Identity crisis

Okay. This week I didn’t even come close to my ROW80 goal of 1,000 words/day. I probably got 2,000 words over the course of the entire week.

The problem? I am having a writing identity crisis. I finished up Act I of my novel. Exciting, right? But it’s the first draft and I can see just how flawed it is. It doesn’t flow, it doesn’t work the way I envisioned, it is not some spectacular work of art.

It’s silly to hope for perfection the first time around, of course, but this is more than that. I’m doubting my ability to write a novel. No, not doubting: I KNOW I don’t have the ability–yet. I still have a lot to learn about how to write. And that’s okay, so long as I don’t give up.

Completing the first act is the farthest I’ve ever gone in writing a novel. And I’m definitely not going to stop now, no matter how self-conscious and nervous I am about it all. I’m determined to get back on track with my 1,000 words and to not let a temporary identity crisis hold me back from the writing that I love.

Writers: any tips on how to make a plot flow? That’s where I’m stuck. How do you keep the audience’s interest? How do you make one scene intensely exciting, followed by a less exciting–but no less interesting–scene?

I suspect these questions are so fundamental that I’m revealing just how ignorant I am. Like my 3-year-old asking, “What letter does C start with?” reveals that he doesn’t understand the concept of words vs. letters and what it means for a sound to begin a word.

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14 Responses to Identity crisis

  1. KH LeMoyne says:

    Finishing Act 1 is great and 2000 words still count. And definitely keep moving forward! The goal of the first final isn’t perfection, its to get the story bones down. Some of the most fun in writing (in my opinion) is the second round where you smooth out sentences, beef of word selection, make sure all the story threads are covered, and tighten.

    On the flow of plot – do you have plot points mapped out for the story by scenes or chapters? Everyone works differently but for me, I’ve found that if I have the points all determined ahead of time it makes sitting to work the scenes easier. It doesn’t stifle my creativity, it bolsters it. And the plot points are typically all some twist/change/delivery of new info/action/love scene/etc… so by definition they all have some excitement and tension – some way to keep the excitement going. These sometimes change once I get to writing them, because…well my imagination sometimes gets more motivated during the writing than the plotting. LOL Roughly 50-60 plots points per 100,000 (and proportionally less for shorter). When I get stuck and something isn’t working, I’ll head back to the plot points and update from what I’ve written and see if the direction has changed, needs changing or how to energize going forward?

    For what it’s worth, that’s my process. Maybe something there will help but what you’re feeling is totally normal – for every book (maybe I shouldn’t tell you that) – but it also is only temporary.

    • Alicia says:

      Thanks, Kate!
      I did create a pretty hefty outline describing the plot points and the purpose of each one. I agree–it bolsters creativity. It makes it so much easier to write the scenes and to let your imagination go free on what’s happening during the scene. I’ve never created a plot treatment like this before, and it’s definitely made me a better writer already.

  2. KH LeMoyne says:

    By the way, your twitter link is calling up an error. Does it need updating?

  3. Ryan King says:

    You still managed to write over a page a day. That might not be your goal but that’s still something. Listen, 1st drafts are never perfect and you shouldn’t expect it to be. That’s why we edit and do revisions. I’m not sure I’m the best to talk about novel length. My published stuff have either been poetry or short stories. But don’t worry about plot so much as your characters. Plot is just a car and your characters should be the ones driving it. Focus on their goals and the conflicts preventing them from getting to their goals. Build up.

  4. free2soar says:

    First, let me say, “I’m lovin’ the positive attitude…and the pic at the top of your blog is really cool too.”

    From someone who loves to see where the characters take her, this may sound like a crazy idea, but there is a lot of value to (horrors) writing a detailed outline. That way you can see where the forward momentum might be in danger. I’ve also been told about “game changers,” those times in a novel when readers think you’re going one way and you abruptly change directions or throw in a major monkey wrench, as it were. These GC should be at the one-quarter mark, the halfway mark, and the three-quarter mark. Michelle Buckman said, in a class I took, “Determine what the readers expect, and give them the opposite.”

    I am definitely no pro, but these are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that might help.

    All the best.

  5. Learning to accept that there is little to no genius in the first draft is one of the hardest writing lessons. For the longest time, I didn’t feel like I had what it takes simply because the perfect words didn’t come easily and swiftly. Imperfect is always better than unwritten. You’re doing great. Just keep going!

  6. I understand the frustration. But I would just leave Act 1 alone for now. Go write on another section. Or maybe another project if you need a breather.

    Also – maybe 1000 words a day is too much. I know the feeling of wanting to write that much, but I learned, I had to settle for around 600 given all of my other commitments. Sometimes I do write more – but I generally can always hit 600.

    I also chose 600 because my goal per week is 3000. And 5×6 == 3000 :).

    Keep writing,

  7. Laura says:

    My advice… keep going and then worry about it when it comes to editing. I’ve had the same crisis and that’s the advice given to me.
    Keep going. I bet it’s better than you think.

  8. There’s still some more days to go. You can reach your goals, just focus. Try to push the world out. It’s hard, and sleep may be optional, but it can be done (she says as she slumps off to bed) Good luck!

  9. CMStewart says:

    I’ve read that no author, no matter how successful, ever stops learning. So you are learning, and will continue to learn, as all authors do. 🙂

    Regarding plot flow, here’s what I do: When things get muddled or slow down, focus on the final resolution or goal in the novel. Then work backward. If you still find questionable chapters, cut the scenes that don’t move the story forward. Connect chapters with recurring themes and allusions. That’s what I do, anyway. Good luck!

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