Begin at the Beginning-

And when you get to the end stop.

That’s how you write a novel. Lesson over. Word by word. Sentence by sentence, until you have a complete first draft.

Outline if you need to. Pants it if you need to. Combine pantsing and outlining in some form to create your own system.

Take advice. Ignore advice. Tell. Then show. Then tell and show and then learn which you are good at.

Write what you know. Then forget it and write what you make up. Then use all the stupid little things you actually know to make it realistic even if it’s a book about unicorns.

Use a ton of adverbs then cut out half of them. Then maybe half that half. But leave a few in. It’s OK . I won’t tell anyone.

Go ahead and describe the weather! And use some adjectives! By the way, everyone loves a good metaphor. Just don’t go crazy.


Posted in Blogging, Writing
15 comments on “Begin at the Beginning-
  1. sunnyfrazier says:

    I’ve been thinking along these lines as well. A friend wants me to look at the first chapter, re-written 15 times. While I’m not totally opposed to rewrites (I seldom do them) I think that’s an act of futility. Are you going to slave over every chapter? Guess what–you will loose traction after the first quarter of the book, if you even get that far. How many books do you expect to produce in a lifetime?

    Hard truth: today’s book world is not about the best book you can write but the number of books you can write. After that comes promotion. Money follows the author who can promote most effectively. Unless you don’t want to be read by anyone, keep slaving over that chapter until you reach nirvana. Or insanity. Or a job at McDonalds.

    Well done, Che!

    • chexgilson says:

      Thank you! That editing and editing the same thing over and over is a waste of time. I’ve seen people do that and never finish. Some people are good at editing as they go, but I doubt they would ever rewrite a chapter 15 times.

    • lindathorne says:

      I read an article by Lawrence Block once where he said something similar to what Sunny is saying. He said that you can get it right the first time or re-edit over and over. He said he preferred the first method and rarely revises.

      As for me, I’ve rewritten chapters way too many times. Many of those chapters no longer exist because I chucked them during one of my many rewrites. What a waste of time rewording every sentence, plugging in the correct punctuation, only to find the chapter didn’t move the plot along or wasn’t needed. With my second book, I am not stopping to revise much of anything. This time I have a loose outline and I’m moving through to the finish. I’ll do some detailed revisions after the book is complete, but I think I’ll be spending about 75% less time than I did on my first book.

      • chexgilson says:

        That’s where a lot of people stall out and never finish too. They keep going over what they’ve done and lose interest halfway through and quit.

      • lindathorne says:

        Yes, I’ve known many who went in circles rewriting every chapter and never finished the book. I think the only reason that didn’t happen to me is that I stopped at about the middle and wrote the climax part of my book. That gave me a finish to move to. Still, the time I put into rewrites was ridiculous.

  2. amreade says:

    I’d be interested to read the comments to this post, but I can’t find them anywhere. I know they’re there. You make it sound easy to write, but there’s a lot to it. The beginning isn’t always the beginning, and the end is almost never the end. It’s important to know where to start and where to stop.

    • chexgilson says:

      The comments are moderated- you should be able to see them now 🙂

      Even when the beginning isn’t the beginning, and the end isn’t the end, that’s what editing is for. I don’t know who said (and I’m too lazy to look it up) but some wise author once said “You can’t edit a blank page”.

  3. sunnyfrazier says:

    Posting for Langton:
    This is all a bit strange to me since I never rewrite a chapter once it’s finished.
    I do all my agonizing while I’m writing the thing.
    I might actually rewrite a sentence several times, even a paragraph, but once you’ve got it saying what you want, go on to the next bit. If you have to rewrite whole chapters, you aren’t just doing something wrong, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing at all.

  4. sunnyfrazier says:

    Posting for Marja McGraw:
    No argument here. Well said. If a writer slaves over a chapter for too long, they end up trying to change inconsequential words and driving themselves crazy.

  5. I like the advice here. New writers are often so fearful of not being perfect that they wear themselves down to a bloody stump and never get to finish their work. Take ALL this advice under advisement. Then see what works for you and your particular personality. I have a team of really good people who serve as “advisors” when I get confused or paranoid about a passage. They tell me what’s ‘off’ when necessary, but are realistic about what works. But finish the entire manuscript before you go doing a major rewrite. You can’t begin to tell what’s right until you have the entire package there in front of you!

    • chexgilson says:

      Always get something WRITTEN that’s the golden rule of writing. It’s the only way to get to the end and it’s the only way to have something to edit 🙂

  6. Lynn Wesch says:

    I admit I always seem to go back to the last chapter I wrote, not necessarily to rewrite but to get back into the flow and pick back up the traces of the story. I find it helps me with the flow.

  7. You all sound like seasoned writers. We beginning novelists have probable cause to rewrite, to listen to editors and mentors, and to try, try again until we create a worthwhile project. Quantity is good, once you’ve gotten the quality down.

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