The Trials of Writing the Next Book

Jul 23, 2013

Thank you all so much to people who donated and spread the word about my sister and her family after their house fire! They received so much help in so many forms, and their family is doing well. Human beings are amazing!

In writing news, I'm working on a new book. And I swear, it's going to kill me. Every book I write is a new challenge in some way. I've developed strengths from working on previous books, and those are being applied-- but I'm also hoping to develop new strengths writing the current book, which means trying things I've never done before.

If I wrote by hand, this whole page would be
crossed out... source
That makes it hard. But you know what else makes it hard? WRITING THAT DAG-GONE FIRST DRAFT. Even the parts that should be easy now because, heck, you wrote some pretty decent characters with one pretty twisty plot before-- well, those parts are not easy. Not in a first draft.

Because you forget. You've spent so much time revising and editing and cutting and adding and tweaking your last book to get it oh-so-close-to-perfect, that you forget how much you DON'T KNOW in the first draft. In my last book, I made all sorts of tweaks to bring out a strong voice for my character.

But this one? I'm getting super frustrated because the voice is bland and boring and isn't actually a voice at all as much as me just hammering out words that create a decent sentence. And then I get frustrated that I'm frustrated, because how can I know my character's voice when I haven't even written her yet? I haven't created those moments where I find out who she is.

It takes a few drafts, at least for me, to find those things out.

And you know what? That's okay. I have to just keep repeating the mantra: First drafts suck and that's okay, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing writing writing...

But you know what I love about writing that next book? All the excitement of discovering those little things about a new story that you KNOW are going to make it great. In a few drafts.

So, my friends, what trials do you face when writing a new book? And I'm curious, what are you writing now? My new book is a fantasy with magic based on labyrinths and combat styles from India, with an African culture flare. What's yours?

30 comments:

ilima said...

EXACTLY. I have a hard time drafting now cause it all feels sucktastic. But it will get better in later drafts. Your book sounds amazing.

Donna K. Weaver said...

The challenge for me is getting the balance between what readers of the first book know and what new people won't. Too much? Too little? Ugh

Emily R. King said...

I agree. Drafting is hard after you haven't done it in a while!

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

I'm going through the exact same thing right now (I have been for a while), and it's good to know I'm not alone!

Suzanne Furness said...

I've recently completed a round of edits and am embarking on a newish project, daunting but exciting too. I don't know exactly where it will take me!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm switching from new project to another right now, trying to sense which one to commit to. Hard! You know us males and commitment!! :-)

My prayers are with your sister and her family. My own home burned to the ground without insurance -- and it was the kindness of friends and strangers that saw me through!

Madeline Jane said...

When I read "just keep writing" I had Dory from Finding Nemo singing in my head. ;) The new book sounds awesome! The best way to get to know a character better and find their voice is just to live the story with them. (You know, and continuously rewrite it, too.)

Nas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Romance Book Haven said...

Though drafting is hard, but it is necessary. Plotting, structuring and then drafting would be the way to go.

All the best!

Nas

Haneen I. Adam said...

actually my old unfinished first attempts on writing a novel were really good, nice, elegant, and I had the tendency to edit as I go, life was wonderful back in my teenage days.
Now, I'm writing my first serious novel and the first draft is...a HUGE mess! it is now that I'm frustrated, funny huh.

Cherie Reich said...

That's so, so true about first drafts! It's amazing how much a writer forgets how hard it is to get that first draft down after revising/editing for so long.

MKHutchins said...

"First drafts suck and that's okay" Yes! I actually find first drafts the hardest, but it gets me to those happy second and third drafts where I get to really make a story out of the mud that's on the page.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I just finished a first draft, but because it's a sequel to another book, I was at an advantage. I'm going to be writing another first draft soon (it's in the planning phase now), but it will take longer to get the voice right. As in several drafts longer. But that's because there will be more humor in the voice.

Good luck with your project and the edits. :D

Lynda R Young said...

Ah yes, it's so easy to forget ;)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Yes, Shallee, I am going through the same feelings as I too am writing my first draft now. Its taking its own sweet time.

LisaAnn said...

Wow! Your new book sounds so lovely. I can't wait to hear more about it!

My biggest problem in a first draft is my crippling fear of failure: Am I capable of doing this again? What if I can't?

Or, even worse, I get hung up in the literary details of "what I'm trying to accomplish here," and I lose sight of the story. The worst.

Currently working on my ESSENCE sequel. Dealing with that pesky fear of failure, but countering it with the fact that I thankfully already know these characters, so this is really NOT a new project.

That's helping. Some. ;)

Medeia Sharif said...

It takes me a long time to do the outline. After that, I draft at a good speed, but I get stuck staring in space all the time. My outlines don't detail every point from A to B.

Tara Tyler said...

i know those first draft blues!
but i get them after i write the first draft i was all excited about writing and realize its way too short!

build, baby, build!

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

I have yet to have a super polished ms but I do know something about a bland and boring voice. I look up to writers like you so I'm confident you will get there. :)
I'm currently working on my MG fantasy re-write set in an African country. :)

~Akoss

David P. King said...

I'm in the same camp with you. Putting those first words down is tough business, but once it's there, I can spend hours polishing it up and time flies! :)

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

I'm writing a first draft right now. I love first drafts because I have no rules. I don't worry about using proper grammar, if my MC wants to say "we was doing that", well, he does. I just let loose. It is fun and freeing and I tell myself I can do anything cause no one will read it until I put some rules to it.
Good-luck.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think all of my books start out bland, but somewhere in there, the characters start to come alive and they take over the story...then the good stuff starts happening!

Good luck with that first draft...you'll get it!

Caryn Caldwell said...

Yes! This, exactly! I'm about to start a new book, and I keep trying to remind myself NOT to compare this new creation with my last one. Not until my new book has undergone just as many revisions and critiques. Until then, it's just not fair to compare. (Oh, but compare I do.)

nutschell said...

organizing all the details in the new draft into a neat little plotline can be downright tricky. But it's a lot of fun starting a new project as well.
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Jessie Oliveros said...

I needed to hear this. I have been held up with my next book (which is completely outlined in my head...a first for me) because it's not "just right" as I draft.

alexia said...

This makes me feel better, because I have down the mantra 'first drafts suck', but I still feel like I'm failing if the voice doesn't come right away. I think I got spoiled because I've had one character whose voice is so incredibly easy for me to write, but my other books not so much. I especially struggle with my children's books; adult is just easier for me. But of course I would need to spend a good bit of time with them before the voice develops. So, thanks, this helps :)

What works for me with first drafts is just to push through, quick and dirty, LOL, even if I feel like it sucks. So, keep up the mantra and know that once you get that first draft out, you can begin polishing. Good luck!

alexia said...

Oh, and my next is a MG steampunk set in Egypt.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I'm working on another creative non-fiction and the hardest part is remembering everything in chronological order.

Keep tweaking.

Kami McArthur said...

First draft is usually the worst for me. Good luck with it.

Jessie Oliveros said...

This is where I am right now:)

 
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