Missed Part 1? Check it out here!
I had always had an idea of how I wanted my novel to start out: it would be early in the morning, and my main character would wake up on her birthday surrounded by gifts.
When I first started learning about how to structure your novel properly, one of the first things articles and blogs would stress is that you must begin your novel in the middle of the action. And my preconceived image of the beginning of my novel didn’t exactly fit that.
So, I decided that I could spend hours trying to figure out the best way to start out my novel – or, I could simply spew out whatever came to mind and know that I could go back and fix it in the editing process.
This, my friends, is the beauty of vomit. Word vomit, to be precise.
What’s that? you might ask.
Word vomit is the wonderful and incredibly accurate term for literally just getting the words down in your document, paying no mind to grammar or consistencies or tone or anything. It’s literally just getting your story out there.
It’s not all that different from the way I write my blog posts on here, heheheh.
Basically, the idea is that you just tell the story without judgment as efficiently as possible. It’s an idea rooted in the fact that this story is not set in stone the way you write it the first time (omg can you imagine?), and the fact that you can always go back and edit it later.
Remember: it’s more important that you are able to tell a story from start to finish than worry about the delivery. You can always work on that later. For now, just get the story out there. Then you will have something to work with when you go back for the editing phase.
So that’s what I’ve done with lots of my writing, particularly in awkward times like when characters are traveling (“Uh so what do we talk about now?”), or I’m just finding a scene particularly difficult to get down, or I just don’t know how to transition from one scene to the next.
Because if you spend too much time worrying about how you’re saying something, you won’t spend the time actually saying it. So just do it.
Writing the first few bits of my novel was actually not as exhilarating as I had been hoping it would be. I think maybe part of the problem was that my novel has had many false-starts in the past (remember, I’ve been working on this damn thing for 8 years now), and I had already gone through the beginning a few times (at least, the version of my story before I really nailed its plot). I had actually written nearly 200 pages in a document a few years prior before I scrapped it (actually that laptop died and I never had a backup file. lol.)
So the beginning was a bit slow for me, and I wasn’t as excited as I think I should have been for beginning my novel. It should’ve been the easiest part, considering I tended to think about the start of my novel much more than the rest of it (missing plot, remember?), but I think it took me the longest to get through.
I spent a few weeks getting through the first hundred pages, but when I finally did I felt like I had really hit a milestone. Even though it wasn’t the first time I had made it through 100 pages of this story, I felt like it was the first time I had made it through with a successful story. I was super jazzed at this point, and felt like I had reached a point where I could be like: “See! Look, I’m a real writer! I’ve written 100 pages of my book!”
And when you get to that first big milestone, you should congratulate yourself. Most people will never write 100 pages in their life of anything. It was super cool.
I hit the 200 mark about a week after that. I was really hyped up and had a lot of momentum from my first milestone, and I felt like I knew where my plot was going. Things were coming more easily, and the word vomit was looking just a tad less chunky (omg ew I’m so sorry lol).
But then the 250 page mark came around and shit started slowing down. I was starting to realize that, hey, I’ve written 250 pages! Sweet! But… I’m nowhere near where I think the “middle” of my book should be. I started to realize that I had spent too much time in my introduction and build-up, and because I didn’t really have a midpoint event I was looking forward towards (eugh kill me), I wasn’t really sure how long this book was going to end up, and I started to feel like I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Because, let’s take a step back here for a second, I have a confession to make. I intend for this book to be told from more than one character’s perspective. It makes the novel more dynamic, provides more than one point of view, set of opinions, and provides the reader with more information than they would receive from just one character.
But I’ve only been writing from one character’s POV this entire time. And I fully intended it to be this way. I was going to write it the whole way through from her perspective, and then go back and write the story from the other characters’ perspectives again individually, and insert their POVs where I deemed appropriate. It was a good idea, because the first write-through would give me that ever-coveted yet always-elusive outline I needed for my novel, and writing from one character at a time provides consistency in their voice, thought patterns, word choice, etc.
And here I am, at 250 pages in my Google document, nowhere near where I wanted to be in the plot, and I’ve only written from one character’s POV.
So I guess I got a little discouraged. And as I approached the 300-page mark, I really felt the word vomit spewing out of me; I was really just reaching for that next milestone so I could feel successful and productive.
But you know what happened right around that 300-page mark? I hit my midpoint.
At least, I think so.
But I’m trying to think of it that way. I’m now hovering around 315 pages, and I’m slowly but surely moving into the second half of my book. I can actually feel a slight difference, now. There’s a somewhat renewed energy in me as I’m now on a downhill journey (in the best possible way).
I want to call my struggle with writing before this “The 300-page slump”, but more realistically for other writers, it should just be called “The midway slump”. It’s an uphill battle when you think of your novel as a bell-curve, with the midpoint hovering somewhere near the top, in view but always out of reach. And now that I’ve hit that point (I think?), I’m ready to begin my descent.
And so now I think I’ve caught you all up on my writing process so far. I’m hopeful for the future, but the it’s all still a big scary task ahead of me as I won’t technically be done with the proper first draft until I’ve added in all of my character’s POVs.
OH! That’s another thing I wanted to mention here briefly.
How does one write a chapter?
Maybe that sounds crazy. Maybe you’re all thinking, Katie, you’ve been writing chapters this entire time. You know how to write a chapter! It’s how you divide your story into smaller, manageable parts.
But, like, to be honest with you all, I haven’t been writing in chapters. I’ve just been straight-up writing nonstop through my document. Pretty much exactly like my blog posts. Just straight writing all the way through…
Maybe that’s why I have too many pages haha. But I just don’t know how to properly formulate a chapter! Like, I get that it’s when something smaller happens within the plot that helps to further the plot, and it’s like one scene or something, but like, where does it start and how do you know when to end it? And then where do you pick up from the next chapter?
I’m sure there are plenty of articles out there on that as well, but that sounds to me like another task for the editing stage. 🙂 Remember, it’s all about the word vomit, people!