In September I wrote about my exhausting journey while writing my first novel. Since then I have completed writing my second novel, which was a very different process from the first one. I’m now sharing my insights from this experience. I hope some of you will find the information useful.
The second time is a lot easier
I have heard many women saying that giving birth for the second time is a lot easier than the first. In my experience it is the same with writing a novel. I struggled with my first novel for 14 long and painful years before I was able to complete it. Writing my second novel was a breeze: 1 week outlining, 20 days writing first draft, and one month editing. Done. Experience, knowledge of the craft, and personal maturity helps a lot. Unfortunately the only way to develop these qualities is by going through the pain of writing the first novel.
Writing requires a lot of focus. You need all your senses to be available when you create a story. Your words act on behalf of your eyes, your ears, your nose, your hands, your legs, your stomach, and your palette. It’s really hard to tap into this wide range of senses, thoughts, and memories if you are distracted. To be able to focus I needed my own isolated quiet space - no music, no people around, and no distractions. Maybe that’s why I’m more successful writing late at night than during the day.
Unless you are a hired writer with a clear deadline, most writers work in an unlimited space of time. If you want to be productive with your time you need to become your own boss and set a very clear time-frame and a set of declared expected achievements. It’s not uncommon to write 500 words in 30 minutes. You can work with a timer set for 30 minutes each time you start typing your story. If you set a goal to write 1,000 words everyday (about 4 pages double space) it will require 1 hours of work. If you plan on writing more, take into account that you will need to take breaks – so add it to your time calculation.
I can’t emphasize this enough – don’t start working on your writing without some sort of an outline. If you don’t take the time to think about your plot and your characters in advance, you are dooming yourself to failure. It’s like starting to build a house without a detailed drawing – what a waste of time, material, energy, and money. Most writers know how they want to start and end their story, but only few know what should come in the middle. When working on your outline – you will have a better understanding of the development of your plot, and be able to see what works and what doesn’t work in your story; you will see if you need to add more characters or change some of the events. The writing process is a lot easier when you work with a good outline. You can use Christopher Vogler’s story arc, as he explains it in his book The Writer’s Journey, or you can follow your own story structure – like a plot that evolves around the changing seasons or milestones in the hero’s life.
To learn more about outlining read here.
Take a break between 1st Draft and 2nd Draft
Writing can be emotionally draining. It’s really hard to revise your story immediately after completing the first draft. You might experience blurry vision and a tough time concentrating when you try to go through your words right after you finished writing. Instead, take a break and work on the outline of your next story. This pause from the story will allow you to read your story with a fresh perspective, and you will be prepared for the nest project (unless you want to be a one-novel-writer).
The day after “The END”
If you want to publish your novel, your work with the story is not done yet. The next stage after completing your story is to work on a query letter and a detailed synopsis of your novel, as some agents require it as well.
A query letter is a one-page letter composed of three paragraphs:
1. What made you write your story? What makes you qualified to write this story? Genre, word count, and a list of some similar published novels.
2. A summary of your plot – very similar to the description of stories that you read on the back cover of most novels
3. Who are you – Education, work experience, and previous publications that are relevant to your career as a writer and/or to the subject that you are writing about.
Synopsis – this is 1-2 pages that describe all the stages of your story. Don’t hold back any information for fear of ruining the suspense or the surprise by the end of the story. You want to give agents a clear idea of how your plot develops.
See QueryTracker to find a list of literary agents.