Are you stuck in your fiction writing? Lots of novelists are. Today, I’ll help a 15-year-old writer get unstuck with a few words of advice.
Kevin posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Note: This is quite complex, for it expresses multiple questions that may be answered by simply giving details of my predicament.
I am but 15 years old and am highly interested in a writing career targeting young adults. I currently have two ideas for novels that I would like to write, one being a lengthy dark fantasy which requires little research, and another being a shorter dark historical that would require mountains of research that may actually rue the entire concept all together. I’ve invested much more time into the dark fantasy, for it was my original idea, and I plan to create it first.
Now, I am experiencing several problems. One is that I am not writing every day, and I understand that is something which I must work on myself, though not doing so during my schooling is acceptable due to the importance of education. I also fear that I may be trying to load in too much symbolism, but I sent to you earlier about that particular situation. The problem that I do wish to be addressed at this moment is the following:
Putting the daily planning that I forced upon myself by creating such a complex idea aside (though lately these thoughts have been slipping away for reasons I suspect to be related to the core problem I am about to express), I am finding myself stuck in the very same location of the writing that I started in, the first chapter. Constantly I watch my fingers creating and destroying wordings that are meant to tell the very same scene, and this is stopping me from going forward, and, excluding those ideas that burst into the brain only when a scene is being written, I already know exactly what shall occur all the way up to the fourth chapter, as well as many other key events and situations that I must find a location for only when more writing is done. This feeling of being trapped is highly aggravating, and I can foresee immense relief when I am finally satisfied with my first chapter. So, what is your advise? Should I continue this process of constantly rewriting though I am but a beginner, or should I move on to create a larger segment (or even an entire first draft) and then bring it to be critiqued by myself and my online critique buddies (I sadly believe that only one of them, the pessimist, is actually of use, though I am in the midst of finding another). It is quite understandable to me that, in its current phase, my writing should be fairly close to absolute garbage, for I have just begun attempting to write fiction, and this uncertainty of whether my writing is indeed publishable drives me to constantly rewrite that first chapter, especially since I have only one critique buddy that was born a pessimist and is actually insightful while the others are teenagers that I believe may be congratulating my work simply because they are my friends and don’t see the work as absolute garbage, or perhaps they can’t even tell when a work is absolute garbage (For example, I can assume that most of them read and loved Christopher Paolini’s books, though I have found online sources calling them filth).
I also saw your article on the two main schools of writing. One being writing is rewriting, and the other being writing is writing. Obviously, I am finding myself in the school of writing is writing, but I am worrying that such a choice is the downfall of the beginner who is never satisfied.
Randy sez: OK, there are a lot of implicit questions in there, so I’ll respond as best I can:
1) You’re comparing a dark fantasy that requires no research to a dark historical that would require mountains of research. It’s true that historicals require a lot research and fantasies don’t. But fantasies still require a lot of pre-work, because you have to do your world-building. Some prefer to do that up front. Others prefer to do it after the story is written. Doesn’t matter when you do it. Only matters THAT you do it. Sooner or later, you gotta build your Storyworld.
2) You’re a bit worried that you’re not writing every day. No worries there. That’s something you’ll work up to. You’re only 15 years old. That should give you a fair bit of time. It’s true that school does tend to get in the way. Be aware that you will never have more free time than you do now. Once you get to college, your free time will shrink. Once you get out of college, it’ll disappear almost completely. Once you get kids, you’ll find that you don’t have enough time to do it all. Just a word to the wise.
3) You’re stuck in the first chapter. OK, this is an order: Stop rewriting chapter 1 and go write chapter 2. Don’t rewrite chapter 2; move on and write chapter 3. If you keep endlessly reworking the first chapter, you are going to stagnate faster than last month’s milk with the dead fly floating in it. Write the whole book. If you get critiques of earlier chapters, don’t fix what’s broke in those chapters. Instead, apply what you learned from those critiques to whatever chapter you’re working on right now. Don’t stop and revise until you finish the first draft.
4) You’ve got a pessimistic critique buddy. Fire him. Now. That’s the last thing you need right now. Find somebody who is mostly positive. Find somebody who can tell you the ONE thing you need to work on. A negative-oriented critique buddy will drown you unless you’ve got an Xtremely optimistic nature yourself. (See the August 2010 issue of my e-zine for more on optimism versus pessimism and how to develop your optimism if you’re not naturally gifted that way.)
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.
Blog of the Day: I read a terrific guest post this morning by Marcus Sakey on Jane Friedman’s blog, There Are No Rules. The title of the post is “How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material.” The title says it all. Read it. This stuff is the real deal.