The Challenges of Writing a Novel

August 31, 2012

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I’ve been working on my first novel for a few years now.  I got the first draft to about 10,000 (not terribly long) before deciding to completely re-baseline.  It’s hard to basically throw that work in the trash, but when I wrote it, I was basically trying to get some words down, knowing that I’d be heavily revising.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a lot of irons in my literary fire.  Recently, I’ve decided to shelve many of these ideas in order to work on the novel.  Here are some of the challenges I’ve been facing.

Finding time to write

With a 5 year old and a 2 year old in the house, much of my “free time” is already spoken for.  Simply finding a spare 20-30 minutes each day to write can be quite a challenge.  NaNoWriMo is looming in November.  Although I don’t plan to birth and develop and entire novel during the month, I am aiming to make significant progress on my novel during the month.  My goal is to add 25,000 words in November.  That’s a relatively modest word count compared to NaNoWriMo winners, but it would push me to the point of being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Baseball winds down around the same time, which will remove one competitor for my time.

Slow down

I’ve always had a tendency to race ahead in my story telling, focusing almost solely on the action.  I’d rather write a kill scene than anything else.  It’s always been difficult for me to spend any time describing the scenes or daily life.  Lately, I’ve been doing a better job of this, trying to get inside the heads of characters and looking around to see what they see and listening to hear what they hear.  Essentially, I have to tell the story telling part of my brain to pause while I stop and smell the roses (and describe them for you).

Exploring my feminine side

Although I’ve had strong female characters in many of my stories, my novel is my first longer work to have a female driving the plot forward (although there will be shifting perspectives in the book).  I have to take care in how I develop the role of Marina, a female detective.  As a homicide detective, I want her to be strong, but not over-the-top like Dirty Harry.  While I can write from a male point of view fairly easily, I actually need to put some thought into how my female characters act.  Marina is going to have to deal with situations that her partner Jake won’t ever encounter – and I need to make sure she handles them in a way that makes sense to my female readers.  Then there’s the matter of female clothing, accessories and makeup.  Dresses, skirts, blouses, stilettos, flats, mules, foundation, blush … Just getting a female character dressed and out the door in the morning can be a job unto itself.

How many of you are working on a novel?  What are some of the challenges you are facing?

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