Monday, 3 August 2015

What I've Done and What I've Learnt

Well, I've written a book.

On Tuesday, 1st of July 2013, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and wrote the first 20 000 words of my first novel. 

On Saturday 1st of August, at 10 past 5, I finished it. 

What could I do when I was done? I was on summer camp. I was lying there in a bed that wasn't my own, hearing the distant shouts of the other campers from my window; they were playing a ball game, oblivious to the fact that the book into which I'd been pouring my soul for more than two years, the story of the characters I'd grown to know so well and love so much, was over. I couldn't even cry -- I was shellshocked, sitting there, just clutching my notebook, before I opened my mouth to pray: thank you thank you thank you.

It's over. I've finished it.

I've written a book.

...

...

...

...

I HAVE SO MANY EMOTIONS.

About a third of me is going:


Because, like, I am SUPER PROUD. And I'm also SUPER HAPPY. GUYS I'VE WRITTEN A BOOK GUYS!!

But then there's part of me that's frankly feeling bereft. I've been writing a book for two years and now I'm ... not. I am no longer writing a book. I'm not sure how to exist in this state.


In short:


But, oh, this is not the end!

You see, bloglings, that was only book one! And it is not finished. Oh no. (I mean, I know I just spent several paragraphs saying it was finished, but bear with.) That was only draft one. DRAFT TWO, I'M COMING!

Right now, I'd like to reflect on a few things I learnt from that first draft.

1. Pantsing is hard.

I signed up for Camp NaNo with no premise eleven days before it began. I developed my premise in the shower nine days beforehand. When I actually began, I had about six or seven characters formed in my head, but no real plot. Since then it has been a rollercoaster and at times, really difficult. When it comes to Book Two, I do think I'll do a little more plotting.

2. Pantsing is super, super fun. 

I amazed myself time and time again with the way in which the plot developed. Some characters just walked into the manuscript and became really important (Freddie, I'm looking at you). Now, I'll tell you how I tend to write: I just add in random details, even when I don't know what they mean. Like, there'll be a character hinting at some terrible secret or ancient power or whatever and Corrie (the narrator) would be like "ooh what's going on" -- and so would I! There were so many plot points that grew in this way. And so often, the loose ends just came together beautifully. When it comes to Book Two, I'm going to do so much pantsing.

3. First person is hard.

Emotions? EMOTIONS ARE TOUGH. It was so difficult getting the balance. Does Corrie whine too much? Does she cry too much? Does she talk about her feelings too much? Does she not talk about them enough? Is she believable, relatable? First person lets you get up so close in the narrator's head, but it made it so hard.

4. There's a reason why most fantasy is in third person.

I've never read a fantasy novel in the first person. Before I started this one I was like "aha, yes, I am a trailblazer! I'm a trendsetter! No one writes in first person!" But now I've realised why. Think about the incredible scope of a fantasy novel, something like Game of Thrones. That relies on following a lot of different characters. Having Corrie as the sole narrator meant that the plot could only move along when she was either in the action or being told about something that had happened. That made things tough!

5. Worldbuilding is really, really important.

I was so bad at the beginning. 

Name the Royal House? Nah, let's just leave that until about twenty months in. The way of counting the years? Only developed in February or so. Currency, not until April. Most of Ivaria's history I made up this year. The months, which in Ivaria are not called January, February, etc, I still haven't named! The map's not yet complete! And as for religion, I totally ignored that massive issue for so long because I didn't want to deal with it. Basically, I was lazy and I didn't work things out. The next fantasy I write will not be like that. I will get it down before I start.

6.  In a first draft, the faster, the better.

I doubt I'll ever complete NaNoWriMo. I don't know if I could. But I will be redrafting, and writing Book Two, in a much shorter time, I hope. In the two days since finishing quite a few people (OK, like, four) have asked me, "Is it good?" And honestly, I can't answer that question. I absolutely LOVE it, sure, but I don't know if it's good or not. Writing it over such a long time I've lost all sense of pace. Are the plot twists exciting? Predictable? Stupid? I have no idea! I think if I'd written it faster, it would have flowed better overall.

7. You seriously do not need to fulfil the romance trope!

Would you like to hear the tragic story of First Draft Silas?

Picture this. It's July 2013. I'm fourteen. I'm stupidly in love* with this guy I know. I want to create pathos for Corrie. I give her horrible sisters, stifled ambition, a nasty mother, insecurity, and a pathetic crush on a hot guy in her village. Add that to my own messy current feelings? The crush on Silas turns into this massive unrequited passion.
*Unreciprocated, I mean. 

If you read the first seven chapters of my first draft (which, thankfully, you never will) she never stops going on about him. But for draft two? Silas is out! I no longer want that pathetic starter Corrie. She's so annoying! I was trying to make her relatable, but wow, I did have to give her every problem known to man. That will no longer be the case. And Silas is being written out before he can blink.

What I'm trying to say is, you don't need romance to make your character relatable. Corrie is too busy with war to be embroiled in a love triangle or whatever YA romance cliche you want.

Where do I go from here?

This is where I really want your wisdom. I'm going to have a scout around here on the interweb, on sites like Writer's Workshop or Go Teen Writers, for advice on redrafting. But what I'd really love is to hear about your books, and how you've second-drafted. 

Right now, my plan is to spend the next six weeks writing as widely as I can, poetry, short stories, in every tense and person; creating every sort of character, every sort of mood, to get myself out of the fantasy-first-person-present-tense-teenage-girl mindset. Loosen my writing muscles a bit, you know? Alongside this I'll be typing -- because guess what, I handwrote this book and I only have the first 66k typed. I'll also, hopefully, resolve my unanswered worldbuilding questions, and start making lists of plot holes and other things to fix in Book One. I guess I'll also start making notes for Book Two plot. Then, in mid-September ... let the rewrite begin!

But if you have any other suggestions, I'd really, really like to hear them. Please share. Thank you.

I am honestly going round in a daze right now. I was at work today and it was so strange talking to the others, none of them knowing what has just happened to me. But I'm so glad to have told you guys about it. I had to get this post out, you know? Sorry it was so long. If you got to this point, thank you!

15 comments:

  1. Congrats!!! *trumpets and waving flags and stuff*
    Good luck on Draft 2. I keep on drafting what I've already written which results in very little progress made, so be like me and be a perfectionist, but don't be like me. (the best advice I can give you, sadly)
    My current WIP is also fantasy and in first person so I completely agree! Why so many characters?! Why so many things going on?!?!

    I'll spare you from my own problems, but wow! Congrats and good luck :)

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    1. Thanks!
      I legit have no clue how I'm going to edit. ... I'll find out, I guess!
      IT'S A STRUGGLE!

      Thank you Kat :) <3

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  2. I.MUST.READ.THIS.MASTERPIECE

    Oh and well done!!!!
    But seriously I've heard so much about Corrie and this what seems to be an amazing fantasy novel - I will be able to read it at some point? I mean you had better publish it or at the very least send me a copy!!!

    Yeah, I wrote a book 5 years ago much like how your first draft went... we will never speak of it again *shudders*

    Good luck on redrafting and I cannot believe you wrote it by hand! ^_^

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    1. Thank you! Ah, but Marian, I will be looking for betas ... !

      And we will never speak of First Draft Silas again ... ~joins you in your shudders~

      Thanks! Haha I don't know how to write onto a screen, to be honest.

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  3. Congratulations!! That's a HUGE accomplishment. And good for you, realizing you didn't need the excessive romance.

    I'm with you. Pantsing is HARD. But it looks like it paid off for you! :)

    Ally @ The Scribbling Sprite

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    1. THANK YOU! Haha, no I did not. I'm not saying it's not there - it is, I ship it intensely - but it's a slow-burner. Nothing this book. Think Ron and Hermione style!

      Pantsing was so hard, but so so fun. I don't think I'd like a super-detailed outline, anyway!

      Thanks for stopping by, Ally :)

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  4. THIS IS SO EXCITING!!! I always love to hear when someone accomplishes something like this.

    I love that you can look back and see all that you learned over the course of writing. That's beneficial for other people doing the same thing and for you to look back at even later in your journey:)

    Kudos to you!

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    1. I KNOW! ~dances around~

      It's been such a learning curve, but also such a joy. I have honestly loved every minute (well, almost every minute) of this journey. I couldn't love my characters any more. I am so, so, so excited for the redraft -- and for book two -- and for all the stories, the novels, I'm yet to write!

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  5. Congrats! Oh wow! That's so exciting. :D

    The first drafts should be done fast. Much agreed. I learned that the hard way. I drafted Oddball the First in a five year period which was terrible. My writing style took some dramatic turns throughout, so the style in the beginning does not match the style of the ending. At all. *face palms*

    First person is so hard! In general, but especially in fantasy. I love to see all the characters' different viewpoints. How they see each other, themselves, their circumstances. How it all differs from each other and the resulting traffic jam of conflict because of it. At the same time though, I love first person because it's so personal. Though there are some books in both first and third person. . . And strangely, they're not confusing.

    "Silas" sounds like a good distraction. I'm not sure I've often seen that in a book. A one sided love that goes out over time and isn't replaced with one that lasts. That's completely relatable. Though it does sound like Corrie has a lot going on already. Maybe not for this book, but perhaps another? I think it would be a handy idea eventually. Because it happens in real life. A lot. (Too much on my side of the universe, but aw, well. I love my loner life too dearly anyways.)

    "Where do I go from here?" That was my exact question after finish Oddball the First! I haven't redrafted it yet though. As I've been writing the Sequel, I've noticed things that need filling out. One of the ways I explore the characters and world is by actually writing (go pantsing!). I'm still learning things through the Sequel. If I want it to be well-rounded and consistent, these things might need to be addressed in the First also. I think I'm going to finish out the first draft of the whole trilogy before I go over the First. That way I have my end goal in sight and I have a better idea for what kind of cuts I need to make.

    Plus, I'll get some good distance that will help me be more objective.

    I would say though that one of the best things to start working out is probably the world building. Filling in those world building holes helps a lot. Also, you can get the world building to work to your advantage, as in fill plot holes. For instance questions like: "why did this happen exactly?" "why were people afraid of this?" " that doesn't make sense?" "WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!" (that is a plausible question, I have it often, and usually some character is to blame) etc. world building can sometimes answer your question. In Oddball the First, I had a kingdom that was very weary of strangers or newcomers of any kind, also they had exiled one of their revered leaders, though exiled this leader would still not reveal the kingdom's location to "strangers." WHY IN THE WORLD ARE THESE PEOPLE SO PARANOID? WHY IS THE LOCATION OF A KNOWN KINGDOM UNKNOWN? It just didn't make sense. The answer was world building. I need to further develop the culture in order to find my answers. Also, while developing it more, I found other answers, one being: how to have a one-day war.

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    1. ARE YOU KIDDING ME I'D JUST WRITTEN SUCH A LONG REPLY AND I HIT A KEY AND NOW WHERE IS IT

      I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY

      ABOUT SILAS

      AND WORLD-BUILDING

      Ashley my dear, thank you for your gloriously long comment. I am going to reply to it properly. But I can't face the idea of retyping everything I wrote right now. I need to go to bed. But I will come back, and I will reply properly. Promise.

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    2. *hem hem* Three days later I have returned. Still can't believe that comment-swallowing bloath, though.

      Wow, five years?! That is long! I thought two was bad! But, ugh, my writing changed so much between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Man alive. I am dreading returning to those early chapters by 14-year-old me. The horror!

      First person is a blessing and a curse. I have honestly loved getting inside Corrie's head and getting to know her really well, but man, it's difficult! Like, the death of a friend. Or thinking you're about to die. How am I meant to write that?!
      It would be nice to see from other MCs' POVs, though. I have toyed with the idea of a dual narrative in Book Two, though I'm not sure.

      Ugh, Silas is a nightmare. (I mean, he's a lovely guy, hence why the Corrie of chapters 1-7 is in love with him.) But here is the problem: there's this other character, Jem, who is the love interest (I mean, not yet, Corrie has not even realised she's in love with him ... *cue evil author laughter*). He was always in the picture. I always intended them to be together. Silas I just shoved in, meaning for him to be a starting crush. But then things became terrible and wrong. This left me with three options:

      1. Cut the Jem plot, and leave Corrie pathetic forever. But no, please, no! I know it happens in real life - it happened to me, for nearly three years, but despite that, or maybe because of it, I don't want to read about it. Well. I don't really mean that. I do like reading about unrequited love. The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry is an excellent book. I'll definitely take an Eponine plot thread one day. But not for Corrie. I'd rather she found herself before spending years mooning over some guy, you know?

      2. Ditch Jem and have Corrie/Silas as a thing. But that would be AWFUL because I HATE when an MC's all like "Ooh I'm so relatable because I'm so awkward and terrible with boys and this guy I like is so gorgeous and amazing and BOOHOO HE NEVER LOOKS AT ME" and then BAM turns out he's in love with her EVEN THOUGH THEY NEVER TALK like HELLO THAT'S NOT HOW RELATIONSHIPS WORK so thanks but no thanks, Silas.

      3. Keep Silas in ... and Jem ... so that Corrie is just this bizarrely changeable human who moves from man to man like most people change their socks. Which is also a no-go.

      So the long and short of it is, Silas is being written out. Goodbye my friend. You'll be deleted before you can blink.

      I'm hoping to have resolved a lot of things about Ivarian culture -- religion, currency, month names, history, royal dynasties, wars, views on magic -- so that in writing Book Two I'll be able to go a lot faster without worrying about these pesky questions. But often, I find, these details just make themselves apparent as you go.

      Yes to that last paragraph! So often world-building IS the answer. (Also: ""WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!" (that is a plausible question, I have it often, and usually some character is to blame)" <-- I 400% relate to this.) So there's this secret police guy who goes to great lengths to save the life of a child he was ordered to kill, and then he gets her educated in the household of the very woman who ordered him to kill her in the first place, thus parading the fact she's still alive and thus putting himself at risk ... even though he has zero love for said child ... why on EARTH would he do this?! I had no idea till the last chapter. I had to do some serious exploration into magic law to work out the reasons.

      Your example sounds v interesting. A one-day war? Tell me more! (Hahahaha I am a poet.)

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    3. I've had a few encounters with the comment bloath also . .

      I don't blame you for taking Silas out. You have a great plan with Jem and Corrie. Why does Silas have to come along to try to steal the show? Unrequited love has its place, but if it's not with Corrie, then nope, not with Corrie.

      No, no changeable humans here! That is weird, and ridiculous.

      Good-bye, Silas. Maybe another book for another character. But not Corrie.

      I am now interested in this Jem guy. Also, am I mistaken, or do you have some slow burn romance planned? Friendship turned to something more? Aw! I love this kind! It is my favorite. :D

      Yeah, a lot of world building kind shows itself as you write. I mean, who thinks about the specific burial ceremonies of a culture until you write about one of their people dying?

      Oo, that sounds interesting! He risks everything to save a kid he doesn't even care about. And the answer is glorious WORLD BUILDING?! I am deeply intrigued. If/when you need beta readers, I sign up!

      In the kingdom there lives these creatures that the whole kingdom is terrified of. They used these creatures as a "secret weapon" in their war and more or less wiped out their enemies. Which sounds kind of brutal. . . Said kingdom also had to get over their paranoia of "strangers" and enlist other kingdoms to fight along side them. Now that I think about it, it was all elaborate, and I hope it's actually believable. But it was also very heavy and sad for everyone. War always is.

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    4. I am actually so excited for a Silas-free book. I decided quite a while ago that he had to go, so from like the eighth or ninth chapter onward he's never mentioned -- I was just writing as if he didn't exist -- but I still feel him lurking in the first few chapters and it's going to be so nice to rewrite them!

      HECK YES friendship that will become romance! I don't precisely know how, yet, but they are my OTP and therefore it will be AWESOME.

      DO YOU???? Really and truly??? Oh my goodness! I have been thinking about betas of late and really, I thought to myself, if there's one person I want to beta it is Ashley! Thank you so much for offering! I will 100% take you up on that! I'm using too many exclamation marks! I don't even care! !!!!!

      Would that be prackles?

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    5. I love it when the characters in your own book become your OTP! I'm always like, "See, now I have to finish writing this, so the rest of the world can love them too, yes?" That's usually what I think when I'm on that edge of wanting to give up. I think, "But the CHARACTERS?!" I can't just let them down. Okay. . . so this is no longer relevant to original conversation. I will stop here. :/

      YES! I would love to beta read it!

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    6. Right?? The characters are my main motivation. I love them so much ...

      OK GOOD well I'm going to take that as a binding agreement and, uh, you can expect an email from me in the hopefully not too distant future!

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Thanks for commenting! :)