Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Novel Completion! + What I Learned

This post is long overdue since I actually finished my novel early last month, but oh well! For posterity's sake, here's some statistics and trivia about how it went:

  • Typed the last words on March 12. Would have been the 11th, but I dithered over the final lines for about two days, wanted to get them just right!
  • The final word count came out to 117,903 which makes it the longest piece of fiction I've ever written. 
  • It took me roughly five months to complete, which also happens to be the longest I've ever worked continually on a writing project. Previously, I wrote my first completed novel in thirty days -- a considerable disparity! Though, to be fair, that was during NaNoWriMo, and craziness happens during NaNoWriMo.
  • That being said, this is also the first novel I've finished on my own, outside of the competitive and supportive atmosphere of NaNo.

Admittedly, I probably could have finished this one in less time but there were several close calls where I almost called it the quits. If you're a writer, you know exactly what it's like when you hit those moments of "why am I even writing this? will anyone ever want to read it? what if this is just a huge waste of time?" But I pushed through, past the doubt, past the uncertainty, and here I am on the other side with a finished novel to show for my efforts! It's a good feeling, to say the least.

Of course, to me, writing is not a destination so much as it is a constant journey toward improvement and understanding. Through writing, I'm able to learn something new about the process, what works and what doesn't, and I also discover more about myself at the same time.

Here are just a few of the things I learned this time around!

  • I can write first-person point of view! I've always admired writers who can pull off first-person POV because it's intimate and powerful when done right. Of course this also depends on the kind of story you're trying to tell, too. This was my first time attempting a lengthy narrative from this POV, and I actually enjoyed it a lot and felt it added a nice depth of feeling and personality to the story. So yes, future self reading this, if you're not sure let me remind you that you can write first-person! And to high school me, who would have ever guessed?
  • An outline, even a loose one, is beneficial. I like writing high concept stories because it helps me narrow in on the plot, and my high concept ideas have proven very compatible with outlines. This story was actually supposed to be a short story, and as such I made one of my rare outlines in advance (I'm more of a panster usually, making it up as I go along) which proved handy even in its brief, skeletal form in helping direct the story.
  • Sci-fi may be my genre. I still like to flirt and batt my eyelashes at other genres, particularly fantasy which is a relationship I've enjoyed for about as long, but I'm finding that sci-fi is my comfort genre, my fallback when coming up with story ideas. Minus the pseudo-science involved in some of them (which I always worry will catch me out as a writer and not a scientist), I love everything about sci-fi. One of these days I'll have to try a little more hard sci-fi, since the two novels I've written thus far are more light sci-fi (i.e. without spaceships and planets and such).
  • Inspiration comes and goes, but it has to find you writing, to paraphrase one of my favorite pieces of writing advice. If there's anything I've learned, it's that there will always come a point when you are tired of writing the story. And that's okay. Take a break, a few days off from writing if you need to. Think about something else, make eyes at some other ideas. Go outside. Read a book. But then return to the novel and keep writing anyway. Another trick I've found helpful is brainstorming a scene that you can get excited about. Whether that means introducing some interesting minor characters, or letting hell break loose on the ones you have. If you're bored, find a way to get yourself pumped up about the story again. You loved the idea enough to start it, remember why that was and get back involved!
Hope this self-analysis helps some of my fellow writers out there!

Writers, what are some of the interesting discoveries you've made while writing? What tricks keep you motivated and plugging away at the keyboard?