Thursday, February 7, 2013
What I Learned from Actually Writing a Novel
Logical flow in an extended narrative. What I mean by this is that as I've been getting feedback from readers, one relatively consistent comment seems to be that certain reactions or plot sequences are not natural. They don't flow logically from the situation. I believe this comes from having a long narrative that I've outlined, and knowing steps A to B to C, because then when step C needs to take a little longer or detour straight to step E, because that's the most natural flow, you don't see it as well. Does that make sense? Hopefully all the issues have been fixed, but now I know that you can NOT let an outline or predetermined sequence of events get in the way of natural character reactions.
Fluff scenes and Action scenes. This ties in to logical flow. I was so worried about reaching word count that before I even started I filled in my outline with "filler" scenes to make sure I had enough. So I ended up with several scenes I needed to trim down or chop entirely and a lot of other sparser areas that needed to be expanded. I think this happens in most first drafts, because we think we know what's important and follow our outline instead of the characters telling us what really matters. I'll try and give an example without giving away too much. My main character has relationships with characters A and B. Both are very important to him and say a lot about his character, but his relationship with character A is much more important to the forward action of the story. My outline was focused much more on character B, which means I had to take out a lot of B and add a lot more A. Hopefully all for the better. And I didn't need to worry about word count in the first place.
So those are two related things I learned via trial and error in the process of writing a novel. Hopefully I've fixed most of the problem areas, and will continue to do so. But this means that as I start novel #2, I will be very conscious of keeping my characters reactions and decisions very logical and realistic, and letting those choices and emotions guide the narrative. I still need an outline (I'm one of those writers) but I'm going to let myself be much more fluid with it, and add and delete scenes from it as I go. Because the character is the true director of the story. The outline will make sure we know where we're going, but the characters are the ones deciding how we get there.