Sunday, October 11, 2015

Starting A New Novel? Fun, But...

In my previous post, I wrote about completing one's first novel. The whole Done Is Better Than Perfect mantra. You might think that those issues I wrote about don't apply to me because, for better or worse, I've published 13 novels and completed 4 more that remain in a drawer.

But the truth is that it does apply to me. Not so much on my Tahoe Mystery series, in which I've found a kind of groove. But it applies to a non-Tahoe thriller I've been writing but haven't made much progress on (i.e., a completed first draft). Although I've been working on this new novel for some time, I haven't settled even the most basic questions. Will it be part of a trilogy? Or will the eventual result be two or three related stand-alones? Or - the ideal goal - another series?

You see, Done Beats Perfect applies to every kind of project you can think of, including writing in a new direction. In a sense, it restates the Nike phrase, "Just Do It."

I've got a good concept for this second writing gig. I've got a hundred-some pages of the first book done. I've got a character I'm pretty sure will fly. I've sketched out a plot that appears to have lots of possibilities.

But many times, when I think about working on it, I just, you know, think. Sit and think. Walk and think. Drive and think. Often, I don't open up the laptop and start writing a scene. Why? Because I'm not sure I'm heading the right direction. I'm not sure that my character has proper motivation. I'm not confident I've figured out the foreshadowing necessary for the critical plot revelations. I can't seem to fix this problem I found with the villain's character. I'm not certain the reader will suspend his or her disbelief.

Oh, wait. I'm doing that thing again that I wrote about two weeks ago. Dragging my feet over desires of perfection before I even finish the first draft. I need to remind myself that Done Beats Perfection.

Get the first draft done, Todd.

When I begin a new Owen-and-Spot adventure, I always have problems of structure, character, motivation. Scene settings, timing, staging. Sometimes the problems seem to never end. But I go ahead and write that first draft anyway. Once I have that to work from, I can start fixing the big problems in my first rewrite. The slightly smaller problems may have to wait until my second rewrite. Details and continuity and prose mechanics issues can be dealt with in future rewrites. The key is to get the first draft done.

Check back in five years or so to see if I followed my own advice.

Done Beats Perfect.

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