People, there’s been a glitch. A technical difficulty. A slip-through-the-system.
Call it what you like, but this is the reality:
I have no idea how to write a novel!
Okay, yeah, I wrote six of them. But that’s beside the point. I didn’t start writing because I had an intense passion over words and creating characters and zippy plots. I wrote because Mime did! Naturally, when I decided I liked it, I went on to concoct a six (eventually to be seven) book series on a fantasy world with all sorts of rabble and adventure and guns (yes, you read right) and archery and the occasional sarcastic banter (understatement: there’s a lot of sarcastic banter).
But that is all immaterial! Writing a series? The books rolled off each other. I didn’t have to create a new setting or main character or plot totally detached from the others. Everything worked together!
And now I’m attempting to type new book. That’s right, folks, a NEW book, totally devoid from anything fantasy — and I have no idea how.
So I’m coaching myself. Slowly, gently, so I’ll be sure to understand.
I need an idea. So I think of all the things I admire in YA. Genres I like? Characters that make me laugh? Settings that stick out? Gather up a bunch of them (at least five, if not more!), mash them together, let sit for a few days to mature — and see what comes out.
Since I have only done high/dark fantasy, I want to really push the boundaries and wander into a new genre. Dystopian? What kind of things do I like in dystopian novels? Guns. Technology. Apocalyptic settings. Robots.
I know, it sounds crazy, right? But I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels so there are a billion thoughts and plans coming to mind. If I research, I’m going to get hung up on facts. Right now, I need a rough draft — not a right draft.
There’s also that saying “Write what you know”. I’m not swallowing it. Obviously I’ve never lived in a medieval fantasy world, and doubt CS Lewis did either (though I’m pretty sure Tolkien actually did). I’m pretty sure Marissa Meyer didn’t know a cyborg personally and John Marsden probably didn’t explode a ride-on-mower (he might of, and if he did, I apologize for my unbelief). I dearly hope Gabrielle Zevin didn’t poison anyone with chocolate. So! Taking it from the experts, I can write what I want.
Themes? What kind of themes do I like? What kind of themes are prominent in dystopian novels? I did a pro-life slant in my medieval books, so what if I explore it further? Misuse of humans. (That’s dystopian.) I also want to throw in something wild: fixing things. Our world also hums with opinions about “beauty”. What it is. What it means. I like creating things (goes with the fixing things), so I’ll add “creating and destroying beautiful things”. Sounds dystopian too.
Characters and names. I’ll google dystopian names (really, if all else fails, you can totally google), but I’ll pick out a few names I’ve always liked. “Bea” is on the top of my list. So, I guess my book is being narrated by a girl. Sixteen is the “typical” age for a girl to have a life changing adventure so I’ll be obstinate and go seventeen. I want robots? So I’ll have a robot boy. Looks romantic? Throw in some guns and plan for her to shoot someone/him in the first chapter. Also, add in a grandma. Red Riding Hood meets All These Things I’ve Done? Here we come…
Plot? How do I come up with one? I combine my themes, how I want my characters to act, with the setting and think of a funky goal. Break everything down. If I want Bea to fix things, obviously the robot boy needs to be broken. Yeah? Are there secrets behind the technology of the robot boy? And, for effect, turn the grandma into a weapons manufacturer. If I get stuck for “action”, I can always shoot a lot of missals, have some kidnappings and unfair treatment of kitchen cupboards.
STEP 7 (the hardest)
Create a first sentence. I won’t work for the perfect first sentence, but I’ll make something that pops so I get enthused for my story. Clear all the rabble fighting for attention in my brain, and consider where the story should start. Pick a simple spot. Too much acting straight up can be confusing. Not enough is boring. I want to set the tone of my book, so I’ll make sure my first chapter has guns, Bea, and robots in it — but not too overboard, so I’ll put it in a school setting. (I’ve never been to school, by the way…I was homeschooled. It was the best education, but it means I have to do a lot of “research” of how the
weird school system works. But no research! Not yet! Think about movies and go from there.)
Keep writing and don’t stop.
I won’t go for an exorbitant word count. 60,000 sounds fair to me. I’ll make myself a word-meter (it’s in the sidebar as we speak!), because, honestly, it’s motivating to move that slinky word-count bar. And, I’ve signed up for the Go Teen Writers 100 for 100 challenge (write a hundred words every day for a hundred days. Sounds like a killer, huh?).
Don’t worry how messy the book is. Don’t worry how lame it sounds at the beginning or if I used too many adverbs/adjectives/tell-not-show/cliche phrases/ or too-short chapters. As the famous ones say: “Don’t get it right; get it written.”
Are you ever struck with the terrifying realisation that you have no idea how to do something that you’ve been currently doing?! Do you ignore the realisation? Or “teach” yourself?
I might have written 6 books, but, honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing!