Well I’m about 7 chapters into my first novel with about 25 to go. It’s all in rough draft form. I’ve learned a few things about writing longer stories already which I will happily share.
First, don’t bother to edit. Get the whole story written then go back and take out your red marker. I spun my wheels for a while polishing lines that I later cut completely when the story got further along and I realized they couldn’t go there.
Second, an outline can be your friend, but don’t let it become your master. A loose outline that marks out roughly where you want the story to go, what scenes you want to portray, is a great way to get your story moving and can even help keep your story moving. But, if you feel you must follow the outline slavishly, your story will become strained and wooden. So, think of an outline as a trail in the woods. You can follow the path you laid down, but feel free to do a bit of exploring when the mood hits.
Third, when you work on a scene let your characters tell you what to write. If your characters have their own personalities, then they will say and do the things that need to happen. Don’t ignore them when you get that little voice saying, “I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t do it that way.” Let them say it and do it their way. The story will be better for it.
Fourth, if you have a scene in your head, write that scene. Don’t think you will remember it later – you won’t. Get it down on paper. There is no requirement that you have to write a story from beginning to end. You can jump around as you realize how certain things fit.
Fifth, don’t struggle looking for a title before you get started. A better title will invariably suggest itself before you get to the end anyway.
Sixth, while a program like Microsoft Word is good for writing, a program like Scrivener is great. Why? Because it supports the idea of shuffling and moving your story pieces around. And that extra element of creativity can make a huge difference in keeping you going on your story. I’m not quitting on Word, spell check, grammar check, and the ability to embed pictures is too important. But, for getting the real work done, a dedicated writing tool beats a generalized one.
Seventh, do some blog posts. Let your friends know you haven’t given up and that you are still moving forward.
So, all my observations shared, and my obligations to my friends fulfilled for the moment, I’m going back to work.