Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Work In Progress Wednesday/Learning the business of writing: Ten Things that has helped me so far

It's been a little less than a year since I started my first YA novel and I'm nearly done with the 2nd draft. I hope to have the full 2nd draft done by April 18th. This has been a true learning experience. In retrospect, these are the top 10 things that have helped me so far. (This list is in no way a reflection of how I think all novels should be written. Everyone does things differently. This is just a list of things that have been helpful to me.):

Writing the First Novel

1. A rough skeletal book outline. Specific enough to give me direction, but flexible enough to make changes.

2. When writing the first draft, just write. don't worry about grammar, punctuation. Just get the story out. Don't let your creativity be hindered by worrying about anything else than just getting it all on paper

3. It's nice to have a person to give you insights along the way. I have a critique buddy that is very helpful. When I get stuck along the way or need some advice, a writing buddy can help get you unstuck or can be a great source of encouragement.

4. Read. Last year I made it a goal to read a minimum of 4 books a month. When I began this discipline, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my writing skills.

5. When it's time to rewrite after you do #2, (just getting the idea on paper), I have to rewrite in very small segments at a time or else it gets too overwhelming. Only a sentence or one paragraph at a time is usually all I can handle.

6. It's good to have books on hand that are similar to your voice and style to reference when you get stuck. I often refer to several books when I come across a section that I'm not sure how to "fix" (description, dialogue, emotion, etc.) Books I have often referred to on this project are "Crispin and the Cross of Lead" "Goose Girl" "A Wizard of Earthsea" "Princess Academy" "Bitterwood" "The Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen" and "The Princess Bride"

7. If one section has you stumped, it's OK to skip it for a while and work on the next section or chapter. Sometimes it helps to just come back to it later.

8. However, sometimes if you're stuck, you just may need to sit down and force yourself to write. Sometimes getting yourself unstuck doesn't turn out to be as difficult as you thought it would be. Don't be afraid to just tackle it. There's been a couple times that I've avoided rewriting a certain section, because the task seemed so daunting, but then when I finally did it it ended up not being as hard as I thought it would be.

9. Don't feel like you have to rewrite everything perfectly the first time. It's OK to do multiple rewrites. don't feel like you have to get it perfect right away.

10. Attend conferences or retreats, make contacts and have your work critiqued professionally or get involved in a group. The opinions of others are crucial. They represent your readers, so listen to what they have to say.

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