Lessons From My Third Attempted Novel

All is well in the world of Operation Gold Watch. In my last writing session, I got a little sidetracked by researching my protagonist’s asthma attack. I wanted to write a post about the things that I’m learning from my third attempted novel.

If you haven’t experienced it personally, it doesn’t belong in a first draft

Attempting to write the scene in which my protagonist has an asthma attack was challenging, because it was entirely based on a Google search. Yes, I’ll tidy it up if Operation Gold Watch gets to second draft stage, which I very much hope it will, but for now I have to settle.

Second lesson – Don’t get too excited about word count milestones

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very keen on having word count goals to stay motivated. At the moment, I would like to be aiming for 1000 words a day, but I know that’s not going to happen. So, I try to write for at least 20 minutes a day. I can manage that, mostly. At the beginning of my writing session today, I was excited to realise that I’d passed 5000 words. By the end, I could be excited about passing 5000 words all over again, because I’d had to rewrite so much!

Third lesson – Getting precious is a route to overwriting

I have really had to learn this one. If I write a line I love, I celebrate it a little, but then I’m straight on to the next one. I’m focusing on just getting Operation Gold Watch written at the moment, as much as I can. That said, I have days, and moments within those days, where I wish the delete key didn’t exist. I either spend too much time using it, or not enough. I will leave sentences in this draft for the sake of them being in there.

Fourth lesson – Know your characters

I’m proud of myself. I’ve written 5000 words about these characters, without really running out of steam. I feel a strong sense of commitment to the story of Operation Gold Watch, and I’m determined to see it through. However, there is just one small problem. Having written 5000 words, I couldn’t describe what Ralph Barrett or Kit Wallis look like. I have a better picture in my head of  the minor character Michael, who was with Kit’s father Roger the night he died.

Fifth lesson – Commitment to a project is a must

You’d think after attempting NaNoWriMo in 2009, and still having 50,000 words of an as yet unfinished novel on my computer would be the ultimate lesson in committing to a project. I did Camp NaNoWriMo in 2013, and added 25,000 words to a second novel. Operation Gold Watch is my third attempt, and thus far it’s the most successful. I like the characters, I’m even happy with where the story is heading. Whether I’m happy with what I’m writing is another thing entirely, but the novel is getting written.

What have your writing projects taught you? Please feel free to share in the comments. 


2 comments on “Lessons From My Third Attempted Novel

  1. SarahClare says:

    ‘If you haven’t experienced it personally, it doesn’t belong in a first draft’

    Nope. Gonna have to disagree with you there. I think you can end up writing yourself into the Boring Corner if you don’t even try to include everything your crazy brain can conjur up. This is the beauty of a first draft. It’s flawed.

    I think the problem with the ‘critique as you go’ method (like in a creative writing class) is that in what you gain in the way of early feedback and critique, you can lose in enthusiasm and imagination.

    It’s your first draft. Hell, my first draft will have things that I will NEVER experience (hopefully) but that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna include it. Some of it might be markers, simple sentences with a tag to remind me to go back after further research, but my MC will be stabbing another character good and proper!

    Also, there’s naught wrong in bigging your own ego up a bit by basking in writerly magic. That is, when you write a line that is EFFING AMAZING I AM A LITERARY GOD THIS SHALL WIN ME ALL THE MUNNIES (just me that feels that way?) Keep it in. For the sake of it. There has to be a reason you want to keep it. Maybe it needs to be elsewhere in the story, or reworked. And even if it needs ditching, put it in a new document so you can stare at its magnificence when you feel low.

    What have my writing projects taught me? That sometimes writing is hard. Damn hard. I will spend 70% of the time hating everything… 20% of the time completely lost.. and a gorgeous 10% will be spent in a word-fueled haze where it all clicks into place.


  2. Madam_W says:

    I agree with all of them except the first one. My first draft is where I go crazy. The second draft is where I edit and filter what’s inconsistent. Great post!


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