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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » My novel is like spaghetti

   
Author Topic: My novel is like spaghetti
mayflower988
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(Wasn't sure if this went here or in "Grist for the Mill"; if I'm writing in the wrong forum, I apologize.) I've been writing this novel under the philosophy of "first get it written, then get it right", or as I call it, "write whatever my ADD mind throws out and don't worry if it doesn't flow with the story." I've got certain scenes written three different ways. Then there's other parts where I said a character is dead, but then later I wrote as if he's alive.
And there's a huge chunk where I don't know what to put in. I'm up to 89 pages so far (34,758 words), and it's all just a big mess.
Can anyone relate? Anyone got any advice on the drafting process for a first-timer?

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JoBird
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quote:
...and it's all just a big mess.
Can anyone relate?

Mayflower, that is exactly how I feel. Yes, I can relate.

Which means you should take my advice with a grain of salt and a shot of whiskey.

1. Stop everything, and outline your story.
2. Commit to your outline. Then start writing the story again, from the beginning, or wherever what you have veers from your new outline.
3. Take daily notes on what you write. (What the characters are wearing, important spur of the moment decisions you made, etc.)
4. Reread what you wrote yesterday before you start writing today.
5. Beta readers.
6. Revision.

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extrinsic
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You're still pouring the jigsaw puzzle pieces out of the box onto the table. Get the pieces all out of the box, then work on turning them image side up and sorting them out, then start putting the puzzle together.
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EVOC
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Yea it sounds like you might be an outline writer.

That being said, I don't do outlines. I find I have no use for them. They don't work for me.

But, you should try it. See if it helps organize your thoughts.

I take note too. But not daily. More like "as needed" for me.

I don't reread what I already wrote the day before. I only do a small amount of rereading if I find myself away from a project for a few days. No harm in rereading, I just save it for revisions.

Don't underestimate revisions. My novel now looks nothing like the first draft. And it still has revisions to be made that my editor suggested. I wound up cutting almost 20,000 words from my novel. Much of it was things I wrote just to keep writing. I can't even count how many scenes I totally reworked. I even changed some plot points around.

I think almost every writer will relate to what you have going on here.

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rcmann
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Figure out how it ends. Do that first. Figure out how the story is going to end. Once you have that, you will know what you are shooting at. Then you can go back to the beginning and start wading through the various side branches and see which path will take you there via the route you want to cover. But until you know where your destination is, you will never do anything but wander around lost in the wilderness.
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Meredith
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I'm a pantser. Full outlining doesn't work for me. (That said, every writer should try it once, so they know if it's for them or not.)

Still, after managing to write over 100,000 words in which stuff happened that didn't quite come out to a story (that was my second novel), I make sure to know at least a few landmarks along the way before I start writing.

At a minimum, I need to know the inciting incident (obviously), the central conflict, and the climax. Preferably, I know the first two try/fail cycles, too. With those landmarks, I can keep from going off into the weeds too badly.

[ July 23, 2012, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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Robert Nowall
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Well, I once discarded the first eighteen chapters of a novel, when it went in an entirely different direction than I'd started out in. (Of course I incorporated three or four of the discards in later chapters.)

So there's nothing odd in changing one's mind about something in the story---that's what revisions are for.

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genevive42
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I started out a pantser, but am now a moderate outliner. I agree that you should know the ending and have some sense of how you're going to get there. I'd recommend just a skeleton as a guide, and one that can change if you see a better path. But that's just what works for me. You've got to find what level of outlining works best for you.

Oh, and don't worry if your first novel is crap -most everybody's is. The important thing is if you can finish and say, wow, I guess I can do that. Then the next one won't seem as intimidating. Just finish it.

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Crank
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I am a strong believer in outlines. Iíve written without them on many occasions, relying more on what might be considered a stream-of-consciousness methodology (perhaps, not the best approach for an ADDer [Big Grin] ); suffice it to say: whenever they were critique-inspired revisions or I simply changed my mind about an arc, the stories became too unmanageable, and I lost track of what I was doing.

Outlines, as I suspected (and rediscovered), keep me more focused, so I developed my proficiency at creating arcs that way.

All that saidÖI find that those stories which evolve in an entirely different direction while Iím still writing them (for whatever reason) cause me to spend nearly as much time editing and revising the outline as I do the manuscript. I decided that was an inefficient use of time I donít really have in the first place. A few times already, when Iíve reached that point, Iíve actually ditched the outline completely and let the storyís momentum guide the action; depending on how far along and/or deeply into the outline I was, the change in methodology produced what I considered some great results.

It seems that my shorter works are better suited for the stream-of-consciousness approach. I very much want to experiment with the s-o-c mindset on a longer work, but I have several outline-based stories in the queue ahead of themÖtwo of which that, to give you an idea which direction they went, have Ďoutlinesí files Iíve not opened in over a month. Either Iím becoming a more focused writer, or my ADD is subsiding. Both would be really cool.

S!

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mayflower988
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JoBird, I don't drink, but I do like your advice! The thought of starting over like that makes me panic, just because I'm trying to finish this novel within the next two weeks or so. I've tried to outline my novel several times, but then I get to a point where I can't decide what should come next.

However, as Crank mentioned, I tend to do better at just about everything when I have some sort of outline or structure to guide the project. I think you're right; I need to stick to my outline and I'll put the new ideas in a separate file.
When you say take notes on my writing, is this what you're talking about - putting my ideas for changes in a separate file?

rcmann: I do have an ending. I'm just meandering in my route to get there.

genevive: I like your idea of having a skeleton - the "bare bones" of my story, and then having a more fleshed-out outline that's flexible. However, I think for me it would be best to just stick with the one story until it is finished. I agree with you about finishing - my goal right now is to just finish this one novel. Then I'll see where it takes me.

Crank, I totally understand. I reserve stream-of-consciousness strictly for my journaling. :)

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JoBird
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quote:
When you say take notes on my writing, is this what you're talking about - putting my ideas for changes in a separate file?
Yes and no.

Absolutely put your ideas for changes somewhere, in a notepad, in another document file, wherever.

But also jot down some notes about decisions you made yesterday. It will serve to help you focus on where you've been. Did you have your character put on slippers? Jot that down: the character owns slippers, and is wearing them. That way, you don't have your character later stop to tie his shoes. After all, no one ties slippers.

Additionally, reading what you wrote yesterday will get you back into the zone, so to speak. The read through will help trigger momentum for the story, it will help keep your voice consistent.

I also like to imagine that it helps with keeping a good grasp of your novel's pacing.

***

Basically, I sort of reject the notion that a person's first novel is going to be bad. That everyone just has to write the crap out, purge themselves of a million words that don't deserve to be published. A good strong outline, a clear purpose, a lot of hard work, being receptive to beta readers, being willing to revise -- these are the things that make good novels. Not just, oh right, now I've failed five times so I'm sure to get this one published!

Anyone can learn from their own mistakes. It takes someone wise to learn from another's. The internet is full of countless stories of trial and error. The new writer, the wise one anyway, should struggle to learn from those errors.

Somewhere inside of you is a great combination of 100k words. All you have to do is string them together, one by one. Just don't get so impatient that you string them together out of order.

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mayflower988
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Okay, I see what you're saying. I was just going to go through and smooth those things over (i.e. slippers) when I did my editing.

Oh, just to let everyone know, I did get an outline completed. It's a bit wordy, but I like it. Is it possible to get a critique on my outline - it might be nice to know if others agree with me that my plot is believable.

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rcmann
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Waste of time at this stage, in my opinion. Especially if you are the kind of person who likes to adjust as you go. Any plot is believable, if properly done. Any plot is ridiculous, if not properly done. What matters is getting it straight in your own head, then doing it. You can polish it later. Heck, you can take an ax to it later. But you need to get it *OUT* of your head first.
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mayflower988
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True. Very true. I retract my earlier statement. I'll ask again once I have the draft finished.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Is it possible to get a critique on my outline - it might be nice to know if others agree with me that my plot is believable.

For the record, yes, you can post outlines, queries, synopses, and other such non-manuscript write-ups for feedback in the Fragments and Feedback for Books area without having to worry about the 13-line rule.
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mayflower988
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Good to know.
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mayflower988
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Okay, I can't decide how to give my Lead the proverbial kick in the pants to get her to Act 2. Maybe I do need to get my outline critiqued so I can see if my current method works. (I'd written one option, but now I'm doubting it.)
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