Hey everyone! I would love to introduce you to my first guest blogger: Don Nelson! He is an established copy- and short-story writer out of Central California. I will be adding his "Writerfolio" link at the very end of this post. Today, he will be walking you through the challenges he faced with writing a novel. As an established writer in other avenues, he has a unique perspective on novel vs. blog writing:
I never thought I would ever attempt to write a novel, but after writing over 150 short stories, I got ambushed by a short story I had written titled “The Adventures of a Boy and His Creature”. It was the one short story that I always wanted to expand. Thus, began a journey that would end three years later.
Now don’t get scared, it probably won’t take you three years if you decide to write your first novel.
I expanded the plot of a 1,500-word story I wrote about a 12-year-old boy and his odd creature. The storyline centers on the boy’s dreams of becoming the captain of a British warship during the Napoleonic Wars. That’s where the adventure begins for the boy and his creature.
I wrote in a frenzy with no proper plan, and with little regard for literary boundaries, I was freely running down every rabbit trail, while making lots of crazy turns along the way. When I had written 25,000 words, I realized I was doing what I thought impossible; I was writing my first novel, and of course, no matter how daunting the task that lay ahead, it was too late to turn back.
At one point, I looked up from the keyboard and discovered I had written over 83,000 words, almost the length of a short adult novel. It was then I came up with a most foolish idea. I thought to myself, “Hey, how about I break this rough draft into two books, and it will become a series of maybe four or five books, and I will sell it to a publisher, and then certainly, I shall become rich and famous.” (Not!)
When writing your story, even if you plan on self-publishing as a series, I suggest you focus 100% on your first book. Make it the best book you can write, then you can move onto the next book. If you plan on submitting your manuscript to a literary agent, editor, or publisher, it is the “kiss of death” for a first-time author to pitch an entire series of books, rather than just a single novel.
Soon, my manuscript grew to an unmanageable size. I had been busy editing and defining my wandering plot in terms of big chunks, then smaller chunks, little parts and smaller portions. It was in this process I learned why books are divided into those magical things called “chapters”. And so, I began the ambitious task of determining the typical chapter length for a middle grade novel and then dividing the material into chapters.
Now, if I had outlined my book from the beginning, I could have avoided following all those rabbit trails, so now the time had come to kill some of my darlings, as William Faulkner often said about editing. In order to get rid of at least 40,000 words, I had to kill some of my favorite sentences, paragraphs, bits of dialogue, scenes and entire chapters.
Never throw out anything you’ve written—no matter how bad you think it is. Some day, you’ll need bits and pieces of your work—those gems of ideas, cool quotes, and the perfect sentences—to integrate into future writing projects.
Before I could kill my darlings, however, I had to figure which ones to kill. So, I wrote a synopsis of each chapter on 3 X 5 cards and taped them to my office wall. As I visualized the story, it became apparent that many sections needed to be rewritten, moved around and placed in different order for the story to flow better.
After three fun-filled years of writing came the “second hardest” thing I had to do: figure out when my novel was finished. It’s a tough decision to make, but, at some point, put your baby to bed and let the others involved in raising your book get on with what they do best.
Then came the “first hardest” thing about writing a novel: getting someone to read my book other than my friends and relatives who always told me how great the book was (even though I knew most of them never got around to actually reading it). I realized what I really needed was a beta reader who could give me constructive feedback, good or bad.
At the end of it all, the big question is; Knowing what I know now, would I go through this whole novel writing experience again? Yes, I would in a New York Minute.
Never ask someone to read your manuscript if you expect them to actually read it. Unfortunately, most beta-readers will forget about it until you ask them about a month later: how did you like it? And they will sheepishly admit they forgot to read your book, because they were just too busy with life and all that other stuff that goes on around us.
Thank you so much, Don!
If you would like to see any more of Don E. Nelson's writing, or if you would like to hire him on as a guest blogger of your own, click the link below: