Every Novel Writes Differently

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Every Novel Writes Differently
* PS:
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

From the Give Me a Break Department: “Can you become sick through social media? New research says it might be possible, as vulnerable people fall prey to mass psychogenic illnesses via the internet.” Kite & Key staff (I’m guessing mask mandates will come next.)

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

Topic: Every Novel Writes Differently

The title is a maxim I first heard from Dean Wesley Smith. Now, as I write my 68th novel, I am both reminded of it and find that it still holds true.

It’s frustrating sometimes, not knowing what to expect. That’s as true with how the novel writes as it is with ‘what happens next’ in the content of the story.

But if you trust your characters and let them tell the story, you’ll be miles ahead in both cases. Most importantly, the story will be original and unique to your own voice.

You can’t force originality and uniqueness through your conscious, critical mind. It doesn’t have the tools. It’s wonderful at constructing things with existing materials, but it creates nothing new on its own.

And as a bonus you will feel more like the very first person to experience the story rather than merely the writer or storyteller. Because you are.

In this novel, with only 12 (now 15) chapters written thus far, I’ve gone through 6 (now 7) wildly diverse POV characters in 9 (now 11) distinctly different settings. For the record, I’ve never had a novel scatter itself so widely over such a short period of time. Great fun. (grin)

This doesn’t worry or panic me at all. It actually excites me because it’s a challenge for the characters. How can they possibly pull all the separate little stories and loose ends into a cohesive mass?

But I know they will, and that belief, that trust, is the key. And as their recorder, I get to witness all of that. Sheer magic.

This is very similar to the happy anxiety we experience when we climb aboard a rollercoaster. We only climb aboard in the first place because we believe and trust that we will arrive safely at the end of the ride.

So again, I’m neither worried nor bored.

I’m not worried because I trust my characters. I and my characters have been here before, although with stories in which the characters and situations were not quite so widely scattered. (Others have been here before too. This is exactly where King was when he wrote the first several chapters of The Stand.)

And I’m not bored because I have absolutely no idea where the story will go or how the characters will pull it all together. I only know they will. Instead of fretting over where the story will go, I’m watching it unfold all around me in real time as I run through it with my characters.

As a nod to any outliners, planners, or phase-line or sign-post planters (or whatever other label you assign to it) out there, yes, sure, you’re absolutely right: If only I’d taken the time to plan every major scene, chapter, plot twist, etc. in advance through the entire novel, I also wouldn’t be worried.

But I’d be bored to tears. In that planning I would have already told the entire story, including the ending. So chances are, I’d never have started actually writing it in the first place.

Because seriously, what’s the point of trudging through writing 40- or 50- or 60- or 120,000 words to tell a story for which you already know the ending? I honestly, literally can’t think of anything more boring.

On the other hand, I have to admit I also experience a period of boredom when I Just Write the Story, though it’s a very brief period.

I usually recognize what will happen to end the story a few paragraphs before it happens. Never more than around 1000 words ahead of time.

Once that happens, I write straight through. Not to discover the end—at that point I know what it will be—but to get finished with the story and put it behind me so I can start the next one. Because I know with the next one I will be surprised and excited again.

And that’s why by the end of this month I will have written 68 novels, 8 novellas, and 217 short stories since 2014.

Not a bad way to make a living.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Fun Extra Stuff In the Sale” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/fun-extra-stuff-in-the-sale/.

See “Assault with a Deadly…Alligator?” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/09/true-crime-thursday-assault-with-a-deadly-alligator.html.

See “You’ve Burned Out. Now What?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/youve-burned-out-now-whatauto-draft/. Interesting, but one more phenomenon that doesn’t happen to those who WITD.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 790 words

Writing of Carmen Morales (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… 3007 words. Total words to date…… 3007
Day 2…… 2842 words. Total words to date…… 5849
Day 3…… 3283 words. Total words to date…… 9132
Day 4…… 3106 words. Total words to date…… 12238
Day 5…… 3644 words. Total words to date…… 15882
Day 6…… 3548 words. Total words to date…… 19430

Total fiction words for September……… 22707
Total fiction words for the year………… 89138
Total nonfiction words for September… 17680
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 145910
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 235048

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this Journal, I discuss various aspects of the writing craft. I am also a student and prolific practitioner of “writing into the dark,” which means trusting the characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living. It’s great fun to watch a story unfold as I race through it with my characters. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.

3 thoughts on “Every Novel Writes Differently”

  1. Hello again,

    Yes, about that point where you get bored close to the end of a story, I’ve experienced that with all three novels that I’ve attempted writing.

    Finished one, the first part of a series but I think it was because I knew the second one was right there waiting for me to write it.

    But about getting bored close to the end, I struggle with this. The general ending of a book (e.g I know the boy falls off the cliff or the magic gem is lost is the forest) often comes to me around the 75% mark of the book. The specifics may change as I tie up the loose threads but I have an idea of the ending and the closer I get, the clearer it seems but the more it seems like I have to write and the more boring it gets.

    I used to think it was just a ‘Me’ problem but hearing you mention it here has helped me write about it in a clear way.

    I think the difference is that yours is about 1,000 words to the end and I have like 20-25 thousand words to deal with.

    I assume the solution would be to keep writing and the pace would pick up again? Am I right?

    • “I assume the solution would be to keep writing and the pace would pick up again? Am I right?”

      Absolutely spot on, Tari. Anytime your story sags or slows, keep trusting the characters and just write the next sentence, then the next and the next and soon the story will be racing along again. When you are SURE of how the story will end while you’re still in the middle of it, that’s the critical voice trying to stop you. And it sounds like it was effective. You just have to learn to ignore it, whatever it takes.

      A buddy of mine accidentally blurted out what could be a great ending to a one-off novel I was writing while I was still writing it, and I had to set the novel aside for around a year before I could finish it without the ending he’d put in my head. (The title of that crime/detective/police procedural novel is Situation Solved.) He and I both write into the dark, so he understood what I was doing and why. I couldn’t have finished the novel right then, and if I’d tried, I’d have been bored to tears.

      The difference, maybe, the reason I don’t realize the end until I’m right on top of it, is that I trust my characters completely. I just keep writing what happens and what they say and do as the story unfolds around me. Even if I think I might know the ending I just keep writing THEIR story. And remember, I’ve written past the end of a few stories too and had to back up to find it. (grin)

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