Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Am I Normal?

I'm now 37,000 words into the novel and enjoying it almost all of the time. I'm still getting to know the characters and letting the story develop as they do. I've realised this means I shall probably need to re-write a lot of the opening few thousand words, as the tentative start won't always match what comes next. Is this normal?

I've stopped myself from tweaking too much and lingering over one word here and one phrase there, reminding myself I can do all that at leisure when the whole story is finished, however rough it is. As long as there is an entire novel with a beginning, middle and end, I should be satisfied with that as a first draft. That's the theory.
However, in practice, I am still staring at odd bits that don't feel right or looking at yesterday's words and wondering why on earth I thought they were all right at the time when they seem appalling the next day. Is this normal?

I have characters that I can't give up, but I don't know yet exactly how they fit into the story. Only that they will and I haven't found out about all that yet. They all live in the same road and have an impact on each other's lives, even though some of them won't necessarily meet. I worry about these two or three people earning their place and having a reason for being there. Will it happen and should I chop them out (ouch) if it doesn't? And is it normal to have such doubts?
Also, what happens if you like a minor character more than a main one? At this stage, I'm concerned there isn't one who stands right out. Several seem to be jostling for the lead. And how normal is that?

And should I worry about what's normal or just write?

I may know the answer to that, but any advice would be welcomed. Thank you!


  1. Well, I have yet to write a full length novel, but I can relate to much of your post from writing short stories. Personally I think you should just throw it all in there - the assorted characters, odd bits that don't quite fit etc. It's only when you stand back and look at the whole that you start to see the shape of the story. I should just push on to the end and trust that things will fall into place eventually!

  2. Joanna, I don't think there's any such thing as "normal" - you are who you are, and you have to do it your way. I'd just let your novel flow - as it seems to be doing - and then have a thorough edit when you've finished. Having said that, what does tend to be normal is developing wonderful characters - often your favourites - and then finding there really is no place in the novel for them, so they have to be axed. This is very painful, but you can always put them away in a cyber drawer for future use, and maybe even give them a novel of their own one day. Nothing needs to be wasted; it just may not be the right time (or even the right novel) for a particular character.

    To address your last point, I do think there has to be a (main?) character with whom the reader can identify. Is it possible to work on that?

    Anyway, good luck!

  3. As normal as any of us are, I would say.

    I wouldn't agonise over any of this yet. Some of it may work itself out, a lot of it will probably require an overhaul - and, from what I hear, that is definitely normal.
    And that will probably be the case even if you do address it now.

    As far as the 'one major character' goes, I'm not sure you do need just one. I've read a number of books with a suite of characters, none of whom you would pick out as being THE main character. Particularly with the style of book you are talking about, different residents of the street can each get their time in the limelight.

    Pleased to hear you are getting on so well - good luck with the rest of it.

  4. You're doing so well, Joanna - I wouldn't worry about any of it yet. Sounds like you're getting the whole novel down in a first draft which sounds a good way to work.

    You'll probably find your subconscious has been working in the background and it will all come together more in the second draft. That's the fun part! And I believe it's perfectly 'normal' to have to change the beginning once the rest is written. All the very best with it.

  5. Thank you all so much, Joanne, Frances, Bernadette and Rosemary. I value all your advice so much and it has really spurred me on.

    I'm being patient with this first draft and simply letting it fly without worrying nearly so much about it. I can rein it in when it's finished.

    I am very, very grateful for all of this help and it means masses to me. I am a lot more confident about just keeping going and enjoying the fun of finding out what happens next and to whom it happens!

    I shall keep you posted with how it's going. I did go back to short stories yesterday, because I had an idea that wanted to come out so badly that I couldn't resist. And a day off the novel has done me good. I can't wait to get back to it now!

  6. Arriving late - sorry - but I think you're definitely normal. Don't worry - just write :0)

    And give that minor character a book of their own when you've finished this one.


  7. Thank you, Suzanne! It's very reassuring to read your advice. Just writing it is definitely the answer. I can sort all the tangles out later, hopefully in the New Year. I'm now over 50,000 words in and hoping not to take too much of a break over Christmas!

  8. Well done on getting so far through and I think your worries are all perfectly normal. I think the best thing is to just get on and worry about sorting it out later. (as you have already decided on reading your other comments) I haven't heeded such advice as I am forever tweaking as I read through, I wish I would just get on with reaching the end! I'm sure it would be more productive long-term.
    Best wishes

  9. Thanks, penandpaints. Isn't it hard to not tweak? I have lost a bit of writing time for Christmas preparations and, in the odd half-hour I find for writing, I'm tending to tweak, as it doesn't feel long enough to actually make progress. I should go back to normal in the New Year!