Saturday, April 30, 2011

Novel Writing: What Have I Learnt Lately?

And yes, I meant learnt and not learned. I choose not to write the American version today because I can. Lol.

Anyway, still working on my novel and I have finally joined critique groups. I wrote for a year, prior to which I have never written anything fiction, not even a short story. Then I entered 3 contests and of course, I realized shortly after submitting that I could never win. Why? I had some editorial No-nos and in the first chapter too.

Here are four important Editorial No-nos:

1) Do no start your novel with a dream sequence.

2) Do no start your novel with a telephone conversation.

3) Do not start your novel with your protagonist waking up from sleep or a nightmare, startled.

4) Do not have a flashback in the first chapter, or even the first thirty pages.

In addition I also decided this:

5) Never critique a first draft!

And although I never did number 5, when I finally joined a critique group recently, there was still so much to be done in those first 2 chapters that I have struggled with and changed several times over the course of the year that I knew if I had critiqued the first draft, it would have been so disastrous I might have given up. And I did let some facebook friends read what I thought was my first scene about a year ago. That's when I realized I had PLENTY of work to do and I started to buy books on writing/fiction writing. What I couldn't buy/afford, I borrowed from the library. Don't forget your local library is a great resource. I didn't even have a library card till about 6 months ago but now I wonder why not. Lol.

I have also joined a physical critique group where you have to read your work out loud. We'll see how that goes but if anyone says I have an accent or corrects how I pronounce certain words differently, I will have my frying pan with me!

As for numbers 1 through 4, that also includes having any of those near the beginning of your novel, even if it doesn't start off with it. I read in several books (by Noah Lukeman, James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, etc), heard in several forums (including the ACFW loop!) and finally heard back from the judges of one of the contests about NOT doing some of those. It creates an impression that you are confused, an amateur, did not start the book in the right place or you're just bad at it, period. It will end you in the slush pile very fast, and nobody would have gotten to the good part yet.

For a list of books I have found helpful either from reading or from someone else teaching the principles from the book at a meeting or workshop, please visit my website. 

I am so glad I am finally letting other eyes look at my work and help me fine-tune it. I am grateful to the ladies of SheWrites who have hammered it into a pulp. I actually got my first comment on Authonomy and it's not from someone who wanted me to back their work or anything:

"The toilet paper made me laugh. Well written. will definitely get back to this one will try and make room on Wl in the near future Good luck."

I have also joined a critique group on Authonomy. I've sent a request anyway. We'll see how my first reading goes at the physical critique group, an AWC group (Atlanta Writers Club) in my area. I am trying to join their online critique group as well. I can't figure out how Absolute Write Water Cooler works so I am not active in a critique group on there yet, though a member.

Why several critique groups? There's always something new to offer in each group. Also, it will take years to get your work critiqued in my estimation if you belong to only one group. And I've read articles by seasoned authors saying they belong to several groups as well. We'll see how it pans out. And I'll keep you updated.

Enough yapping for now. I'm just excited.



My WIP! And that's my other name you didn't know about. Cover courtesy of my brother Temi, AKA Antigravity.