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  1. #1
    Brandon Cleveland

    Need some serious advice

    Message boards - especially 'adult' ones like this are nice to come to for some help, and I have to make a decision that will affect me and the work I've done over the last year.


    I'm into the third draft of my 95,000 word novel The Alpha Conspiracy, but the story is beginning to feel a bit amateurish. I've grown a lot as a writer since I've began (a lot) and the urge to begin a new story (I've a great idea for a political/suspenseful novel) becomes stronger by the day.

    What I'm asking is -- does this happen to all writers, or should I chart the last year up to experience and move on to another book?

    I truly believe the first story is good, but it's not GREAT. Stuff happens, but nothing really happens. The way the world changes based on a characters actions are so subtle, but they're there. I just don't know. My girlfriend doesn't understand because she's been a spectator to this.


  2. #2
    Danyelle --

    Re: Need some serious advice

    Most writers have a few practice tomes hidden under their beds, guarded by dust bunnies. Personally, I would work on the new book and come back to the old one later. Look at it with fresh eyes, so to speak. Being able to see your growth as a writer is a good thing.

  3. #3

    Re: Need some serious advice

    All writers (well, maybe not Harper Lee, who wrote only one novel) have what's called "trunk" material--stuff they wrote early on, stuck in a trunk, and haven't showed it to anybody since.

    Most first novels are practice novels. Take what you learned and start number 2. But you gotta make a clean break; don't let second thoughts about the old one drag you out of your new story. (As Danyelle said, you can always go back to the old one.)

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Elisabeth Henry

    Re: Need some serious advice

    I sympathise. Deeply.

    I'm working on two pieces right now. One is a rewrite of a completed work I set aside five years ago for a reason that still isn't quite clear. I read the 'five years ago' draft and nearly cried. Yeah, it was that bad. And I continue to work on it mainly because I just love the characters, and I've got a huge crush on my villain. [blush]

    Having said that, I have a second piece that, although it's still in first draft, is more likely to go somewhere. When I start feeling as though one of my manuscripts is gripping me by the throat and choking the life out of me, I jump ship. (There's an inside joke there, but it's, uh, probably not all that funny to anyone except me.) I am lucky in that both my novels are set in the same world, so at least I'm not completely knocked out of my sphere when I bounce from one piece to the other.

    Specifically? I'd recommend setting The Alpha Conspiracy aside for a month or two, at least. Start working on something else. If The Alpha Conspiracy, its characters, or some brilliant plot development burrow(s) into your brain and refuse(s) to let you sleep at night, then it's a Sign. An Omen, if you will. It means go back, see if there are more 'why' questions you can ask about the plot, or more 'what if' situations you can use to torture your characters.

    And heck, it's not as though you're setting a match to it. You can always go back to it if you find you need a break from your new piece!

    /ephy (often has three pieces going at once, and one of them is usually trash)

  5. #5
    Sagan Smith

    Re: Need some serious advice

    If you believe in your book, (The Alpha conspiracy) you can stick with it, change large chunks of it, make it less amateurish, improve it tenfold. But the beauty is you can do that -whenever-.

    Right now, you have a spark of a new idea, and I think you should go with that and see if it takes you anywhere. Inspiration is a good thing!

    I think i'm just repeating what the posters above said, but they're very wise.

  6. #6
    Chuck Shaw

    Re: Need some serious advice

    When I do re-writes I always save the old version, so I have Overlord-3-27-06, Overlord 4-12-07 and so on ad nauseum.

    When I decide I really hate a scene or paragraph I always look back through the old versions. I often wind up cleaning up the original version, because the re-writes are not as smooth as the original.

    I see improvement in things like grammar and word choice in my re-writes, but often at the expense of readability. They seem like improvements at the time, but when I read them six months later they don't look as good as the original work.


  7. #7
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: Need some serious advice

    Here's some facts that I try to impart on hopeful writers.

    The first long piece you write is unlikely to ever be publishable as a book.

    The first book you start writing is very unlikely to be the first one you finish.

    The first book you finish is likely to be unsellable.

    Not unusually, a "first" novel is the author's fifth or tenth or twentieth completed book-length manuscript.

    I can write an entire nonfiction book from a pile of scrap-paper notes in the time it'd take me to rework a not-so-great "finished" manuscript.

    I spent months working on my first novel. That was more than 15 years ago. It's still barely started.

    I did various levels of work on seven more novels, whether synopses or extensive outlines.

    Then I sat down & wrote a mystery novel in less than six months. It clicked. Everything seemed to fall into place; when I needed a new scene, the setup popped into my head, & everything unfolded. When I had a few chapters that seemed to point me in a certain direction, I made an outline, which got revamped a few times as more complications appeared. After a couple months of this, I saw that the story was near-complete, so I stopped adding stuff & tied up looses ends.

    I couldn't have done all that so easily if I hadn't pinned the previous ideas down thoroughly enough that they stayed out of my head -- though I did get ideas for five nonfiction books....

    Unless you're planning on being a one-book wonder, it's time to set it aside. Move onto other projects. You'll probably find, months or even years on, that you have "new eyes" for the old project, & can redo it from scratch in less time than it'd take to fix what you've got.

  8. #8
    Si D

    Re: Need some serious advice

    I wasn't the one to ask the question - but I love your response Anthony. Made me smile and gives me hope!

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