Three Dirty Birds are taking on the Kick-Ass Writer again. Today, we learn about the 25 Things Chuck Wendig thinks are important about writing a novel.
Zoe: I loved this chapter to bits.
Ana: I actually added a note to the first tip in this chapter. It basically reads: Is this the third time he’s telling us this? I don’t know if these sets of questions were originally published separately but it gets repetitive.
Zoe: Yeah, they were originally blog posts. But it is a big point for Chuck: finish what you start. You can’t fix it if you can’t finish it, so finish!
Kate: And you hear people talking all the time about all their unfinished novels, or stories that just petered out, so it seems to be a fairly widespread issue.
Ana: Haha, now I feel bad because I’m currently working on four books. Although three of them ‘only’ need fixing. They’re past the first draft stage. Or well, at least they have a finished draft.
Kate; I tend to work on several at a time–I don’t think it’s a problem. But when I get to the point where a book is really coming together, I find I tend to focus just on that one and let the others languish a bit.
Zoe: Momentum momentum momentum. I love when a book picks up momentum of its own…but a lot of days it’s more about coming to the keyboard and maintaining my own momentum through sheer sweat and determination.
Kate: I find, if I can get started, then the momentum carries itself. But, boy, getting through that first half hour is hard.
Zoe: Tips 3-5 are all about first drafts, and how shitty they are allowed to be. How wonderfully, gloriously, indulgently shitty they get to be. Because tip 6: Writing is Rewriting.
Ana: I know far too many people who don’t believe in rewriting. Their first drafts must be a lot different than mine.
Kate: I totally believe in it, but I can never wait until the end to fix sections. If I figure out a solution to a plot hole, then I have to go back and at least put the bare bones in where they belong, or I literally cannot move forward with the work. It’s the most frustrating idiosyncrasy I have.
Zoe: I wish more people believed in rewrites, either during or after their initial drafts—I don’t care when the rewriting gets done. I just care that I don’t wind up opening a book to find a “polished” first draft. YOU CAN TELL, PEOPLE. YOU CAN REALLY TELL.
Kate: For me, I think I need to reread some of his tips from the last chapter, where he reminds you that you have to find your own way. But so many people do the ‘rah-rah’ thing over getting the first draft finished first and not stopping to edit in the middle, that I get worried I’m doing this less efficiently than I could. And that I should be able to learn how to do it that way.
Ana: As long as your way works for you, you should stick with it. You can always try new things but you shouldn’t stress about it.
Zoe: Yes, do what works for you. You’re not going to get anything written if you’re forcing yourself into a process that doesn’t fit you. I’m more concerned about the “rah-rah never rewrite” meme that’s been going around.
Kate: I should put that on a sticky on my monitor. And, that you get as many kicks at the can as you want. Right up to proofreading, right, Editor in Question? And sometimes, if you distract your editor with pictures of Ben Wishaw, you can sneak in a few changes at that stage too. 🙂
Zoe: I need tip number 10 to pop up on my screen every 10,000 words to remind me that the love/hate whiplash is normal. MY NOVEL IS GOING SO WELL! My novel is going to kill me.
Kate: Me, too.
Ana: Right there with you. I’m thinking of doing something like #12 to a novel I trunked. Butcher it for its parts. There’s probably something there I can use for another story.
Zoe: The Frankenstory.
Ana: Haha, during rewriting and fusing two scenes I often tell myself I’m frankensteining them
Kate: They’re GMO’s!!!! Run!
Ana: Shhhh. Kate is spreading rumors and lies again. I also like #14: Say something. Where he’s saying that you shouldn’t just write, but you should write about something.
Kate: There needs to be a point you’re trying to make, is how I take that. Even if it’s as simple as: You can work through the hard stuff if you really want a life with the other person. (Kind of the basis for a lot of romance, come to think of it.)
Zoe: I love tip #19. I love tip #19 enough that I want to marry it and have it be my secret second spouse. Leave room for the readers to use their imagination! Don’t spell everything out. Trust the reader to be able to fill things in for themselves, make connections—let them experience the pure joy of participating.
Kate: Spelling everything out just slows down the story and keeps your reader from investing a little bit of themselves in it. I want to find my hero attractive–if you describe a guy so thoroughly I can’t picture anything but what you wrote, I’m going to be unhappy if he’s not in my ‘sexy zone’.
Ana: As romance writers, I guess we have to keep other people’s ‘turn offs’ in mind as much as the ‘turn ons’.
Zoe: Yes, and trust your characters to get across what they’re feeling, so that you don’t need to tell us everything going through their heads. Let your characters live and breathe.
Ana: Number 16 made me feel better about my lack of description (probably better than it should. I’m really not very good at it).
Kate: I don’t describe a lot either, but usually because there’s so much going on with the characters that there’s no room for it. And the characters always trump the environment, unless I’m going to drop a wall on them or something. That’s kind of my home-made guideline for description. I don’t know–what do you guys use to help you describe stuff?
Zoe: Um… Gosh, I have no idea.
Ana: I guess what I try to keep in mind is not to rely too heavily on visuals. And when you do a few points of description, like three, it’s good to have at least one thing that’s unexpected.
Kate: I really liked Tip #22, about the middle of stories. The idea of late beginnings and early endings, to keep the tension high and avoid the Soggy Middle Syndrome.
Ana: I haven’t suffered from SMS so far. There’s always something coming up that excites me.
Kate: Alpha Squirrel is having a slight problem with it. Which I think has more to do with Mushy Brain Syndrome, than any particular problem with the story.
Ana: The title of number 20 actually gave me a funny image. It’s “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor”.
Kate: If I remember correctly, that’s a Flight of the Conchords reference. You can Youtube it–there’s a video.
Ana: I have no idea, but I giggled.
Kate: He made a good point in the last tip: Writing a Novel Is easy, but writing a Publishable Novel Is Hard. He stresses that you have to put in your time, pay your dues, write your words and take your lumps in order to put out something a publisher might get all teary-eyed about.
Ana: Amen to that. If it weren’t I’d have six books out by now instead of one.