Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Complete Novel

We've heard it stressed about how important that first sentence is to hooking a reader.  We know the advice to refine the first five pages to make sure an agent, publisher, or reader won't be able to put our book down.  We know that the end of a novel will determine whether the reader was satisfied and will come back to read another of ours.  But what about everything that goes on in between?

Let's consider the first draft.  If you're like me somewhere along the way, probably mid-point around forty grand in or more, it may feel more like you're writing snippets.  After all, most of us don't write a novel in a day.  You may begin to be curious as to how the overall flow is so far.  Sometimes you might be tempted to go back and read it from the beginning.  But my advice:  keep moving forward!  Trust in yourself enough to know that you're following the story in logical progression.  If you go back, you could risk ruining something great.  Really, are not first drafts meant for getting your story out?  Edits are meant to refine, and perfect.

So after you've finished your first draft, do you pay as much attention to the meat of your novel as you do the first sentence, the first five, and the ending?  Or do you let the continuity wane, the characters flatten, the story-line conflict lessen.  If you do, then you've got some work to do.

Don't give your reader any excuse to put your book down.

We know that agents are looking for any reason to say no.  There are books for writers on this very subject.  Why give them a reason to pass, and say next?  The same is true with our readers.  There's only so much time in life.  When they sit down with your book, earn their readership.  Make your readers believe in you!

It's our job as the writer to hook our reader, and keep them hooked.

How do we do this?  Make sure your characters are engaging to your reader.  Ensure there is always conflict - ratchet it up, and release.  Toy with your readers, leave them wanting to know what's on the next page.  Make them wonder how things will ever work out.  Give them sleepless nights.

Of course, I'm not saying our books must be all action, but there must be forward momentum.  If a scene, at the stage of edits, doesn't move the story along or reveal pertinent characterization, lose it!

What about you?  What has been your experience in writing the meat in the first draft?  Are you tempted to go back and read up to the point you're at?  Maybe you have before - how did that turn out for you?