Is this normal when finishing first draft..

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Emurelda

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Feb 27, 2015
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Having, relatively recently, discovered my love of writing fiction, I finally completed the first draft of a novel.

I then discovered Kindle erm...a couple of days ago! (I'm a straggler - what can I say) and all the amazing books I can engulf instead of reading another 'how to write' book. Now I feel completely inadequate double taking a look back at my book - even the one in my head (what it is meant to look like in the end). I can see so many holes, flaws, character immaturity (and not because they're kids) not to mention the 'bad habits'.

Is this normal for all writers?

I suppose I am curious how you all felt before completing your beautifully polished novel. It throws a few spanners because the time-frame is looking much more like a good few months than a few weeks to finish.

Having started reading books from an author perspective rather than a reader getting absorbed in the story, is quite an insight into other ways authors show and not tell with the perfect choice of wording.

Am in awe of authors :cool:
 
I should think it's different for everyone. I can't really remember now what it was like 'finishing' the first one, that was almost 3 years ago. I think maybe slightly deflated, like, 'what now?' Then I started checking it, editing and before that was done, I started the next novel in the series. It was (both) written in 3 months, but then you (need) spend a lot of time rewriting and editing it. From what I'm read on writing, 8 edits is about the average, or so they say. I would actually agree with them, though I suspect as you get more experience, that number might drop slightly, or at least you would hope it does.
It pays to put it aside for awhile, make notes for the next one, before you come back to it and start tidying it up ;)
 
Never done a novel, but my experience with short stories is that I write something, think it's great, send it off, revisit it after several rejections, and suddenly notice all kinds of significant flaws. Absent the involvement of a good editor, I suspect that's pretty normal.
 
Never done a novel, but my experience with short stories is that I write something, think it's great, send it off, revisit it after several rejections, and suddenly notice all kinds of significant flaws. Absent the involvement of a good editor, I suspect that's pretty normal.
It's compounded with novels. What I particularly like about self-pubbing (even in print) is that you can process updates, fix the awful flaws that you find, even change endings. So, a self pubbed work can always be seen as work in progress. Of course there is the small matter of reviews, so I don't change endings. I do think that professional editing is an investment for a self pubber.
 
It's compounded with novels. What I particularly like about self-pubbing (even in print) is that you can process updates, fix the awful flaws that you find, even change endings. So, a self pubbed work can always be seen as work in progress. Of course there is the small matter of reviews, so I don't change endings. I do think that professional editing is an investment for a self pubber.

Isn't that the case for all writers when they have done what they can with their ms? Personally I wouldn't send it off to a publisher/agent before that point.
 
It's been fifteen years since I finished the first draft of the first novel I finally wrote, and it was littered with newbie mistakes. I don't mean punctuation or grammar. I've always had a solid foundation in those. I mean things like passive voice, stilted dialogue, and awkward sentence structure. I didn't change any of it because I didn't know any better. LOL!! :) And I think I amassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 rejections. ;)

But that book eventually became His Majesty's Secret, which was my first Siren release as Carolyn Rosewood. It's also the book from which I took a chapter and had it critiqued here on Litopia back in the day when we had the Houses. It was called Crossing The Dark Moon back then. And now I'm borrowing (heavily!) from that material for one of my current Siren series, Portraits Of Submission. So even when you think you've bombed on a novel, you haven't. That material is yours to use and learn from for the rest of your life. :)

Now, I write fairly clean with the first pass, but it has taken me this long to get to that point. If you've learned your craft and have the basics down, at some point you need to stop nit-picking and simply give it wings. :) With each book I write I learn something new. Every. Single. One. This is a profession where you never reach the point that you've learned all you can learn. It's a constantly changing process as you continue to write. So enjoy the ride and don't focus so much on "when is it done?" It's done when it's done. And if nothing happens with it, then learn from any feedback you receive and move on to the next project. :)
 
I think that is the case with any humble writer.

I'm reminded of this poem by Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), an early American poet:

The Author to her Book

Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos'd to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i' th' house I find.
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Critics' hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.
 
Having, relatively recently, discovered my love of writing fiction, I finally completed the first draft of a novel.

I then discovered Kindle erm...a couple of days ago! (I'm a straggler - what can I say) and all the amazing books I can engulf instead of reading another 'how to write' book. Now I feel completely inadequate double taking a look back at my book - even the one in my head (what it is meant to look like in the end). I can see so many holes, flaws, character immaturity (and not because they're kids) not to mention the 'bad habits'.

Is this normal for all writers?

Let's answer these in order. Then we'll get to the question of 'is this normal?'

1.) You wrote a novel. That's good. The question is why? What do you intend to do with it? Sell it? Then before you pen the thing - or the next one - do the research. Learn your market. See what's already out there in the genre you're using. Too many people write books and then discover it's too long, too short, already been done a hundred times, etc...
2.) You discovered Kindle? Not good. This sort of indicates that perhaps, not to be mean, you have no idea what your market looks like.
3.) You read books on Kindle and then compared them to your novel. Not good. What you might consider is to have other people read your novel to help you find the holes. We call these Beta Readers and they are best used when they are fellow writers/authors and not, say, your relatives or friends. You tend to get better feedback.
4.) When you get said advice or feedback, as you sort of got when you read some Kindle stuff, we writers tend to throw up our arms and say "I gotta change this NOW!" Maybe, maybe not. Not all feedback is equal and here's something they may not tell you in the help-you-write -books, you don't have to listen to it all. If you do the research, know your market and genre you'll get a feel for what feedback makes sense for your book.

Now the final answer: (keeping in mind I may not have any idea what I'm talking about) Is this normal for all writers?

Yeah, actually it kind of is for most of us. Even if you do all the things above, my bet is you may still feel that way. Now you know why Hemingway drank himself to death. :)
 
As my first was the first in a trilogy, I basked in the feeling of accomplishment for a moment- told myself that so few people actually EVER finish a book. (So yay for you!) But then, as the story was not complete, I plowed forward onto book two.

After book two, I felt pretty BA. I mean, TWO books. Wow. Of course, I'm not getting paid... but... still.... :)

Now I am working through book three. The final of the series. I am sort of terrified about wrapping it all up in the best possible way.

I have a few beta readers to review my work. They are supremely helpful in not only proofreading the grammar, but also in spotting plot holes, etc. Also, I READ ALL THE TIME, most especially in my intended genre. It's hard. It can make you second guess yourself for sure. If you want to query agents with your novel, however, you need to know your competition. Some books will be better than yours. Some writers are just going to be better. Just as in everything else in life, there are some who are just more gifted. That being said, there will be books that aren't as good as yours. You need to experience them all. It will make you and your story all the better.
 
Though I read nothing but fiction until I was a teenager, after about age 16, I wouldn't read fiction because it wasn't "productive." I only read books that were educational in some way, whether for writing or in general. I actually felt guilty reading fiction because it was fun, and fun isn't productive! Finally I forced myself to start reading just some short stories, and by the end of probably the second story I realized how utterly lousy I was as a writer because . . . dun dun dun! I didn't read fiction!

I would say reading fiction is the single most important thing a writer can do, followed by . . . having artistic fun. :) I don't think you can write without gobs of either to back you up.

P.S., Yes, I was a very serious and intense teenager . . . I got better.
 
Though I read nothing but fiction until I was a teenager, after about age 16, I wouldn't read fiction because it wasn't "productive." I only read books that were educational in some way, whether for writing or in general. I actually felt guilty reading fiction because it was fun, and fun isn't productive! Finally I forced myself to start reading just some short stories, and by the end of probably the second story I realized how utterly lousy I was as a writer because . . . dun dun dun! I didn't read fiction!

I would say reading fiction is the single most important thing a writer can do, followed by . . . having artistic fun. :) I don't think you can write without gobs of either to back you up.

Exactly. Yes.
 
Firstly well done on completing your first draft.

And yes, it is rubbish. 99.9% of first drafts are. But if it has a discernible beginning, middle and an end then that is all that matters.

But now begins the hard part. This is the bit which marks you out. Novels are not written. They are re-written. Most 5 year old kids in this country are 'writers'. Being a writer is nothing special. Almost everybody is a writer. What we are is re-writer's.

So put the first draft away, let it settle for a period of time and then face up to it again. And start to craft it. Shape it. Make it come to life.

You will always have doubts. You will always wonder if you could have done something better. In my opinion every work of art is ultimately a compromise of some sort or the other but you have to complete it and move on.

Plus give yourself a big pat on the back. Even if that first draft never see's the light of day again, then it does not matter a jolt. You did something that the vast majority of other people have not. That is a real achievement.
 
I guess it's something all authors/writers go through, the tale is told we tell ourselves 'it's ready', but when it's not snapped up right away, we feel dejected. Like we're not good enough, especially receiving bland, generic rejections or the ever wonderful 'Did Not Reply's'. It's natural to think maybe i'm a terrible writer, my manuscript's not worth the paper it's not printed on (yet), my story must be full of glaring plot holes and character flaws. Perhaps writing's not for me?
Yes, I've pondered these questions myself. Finding others to read your work is essential, perhaps save some pennies for a professional editor. I've decided to work on editing, thanks to some good friends on here, I know what needs to be done. Then I intend to have a massive email session and contact as many publishers as I can find, then if I have no luck, I shall self-publish. I SHALL have a book published next year! Or so I tell myself.
 
I agree totally with Matnov. I have heard the expression: (Writing) is 5% inspiration, 95% perspiration. Writing the first draft is truly an accomplishment. It is proof to yourself that you can write a novel. That final full stop at the end is (or certainly was for me) a great achievement. Personally, I felt on top of the world.

But as a close friend of mine (who is not a writer) said at the time. "Your first draft is likely to be s**te. You've vomited it out. Now clean up your mess." And crude as he was, he was correct.

Now that is not meant to demean yours or any of our achievements, but now the real work begins. And it may take many, many rewrites, revisions and structural edits until you polish that piece of yours until it shines. But that is the painful, soul-searching grind that we subscribe to; the agony and the ecstasy.

But first of all, pat yourself on the back. You, Emurelda, are a writer.
 
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Having, relatively recently, discovered my love of writing fiction, I finally completed the first draft of a novel.

I then discovered Kindle erm...a couple of days ago! (I'm a straggler - what can I say) and all the amazing books I can engulf instead of reading another 'how to write' book. Now I feel completely inadequate double taking a look back at my book - even the one in my head (what it is meant to look like in the end). I can see so many holes, flaws, character immaturity (and not because they're kids) not to mention the 'bad habits'.

Is this normal for all writers?

I suppose I am curious how you all felt before completing your beautifully polished novel. It throws a few spanners because the time-frame is looking much more like a good few months than a few weeks to finish.

Having started reading books from an author perspective rather than a reader getting absorbed in the story, is quite an insight into other ways authors show and not tell with the perfect choice of wording.

Am in awe of authors :cool:


Truthfully, I never questioned my writing abilities more until I started contacting agents1 We are talking insecurities here! I have felt very...talentless!
 
What Matnov says about re-writing hits the nail on the head. And putting your manuscript away is a good idea. After writing the first draft of my first novel, I let Litopia look it over. Most of them said my writing was too convoluted. I knew this was true, but didn't know how to change it. I put the manuscript away (hanging onto the comments) and spent a year writing something else. By the time I revisited that first manuscript, I had a better understanding of what my fellow Litopians were talking about, and knew how to fix it (I hope). The 'fixing' took many rewrites, the first of which required about a 75% do-over. That is, 3 out of 4 sentences needed to be rewritten or removed altogether. Entire sections needed to be added, and then rewritten.

It's a daunting process. It will be hard. Your self-esteem will take a blow. But you WILL get better. Every author goes through this, even those with big contracts in big publishing houses. So long as we read, write, and re-write, we are getting wiser every day.

YA author John Green makes excellent comments on this very subject:
 
You have to learn to love all the stages; initial creation as well as multiple edits. My first had about 30 (seriously) edits. Each time I left it, I felt it was better, so I didn't mind doing it. All a learning process. Long road but a magnificent one.
 
I should think it's different for everyone. I can't really remember now what it was like 'finishing' the first one, that was almost 3 years ago. I think maybe slightly deflated, like, 'what now?' Then I started checking it, editing and before that was done, I started the next novel in the series. It was (both) written in 3 months, but then you (need) spend a lot of time rewriting and editing it. From what I'm read on writing, 8 edits is about the average, or so they say. I would actually agree with them, though I suspect as you get more experience, that number might drop slightly, or at least you would hope it does.
It pays to put it aside for awhile, make notes for the next one, before you come back to it and start tidying it up ;)

I relate to this so far. I have the next story and third one in my head and whilst I am sketching the synopsis for each I don't want to delve into them until first is completed. By that I mean ready for readers to enjoy, hopefully, and not just me :).
 
Never done a novel, but my experience with short stories is that I write something, think it's great, send it off, revisit it after several rejections, and suddenly notice all kinds of significant flaws. Absent the involvement of a good editor, I suspect that's pretty normal.

Yes and that's why I think I am definitely going to budget for an editor. Although it would be costly for shorter stories I should imagine.
 
It's been fifteen years since I finished the first draft of the first novel I finally wrote, and it was littered with newbie mistakes. I don't mean punctuation or grammar. I've always had a solid foundation in those. I mean things like passive voice, stilted dialogue, and awkward sentence structure. I didn't change any of it because I didn't know any better. LOL!! :) And I think I amassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 rejections. ;)

Now, I write fairly clean with the first pass, but it has taken me this long to get to that point. If you've learned your craft and have the basics down, at some point you need to stop nit-picking and simply give it wings. :) With each book I write I learn something new. Every. Single. One. This is a profession where you never reach the point that you've learned all you can learn. It's a constantly changing process as you continue to write. So enjoy the ride and don't focus so much on "when is it done?" It's done when it's done. And if nothing happens with it, then learn from any feedback you receive and move on to the next project. :)

Thanks for this. So much experience Tara. Amazing work. Well done.
I definitely am enjoying the ride. It is such a learning curve exercising the grey cells...hopefully creating new links :D

Also, with so much resources and support for new writers nowadays I think we have more chance to create a well written novel. But the draw back is that it is also a heavily competitive market. Really is a publishers market. Some might argue, unless you are self-published, am not too familiar with this yet so unsure.
 
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Oo-er. Wigs & Hell-Fiends!

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