Forum / starting a novel

  • 166832_1704442778309_1455181344_1971442_4177994_n.thumb
    Tyler D. Findlay
    Dec 04, 12:30pm

    I awoke last night with a flood of realization. I cleaned off my desk and immediately began writing the first pages of a new project. Unfortunately, this surge ended a few pages in, and now I'm completely stumped as to where to take the story. I have some ideas for the latter half of the story that I am very excited about, but the beginning seems too full of holes and possibilities.
    How do you begin a piece? Do you erect extensive outlines? Or does it flow freely? What am I failing to wrap my mind around to get from point A to point B?
    I'm curious.
    Thanks.

  • Photo.thumb
    Adam Sifre
    Dec 04, 02:41pm

    I just keep mulling it over until something strikes me.

  • Dscf0571.thumb
    David Ackley
    Dec 04, 03:28pm

    This is a perennially interesting question and with no single answer, writers being as various as they are. One major writer of novels says he never begins without having firmly in mind how the novel will end. Something to be said for that, but others might say that tends to rigidify the process closing off options in favor of the foreordained.

    Never having written one, I have no authority to draw on, but for the longer pieces that I have written, sometimes it's been helpful to think only of what comes next, rather than how things will all turn out. Given this character in this place under these circumstances, what will he/she think, do, say in the next five minutes, day, week
    ( pick your desired frame.)

    The excellent Paris Review interview series with a great many novelists and poets has many observations on method, well worth looking at to sample some alternatives.

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 04, 04:08pm
  • 166832_1704442778309_1455181344_1971442_4177994_n.thumb
    Tyler D. Findlay
    Dec 04, 05:45pm

    Thanks for the responses. I've opted to construct an outline while I wait for the words to flow again.
    So allow me to pose another question. This is my first time writing in first person. All my previous shorts have been in third, and through this experience I have found that while it allows for uninhibited description of the main character(s), it has its limitations with internal thought-processes and dialogue. In the few pages I've written so far, first person seems to allow me to stretch ideas far beyond their usual length and with greater incite.
    What do you prefer? And are there other pros and cons that you have discovered?

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 04, 06:38pm

    First person's supposed to be easier, according to some experienced novelists -- I think Mailer was one. I've tried both. Right now I'm doing 3rd person, and THAT seems easier. Probly depends on the nature of the story.

  • 0001_pabst_blue_ribbon_time.thumb
    Dolemite
    Dec 04, 06:41pm

    Tyler--

    When you learned to ride a bike did you first ask the other boys and fathers how to move your feet?

    Give it a shot, crash.
    Give it a shot, crash.
    Give it a shot, go a bit, crash.
    Give it a shot, go a bit longer, crash.

    And so on.

    Have your own experience, and then come back and tell us what *you've* learned (by doing).

    ;-)

  • Dscf0571.thumb
    David Ackley
    Dec 04, 07:18pm

    It's a mistake to think that there is more difference between first and third person points of view than there is available within either. Novels as different as "The Great Gatsby" and "Lolita," both in first person, and "War and Peace," and "The Trial," both in third, show how flexible either point of view can be. Some might argue that lst person is superior at showing the internal state of a single character, is inhereintly more subject-revealing, but most of Henry James's work, unequaled in its rendering of psychological states, is in third person.

    One way to test which seems to work best for you and the work at hand is to write a passage in one or the other POV and then rewrite it switching only the POV. Chances are one or the other will seem clearly right after you're done.

  • 166832_1704442778309_1455181344_1971442_4177994_n.thumb
    Tyler D. Findlay
    Dec 04, 07:29pm

    Thanks everyone. I appreciate the comments. And sorry to those who find my questions premature. I like to ask questions/spark conversation, especially here. This site is a plethora of information and expertise. Leaves me wide eyed.

  • 0001_pabst_blue_ribbon_time.thumb
    Dolemite
    Dec 04, 07:32pm

    When it comes to creation, don't focus your attention outside yourself (esp. not on what others have to say).

    Just do it.

  • Dsc_7543.thumb
    Gloria Garfunkel
    Dec 04, 07:49pm

    I totally agree with David's advice to write it in one and then the other. Sustain that and the right voice will come to you.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 08, 10:19pm

    I am also very interested in these questions though after writing a couple of these beasts, I am less confident that there are any ready-made answers. Still you are asking about experiences, and I've got some:

    How do you begin a piece?

    — if by "piece" you mean "flash fiction" then the answer is that it mostly comes to me pretty much in one piece like a poem might come to the poet or an image to the painter. If by "piece" you mean "novel", my answer would be: very, very slowly, returning to the same crossroads many, many times, so many times in fact that I often feel these days as if I'm chasing my own fictional tail. For me, a novel isn't just a slice of life —that's how I look at flash — but it's life itself, which is why every single confusion, dead end and wrong start that you experience every day is mirrored in the process of composing the novel. However, call it unfortunate or call it fortunate, there is no shortcut to the serious novel I believe. I've made a few attempts in the direction of genre writing and it feels different: much more like walking down a road better known in a group of characters more familiar than in the case of the serious novel.

    Do you erect extensive outlines?

    — I didn't used to do this and the result was that I would create interesting characters galore and wonderful, arresting scenes and begin to dream of possible paths and plots and endings, but I would never finish. After months of bliss for writing I'd end up with a bundle of golden tangents but not with a story, not with a novel. Hence now I linger a lot longer before beginning the writing process in earnest. Though I may write individual scenes if they come to me. But the writing proper begins only after I have created an extensive outline. This way of working is still somewhat new to me. It feels a lot less creative at times and a lot craftier but it keeps the whole together. I don't know any other way to do this unless you don't care about narratives. If you write junk or experimental novels obviously all of this does not apply to you...

    Or does it flow freely?

    — in between writing the outline and editing first draft it does flow freely, it must or else why do it?

    What am I failing to wrap my mind around to get from point A to point B?

    — the purpose of the outline that I'm talking about is to indicate or say, rather, as specific as possible, how your characters get from A to B. That's the whole point. There's nothing more to it and nothing less, alas. I can't say that it's easy for my creative temper to follow this path. However, having written many hundreds of flash stories I feel that I have exercised the devil of short ends and can now begin to wrestle with the devil of the long road.

    Which POV?

    — I agree with David's statements, too. Though Henry James's third person, I believe, is mostly omniscient, while Kafka's, e.g. is close 3rd, i.e. the narrator follows the main protagonist. Close 3rd has the advantage that it can be turned into a first-person POV without effort. Personally, I write in yet another 3rd person POV right now: you can find it in the first half of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" and many of his other novels as well as in Flaubert: it's a POV where the reader only ever stays with the protagonist but does not know what the protagonist thinks or feels. Instead, everything that happens has to be shown and must not be told. Dostoyevsky make this work by using dialogue like nobody else: you can get lost in his dialogue, it's a trance transporter… anyway, I'm not finished with the POV problem myself. Sometimes I think it doesn't matter greatly because these days you can change POV and the readers will forgive you. However, your story may not.

    It looks as if I ought to put all of this into a blog post, eh? Thanks for asking, Tyler!

  • Jalousie.thumb
    stephen hastings-king
    Dec 09, 05:27am

    I am not interested in the sorts of continuity that follow from novel conventions. They belong to a sense of time that seems to me paleolithic. Bourgeois ideology and all that. You write inside those conventions you're assimilating what you write about back into an outmoded rationality. It's a good time to blow up this novel business. Explode everything about it. The conditions to lean on in order to do it as a coherent exercise exist in the world all around you.

    But that raises the question of sequence all over again. Behind the matter of sequence in a fictional environment lay questions of the perception of time. This is not a trivial matter. If you revert to the conventions of traditional novel form at this level, you give away a basic space for working with figuration. And what is writing beyond making figures? Anything?

    This an interesting time to treat making a longer work as a conceptual problem to be worked with at a deep level. I would say that there is no obvious way to write a novel at this point. There are techniques for ordering longer pieces. Use them as techniques and nothing else. Don't confuse technique with what it's not: don't let technique trick you into not thinking seriously about basic things. For example: What is causation? Typically, folk think about it on the model of mechanical causation. But at what levels of being does mechanical causation operate? For what reason does writing have to be made as though mechanical causation is more than a limited, particular way of construing how x opens onto y?

    What you write is a function these basic philosophical positions. Don't default into anything. It takes longer to work this way, but, again, the conditions obtain in the world at this point to begin to think differently and if people who are making things don't take that on, who will? What are the alternatives? Paralysis, deterioration, a slow pathetic fade into a self-imposed shadow world. Want to see what that entails? Look around.

    Starting a longer project is a situation of openness. The more you work your way into a project, the more the assumptions you make that accompany fictions like character (what exactly is a character?) or plot (a leads to b leads to c...what could be more banal?) close around you.

    I just finished an academic book project. This is where that process landed me. I was interested in the subject matter but continually annoyed by the utter banality of the game itself. Fuck that. Start over. Think out the game itself. Work in ways that are symmetrical with how that thinking unfolds. This making things is a serious game. Take it seriously. Then steal techniques that others offer to make the machinery workable for you.

    Everything is political.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 06:19am

    It's interesting that you Stephen ("Everything is political.") put your statements into 2nd person while I ("Wrestling with devils") pour forth in the 1st person.

    At the same time, we're both academic scholars. But my heart isn't in it to be frank. One reason for this is that I abhor pontification (must be because I am Catholic), another that I have come to think that this business of writing is so exquisitely so exclusively and extremely subjective that you may just as well call it dreaming. That this business of writing is also a business with an audience makes the whole affair perfectly paradoxical.

    You see (going into 2nd person here as I have begun to pontificate myself...), writing novels for me is giving an expression to the collective unconscious as well as my personal unconscious. There are all kinds of things in the unconscious, of course, revolution ("It's a good time to blow up this novel business") being one of them. But also myth-making, a form of weaving that must go on for thousands of years or else it is fast food and evaporates ("And what is writing beyond making figures?").

    To me the telling of long stories is something that I feel in my bones and under my skin not just for philosophical reasons but because my dad told me a long, long story when I was a boy, every night, for years on end. I lived in that story, I inhabited it like a shell. It's my beginning, or one of them, this is where I started and this is where I'm still going when things are rough and when I'm lost (Like this: "Paralysis, deterioration, a slow pathetic fade into a self-imposed shadow world.").

    Wanting to preserve the novel is silly, just as silly as wanting to preserve the moon. Wanting to write novels as a continous dream building on rock-solid narratives, easy concepts for any one human to wrap themselves in, is not silly. It's the most serious game that can be played. Creation through causation to bring light to the poor shadows that are real for you, for me.

    Everything is spiritual.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 06:41am

    PS. the best academic writing isn't pontification of course, it's not any less exciting and rebellious and respectful of the spirit as the best novels. Some examples: Sebald ("Natural History of Destruction"), Girard ("Deceit, Desire & The Novel"), Bachelard ("The Poetics of Reverie"), everything written by Sigmund Freud, etc etc

  • Jalousie.thumb
    stephen hastings-king
    Dec 09, 06:54am

    Interesting. I would not have pegged you as a Platonist, Marcus. But I like what you say.

    The pronoun drift followed from oscillating back and forth between thinking things out for myself and addressing the opening questions.

    Maybe the difference in what we're saying comes to a matter of temperment which plays out as a relation to form. The length isn't really the central matter, except that working in longer forms requires planning and that planning can make it easier to slide back into other constraints that in faster modes of working are more evidently constraints. Where we converge is on the question of wanting to map or catch things that are in the air around us, flying around the hive mind, maybe articulated maybe not. To do that requires--I think---dispensing with subjective/objective and working in spaces that are necessarily in-between.

    Reading back over what I wrote and your reaction, it occurs to me just how much a formalist I am, really.

    In reality, I'm just trying to figure out other ways to think and, by extension, how to sound in the world and, at other points, how to write. So I feel like it's important to push against everything. But what I didn't say is: not all at once. It's taken a long time to figure out how this pushing at things can be functional.

    I've been playing this game for a long time. When I wrote the above, I underestimated the extent to which I didn't know who I was talking to, really, so wrote from a place that comes from a long walk, some of which was futile, some of which was not, all of which keeps rearranging as I keep walking. I imagine that everyone has this continuous rearrangement: all that differs is what you feel like you have to generate in your sense of environment to allow that to find expressions.

    I still want to blow things up. I still am driven by a sense of the political. But mostly, I like to walk around. The world is very big.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 06:59am

    Stephen, I like what you say, too. I hadn't realized that I was a Platonist but I suppose I am. And I've also begun to walk around. I used to want to construct the world now it feels as if I'm being constructed by the world.

  • 62698557287.thumb
    Matthew Robinson
    Dec 09, 07:33am

    It's threads like this that make Fictionaut such a powerful resource. The sheer level of passion and insight in this thread alone is enough to inspire the most congested of minds.

    One common theme echoed through the responses here is that the aspiring novelist must invent his/her own ideation for how "the novel" is best written. Is it to destroy the form completely? Is it to unlock the chambers of the reader's (and by proxy, the writer's) unconscious? Does the novelist have a certain responsibility to the reader?* Should a novelist's first attempt be spent on delineating the mechanics of "the novel"?** These questions and a thousand others un/like them should be asked before pursuing what could amount to the best or the worst decision of your life.***

    *The answer to this question, in my opinion, is an emphatic NO. I think if make the reader your number one priority (or even a high one) in writing a novel, then I think you are destined to write a mediocre book. Maybe it gets immediate acclaim and solid readership, but it will be forgotten, left behind.****

    **I can't condone intentionally writing a first draft of a novel in one POV, then turning around and writing it again in a different POV. That sounds like an utter waste of time. If you have any grasp of what you want your novel to be, you choose a POV, write it in that POV alone, and only change it if you come to realize at a later point that you chose the wrong one. Make choices from the outset and proceed knowing that you will probably change your mind, but not afraid to see what will happen to cause you to.

    ***I defer to this humorous albeit resonant tweet by writer Jen Statsky: "How depressed are you, on a scale of 1 to thinking about writing a novel?"

    ****This is not my way of saying "go write a bunch of nonsense!" but rather you must be true to yourself and your vision of what you want your novel to be, once you know that.

    (How's this for 2nd person, Marcus?)

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 09:00am

    Expert footnoting, Matt, if I may say so...let me introduce footnote reuse as a new technique not just in this forum but (I believe) in the scientific world at large?):

    * I don't even identify with myself as a reader: I can never remember what I wrote and when I read what I wrote it doesn't seem to be mine. This could be the onset of schizophrenia or a case in your point...

    ** However, many great and not so great novelists have found it necessary to do so...as an intention it seems indeed wasteful. Unless of course, POV is a key issue/theme of the book! (not so interesting to me but many disagree)

    *** LOL

    **** A footnote to a footnote to a footnote to a footnote ... that's my first Metazen today I think.

    Expert use of 2nd person indeed, Matt.

  • 2015-05-17_t__(6)_rdbw_200x200.thumb
    T. M. Upchurch
    Dec 09, 11:23am

    Temporal tributes to the writing life. On a pragmatic note, I don't find the keyboard the best place to start a novel; it's too laborious in the embryonic stages. In the early stages of writing, I daydream my way through a story, filling in back story as I go, picturing scenes, running films in my head. When the story stalls (they do), I start again. By the time it reaches paper, every story is Groundhog day.

    POV? (Interesting how POVs dominate so many discussions.) Single, multi, 1st, 2nd, 3rd -- to me, it's like cooking, you can use a microwave or conventional oven but the biggest determinant of taste is the meat. If you're writing fiction, it's all about the story.

    (If you're writing nonfiction, it's... still all about the story.)

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 11:50am

    I don't begin anything at the keyboard anymore: I dictate all my writing now using software that has grown up into an excellent tool for the writer's true/real voice. Totally changed my output, my habits, and the quality of my writing.

  • Photo.thumb
    Adam Sifre
    Dec 09, 12:50pm

    I have never been able to dictate. For me, my writing voice and speaking voice are completely different.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 09, 01:25pm

    It took me more than one month to get used to it (and I write a lot) and another month to feel comfortable...I had no choice because I go tendinitis in both hands and the alternative would have been to give up altogether (might have been a good idea)...

  • Facebook.thumb
    John Riley
    Dec 09, 01:44pm

    I'm trying to get started on a novel and it's as though I ordered up this insightful conversation from those who have gone before me. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

    Marcus, I have a question. What dictation software do you use?

    Thanks

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 09, 02:49pm

    Writing for the reader is why I write, to connect with another. But more than simply showing and telling, my impulse is to seduce (for even just a gentle smile). I don't give a big cahoot if anybody down the road, after I am dust, gives any size cahoot for what I've written. The cahoots only matter to me while I'm here, breathing and writing.

    Do you suppose Shakespeare even knew the word "cahoot"? Then again, maybe he invented it.

  • Img_0120.thumb
    James Lloyd Davis
    Dec 09, 03:52pm

    Interesting thoughts... novel as paleothic... novel as construct... novel as ante-delluvian billabong... ev'rything is political... ev'rything is spiritual.

    I did like the idea of blowing up novels, though probably not in the way the concept was presented... which was, I think, in the spirit of the guillotine. I like all my concepts to be drenched in a kind of violence.

    I write novels, but don't really have a method. If there is any tool in my kit, it's remembrance of the purpose of novels and the idea that somewhere towards the back of it, the story more or less ends. Given that, I always have an ending to the novel before I even begin... always. Working toward something is not conceptual, merely natural in terms of what a story is.

    For me, a novel is a story, either plainly told or relayed through various methods of exposition. Regardless of exposition, of style, of genre, of any assumed characteristic you may give a novel, for me it is a story.

    Storytelling may be paleolithic, but so are paintings, dance, music... all those things that transcend the human need to kill, cook, and eat. Science is not so new, as witnessed by the early construction of calendars and weapons. Often times, our basest needs and most violent impulses drive great leaps forward in scientific understanding.

    Mythology and religious impulse may have fed our fears in the beginning and led to the idea, the concept of a fictional story, mythology if you want to call it that, first told around fires amid piles of bone, then written for whatever reason or purpose, but with the end that it soothes our fears and passes away the time we might normally spend contemplating our own death.

    The novel entertains, engages, diverts, camouflages, but in its best form imitates life and when properly constructed, makes us think about something beyond our own lives.

    Bushwa concept? I dasn't think so. There is more to life than eating, sleeping, slobbering and making children.

    Blow them up? To what end?

    You don't have to. There's already enough rubble and fragments around in the form of poems and 'flash' fictions, bits and pieces of story and thought. Kibbles and bits, maybe you could call them, snacks to munch on, a little bump to get us through in between the larger high of something like a novel.

    Yes, they go from a to b to c for the most part. Life goes from a to b to c, unless you're abducted by aliens and enter some sort of time warp, but even a normal life is only banal when you choose to make it so. Life, even the most mundane, can be celebratory and brilliant with but the eye to see it thus.

    The novel will live on because people like to read them, to learn that celebratory, unique vision, spend time in that mythology and avoid the dead zones of apathy that life can sometimes bring to us.

    How do I write novels? I start with an ending and write my way to it. The path and the distance takes care of itself. It's the writing that makes the difference. I try to write in such a way as to keep the reader interested enough to stay on that path. No mystery. No method. No tricks.

    Everything is simple. Or maybe it's just me who's simple. Could be.

  • Photo%2015.thumb
    Gary Hardaway
    Dec 09, 04:30pm

    Reading and enjoying this prompts a gratitude that big writing has left me alone.

  • Jalousie.thumb
    stephen hastings-king
    Dec 09, 04:55pm

    There was a bit of wine involved before. Not a lot. But a little.

    The language of the first post...looking at it this morning, I can see in it the after-burn of writing the history project that ate my summer, this sense of being trapped by constraints at the level of how the sentences operated that I had moved away from and worked quite hard to abandon only to find myself back amongst them again thanks to a contract I signed.

    The second post is closer to how I actually think and work---especially the bit about generating a sense of relation to form that enables the continuous reorganization of thinking/memory/sense data/projection to find some kind of expression.

    Historical causation is not mechanical causation. Events rarely follow a b c in the regular world except in relatively delimited spaces. I throw a rock: it falls to the ground thanks to the relative consistency of this gravity business. But experience itself is much more complex than that. We are also continuously shifting assemblages of inputs and associations: time is not simply 1 2 3 4 but expands and contracts along with the ways your attention moves.

    I was at a family dinner party last night for example. Time moved v e r y s l o w l y there.

    The experience of moving through time-space is not like tossing a rock and watching it fall---unless of course you see it so. In which case, for you, that's how it is. And in fact, experience is always both, the open-ended dimensions and the more formalized dimensions that enable movement through the picture-world.

    At bottom, of course, what matters is what engages you and the ways in which that engagement prompts you to think and write and listen and see.

    And to wax relativist for a moment, it's good that we are driven in this various ways.

    So the above was not a kind of Taylorist mini-manifesto--it wasn't arguing for a one best way. It was merely made to suggest that when you're taking on a project, there's a space that is relatively open for thinking about quite basic conventions. The argument was more to point to that space and suggest using it. Those conventions necessarily close around you as you move into the project simply because you see through them as you go and think about questions they frame. Something has to be base-line to enable other things not to be.

    How one thinks about that open-ended phase of working is a matter of temperment, I suppose. I guess I am a formalist--I've been accused of it before----and so am inclined to try to adopt a distance with respect to them because, it seems to me anyway, that creates types of freedom of movement and thinking that I don't know other ways to give myself.

    And sometimes it's fun to toss a burning object into a space...sometimes the results are really interesting. I think this an interesting discussion.

  • Marcy.thumb
    Marcy Dermansky
    Dec 09, 05:34pm

    Hey. Back to the basics. Write page after page after page, edit, do it all over again.

  • Facebook.thumb
    John Riley
    Dec 09, 05:48pm

    The study of history is the attempt to understand causation. Intellectual history, political history, social history, what have you, ultimately reverts back to attempting to understand "What caused this or that?" That's been true from Thucydides to Febvre. The long narrative form, for the same is true of book length poems, inevitable epics, cannot separate itself from history. A novel is history. You pick one up and are reading what has come before. This is true regardless of the form or lack of form inside the history. It is bound to the human heart that is a part of the living novel and no over-turning of the internal form escapes it. Time and causation are the canvas and frame. We can play with what is inside the frame and fail or succeed to create a new version of the form that cracks open expectations and touches the reader's consciousness in a "novel" way. But what makes the novel human, and the more human it is the more successful it is, is that we share the cage of history and are at the mercy of causation. The ability to give depth and width to submerged causation is a measure of the value of a novel. Nothing or no one can escape definition and the novel is no exception.

    My thoughts.

  • Photo.thumb
    Adam Sifre
    Dec 09, 06:07pm

    I hate writing. If I could get people to tell me how much they love my stories without actually having to write any, I'd be happy.

    As for starting a novel, there's a few simple rules that I find helpful.

    First, start with all the easy words. Get "the," "and," "said," and "was" out of the way. I find I get a good three thousand words on paper this way and it is a real confidence booster.

    Second, talk to other writers and see if there are any ideas worth stealing. You can't copyright an idea, and many people can't even hold on to one.

    Third, get yourself a bunch of writing programs that you'll never use for more than ten minutes. I'm not really sure how this helps, but every writer I know does it.

    Fourth, write about what you know or what you don't know. Either way.

    Fifth, don't be afraid to fail. This part is hard for some writers. I find purchasing a nightlight helps.

    Sixth, remember that no one ever went wrong by following advice given on the internet.

    Seventh, make it interesting. This almost always requires the use of vampires, high school, and using the first person pov.

    Eighth. Don't worry about spelling. If you haven't figured out how to spell by now, you're not going to learn any time soon.

    Ninth. Randomly delete every third exclamation mark and comma in your manuscript. Trust me, it will only help.

    Tenth. Write only one book. Your first book will naturally be your best and enjoy much success. Writing a second or even a third book only tells the reader that you don't feel like you got it right the first time.

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 10, 12:45pm

    The undeniably best way to start a novel is to nail down the contract first. The second best way is to have in mind somebody who might offer you a contract for whatever novel you have in mind to write. Then, depending on who that contractor is you may approach your keyboard and write, "Call me Ishmael..." You can always change the name later, but it's a good idea to start with something that has a literary ring to it, rather than something like, "I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror," which can get you in the hot waters of plagiarism.

  • Facebook.thumb
    John Riley
    Dec 10, 01:51pm

    Good point, Mathew about the opening. "I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror" could mean frustration is standing beside me as I scowl into the mirror.

  • Photo.thumb
    Adam Sifre
    Dec 10, 02:41pm

    "I was alone on a dark and stormy night. The face that looked at me from my mirror was a stranger. I startedto scream just as my alarm clock went off and i woke up to some bad jazz.

    An excerpt from my new novel, 'Cliche.'

  • Photo.thumb
    Adam Sifre
    Dec 10, 02:43pm

    It's a 712 page story writted in first person pov about finding love in highschool and dealing with the restraining orders.

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 10, 02:54pm

    ...I'm choking here...help me...

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 10, 10:30pm

    It's true what Matt says about the contract: I only began to seriously work on a novel when my [German] agent asked me for one, gave me a deadline and said she'd read and give me feedback. Her believing in me made a big difference to my resolve which had been kind of private before.

  • Mugshotme_(3).thumb
    Mathew Paust
    Dec 10, 10:44pm

    It's like a rite of passage, Marcus. Especially exalting if there's even the tiniest of advances.

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 11, 10:34pm

    She paid for my lunch. I sincerely hope that counts as an advance.

  • Updated_bio.thumb
    James Claffey
    Dec 12, 01:04am

    advance? i can't move any of my pawns even one square forward...

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 28, 08:33pm

    I know you've all risen above this thread, but here's interesting advice from George R R Martin. Very specific, too. Successful SF authors tend to be specific about their craft, I appreciate that:

    http://io9.com/5971432/great-quotes-about-writing-from-game-of-thrones-author-george-rr-martin

  • Mosaic_man_marcus.thumb
    Marcus Speh
    Dec 28, 08:42pm

    ...a lot more amazing than the advice (most of which I've heard before) is the trashing he gets in the comments. Fortunately, writers in the SF game can take a lot more heat than authors of literary novels, I suppose?

  • Frankie Saxx
    Dec 28, 11:30pm

    You have to be pretty popular to get that much hate.

  • Facebook.thumb
    John Riley
    Dec 29, 12:07am

    The most helpful writing advice I ever received came from SF/Fantasy writer Orson Scott Card. I mentioned it in the interview over on the blog.

  • You must log in to reply to this thread.