Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Partials vs. The Book

Tip of the Day: if you are having trouble with any aspect of your book, I’ve found that giving a good hard look at your main character often helps iron out the problem.

Do you ever feel like your work-in-progress and you are running in circles and getting no where? That's exactly how I feel lately, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to focus or jump off the wheel.

Remember when I said I couldn’t write first chapters? At least not until I tried everything, wrote the book, and then went back and worked on the beginning. I wasn’t kidding. Yesterday, I went to organize all the beginnings in a single file to mull them over and determine if one of them stuck out at me more and pulled me in. By the end of searching through all my files, I found 13 different beginnings, and I’m not entirely sure any of them are correct.

Normally I would just put the book down for a week or so, come back to it with fresh eyes and see if my mind has worked out the sticky situation. Or continue writing the entire book and then rewrite the first chapter a few times. But I’d like to get this partial done for someone, and I also would like to rewrite the beginning of another book for the 13th time to get it sent off by the end of the week for a contest. Neither book are finished, but both have been outlined.

Maybe it’s because I’m stressing about two different books that it’s hard to focus on one?

Or more probable, is that generally speaking when I can’t write a chapter it’s because I don’t know my character well enough. Usually it takes me an entire book to figure my character out. I know there’s writers out there that automatically click with a character and everything gels, but that’s not me. I have a good idea about my character, but it takes me a whole book to really understand her and her motivations. Then it takes me an entire rewrite to figure out my secondary characters. And skipping the entire step of writing the book makes it harder for me to show my characters subtly in the first chapter.

So tonight, I think I’m going to sit down and really look hard at my characters and try to figure them out.

Does anyone else have a suggestion on polishing up partials without having the book finished? Especially if you are the type of writer that takes you awhile to get into the head of your character. I’m curious if people end up changing the partial after they’ve finished the book itself.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Picture borrowed from: www.daviddeesauctioneers.com/services.htm


DeenaML said...

I don't know if this is helpful, but after the crit you gave me on BETH, I think simpler chap 1s are better. Yes, this is after being a terrible chap 1 writer myself. So maybe we have the opposite prob of some writers whose books really should start at chap 2. Maybe ours always should start at chap 0.5! Can you make a shorter, simpler chapter earlier that helps to flesh out the MC but also HINTS at the plot?

Emily Marshall said...

Deena, I completely agree: simpler is better. At least in terms of overwhelming the reader. That's one of the things I just discovered recently too about my own writing. Now the only problem is trying to make it simple, yet still complex, and get the character across :)

Kate Fall said...

You all work so hard, I'm so proud of you ladies! Because that's a lot of rewrites. I like that advice though Deena. You can only cram so much in to one chapter. Like Em said in her post, it's all about getting people to like and know the MC. Hmm, I think I'll read a whole bunch of first chapters now. :)

Emily Marshall said...

Kate, it's only first chapters though that I have that many right now. Because that's the hardest chapter for me to get right.

I like the idea of reading tons of first chapters. That does help!

Christina Farley said...

Oh I feel your pain. But I'm one to write the whole thing as fast as possible. If I stop, I loose the momentum and I don't hear my characters as well.

But one thing that worked for me. I was struggling with a first chapter so I wrote three different versions that I thought were the best three. Then I polished them as perfect as I could and shot them out to my critique group. They voted on their favorite and told me why.

It really helped focus me and gave me an idea of what I wanted to say or how I wanted the book to come across as.

Emily Marshall said...

Thanks Christina. I really like your idea. I might have to try that.

Jen said...

I can't judge partials until I finish the book, in general. One thing that might help, though, especially with characterization is Maass's "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" - not the book itself. Maybe we've already talked about this? I don't remember.

Emily Marshall said...

Jen, everyone keeps recommending that workbook to me. Maybe I need to give it a whirl. Thanks!!