First novel going nowhere? Write another one.

If your first novel is driving you demented, stop and write a second novel. Even the act of writing the first draft of a second novel can be liberating. It tells you that there is more than one story inside you and you have the capability to produce it.

Now it doesn’t mean that you will give up on that first novel but you need a break from it and what better way to take a break than to keep writing, using the second novel to sketch out new characters and settings and plot ideas.

I was so stuck on the first novel. It dragged on for over a year and a half after I completed the first draft of it. But after writing the first draft of a second novel, I can say I’m glad I put that first novel aside and showed myself that I can write another novel, rather than what I was limiting myself to in the first novel.

Only you can judge what you want to do next. Stop with the first novel or stick with it. You know exactly what stage you are at. But if you are stuck, really stuck, and have been for a while, trapped with no pass in sight then you need a break.

In April, the Nanowrimo team are running Camp Nanowrimo. A whole month dedicated to writing a novel with support and pep talks from the Nano team. If you are still trundling along with the first novel by then, give yourself a break and let another novel or story flow from you during this month. It’s just one month, you deserve it, and you can go back to the first novel afterwards if you want to.

(I mention Nanowrimo because it gives you pep talks and you feel like you’re writing with other people and you get goals… and whatever, it made me write last November…)

Anyone I’ve told about Nanowrimo says ‘I can’t write 1667 words in a day’ etc…but this is not writing with editing, this is writing with the inner critic switched off. This is writing with only one thing in mind – What happens next?

So what happens next?

A moment of satisfaction

I have printed out a first draft of my second novel which I finished writing last weekend. (My first novel? I completed it to a second draft stage but after working on this novel, I feel a demotion coming on. It’s probably not as bad as I think it is. I wish!)

Anyway, after teasing two hundred and thirty-three pages through a printer that likes jamming every five sheets, I have a stack of paper on my desk that is a first draft of my second novel.

Ah…satisfaction…

Feeling good…

Mmm……

OK, the moment’s over.

Now, to take a look at the bugger and see if it’s structurally sound. On the first novel, I used a check sheet I called my Plot Structure check, which listed out what was supposed to happen in each chapter against the major and minor plots. I also used a Timeline sheet to plan out events to ensure I was consistent with what day I was on per chapter, what time, sunrise, sunset, twilight info and moon phase info in case it was needed in a scene.

For this novel, I’m going to try the idea of a Beat Sheet which I read about in a book called ‘Nail your novel: Why writers abandon books and how you can draft, fix and finish with confidence’ by Roz Morris.

I like the ideas in this book. The Beat Sheet seems to be a combination of my Plot Structure sheet and the Timeline sheet with the aim of keeping the focus on scene intention, plots arcs, scene emotion levels and much more. So I’m going to give it a go and see how it works out.

It’s strange but last weekend when I wrote the last word in the last chapter and knew I’d finished the draft of my second novel, I felt really worried and had thoughts running through my mind like ‘the whole book is bad’ and ‘I’ve messed it up’. Anyway, I slept on it and didn’t feel so deflated the next day. (How bad can it be?!)

I think that if I could just get a novel, any one of my novels to a good publishable standard then I think I might believe in myself, know that I can do it. Even though I’m disappointed that I haven’t got to that stage yet, I’m happy to know that I can write another novel. In fact, the second novel was easier to write than the first one. Not easy, easy but it flowed better on some days, not all days, ok I’d say a lot of the things I learnt about writing came much easier-ish this time.

Right so, onwards with the novel writers quest…