Help! My novel is on life support!

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heather_hangs_it
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Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by heather_hangs_it » October 17th, 2010, 9:32 pm

I loved my novel. Still love it. I love my characters, the chemistry between them and where I had hoped to take them.

But then it happened.

Someone made me think about a thing or two I hadn't thunk* before. And I lost my groove. I thought 'they're right! what was i thinking? this will never work this way. NOW what am i gonna do? well i'll have to go back and fix it all before i can move forward, that's what.'

Which brings me to now. Months - I admit, as a tear falls onto my touchpad - later I've not written a single thing toward my 75,000+ wip that I once loved so dear. I've tried to tweak my lacking backstory so I can move forward, making a little headway but not enough. My characters hover patiently in limbo waiting for what's to come but I can't seem to suss it out.

Granted, I'm a single mom of two boys, working full time night shifts and going to nursing school full time, who just started a weight loss exercise regime and who's trying to fit in some of my favorite tv indulgences and the occasional book when I've got non-argument filled environment and a calm mind, but so many of you are doing that much and more AND getting somewhere with your writing.

Help! Please! I don't want to be one of the countless numbers who's high hopes and big boasts of literary prowess and future success die a slow, painful death.

Anything you've got, really, I mean it. And hey, I might just send you some cookies for your efforts. I'm just sayin'...

~heather




*Thunk is an underappreciated psuedo-word. I'm bringing it back.

Margo
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by Margo » October 17th, 2010, 9:58 pm

I'm going to suggest what just worked for a writing buddy. Read (or re-read) Donald Maass's FIRE IN FICTION. It may inspire you (hence the name). It may give you some ideas on how to tweak the weaknesses you're worried about. Maybe it will reassure you that there aren't as many weaknesses as you fear there are.
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Evelyn
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by Evelyn » October 17th, 2010, 10:05 pm

Hi Heather,

You are so busy, yikes!

Here are my thoughts: I think your poor novel could remain on life support while you work on a completely different project. Is there a chance you could get your creative juices flowing again by writing a short story? Or writing an essay about your childhood, or about your own children's antics? Or starting a new novel?

It seems like you are agonizing over your characters and your novel, and the more you worry about it the worse it gets. Hopefully once you are back in the writing groove again, you can go back to your novel.

Good luck, and I hope this helps.

Evelyn

heather_hangs_it
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by heather_hangs_it » October 17th, 2010, 10:16 pm

You know, funny you should mention that Evelyn, but I'm just in the midst of a short flash piece I embarked upon on a whim. And you're right - the more I've worried about it, the worse it's gotten. And I'll admit that I've felt like a bit of a failure for not being able to finish it (doesn't help that my good friend also newly turned novelist has finished one and started to others while mine has been wasting away). But taking a break while still writing... I like that. I need to try that. Often. ;)

And Donald Maas, Fire in Fiction - on my "to read right away" list.

Thanks so much, ladies. If I had a more reliable internet source at home I'd never leave these forums! *sniffblowsniff

~heather

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polymath
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by polymath » October 18th, 2010, 12:03 am

75,000 words in and no ending in sight maybe? Ask questions. What's the final outcome of the main purpose and complication introduced in the opening? What's the final turn that sets up the final outcome? The turn could be a twist, a reversal, a revelation, a new crisis of identity or conscience not previously in the main character's mind, but inevitable in hindsight once it comes to pass.

And ending is the time to pull the trigger, drop the other shoe, satisfactorily wrap up loose ends, dig up the treasure, rip off the bodice, the hero triumps over a nemesis, figure out who done it, reward good, punish evil, dissolve the spell, find the key, fix the broken universe, answer the question, kill the villain, discover the true nature of the self, or discover the self's true situation.

On backstory. If readers are asking where is it, they might be saying the characters' motivations need more development or it could just be they think there should be backstory because that's the way it's done. It's not always. Backstory can stall or kill plot movement.

Some generic platitudes about backstory: No lengthy blocks of backstory. Backstory is important to readers when it's important to characters. Inteleave backstory tidbits into a narrative in snippets after high drama scenes so readers can catch their breaths. Use backstory to transition into high drama scences as setups for what's to come.

Use sensory perceptions to trigger introspective recollections of backstory. Cause and effect. Use backstory to build reader resonance with characters' dilemmas through emotional responses to causal stimuli. Empathy. Say, a smell of burning hair triggers a memory of a traumatic childhood event and triggers a flight or fight response. Try not to give all the backstory away too soon, so it artfully poses suspense questions artfully delayed in answering. Suspense. Say, the burning hair event is recollected, but not fully detailed until later on when, after three refusals to answer why the burning smell is traumatic, the backstory is finally fully realized. The pet puppy died from its burns. And antagonism. Backstory that artfully, timely poses further purposes and builds complications left mysteriously unfinished until later on influence plot movement.
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poptart
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by poptart » October 18th, 2010, 5:27 am

Is this your first attempt at a novel? If so, well done for getting this far.

Sounds to me you're being very hard on yourself. Stories come from our unconscious mind and don't come out perfect in the first draft, and they can't be pulled out like a rabbit from a hat. Your fragile unconscious has been upset by the criticism and has gone into hiding. That's why you're feeling unmotivated. You've been blown off course by some well meaning advice, but you must remember it's YOUR story and must be YOUR vision.

Sometimes you need to give yourself time to work it out. I'd put it aside for a while and write some short fiction, poems, whatever you enjoy writing and have fun with it. Get your sensitive unconscious to come out and play again. The novel will be cooking away at the back of your mind and when you go back to it you'll probably find some of the problems have been solved. I've had projects bubble away for years before I get them into kind of shape. One story I've been researching and trying to tell for nearly 20 years has only this year become the subject of a play.
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gonzo2802
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by gonzo2802 » October 18th, 2010, 8:35 pm

Another thing that might help is to not worry about whether the story line would work for anyone else. Finish the story you set out to write first...then worry about fixing holes or making more plausible motivations and/or outcomes on the revision side of things. If your novel is character driven, then there's no hole that can't be fixed later on. Jumping back in and finishing what you'd first envisioned will help you finish fleshing out your characters...the plot can be corrected later.

Now, if your story line is largely plot driven...then you might need to sit down and figure out how to steer it in the right direction again. You CAN do it though. We all have moments of doubt while we're in the creative phase. You just can't let those doubts beat you and take the fun out of what you're doing.

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HillaryJ
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by HillaryJ » October 18th, 2010, 11:54 pm

Have you considered bribery? Don't worry. It's not a crime unless your novel is also an elected public official, and then only in a handful of states.

You have large fixes on a large word count. That's daunting. It's like trying to skim the middle layer of the ocean - tough to fit into your workweek/workweekend and hard to map your progress while you're in the middle of it.

Offer your story small things. That spicier dialog it longs for in chapter twelve. The skipping stone change of a single subplot or thread in the three places it comes up in the story.

Start on the places that will be fun to work on first. See if they draw you in enough to tackle to stickier issues.
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 19th, 2010, 8:18 am

It might feel crazy, but it is normal to have to rewrite major portions of your book. Unfortunately when you've got 75,000 words done, it can be a lot to get your arms around.

I like the advice about getting started on something else, but that also runs the risk that you'll never come back to this one. One of the things I do when I'm feeling completely lost and unable to get anything done is I sit down and read the entire thing from first page to last. Read it like a reader and put your editing pen away. Then sit down one more time and go scene by scene capturing what you've written in such a way that you can see it visually all in one place. I like using excel for this, but I have also used note cards when I need something more hands on. Color code the notecards (or excel cells) by character, sub plot, main plot, whatever works for you.

Sometimes once you see what you've got, it is easier to figure out how to move everything around and where you need to go in and work. When you're rewriting and editing it isn't always a linear process, sometimes you have to dive in at different points.

This part is hard and you should try not to let it completely bog you down. If this is your first book, you're doing a lot better than you think. Figuring out what to rewrite and how to do it is a skill and a challenge that you only get better at with practice.

Good luck! And most of all, don't lose hope.
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oldhousejunkie
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Re: Help! My novel is on life support!

Post by oldhousejunkie » October 21st, 2010, 2:57 pm

heather_hangs_it wrote:I loved my novel. Still love it. I love my characters, the chemistry between them and where I had hoped to take them.

But then it happened.

Someone made me think about a thing or two I hadn't thunk* before. And I lost my groove. I thought 'they're right! what was i thinking? this will never work this way. NOW what am i gonna do? well i'll have to go back and fix it all before i can move forward, that's what.'

Which brings me to now. Months - I admit, as a tear falls onto my touchpad - later I've not written a single thing toward my 75,000+ wip that I once loved so dear. I've tried to tweak my lacking backstory so I can move forward, making a little headway but not enough. My characters hover patiently in limbo waiting for what's to come but I can't seem to suss it out.

Granted, I'm a single mom of two boys, working full time night shifts and going to nursing school full time, who just started a weight loss exercise regime and who's trying to fit in some of my favorite tv indulgences and the occasional book when I've got non-argument filled environment and a calm mind, but so many of you are doing that much and more AND getting somewhere with your writing.

Help! Please! I don't want to be one of the countless numbers who's high hopes and big boasts of literary prowess and future success die a slow, painful death.

Anything you've got, really, I mean it. And hey, I might just send you some cookies for your efforts. I'm just sayin'...

~heather




*Thunk is an underappreciated psuedo-word. I'm bringing it back.
Heather,

Don't give up! Novels take time for some us. I know people who finish one up every few months, and then there's me--it's taken 10 years to complete mine. Now I've re-edited, re-edited a gazillion times, and the story has taken unexpected turns here and there, but it's coming to an end and I hope to start querying in a few months.


It's sounds like you lead an insanely busy life, so take it eaay on yourself. Give your a few months of breathing room and then pick it back up. Don't worry--it will still have that spark when you come back!

Best of luck!

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