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biglime

Writing Novels

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I've noticed from time to time that there are a lot of people trying to write long-form novels on the forum, and thought it might be nice to set up an ongoing thread where those of us who are undertaking this huge task can come to talk the work over.

Now, to help us all take it seriously, I thought that I'd draw up some basic rules we should stick to:

* No extracts from incomplete manuscripts. (It's acceptable to talk about your work's plot, characters and such. But not to post up what you've done so far).

* Those of us who are writing a novel should post their name, what they are writing, and what deadline they have set themselves. Then we can keep tabs on projects, and keep encouraging each other to stick at it.

* No trollers posting things like wrestling jpegs. (That's me told).

Apart from that, have at it. We could also assemble a nice little list of helpful links and so on, and stick them in this first post.

So who would like to begin?

Author: biglime

Novel: sunshiner

Deadline: December 1st

Author: Barkbat

Title: The Woman and the Dragon.

Deadline: 1st draft - Oct 1 2005 2nd Draft - Jan 1 2006

Author: sweetdaddyg

Title: Town of the Lost

Genre: Horror

Deadline: December 22nd

author: c-cat

working title: Repository of the Past.

deadline: first draft complete next week, 2nd draft end of August.

Author: lfj

Title: The Legendary Jonny Flames

Deadline (second draft/get agent): 31st December 2005

Author: Hoop version, too.

Novel: Untitled. (Children's novel.)

Deadline: First draft @ 1 Dec 2005.

Author: Squirtle

Provisional Title: Homeless Princess

Genre: Thriller/Supernatural/Fantasy

Deadline: 29th July 2006

Author: Neuromancer

Title: The Funeral Years

1st draft deadline: Jan 1st 2006.

Author: RowMo (writing as Herbert Van Thal)

Title: Count the Scabs of Dracula

Deadline: Spring 2006

Author: Uzion

Title: Fall of the Pharaohs

1st draft deadline: 1st Feb 2006

Author: MrPogo

Title: (working) Brian

Deadline: February

Author: Eighthours

Title: Eighthours

Deadline: Mixture of first draft plus some second draft tidying up - October 2005

Author: Andy Shearer

Title: Dalliance

Deadline: December 2005

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At the risk of being a bit off topic, I'm writing a comic for a friend, and it's seriously hard work. I was close to giving up earlier today, but sat down and read some stuff on plot structure and reminded myself to take it a bit at a time. The idea of writing a full-on novel is somewhat terrifying.

Good luck to the forumites who're attempting it.

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As a point of interest, after reading the Stephen King thread in OT the other week I picked up his On Writing, which is a good rambling King read and an interesting insight into his methods. They may not be for everyone, but he advises forgetting about plot and focusing on character - formulate a situation, place characters into it, and write them out. He also offers some sound advice on writing prose in general - get rid of unnecesary words, avoid the adverb, careful with the tenses...

His advice boils down to "keep it simple", I suppose, and this is a feature of a lot of my favourite novelists - Hemingway, certainly, and Brautigan, who writes in an almost childlike (but not childish) fashion much of the time. But great genre writers (Chandler and Ellroy, for example) have it in spades, and that's no coincidence. There's probably a connection to the 'reading age' of newspapers - The Sun is, what, around 8? I think The Guardian is 14.

You can write simply and badly, of course, but I think a simple bad novel is preferable to a complex bad novel.

I'm not writing a novel, by the way, I'm just wasting your time with waffle. As compnesation, here's one of those useful links Biglime mentioned - Strunk's Elements of Style. A vital read for any writer (now updated to a newer edition):

http://orwell.ru/library/others/style/

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I've written the first draft of a novel called "The Legendary Jonny Flames". I did most of that during November last year for Nanowrimo but I've been tweaking and finishing it off for the last few months and it's now a lean 70,000 words. It was written entirely during my train journeys to and from work (Hastings to London).

Currently a few friends are beta testing it, and I'm sure it needs some more work, so I guess I'm technically still writing it. I feel confident about it, though. I also feel pretty pleased that I managed to get an entire work of fiction out of my head and into words after ten years of thinking about it.

My next target is to try and get an agent by the end of the year.

I fully recommend The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook if you're in any way serious about becoming published.

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Nice one BL.

Can you divulge as to what your 1st novel was about?

I'd love to start writing a novel.

I'm ALWAYS coming up with ideas, i just need to invest in a good notepad and a good pen, and keep writing these ideas down.

I presume that's what alot of people do, as in they just jot down all of their ideas so that in time, there's pages and pages of them?

I then imagine it'd be easier to look at your ideas, and use them as inspiration for your story?

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I'm working on my second novel just now. Just yesterday started it.

So this thread will be a nice handholding thing for me as I plow on through.

That's cool. Have you tried selling the first one at all? What's your writing "technique"? Location, length of a writing session, etc etc?

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Just coming to the end of my second book (chapter 27 of 30/31). Every thing's sort of planned, just trying to squirrel away the time to get some serious writing time in. Aiming to buy an all day bus journey ticket tomorrow and just write away while I'm shuttling between Guildford and Camberley half a dozen times... Sounds extreme but that's the way I wrote the first book so want to see if I can avoid outside distractions that way.

Was due to be released in mid Nov, but publisher has brought forward all of the deadlines to try and hit a book festival in late October (find out more at a meeting on Thursday). Would be cool, but knowing that two weeks have disappeared just like that is a bit nerve wracking. Book 1 took about 18 months to do, I started book 2 in February and it's been busy outside of just sitting down and writing.

Technique wise I started both books (and the third one, pencilled in for next Christmas) with the end, and a rough idea of how I'd get the characters there. Book 2 has been pretty dicey because although book 1 was read by 11 - 80 year olds Book 2 revolves around a new character who is anorexic/self harming and that's been an amazingly hard issue to research and write into. Which is also why I'm reticent to finish the thing, because it's a tough thing to 'resolve' in a lot of ways. even though I know how it does finish...

Writing wise I tend to sit and work on an overarching storyline flowchart which changes occasionally as I fill in the chapters and add things that I think would be cool. Generally I note down all of the things that need some sort of mention or resolution and then order them around in terms of the order in which they happen. I write the storyline in notepads about 2 chapters at a time (4-10,000 words) and then type that up later which takes about an hour each chapter because I'm editing it a little as I go, although that was a format I started up when I was writing on a bus and then typing the story up at work in my lunch hours.. This time I've done a little typing straight in, dunno if that makes it read any different though.

Deadlines are way too tight though, ms needs to be at the printers mid-late Sept, so for one thing we're having to work with the endorsements from book 1 as opposed to this one, which is tricksome, and I hope we can get some anorexia specific comments sorted in time. And organising any sort of press coverage is going to be a nightmare for late Oct/mid Nov... Then again the latest review we had sent in for book 1 was 'brilliantly inventive and original storytelling' from the LICC so will still look ok on the cover :( I wanted the quote 'f***ing awesome' on it, which came into the publisher from a 14 year old reader, but wasn't allowed :wacko: Ah well.

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That's cool. Have you tried selling the first one at all? What's your writing "technique"? Location, length of a writing session, etc etc?

My first one's been wrangled up in an agent mess. Basically I'm scrapping one agent and am in the process of securing another. My current agent is mainly a film/tv agent, so she has few contacts in publishing. The new guy represents Ramsey Campbell, so if things work out there, I'll be well chuffed.

I write for a living anyway, so I write Monday to Friday, from 11 to 4. When I'm working on a novel, I generally work through the night - particularly since I do horror fiction. My first one took two and a half years, but I plan to hammer through a first draft of this one in six months.

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Nice one BL.

Can you divulge as to what your 1st novel was about?

I'd love to start writing a novel.

I'm ALWAYS coming up with ideas, i just need to invest in a good notepad and a good pen, and keep writing these ideas down.

I presume that's what alot of people do, as in they just jot down all of their ideas so that in time, there's pages and pages of them?

I then imagine it'd be easier to look at your ideas, and use them as inspiration for your story?

Simmy, the first one's about an evangelist in a small town in Nevada. It's a horror story about the inevitability of senseless acts of evil.

Everyone writes differently. I throw together a very loose plot, then just start writing. I like not to be sure what happens to my characters, then I can surprise myself. If I can surprise myself, then I can hopefully surprise the reader.

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Genre.... Um, well officially it was classified as teen fiction, although the majority of people that wrote into the publisher were adults/parents and Lord Ron Dearing gave us an ace review and he's no spring chicken. Pretty far away from horror though although it does get a little bleak at times :(

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My first one's been wrangled up in an agent mess. Basically I'm scrapping one agent and am in the process of securing another. My current agent is mainly a film/tv agent, so she has few contacts in publishing. The new guy represents Ramsey Campbell, so if things work out there, I'll be well chuffed.

I write for a living anyway, so I write Monday to Friday, from 11 to 4. When I'm working on a novel, I generally work through the night - particularly since I do horror fiction. My first one took two and a half years, but I plan to hammer through a first draft of this one in six months.

I dunno who Ramsey Campbell is, but good luck anyway. I've got a list of agents that sound okay, so I'm going to start blasting through them with sample chapters etc soon (one at a time, mind, I've been reading up on the "rules").

My book has developed from a 3000 word short story, a skit really, into a longer piece and then finally a novel. The main character basically arrived fully formed in my head and then I spent a year or so creating a world and a story around him.

I have a pile of ideas of other novels and stories but they're all over the place genre-wise and I'm not sure whether to get on with writing another or concentrating on this one first.

c-cat, good luck with yours. How long did it take you to get the first one published?

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I have a pile of ideas of other novels and stories but they're all over the place genre-wise and I'm not sure whether to get on with writing another or concentrating on this one first.

You should get started on something new.

Give the other one some sitting time, then you can go back to it and give it an overhaul.

Remember, Hemingway said it:

"The first draft of anything is shit."

He ain't lying.

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I dunno who Ramsey Campbell is, but good luck anyway. I've got a list of agents that sound okay, so I'm going to start blasting through them with sample chapters etc soon (one at a time, mind, I've been reading up on the "rules").

Does the 'no sim-sub' thing apply to agents though? With publishers sure, as if two of them offer to buy your book at the same time it causes shenanigans (of which you'll be on the receiving end) but agents?

Someone who's got one, answer that.

Edited: For the "i before e, except after c" rule.

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Does the 'no sim-sub' thing apply to agents though?  With publishers sure, as if two of them offer to buy your book at the same time it causes shenanigans (of which you'll be on the recieving end) but agents?

Someone who's got one, answer that.

You're always safer just submitting to one at a time.

It's less of an issue with agents, but many agents know each other, and many will be more sympathetic to your cause if they think they've 'found you.'

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I'm constantly in awe of people who've actually completed novels or just about to do so - even more with those who have another job in the process and do their writing in between!

I've had the ideas lurking around in my head for two books, for a number of years now, and it's not that I'm ever short of ideas, probably the opposite - too many to adequately form into a coherant format. I have pads of notebooks with various bits and pieces that I want to put in, but I'm probably more in the Biglime camp of not wanting to do too much preparation in my work really. At university I was the same - not for the 2 week long struggle to prepare an essay - more like an afternoon of zooming around frantically trying to finish the thing.

The hurdle I have, and have always had is the beginning of books - which I'm sure a lot of people suffer from. Once I get a start on something, then it becomes amazingly addictive and i don't want to stop, but until that moment it's a huge struggle, and I seriously believe my dream of writing a great childrens book will just remain the aformentioned dream (albeit with a couple of middle chapters penned out).

How do others start? Or do you go back to the start?

Oh, I suppose I should put the following:

Author: JoeK

Title: Cloudchaser

Deadline: before I get too old to appreciate what little royalties might come my way!

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How do others start? Or do you go back to the start?

Oh, I suppose I should put the following:

Author: JoeK

Title: Cloudchaser

Deadline: before I get too old to appreciate what little royalties might come my way!

Just start it, and don't read back over what you're doing. Work under the impression that it's all shite anyway (as in Hemingway's rule) and just keep plowing through, to get the story down. It's in the redrafting that you'll write your book.

And set yourself a personal deadline!

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Just start it, and don't read back over what you're doing. Work under the impression that it's all shite anyway (as in Hemingway's rule) and just keep plowing through, to get the story down. It's in the redrafting that you'll write your book.

And set yourself a personal deadline!

If only my old housemate would take that advice. It took him six months, writing a couple of hours every day, to reach 100 pages as every time he'd be constantly going over and revising everything he'd done so far. The first couple of pages in particular must have had about twenty rewrites before he moved on at all.

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If only my old housemate would take that advice. It took him six months, writing a couple of hours every day, to reach 100 pages as every time he'd be constantly going over and revising everything he'd done so far. The first couple of pages in particular must have had about twenty rewrites before he moved on at all.

It's madness.

My girlfriend's an incredible writer. But she just keeps on going back over stuff, checking it's all straight. It's frustrating to watch.

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I'm writing a screenplay. Is that allowed? Assuming the answer is yes....

Author: Barkbat

Title: The Woman and the Dragon.

Deadline: 1st draft - Oct 1 2005 2nd Draft - Jan 1 2006

My problems are too numerous to mention. Writing a screenplay of even fourteen year old goth child standard is amazingly hard. I came in with a mind-bending arrogance and have been given a good seeing to by bitter expereince.

Having been guilty of the redo each line numerous times before moving to the next style, I have recently attempted the Hemmingway bust it out approach. This is working out far better on my emotinal health. Have also got a good daily timetable at work - which WILL be necessary when the going gets tough and approaching the laptop is akin to approching a landmine on Ann Widecombes saggy labia, as it inevitablely will on some days if you try to see something of feature length right through to the end.

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I'm writing a screenplay. Is that allowed? Assuming the answer is yes....

Author: Barkbat

Title: The Woman and the Dragon.

Deadline: 1st draft - Oct 1 2005 2nd Draft - Jan 1 2006

My problems are too numerous to mention. Writing a screenplay of even fourteen year old goth child standard is amazingly hard. I came in with a mind-bending arrogance and have been given a good seeing to by bitter expereince.

Having been guilty of the redo each line numerous times before moving to the next style, I have recently attempted the Hemmingway bust it out approach. This is working out far better on my emotinal health. Have also got a good daily timetable at work - which WILL be necessary when the going gets tough and approaching the laptop is akin to approching a landmine on Ann Widecombes saggy labia, as it inevitablely will on some days if you try to see something of feature length right through to the end.

We'll allow this one alone, since you are nice.

But everyone else - the NOVEL.

As for screenplays. Oh christ. The heartbreak.

Be prepared for the moment your script gets accepted by someone. Then you're redrafting to fit ten different people's opinion of what works. Then the guy you drafted to please gets sacked and replaced by someone who wants something else out of it. It's a nightmare. A fucking nightmare that's barely worth the development money.

Still, have fun!

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ok my details for future humiliation:

author: c-cat

working title: Repository of the Past.

deadline: first draft complete next week, 2nd draft end of August, then I'll know whether the publisher can have it for publication in time for Christmas or whether I wait until Easter.

bus journeying today.. Lovely day for it, hopefully not too skiddey.

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The hurdle I have, and have always had is the beginning of books - which I'm sure a lot of people suffer from. Once I get a start on something, then it becomes amazingly addictive and i don't want to stop, but until that moment it's a huge struggle, and I seriously believe my dream of writing a great childrens book will just remain the aformentioned dream (albeit with a couple of middle chapters penned out).

How do others start? Or do you go back to the start?

I ended up writing in no set order, just getting it down as scenes and ideas came into my mind. After I had getting on for a novel's worth of words I started reassembling it all into some kind of coherent form, and in doing that was able to pick out a good part to start with. The only fixed events I had were the tipping point in the middle, and how it had to end.

Right at the end, I rearranged it all again and shifted quite a lot of bits about, to balance the story out. I had been kind of reluctant to do that kind of surgery on it up until then, but in the end decided I had to "let go" a bit because the refix was definitely worth it.

Obviously that wouldn't work with every kind of story, though.

Author: lfj

Title: The Legendary Jonny Flames

Deadline (second draft/get agent): 31st December 2005

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ok my details for future humiliation:

author: c-cat

working title: Repository of the Past.

deadline: first draft complete next week, 2nd draft end of August, then I'll know whether the publisher can have it for publication in time for Christmas or whether I wait until Easter.

bus journeying today.. Lovely day for it, hopefully not too skiddey.

What's the first one called? I'd quite like to read it -_-

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I write for a living anyway, so I write Monday to Friday, from 11 to 4.

Again out curiosity BL, what is it you write for?

I understand you write for the CTF series, and i presume some other things but is the work constant?

Is there always something for you to be writing about which will get you paid annually?

I'm not meaning to delve into personal details about pay and the like, but I just can't work out what sortof project you'd be writing for which would keep you employed and paid for a long period of time... Does that make sense?

Hope it does <_<

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