Last week we began a series of guest blog entries by my friend, novelist Cindy Martinusen Coloma. Cindy is explaining her “Puzzle Method” of writing a novel, which is very different from my Snowflake Method. I say, the more methods, the merrier. It gives us all choices when we know more ways to get that story down on paper.
So I now yield the floor to Cindy:
Blog 3 – SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER
Some Words on Trust – this writing method requires a good amount of trust. As a reader and a writer, you have an innate sense of story. Trust it. Trust yourself. Just keep going.
The more you write, the more you trust yourself as a writer. Yes, we all fight the demons and often the best of writers become insecure about a work. But writers speak more of their faults, demons, and insecurities than about their truths. The more you write and read, the better you know story. So practice trust!
And hint: if one method of writing isn’t working – try another! Once I was toward the end of a novel and felt a little lost so I found The Hero’s Journey on my bookshelf. I discovered that my story followed that mythic structure quite closely. It helped ground me enough to finish one of my favorite novels.
And Now A Note on Publishing Realities – most publishing houses require the entire manuscript before offering a contract. But at times, a book proposal is needed.
What do I do? I fake it! I write chapters and a synopsis knowing the final manuscript will be a far cry from what I turn in. To some editors, I’ve given an update during the writing, others I’ve let be surprised (and only once that didn’t go well). In fact, I usually rewrite the first chapter or chapters after I finish the novel. So no, book proposals are tough for out-of-order writers, but I also know any kind of writing discipline that we don’t like is good for us. And it won’t hurt the story creation.
Randy sez: Thanks for another installment of the Puzzle Method, Cindy! A word about proposals:
Pre-published writers are almost always going to have to write the full manuscript first in order to sell their first novel. There are rare exceptions, but generally that’s the case.
Published authors generally can sell their next book on the strength of a proposal. Cindy’s advice holds true for all novelists, whether they are Puzzlers, Snowflakers, or hard-core Outliners. You can’t guarantee in advance how the story is going to turn out, no matter how well you plan it. If your characters are truly alive, they’ll take charge of the story and do things their way, whether you want them to or not. Every editor in the world knows this, and fully expects that the story described in the proposal will be substantially different when finally written. Once in awhile, they decide they don’t like it. Most often, they love the actual novel a lot more than that horrid thing that was sketched out in the proposal.
I 100% agree with Cindy: you have to trust yourself as a novelist. You have to let the story go. If you do that, nine times out of ten, it’ll come out fine in the end. Once out of ten times, the story just can’t be rescued. Not your fault. You want the glory, you gotta be prepared to crash/burn. I have never figured out a way around that truth.
Go for the glory. Trust yourself to find your story. Have fun.