Characters, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

This is the scary part

Yesterday, I forced myself to get serious about writing my next novel. (Yes, I was sick. Blame it on the caffeine in the chai I drank.) I’ve been making the preparations for this novel for months, even writing out several scenes. But this time, actually getting down that first chapter is tougher.

I’m struggling with voice, which is part of the problem. I know I haven’t locked into it yet for this main character, so my inner editor lurks in the background whispering, You’re going to have to rewrite all this, you know. Since I’m not a “shitty first draft” person, it’s difficult to ignore that voice and push myself to write on.

This character is a challenge in two ways. I know who she is as an adult because she was a second-tier character in my last novel, but this one starts with her at age twelve, so she hasn’t developed that adult personality yet. This maturing of a character is not something I’ve tried before. Also, this is the first time I’ve attempted to write a novel in first person.

Structure is another challenge. This novel will consist of three parts, portraying three different stages of her life. I will bracket each section with present tense narrative, while writing the majority of the book in past tense. Numerous times already, I’ve caught myself writing in present what should be in past tense. That’s weird because I normally write in past tense, though in third person, so maybe it’s the first person that’s throwing me off.

I deliberately chose these challenges to hone my craft, but this unfamiliar territory makes me uneasy. I’m getting quivers of fear I can’t pull it off this time, but I keep putting one word in front of the other. What else can I do?

Your turn: What are the writing challenges you’ve faced recently?

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35 thoughts on “This is the scary part”

  1. I write what comes to mind and say “Screw you rules!” as loud as I can….mentally of course 😉

    If I worry too much about what is generally accepted by publishers and editors and less about what I’m trying to get across in the story, then my manuscript suffers in the long run.

    Thanks for this post!

    Marcus

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  2. Damn the fear stage, damn it to hell 😀

    But good on you for deliberately tackling something scary! I bow to your bravery, Linda 🙂

    The most recent writing challenge I have faced was writing a dialogue between two species that communicate using colour. Yeah. That was mind-bending.

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  3. How interesting that you are honing in on specific challenges this way with your new novel. Good for you. Developing a character from adolescence to adulthood will be tricky.

    At a more basic level, I have a problem with mixing tenses when I’m writing. I try not to even think about it when I’m writing, and then go through the whole mess somewhere around draft 6 with my Grammar and Editing Police hat on, trying to match up the tenses appropriately. But I try not to get bogged down worrying about it early on.

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    1. Shhh! Don’t let my inner editor hear you say it will be tricky. 😉

      I wrote another thousand words today and I think I stayed in tense. But, yeah, I won’t worry about it too much as I write. When I’m done with this chapter I’ll go back through, and then hope my critique partners catch what I missed. I should get one of those Grammar and Editing Police hats. Do they come in purple? 🙂

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  4. My writing struggles come from the human body. Sometime I get sleepy while writing, I get hungry, I have to go to the bathroom. Sometime I get off track on my novel and have to back track to write the next chapter correct which is a pain.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Cameron. True, sometimes the physical can be a distraction. As for backtracking, I’m already doing that in this first chapter. I realized I was rushing from one plot point to the next. So now I have to go back and see where I need to insert some breathing space.

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  5. My most recent challenge has been WRITING! I’ve focused the past month on planning. Now that I’m ready to write, but have another 11 days to go before I can start, I’ve had to try and find little projects to fill the empty space. This stresses me out! Especially with so much editing work already in front of me, that needs my attention.

    I want to get started on my larger projects and question whether writing a new novel draft is the thing to do. After all, how much editing could I accomplish in eleven days? But what would happen if I start to edit a different work? Will I be able to turn the critical witch off long enough to write a new draft during November? Will I be able to switch from the mindset of one narrator to the other?

    My short-term solution has been to focus on my poetry collection, for now. But I can’t help but think I should find a more permanent writing schedule; one that is flexible and accommodates my needs when I get ahead or behind.

    Anyway! Enough about me. Good for you! Writing to a personal challenge must be scary, but think of the experience and growth as a writer that you will gain in the end. I applaud you.

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    1. I read your blog post yesterday, Trista, and I have a question. Why are you writing a new novel for NaNo when it seems you really want to polish up one of the novels you’ve already written? That said, editing poetry sounds like a good idea while you wait for NaNo to begin.

      Yes, I think we need to challenge ourselves in our writing or we risk boredom, and that won’t lead to good writing.

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      1. You know, I have NO CLUE why I’ve decided to stick to my original schedule of one new novel draft a year during November. There are other months – eleven of them if I’m counting correctly.

        When I set the November goal, it was supposed to serve a two-fold purpose: 1.) To ensure I am actively producing at least one long length of fiction a year, be it a novel or novella. 2.) So that I may have an established METHOD to gauge my year-over-year progress as a writer. Initially, I lacked any solid knowledge of the editing process and fear, as always, dictated my actions. Writing seemed like a better choice to plan around than editing. However, as I mature (using that loosely) I’m ready to take on this challenge and even long to expose myself to this level of discipline, as revealed by my angst this week.

        I’m lukewarm about NaNo and recently realized I am participating more on the grounds of holding myself accountable to that yearly draft than to doing what is clearly the best decision.

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        1. It’s obvious you want/need a lot more structure than I do. I just write, and edit, and revise. It takes however long it takes. But in your case, do remember that YOU set the schedule, so if you need to revise it, you have the power to do so. Good luck in whatever you schedule. 🙂

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