Writing a Novel, Before Writing a Novel.

In going back over my novel in the edits, I stumbled across the many many notes and outlines I put together in order to create the novel. In essence, I wrote the novel before I wrote the novel. This post will be dedicated to, in detail, the pre-writing process.

First thing’s first, you need an idea. But you don’t just need an idea, you need an idea that you are passionate about. You can’t dedicate yourself to months or years of work on an idea that you only kind of are interested it.

Next, turn this idea into a story. Create characters, build a world, introduce a goal, and create conflict. Once you have a rough idea of this, you can figure out the general, and basic outline of the story.

In between all of this you’ll probably have little bouts of inspiration. Use these but control these. This is where a lot of authors get caught up, and ultimately give up. One morning eating breakfast you might have a spark of inspiration and come up with the perfect first line, so you take this inspiration and start writing, but that inspiration fades and you don’t totally have an idea where the story is going and you loose steam, and then you just give up. Instead of falling into this trap, only write down that first line, and stop. I do this whenever inspiration strikes, and take all of these lines and put them into a single document.

I take this document, and take my rough outline, and all of my other notes on the story (character descriptions, references, supplements, etc), and I collect them

From here, you can take all of this pre-work and create a full outline. I take the rough outline, and add to it, while adding in the lines where they would fit into the story, and I create a roughly twenty to thirty page outline of the novel in a yellow legal pad.

Oh yeah, footnote, I love legal pads, and I do almost all of the writing, or drawing, or note-taking I do (that’s not in a computer) in them.

And this is your outline. You can tweak it, add to it, and go over it until you are fully ready to sit down and write. And when you are, make yourself a pot of coffee, have a good meal, and do what you do best- Write.

-T

Advertisements

A Terror Way Beyond Falling.

TW: Depression, suicide.

So far, I’ve talked a fair deal about the things that stand as barriers between one and one’s pursuits, weather these be procrastination, failure, or finding the balance between creativity and focus. Yet, so far, I’ve failed to mention the single greatest challenge in writing I’ve had thus far. The single greatest obstacle I have to overcome every time I set out to accomplish something. Depression.

David Foster Wallace, in context, compared depression, and more specifically suicidal depression, to the reason why people jump out of burning buildings to their death; these people jump because they are facing a terror way beyond falling, the flames. This is the most apt a description of my experiences with depression that I have ever read.

I’d like to say now, that I am well, the worst is certainly behind me; I am and have been doing worlds better than the dark days I faced (and wrote about) in high school and after. This, however, doesn’t mean that the depression itself does not linger, even though I’ve learned to cope with it better.

The kind of depression I have is the lifelong kind, not the seasonal, or manic-depressive, it’s a constant ennui that permeates into every corner of being. When you’re depressed, even the most menial tasks become vexing and seemingly impossible, among these are chiefly getting out of bed, along with mustering the effort to accomplish things. Some days I can ignore it and work past it, and other day’s it’s a great deal more difficult to do so.

There are things that help with this, routine is one, so is scheduling and making and checking off lists, eating well, exercising when I can, and making the effort to go outside and see people even when I don’t feel like it all. All of these are things that help, and all of these are things that become more difficult to do the worse you feel, but you just gotta keep going. It’s helped to write about things too. To give that trauma or that burden to a character that can be strong for me.

In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath asked “Is there no way out the mind?” And well, the answer is no. But this shouldn’t be a prison sentence, for as Camus argued (a really good guy to read if you want to pull yourself out of existential dread and depression), life is hard but we must find the joy in the labor, and suicide is never the answer.

-T

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy”

-Albert Camus

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

A little while ago, I shared with you the first few paragraphs of my novel. But these we’re always the first few paragraphs.

Contrary to what might be the common misconception, novels aren’t finished when you type ‘the end’ at the end of a first draft. This is a big accomplishment, nonetheless, but it is in no way ‘finishing a book;’ it is simply getting over one of the bigger hurdles to accomplishing this lofty ambition.  When I finished writing a first draft, I was exhausted, but exalted. But then, I went back to work. One thing that I worked on, in particular, was crafting this opening.

“I remember when I used to think people our age were adults. I remember when I used to look up to my father. Now I’m taller than him.

I had this line in my head for some time before even starting the novel, like a seed. But the line was never exactly like this. Sometimes it was ‘dad’ and sometimes it was ‘father.’ sometimes it was all one sentence, sometimes two, and sometimes three. It needed to not be too long, nor too short, (landing somewhere in-between the 141 words of the first line of A Tale of Two Cities and the three of Moby Dick. I wrote and re-rote this one small paragraph over and over in my mind, trying to get each syllable right; trying to get the perfect combination of intrigue and humor intertwined with the perfect cadence, so every tap of the tongue lands just right.

My favorite paragraph of the novel, currently the second paragraph, actually started out as the closer to the opening chapter; but I moved it up as I changed it. It’s a process, and a process of editing and changing, until everything is as good as I can make it. And that’s precisely what this little post is about, change. Change is normal, change is good, and change should be encouraged. That’s life, and that’s writing.

-T