It’s been fun reading through the comments today.
One housekeeping note: I don’t mind if you include a link inside your comments. I have my blog set up so that I moderate all posts with ANY embedded links (to catch the spammers). So if you put in a link, it won’t show up until I have a look at it. I don’t mind links if they’re relevant. I do mind links by self-serving people who are just spamming this blog to get backlinks. But people like that don’t read this blog, so don’t worry, I’m not talking about any of you.
Now, on to the topic of the day:
OK. I feel frumptious, flabbergushed and frustrated. I’m writing my first novel, so my experience level for this is low. I’m a sort of SOP that’s in need of some organization. I’m not enough of an SOP to sit and write 10K and like it. But I’m not organized enough to project what’s going to happen. So I’m about half way through this thing and can’t figure out where it’s going. So I keep going back and trying to edit what’s there with the Scene/Sequel/MRU ideas in mind, hoping that I’ll figure out what happens next. So far, I’m just muddling around in my own angst and digging myself a deeper hole. Sorry, enough complaining. I did voluntarily decide to start this project.
Doraine, you have my permission to write a bad first novel. Most people’s first novel is pretty bad. Mine was wretched and I’m incredibly thankful that it never got published. Not that there was any danger of that, but still.
All of you who are published will know what I mean here–you will never be GOOD unless you give yourself permission to first be bad. Probably bad for two or three novels. And slowly you get better. As “relevant girl” Mary wrote:
The more you write, the more you polish, the more you make deadlines, the cleaner your prose will be the first time out of the gate. It is possible to spit out clean copy and be creative. But it takes lots of BOC time (butt on chair) to get to that place.
This is Xtremely true. When I started writing, it was all I could do to churn out one page per hour. And it wasn’t a good page. But I kept at it and I got faster and my first drafts got better. Nowadays, my first drafts tend to be either very good or way off track. I have a literary assistant to tell me which is which. And I write 3 or 4 or 5 pages per hour.
That’s the result of practice. Twenty years of practice. It didn’t come cheap. My first 5 or 6 novels never made it out of the birthing room. I didn’t sell one word of my fiction until the 10th year of writing, when I sold a short story to a local computer rag for $150. If you do the math, that’s $15 per year.
I worked like a dog for those 10 years. As Mary says, I put my butt in the chair and typed. I gave myself permission to be bad, but I desperately wanted to get good, so I took it to my monthly critique group and listened. I hate getting critiqued, but I did it.
Now I’m not saying that you should TRY to be bad in your writing. I’m just saying that early on, volume is more important than quality, so you’re going to go through a stage where you write a lot of bad stuff. It’s OK! You have permission to be awful. Dreadful, even.
Get the words out. Find your voice. Figure out what works. A lot of it won’t work, but you won’t know that until you’ve typed it. That’s the only path I know of to getting good.