Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Next Great Novel

“Everyone would like to be the next overnight discovery with a first novel, but success is far more likely to come over a long period of time from a determined, plodding author who hung in there long enough to find his or her true genre . . .” Linda Lehmann Masek in “Pathway to Agents and Eventual Publication.” [Writers’ Journal, Jan/Feb 2010]

How many times have you read a post in an online forum from a novice writer claiming to have written a first novel that is a blockbuster? Too many, right? How many revisions do you think the author’s completed? That many? :)

Like many authors, I have a novel tucked away in a desk drawer (actually, two!) that was an early attempt at writing fiction. I doubt  I’ll ever work on it again. I know more about writing now and realize how flawed the plot is. It may be salvageable, but I don’t have the passion for the story any longer. The second one was a more recent effort that I might give another try. The main character and his sidekick are useable characters, but they need new backgrounds. They’re both police detectives at the moment, and for the story to work, I’d need to do a lot of research on police procedures. It would be less work to make them outsiders who somehow get tangled up in the crime—not that I know just how at this point. But that’s the fun of writing for me. I love to explore with my characters how a story unfolds. As you can guess, I don’t outline a complete plot prior to beginning a project. Sometimes I have an idea of how I want a story to end, but I don’t have a clue how I’m going to get there. I always wonder if this is a good way to proceed.

I completed a novelette that I gave to family and friends as a Christmas present. The idea for it came from a short-short story that I failed to get published. It ended up as chapter four. I didn’t know which chapter it would be when I started. I simply wrote my way logically to that point in time. It turned out to be the easy part of the project. Perhaps that was because I had a known goal to reach. I guess I just made a good argument for outlining and knowing an end point.

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