Category Archives: novel writing

>Lessons Learned From My First Novel

>After a year and a half of false starts and missteps, revisions galore, and quite a few smackdowns from my sister, Dead Locked is finished and for that I am extremely grateful. I’m the first to admit my little book has a lot of imperfections – some bruising here, a scar or two there – but it came time to send it off into the world and now there’s no looking back. Well, almost.

I still think of things I could or should have changed. But in the end, there’s no denying (or faking) that I’m still learning how to construct a well-written novel. I keep reminding myself that I could rewrite for all eternity and it would never be perfect. And as it was, I was ready to take the hard-earned lessons from Dead Locked and share them with my next novel.

And learn I have. At times, I really thought Dead Locked hated me, which is absurd of course. (Books can’t hate their authors – can they?) And the problems often came down to my own neuroticism. But I do love to write and I take a lot of pride in writing well. So though I know DL will hardly be my best work ever, I put everything I had (and more sometimes) into it.
So other than learning (again) that writing is hard, what else have I come away with? Well, I learned a lot about my novel writing process. I discovered (as a life long pantser) that a little plotting is a good thing, but too much plotting for me is very, very bad. I started walking the tightrope of tension and pacing. And unwittingly, I took a crash course in handling a heap of necessary background information in the form of flashbacks (hopefully with success!).
I am most proud, however, of my character development. With each project, I often have a focus, something I want to improve. With DL, I wanted to create the most alive, vibrant characters I’d ever envisioned. And I definitely succeeded in that department. Overall, I understand a lot more about how to make a novel tick now, and I’m looking to the future to apply what I’ve learned more fully. I’m also buckling down on things I know I need to work on.

My next book is already well underway and I’ll unveil the details about that in December. Until then, there are still two days left to download Dead Locked for free by entering KR98Q at checkout. The response has been awesome and I appreciate all the fabulous support and encouragement. And I do hope you enjoy my first, slightly imperfect, novel.

Photo by Seth Sawyers

>Going From Short Stories to Novels

>It’s funny to think that a couple of years ago I would never have thought about writing a novel. For years, I focused on writing short stories. I love the challenge involved in forming a complete story in few words (sometimes very few words). I also love how short stories are similar to photographs – they capture moments in time. But after I challenged myself one winter to write a novel in a month, I realized I couldn’t turn back.

According to my sister, novel writing suits me well because I like to talk. (I swear, I have no idea what she means by that.) But I’ve had some issues making the leap. The whole length business – going from a few thousand words to tens of thousands of words – has been interesting. I’ve had to learn to search for expansive ideas instead of compact ones as well as conquering how to make a plot of that size work and make sense at the end of it all.

Novel writing, however, has improved my short stories. While working on a couple of new stories recently, I realized that my first drafts were stronger and the plots and character development tighter than before. As I wrote, I could even tell that my thought process was more organized. Ideas came faster, and without plotting, I still ended up with a cohesive first draft. Instead of one hot mess, I had one hot rough draft I couldn’t wait to spiff up.

My conclusion is this: writing in new forms helps all of your writing. I’ve experienced this several times over. So write in new forms and styles once in a while. If you’re scared, all the better. Learning a new form will bring something good to the writing you’re most familiar with. And it’s fun!

What different forms of writing have you tried, and what was the result? How did it help or enhance your favorite writing form?

>Reignite the Love of Your WIP

>A new idea can be like crushing on someone. You’re all excited and can’t wait to round every bend in the journey. Then the initial thrill fades. Eventually, you may get to a point where it feels like just work. You’re trudging through page after page, but the excitement you had at first is completely gone.

I had this experience with Dead Locked. For a time, I lost all interest and considered moving on to another project. As you can probably tell, I managed to not only get back on track, but get that first rush of excitement all over again. What can you do if a project feels like it’s sapping the life out of you?

Take a short break to get perspective. Sometimes even a day or two away can reignite your desire to finish. I regularly walk away for a short time (emphasis on short) to refresh my creativity and see things in a new light. Word of caution: don’t walk away for too long or you may not go back to it!

Reevaluate the direction of the story. If you don’t like where the story is going, or you feel like you’re shoving a square peg into a round hole, you won’t want to write. I had this problem with my current novel. Somewhere in the process, I lost track of what I like and went off on a tangent I didn’t feel passionate about. Stick to ideas that you love, and you won’t lose motivation.

Get an objective opinion. I got pretty discouraged at one point when my book seemed to be spiraling downwards and I ended up just telling my sister everything I felt about it. Her outsider insight jolted me awake to the problem. Don’t be afraid to confide in someone if you feel down about how things are going. They may say something that sparks new desire to push forward.

The important thing is that you don’t give up on your story. You’ve worked too hard to throw it away!

Have you had this experience with a story? What did you do to keep moving forward? How did you get excited about the project again?

>Barreling Down on Novel Revisions

>So July 1 is my deadline to have major revisions of my novel finished, e.g. writing new scenes, axing others, and moving some scenes around. Happily, it’s in good order at this point so I’m excited to move forward and start smoothing things out soon. It’s always thrilling the closer you get to the nitty-gritty editing and major changes are no longer necessary. It’s also a little frightening when you realize it’s time to stop fussing and send your baby out into the world. But at this point, I’m ready to let’er fly.

What exciting stage are you at with your work-in-progress?


>Rewrites, Robin Hood, & Martha’s Vineyard

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Other than this blog post, I have three things on my brain today: rewriting my novel, going to see the new Robin Hood movie tomorrow, and spending a few days on Martha’s Vineyard next week.

My novel’s rewrite is coming along wonderfully, with the help of some terrific (and thought-provoking) exercises in the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. As with all renovations, my novel looks a mess right now. But I know what it will look like soon and it’s going to be gorgeous!
I can’t wait to see the new movie with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. I am a Robin Hood addict. It began at age 5 with Disney’s animated version, and grew into an obsession with all things medieval. And it’s all because of an animated fox.

I am also trying to get my ducks in a row to head off to Martha’s Vineyard next week. Despite growing up in central Massachusetts, I’ve never visited the Vineyard so I’m excited to explore new territory.

Happy weekend!

Photo by Jo Jakeman

>A Heroine is Born

>While in a frenzy over my novel rewrite this weekend, it hit me that just about a year ago my heroine, Imogen Bell, came into being. It all started because of the name Pinky. Coming across this name while working on a different story conjured an image of a young woman and I couldn’t get her out of my brain. The result was that I took her on board, named her Imogen, and spent time with her until we found the right story.

It’s funny thinking back to those first glimpses. I knew nothing about her, but I was driven to spend every waking moment getting to know her. She’s no longer superficial but a fully matured individual who has become as real to me as any living person. And I can keep learning about her — just like a real person. Rewriting has opened my mind to her other dimensions and I’m thrilled to explore these and bring my readers an even richer, deeper Imogen Bell.

When the writing gets tough, I always remind myself that my greatest excitement comes from discovery. I love unearthing character traits and dimensions. Just like in real life, the fun of getting to know people is that they surprise you.

>Music as Writing Inspiration

>Like a lot of writers, music plays a large role in helping me develop my story ideas. Music sometimes inspires characters and situations and plots as well as keeping momentum on ideas already in progress. Certain songs just resonate with certain ideas and I can’t tear them apart. Nor would I want to. The music drives me on even when I want to hurl my laptop out of the window. So as a way of introducing my novel-in-progress, I’ve added the top songs to my playlist that influenced the development of my main character, Imogen Bell, and kept me excited to keep going over the last year.

Imogen is a bit spunky, a bit feisty, upbeat and energetic, and a little idealistic – all qualities reflected in these songs. Listening to them and picturing Imogen helped me solidify her personality, and each one represents a different stage of her development. “The Only Difference Between” by Panic! At the Disco was especially influential at the beginning. I was still trying to figure out who Imogen was and this song just clicked with her. I’d listen to it over and over while I walked, working out ideas in my head. Now these songs are forever associated with my good friend, Immie.

Take a listen and stay tuned for more about Imogen Bell and other cast members from my upcoming novel.

Enjoy!
Amy