I finished my first novel.
That’s right. I finally finished my novel. I finally typed “The End” in 110 point font at 11:11 pm on Wednesday, August 28th. It was a long year of on and off writing, but I finally made it. There were times when the words just wouldn’t flow and I had to force myself to sit down and write. At the same time, there were times when the words ran across the page beautifully and I felt like I could keep on writing forever.
It was a whole new experience for me because I had never written something even close to 51,607 words. In order to write a book length work I had to plot a complex story with multidimensional characters, many emotional and physical obstacles, unexpected plot twists and proper story structure. Then, I had to go through the actual process of writing the thing. I had to sit down for hours, trying to write passages that expertly told my story in a unique voice. It was challenging because it was so new to me, but I’m glad that I pushed through and finally finished. I just did something that the majority of aspiring novelists don’t do: I didn’t just think about writing a novel-I actually wrote one. And I learned a lot during the process. In this post I’ll share with you what I learned.
But first, a little bit about my novel.
All of the information and more is on the “My WIPs” page of my blog, but I’ll restate it here just so you don’t have to click over to the page before finishing this post.
First up: my makeshift cover. It’s not official or anything. It’s just something that I whipped up to help me encourage myself as I work on my WIP.
Genre: MG Science Fiction
The Logline: After escaping from prison, thirteen year old Twig must find the secrets that her captors are hiding-before the interplanetary war goes too far.
So What Did I Learn?
I Learned About My Own Writing Process
When I first got into this whole novel writing thing, I thought I was a plotter. And I am a plotter-at least in the planning stage. But when I actually get into the writing stage, I immediately turn into a pantser. Some might say that I am a plantser (a combination between a plotter and a pantser), but I don’t think I am. Where as plantsers do a little bit of plotting and a little bit of planning, I went to the extreme for both sides.
Before I actually started working on my novel, I filled up pages of my notebook with character forms, character journals, world building details and numerous outlines and synopses. However, when I actually started to write, I threw my whole outline to the wind. The setting and the characters are the same in my novel as they are in my outline, but the plot is completely different from the outline. The working title that I first started out with, Empty, was totally irrelevant by the end of the story because I had written something entirely different.
My novel was supposed to be about a girl who goes on a journey to find what she truly wants to do in life and who she truly is. She was to go to a planet to find a box with something that would help her to define her life. However, when she gets to the planet and finds the box, it is empty and she must rethink her process of self discovery.
Now my novel is about a girl who is sent on a mission in space to find the secrets to winning the interplanetary war that is currently raging in the galaxy. On the way to her destination, she is captured by warriors from another planet. She must escape prison and find out why she was captured. What she finds is something that changes her whole view of the war and makes her realize that she has to get home quick-before the planets in the galaxy completely destroy each other.
Those are two completely different stories.
Although the first draft of my novel turned out differently than how I had plotted it, I don’t think I would have been able to make it to the end without plotting beforehand. Even though I strayed from the plot I still had a direction and the end story goal in mind, which I gained through my plotting process. I had something to strive for. I knew that I had to get from Point A to Point B. When I started writing the novel, that was my only goal. Pretty soon, I was following all of the rabbit trails and plot twists of which I could think. This led to a much different ending than the one that I had plotted. But you know what? I love the ending of my first draft, and that’s all that matters.
Moral of the story: Make your first novel a learning process. Don’t define yourself strictly as one type of writer. Instead, experiment with many different techniques as you write your first novel to find what works best for you. And don’t stick strictly to your first outline either. Novels are all about revision, so let yourself revise your outline.
Also, I have a little bonus for you guys. Athelas @ Red Lettering requested that I share the last sentence of my novel. So here it is:
One lie at a time, one truth at a time, one step at a time.
Obviously, this sentence is going to be changed a lot during revision, but I like the first draft version quite a bit.
Oh wow. This is a really long post. Congratulations to you if you got all the way through. Have you ever written a novel? What did you learn?