Questions from a first timer.

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Crystal
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Questions from a first timer.

Post by Crystal » December 16th, 2009, 1:52 pm

Hello, My name is Crystal and for some unknown reason I have decided to give novel writing a try. I started my "book" 2 weeks ago and I just finished chapter 5 last night.

I started with no clear direction of genre, plot, or anything. It started with a 7 sentence paragraph that, sadly, is no where to be found in my ms thus far.

So here are my questions.

1. How do I know if my writing is any good?
Good or not I will finish writing the story. I need to see what happens for myself, because at this point I still am not totally sure of how this will end. So far the few friends I have shared it with love it and can't wait to read more.

2. How much of it should I share?
I know that well known authors don't share there work with anyone for fear of it getting leaked. (as in Stephenie Meyer's case with Midnight Sun) A couple of my friends are begging me to send them more and I am just not sure I should. Now, saying that, IF my book gets published they would be first in line for signed copies. If it doesn't a complete copy of the ms might become a Christmas gift.

3. (and last for now) What is a good word count to shoot for?
I know my first goal is to tell the story. But I don't want it to seem too long or short. Does that make sense? I find myself obsessing over the word count of each chapter, along with the ms as a whole.

Thank you so much for you input. I have been reading this blog for only a few day and I have already learned so much. I find this is a good place to come when I feel like procrastinating on the ms. At least here I feel like I am still working. :)
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

Tzalaran
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Tzalaran » December 16th, 2009, 2:11 pm

1) you don't. get critiques, beta readers, and someone you can trust to alpha read and point out things they like and dislike. Even good writing isn't a guarantee that you'll be published...

2) i'm of the opinion that you should share in order to get a broad view of what readers think. Theft of IP is not something i concern myself with, because even if someone did try to 'steal' my idea, they would have no where to go with it in the future, as i've kept most of my worldbuilding, outlining, and notes private. The fine line is publishing online if you want to get published traditionally, so i'd not suggest putting the work in its entirety on your blog, website, and so on. Once you write anything, you have the copyright to your work (assuming you aren't using another entity's IP), and this will protect you from anyone attempting to steal it.

3) each genre has different word counts. a general goal is to shoot for 70,000 - 100,000 for a full length adult novel (YA and MG are shorter generally). Epic fantasy can be upwards of 250,000, but first time authors will have significant trouble with novels of that length, and is generally only seen from authors who have a developed following. There are many blogs which cover this in detail, but i don't have links handy atm.

hope that helps.
I'd rather hate myself for failing, than hate my life for never having tried.
"Success leads to stagnation. Stagnation leads to failure." - Vlad Taltos

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Crystal
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Crystal » December 16th, 2009, 2:43 pm

Tzalaran, thank you for your response it was very helpful.

But it did raise a new question. Where do I find beta readers? I think I have an alpha reader. He is in love with the story and is constantly asking for more. However I have yet to hear much criticism from him. I did just send him the first 5 chapters in completion to read through so maybe he will have something for me tomorrow.

Another thing I guess I am having trouble with is putting this in a genre. I guess it is a mystery/thriller with a smidgen of a love story intertwined. My 12 yr old daughter is in love with it, so it might fall into YA but she isn't a great person for me to use as a judge, if it has words she has probably read it.
(by the way if anyone has a YA fantasy they want to try out on a kid, send it my way...she'll read it for you.) ;)

Ok enough procrastination for today. I have a 1000 words to get through today. :)
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ebradmon
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by ebradmon » December 16th, 2009, 3:40 pm

Hi Crystal

When your ready, get yourself into a critique group. I found mine by attending a local writers conference and networking my brains out. Your critique group will turn into your writing tribe for however many years you choose to stay at this – so choose wisely!

Just a word of caution: if everyone reading you WIP is singing its praise – then you're letting the wrong people read it. Look for readers that both love and hate the project – that’s how you grow as a writer. Oh – and I also like a critique group of writers who I judge as better than me, people who make me cry and clutch my chest with jealousy when I read their WIP’s. That way I know when critique is exchanged, its done from people whom I respect their craft as much as they respect mine.

Good luck, and may your writing life be a long and productive one!

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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Tzalaran » December 16th, 2009, 4:13 pm

re: alpha and beta readers
well, i'm lucky in that my wife is my alpha reader. she's the one who brings me down when i think what i've just written is fantabulous, and keeps me from slitting my wrists when what i've written is garbage. for beta readers it can be hard. i've had a few people offer to do chapter/book exchanges, and i got some good feedback that way (just don't swap with too many people or all your writing time gets turned into critique time).

if you are lacking a local writer's group or don't feel comfortable with the ones in your area, there are other options. AbsoluteWrite forums have a beta reader forum (i've not used it so can offer no opinion), and there are other peer review sites out there as well. personally, i don't look for writers to give me critiques contrary to ebradmon. most of my beta readers aren't writers, but they are avid readers. my experience leads me to believe that i'll get a more accurate appraisal from voracious readers than from other writers, but that's just me.

if you have no luck that way, send me a pm and i'll reply with my email address. i'm always looking for another beta reader, and would be happy to do a swap.

Good luck.
I'd rather hate myself for failing, than hate my life for never having tried.
"Success leads to stagnation. Stagnation leads to failure." - Vlad Taltos

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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by casnow » December 16th, 2009, 4:25 pm

Good luck on your new hobby/endeavor!

How do you know if it is any good? You have got to get people to read it... that is the only way. Also, make sure that the people that read it like the genre you are writing. I read an absolutely awesomely written historical fiction novel that many people have raved about, and I was luke warm to it. I'm not a fan of that genre, so I'm not the market for it.

Should you share it? Absolutely. However, make sure that before you share it that you print it out, and read over it 2-3 times and make sure that YOU are happy with it. Fix the typos, the inconsistencies, etc. If you don't get someone to read a "final" version you will never get critical feedback. What if you forgot to add that one part that you were thinking of that was crucial? What if that character you developed in your head didn't make it to paper the way you wanted? Having readers is the only way to find that stuff out.

Word count? I think the "sweet spot" these days would be 70-90k words. Romance is shorter, sci-fi and historical fiction are longer. Don't go less than about 50k, because it becomes too "skinny" to sell (many will say don't go less than 60k).


trini
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by trini » December 16th, 2009, 7:48 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:Lots of great responses in the thread. I'd just like to chime in with three blog posts:

1. You Tell Me: How Can You Tell if You Have Writing Talent?

2. Author websites (which has info on how much to share on your site or via journals)

3. Novel word count
Nathan, Link number 1 goes to the Star Wars vs Star Trek thread.
"It was a dark and stormy nightmare..."

WIP: Graphic Novel...sex, death and rock and roll.

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Crystal
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Crystal » December 16th, 2009, 9:17 pm

Thank you for answering. Nathan I went back and found the You tell me article. They were all helpful.

So I guess my first step is to find some readers and see what they say. :)
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 17th, 2009, 4:17 pm

trini wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:Lots of great responses in the thread. I'd just like to chime in with three blog posts:

1. You Tell Me: How Can You Tell if You Have Writing Talent?

2. Author websites (which has info on how much to share on your site or via journals)

3. Novel word count
Nathan, Link number 1 goes to the Star Wars vs Star Trek thread.
Fixed now. Hopefully Darth Vader won't strangle me.

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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Sara » December 18th, 2009, 3:48 pm

Hi, Crystal. Congratulations--you've taken the first step. (I hope someone's warned you that there's NO going back now--EVER!) My advice to a first timer? Commit to getting your novel written. Don't listen to the naysayers, been there/done that 'it's impossible to get published' crowd. Get what information you'd like to know upfront and then FORGET about agents, queries, leaked material, etc. At this point, you've got one job and that's to produce the best piece of work you possibly can.

It's great if you've got readers who can help you out but don't rely too heavily on them in the early stages. You're still at the point where the story's bursting to get out. Sharing too much can sometimes deflate the bubble and that's no fun.

Enjoy it. Writing a novel is really, really, really hard work. That's why we love it!

And keep us posted on how you're getting on.

Sara

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Crystal
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Crystal » December 18th, 2009, 4:42 pm

Hi Sarah.
Thanks for the comments. So far the only naysayer I have is my husband. He is a very analytical thinker and that doesn't jive so well with my creative side. :)
Right now, yes my goal is to get the story out of my head and onto paper (pc really but whatever). I do have about 10 people reading what I have so far (5 rough chapters) just to get opinions and see what their thinking is. My one major reader is a great friend and he has been nothing but encouraging.

I will defiantly keep you all up to date on my progress. So far I am having fun and the story is coming easily, though I have days were it doesn't come at all...like today. :)
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

Kaitlyne
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Kaitlyne » December 18th, 2009, 9:31 pm

My advice to a newbie would be to not worry so much about the first draft because the most wonderful thing about writing is that it can always be revised. Even if the writing sucked eggs in the first draft, that's completely okay if you work hard and practice editing it up to par.

My second bit of advice is related--don't be afraid to edit! And I'm not talking about going through and fixing typos and changing up some wording here and there. When I first started writing, that was how I was. I'd edit, but I had no real idea what editing meant. I was afraid to take risks, if that makes sense. On my latest novel, when I hit the first round of edits, I found myself in that old mindset. So instead I saved a copy of the draft and took a hacksaw to it. Some parts I loved and those haven't changed too much overall, but my first five chapters are completely different. I cut out entire scenes, moved some around, rewrote some parts that I didn't like the first go around, etc. It was scary at first, but it's made the book a thousand times better than it was to begin with. So my advice is save a copy and then just go crazy. If there is something major that you think might help, don't be afraid of it. :)

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Crystal
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Crystal » December 18th, 2009, 11:46 pm

Hi Kaitlyne,

This too is very helpful. I am at a point where the current chapter just isn't working for me at all and I keep attributing it to things in earlier chapters. I feel like the chapter I am working on is a pivitol moment in the book and it HAS to work. So I think I am going to work on this section independent of the rest of what is already written and see where it leads. If I need to change things that "already" happened I will.
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Re: Questions from a first timer.

Post by Kaitlyne » December 19th, 2009, 3:42 am

I seriously hate it when that happens. Most of the time something I'm happy with on the first draft stands out as atrociously bad on the first revision, but I had one chapter last time that was a similar situation--incredibly important and I couldn't get it right at all. Drove me nuts. Good luck. :)

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