Writing a Novel

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by CroSpartacus, Jan 3, 2013.

  1. CroSpartacus

    CroSpartacus Yellow Belt

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    After pondering for years, I have decided to begin writing my own novel. Writing a book has always been a goal of mine, but the work involved in writing has been the barrier preventing me from doing it.

    I decided to begin writing my novel in small chunks and perhaps be finished with it in the next year or so.

    Any advice on writing a novel?

    Right now I am creating an outline of the book and brainstorming ideas. The premise revolves around the rise and fall of a typical American family through a series of generations ranging from 2023-3000 AD. The United States government will collapse in the 21st century due to growing debt and instability that city states will be the only form of government in the country. I intend to write about how one family finds itself in trouble during those times, but also fortune from the right decisions made by the previous generation. They will experience setbacks and success.

    Right now I am outlining how to structure each chapter. Any ideas or advice would be a great help.
     
  2. jukebox

    jukebox Guest

    If I wrote a novel, it would be of a similar setting. I think that there's something alluring about a dystopian/post apocalyptic world.

    I think that you should hold back on the prediction that you will finish in the next year or so and take it more slowly and steadily. Some of your best ideas may come after you'd have published it.

    Try joining up to a creative writing forum or something.
     
  3. QTdd**

    QTdd** Green Belt

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    Pretty sure Da Speeit and Zer are writers. Maybe you should PM them.
    1 year sounds like a very short time, but what the fuck do I know.
     
  4. Scott Lawlor

    Scott Lawlor Banned Banned

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    I've only began writing myself, except it's a screenplay.

    I don't feel comfortable giving out much advice because I'm so new but I will say this much because it does seem to work. If you can answer these 8 questions, your story will make sense or at least "flow" properly. (This aren't my words btw)

    1. What is the goal?
    To summarize, the plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve. It is also the goal/problem that involves or affects most, if not all the other characters in the story. It is “what the story is all about.”

    2. What will be the consequence/s of not achieving this goal?
    What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn't achieve the goal or solve the problem? Other times, the protagonist may start off threatened by a terrible event, which thus motivates him/her to find way to avoid it.
    As Melanie Anne Phillips points out, in some stories the consequence seems to be in effect when the story opens. Perhaps the evil despot is already on the throne and the Story Goal is to depose him. In that case, the consequence, if the protagonist fails, is that things will stay the way they are.


    3. What are the requirements to achieve this goal?
    The third element of your plot outline, Requirements, describes what must be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. You can think of this as a checklist of one or more events. As the Requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the characters are getting closer to the attainment of the goal.

    4. What is preventing the goal from happening?
    Forewarnings are the counterpart to requirements. While requirements show that the story is progressing towards the achievement of the goal, forewarnings are events that show the consequence is getting closer. Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed.
    While the Story Goal and Consequences create dramatic tension, Requirements and Forewarnings take the reader through an emotional roller coaster that oscillates between hope and fear. There will be places in the plot where it seems the protagonist is making progress and others where it seems that everything is going wrong. Structure these well, and you will keep your reader turning pages non-stop.


    5. What are they willing to do to achieve this goal?
    One sign that a problem or goal matters to the protagonist is that he/she is willing to make sacrifices or suffer pain in order to achieve it. Such sacrifices are called Costs.
    Protagonists can be asked to give up their pride, self-respect, money, security, an attitude, an idealized memory, the life of a friend, or anything else they hold dear. If you make the costs steep and illustrate how hard the sacrifice is for the protagonist, the reader will feel that the protagonist deserves to achieve the goal.


    6. How is the character rewarded for achieving their goals?
    The element that balances Costs in your plot outline is Dividends. Dividends are rewards that characters receive along the journey towards the Story Goal. Unlike Requirements, Dividends are not necessary for the goal to be achieved. They may be unrelated to the goal entirely. But they are something that would never have occurred if the characters hadn't made the effort to achieve the goal.

    7. What must happen to achieve the goal?
    Prerequisites are events that must happen in order for the Requirements to happen. They are an added layer of challenges to your plot outline. Like Requirements, as Prerequisites are met, the reader feels progress is being made towards the goal.

    8. Who is preventing the character/s from achieving the goal?
    The last element to balance your plot outline, Preconditions, is a junior version of Forewarnings. Preconditions are small impediments in the plot. They are stipulations laid down by certain characters that make it more difficult for the Story Goal to be achieved.
    However there are many other ways characters can impose conditions that impede the attainment of the Story Goal. They can make their help conditional on favours, insist on arduous rules, or negotiate tough terms.
     
  5. Bolshevik***

    Bolshevik*** Banned Banned

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    try to write as much as you can, as fast as you can. every time i wrote something and didn't finish it soon, i'd come back, read it, and think it was a piece of crap.
     
  6. nomoremondays

    nomoremondays Green Belt

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    Get Scrivener
     
  7. Tycho Brah

    Tycho Brah You drink water, I drink anarchy Platinum Member

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    I'm doing 1000 words a day and looking forward to the mess of ideas I'll have to work with when the month is finished.

    Easy writing so far, I'm sure it'll get harder as my story dries up.
     
  8. bubkusjones

    bubkusjones Brown Belt

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    Yeah, just as an example, JK Rowling started writing the first Harry Potter novel in 1992, wasn't published till 97. Granted, she was probably also working on outlines and the basic key points for the other six as well, but still, that first one was a small book.


    This is something I want to do, as well. Mainly because I keep having various scenarios play out in my head, and whenever I read I frequently stop and "rewrite" scenes and events in my head, like "What if this happened?", "What if this guy died?", "What if this other guy lived?", "What if their abilities were mroe like <so and so from another series>?" "What if these guys were more 'Normal' and not celibate warrior monks?". Shit like that.

    I figure I need to get some of this stuff out of my head before I have a mental break down and lose all sense of reality. :icon_chee
     
  9. thewhiteSRR

    thewhiteSRR Brown Belt

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    Sounds interesting. I wish you luck with it.
     
  10. Jack Reacheround

    Jack Reacheround Never Go Black

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    Write about UFC and UFCing people.
     
  11. mikecello

    mikecello ...in bed belt

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    Enter NaNoWriMo. You can flush out a lot of things and stick to a scedule.
     
  12. muerteverde

    muerteverde Black Belt

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    It sounds epic. Maybe too epic for a first book you plan to write in just a year. Don't lose track of the need for strong conflicts fought out between a protagonist and an antagonist. The world will chance a lot in that length of time but don't show the change in lengthy descriptions and technical passages that bog down the narrative.

    Do you really mean to write about 977 years of future history? I cannot fathom how much the world is going to change in that time. Technological and cultural change is changing at an ever accelerating rate now. Between 1AD and 988AD there was very little change... but between 1900AD and 2013AD the change has been order of magnitude greater and is happening much more quickly now. I would not write a book spanning that time period because I have difficulty grasping what this change could be like. You will need to invent completely new technologies, the social consequences of them, what those new technologies are replaced by, the social consequences of the bold new advancement that reinvents human cultures and so on until humanity is nearly unrecognizable several times over in a period of 977 years. Languages will die and be born. Political systems and basic core beliefs will die and others will be born. Religions and cultures will evolve, die or emerge from others.

    Here are some questions that would occur to me if I were thinking about that period for a novel:
    1. Does the technological singularity happen?

    2. Do humans use genetic engineering to change the species and if so, what are the social attitudes toward this, how do they change over time and how does genetic engineering change the social structure of societies? (a well engineered rich elite and an inferior lower class?)

    3. Will we enter space?

    4. Will we run out of natural resources first or will we develop nearly unlimited, renewable energy that allows us to continue to progress?

    5. Will the current capitalist, corporate system we have in the West persist or will the world move toward the Chinese model? Or perhaps chaos? Or anarchic-syndicalism?

    6. Will religion wax or wain in relevance?

    7. Will the internet continue to grow and evolve as a way to freely connect people or will it be controlled and exploited by government and corporate interests as a way to control their populations?

    8. Will modern medicine continue to hold out hope against deadly pathogens or will a super plague with no found cure devastate the world? Think of an AIDS that can be spread like the common cold. Given the pervasiveness of antibiotics, the extent of genetic modification, the interconnectedness of the world's population and your vast time frame, a terrible super plague that completely overwhelms modern medicine isn't out of the question. The Black Death impervious to modern medicine and hitting on a global scale would be catastrophic.

    Will you include every generation in that 977 year span of time? If we consider a generation to be 30 years (could be as low as 20) then this is 32 generations in your fictional family. So you are probably going to jump around. If so, the connections between them will become stretched thin. How much connection do you have to your grandparents 5 generations ago? 10 generations? 20 generations? I have no idea. The farthest I can trace my family is about 400 years. Certainly that could improve with modern record keeping, but how much can it sustain a single coherent narrative to spread yourself over 30+ generations. Unless you have characters who are nearly immortal, like in some sci-fi (Pandora's Star, Judas Unchained).

    Here is an idea: What if you broke your epic novel into parts, right from the beginning? The first part is maybe collapse of the current world system (with the US as the hegemonic power). This has its own characters, conflict, technologies, cultural shifts and resolution (but that ties into the next arc). Then the next is maybe the rebuilding or the surviving or I don't know, but whatever comes next and this will have its own completely separate conflict, characters, setting, technology and culture. Then the next world, again repeated, but you have here a novel cycle or series. To put 977 years, 32 generations and so much change into a single novel seems too much, in my opinion.
     
  13. Joey Sangfroid

    Joey Sangfroid Purple Belt

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    well, you never want to divulge your idea like you just did, someone may steal it and sue you for plagiarism.
     
  14. MMA Maine-iac

    MMA Maine-iac Black Belt

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    1. Read Stephen King's "On Writing"
    2. Carry something around with you at all times where you can record ideas
    3. Set realistic writing goals.
    4. For later use, but familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the publishing world, literary agents etc.
    5. Read a lot of books.
    6. Write

    I've written four novels myself. The first one is like slaying a dragon, then it gets easier from there. And it's always better to write what you know.
     
  15. CombatCyborg

    CombatCyborg Black Belt

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    Well obviously there's two approaches, you can just sit down and 'tell' the story, or you can plan it out extensively beforehand and do it scene by scene. I like to plan but at the end of the day you have to have a foundation to build on, you must get that first draft out. No matter how bad it is you can work from there, that's when the rewriting, editing, research work begins which is much easier.
     
  16. Joey Sangfroid

    Joey Sangfroid Purple Belt

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  17. CroSpartacus

    CroSpartacus Yellow Belt

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    Thanks for all the advice everyone. Maybe I should focus on the family in the 21st century for my first book. I think that the span of tying down several generations in a 900 year period will be too complex. I was inspired by Steven Saylor's "Roma" book where he follows a family from the founding of Rome to its fall. The trouble with the future is that so much can change in so little time.
     
  18. CrazyJHL

    CrazyJHL Brown Belt

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    Adavis should be stopping by here soon, he possesses a wealth of information and advice that helps many people here on these forums.

    I'm trying to write my first novel right now myself, halfway done in two months. I'm lagging right now, classes are starting up again and I'm supposed to be working on my thesis, but yeah, I'm hoping to get it finished in time for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award...at this rate I'll be lucky to have 50k words done by then.

    There are different types of writers, I think it's in your best interest to discover which one you are. I'm a discovery writer, I can come up with interesting ideas but if I don't start drafting immediately it doesn't work out to well for me. This is especially true if I explain the concept out to someone else. It has messed me up plenty of times, I come up with a great idea, write tens of thousands of words, but the puzzle is complete through outlining, and I don't want to touch the project anymore. This commonly happens during world building, but yeah, fun stuff.

    There are also binge and purgers, organized outline users (not the official term of course), and other types of writers. It helps to know how you work and what you should do to get things done.
     
  19. adavis

    adavis Brown Belt

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    Good luck on the first novel!

    There's been some great advice in here so far, and I'll echo some of it.

    1. On Writing is a great book.
    2. This sounds like an incredibly difficult book to write. I honestly cannot even imagine trying to write a multi-generational book of that magnitude.
    3. Set goals, and hold yourself to them.
    4. Create a cheat sheet with all character names and details. Occupations, etc.
    5. Only use an outline if you need one. If you don't it can shoehorn you into using old ideas rather than establishing new ones.
    6. Do not get discouraged, and always push ahead. Every story is dumb until the end is "solved." Editing before then can be extremely detrimental to ever finishing a project.
    7. If this book proves to be too big for you, don't be afraid to set it aside and work on something else. This one will always be there waiting for you when you're ready.
     
  20. kjg1672

    kjg1672 Brown Belt

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    She was also a single mom. Those little kids can take up a lot of your time.
     

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