/reader reads that and in they’re in the mood to pass on a book fast, this can be strike #1. For me, I groan. Chapter 10, okay, chapter 1? It doesn’t break the deal, but it puts the book on the hot seat right quick. Do you listen to that advice or not? After all, certain major authors use a massive number of weather openings... but then, they have millions of readers who don’t give a damn.

    Another example: She woke up an hour later with worse pain than before. Vague. Is it bad? No. Might it be better? Yes. If you pile up these sorts of vague statements they will combine to make your work less than it could be. Also, it doesn’t make me feel, and it’s a point that could elicit feeling. Again, not os much a critique of a particular line, so much as something that should be looked for as weak points in writing and story tellig.
     
  10. Lynea

    Lynea Troubadour

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    I don’t like to give new writers crap for the work they’re doing. We were all there at one point. If a writer really wants help then it’s fine to give it. But, generally speaking, you don’t want to go back and fix every single page because it’ll burn you out quick. The draft serves a purpose just like the editing does, so I wouldn’t hassle over it too much at this point.
     
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    To each writer their own route. Before finishing Eve of Snows, my first novel, I knew story backwards and forwards from screenwriting. Instead of writing the novel in a draft and critiquing, I wrote and then edited the first 10 chapters or so over and over until I had a product I liked. I nitpicked and let other people nitpick first drafts all the time. Then I wrote the novel. I had no desire to finish a crappy book, so I didn’t. By the time I had Eve of Snows written, the only editing I needed to do was detail work and I added one scene an editor’s comment inspired. The # of drafts is definition dependent, but I write the book, do my own editing for word choice, typos, and whatnot, send to an editor, and it’s done. I “rewrite“ almost nothing of a chapter size. All my story drafting is in my head and in the flow.

     
  12. ThatGreenWriter

    ThatGreenWriter New Member

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    Thank you so much! I will definitley make sure to use that, as I'm planning to go back to planning and build the plot before continuing!
     
  13. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    Welcome to Mythic Scribes.

    In regards to your first page, I think it's good enough for a first page for a first draft. Yes, there's room to improve. You could dive deeper into Anya's head (few people think of themselves or their mother by their last name for instance and the hangover could be more detailed, it's a bit vague now). But that's for later drafts.

    As for advise: I've got two bits. First, there are as many ways to write as there are writers. Everyone does it in their own way. So try out a lot of stuff, keep what works and throw away what doesn't. Related to this, be wary of people telling your their way is the only way. It may be for them, but that doesn't have to be the case for you. All rules regarding to writing are more like guidelines or suggestions.

    Secondly, I would suggest you check out Brandon Sanderson's lecture series on Youtube. He teaches a university class on writing science fiction and fantasy and he touches on a lot of things with regards to writing and getting a book written. They're a great starting point for improving your writing.
     
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
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