I wrote 6 chapters and did tons of research on my latest novel until I really hit my stride and found out that I would have to rewrite the entire thing. I’m still writing a post-apocalyse novel about the biblical end times, but the effort I put into the first six chapters bored me silly.
I decided that if I was bored by my own work, imagine what some poor reader might experience if they happened upon my sad excuse for a text. So I decided to come up with a few ways to keep myself from going down this path again.
1. Feedback – Bounce the ins and outs of your proposed novel off of everyone who will stand still and listen to you. Do not simply tell mom and dad or your significant other. These people are not objective enough. Find people that don’t like you very well and if you can get them to listen to you, be polite and ask them if you can get their advice. People always like giving it, and as a writer you must listen to them. Sure mom and dad and maybe your wife will pick up your book and read it, but how will the guy who doesn’t like you be interested in what you are writing?
2. Nothing Is Set In Stone – You may have written six chapters, 10,000 words worth, but you have to be willing to change that if the stinky winds of boredom come wafting your way. You may have to be willing to throw it out all together. Even the best ideas can run aground and start to putrefy. Give your novel some time and possibly you will be able to turn out something that doesn’t bore you to tears. Be patient.
3. Read – If you want to know what other writers do to keep your interest, then read the ones you like the most, the ones that are most commercial, and find out what stylistic things they do to make their writing interesting. I think it was Michael Crichton who once said that he made sure he had conflict on every page of his books. Have you ever read Jurassic Park? There is a reason readers could not put it down. They were hooked from the beginning. Find out what makes those page turners tick and try to emulate what they do.
4. Outline – Not everyone has the ability that Stephen King has. This guy can sit down and write something like Carrie without much of a plan and it becomes a best seller. Peter Straub on the other hand is a meticulous outliner. If you are one of the few people who can write without an outline, then there is a best seller in your future. However, for the rest of us, the outline is the way that we hash out all the ideas we are planning to put to paper. It helps me to outline because I can see where my characters are going, develop solid thematic elements, craft clever symbolism and work out all the rudimentary details of my novel before I ever start writing. Even though I had to start from scratch on my narrative, the outline has not changed much at all. I am only changing the style I use to tell the story. Of course, remember #2.
5. Don’t Give Up – Do not scrap everything and tell yourself that the idea you had for this awesome novel was only a pipe dream. You had that germ of a story that right now seems like a total waste of brain power, but originally it didn’t seem that way. Try to recreate how you felt when you first came up with the idea, whether it was sitting in the diner scribbling on a napkin or an e-mail you sent to your sister. Go back to those first notes and try to recapture how you felt about it, otherwise you will lose it and we may never be able to go on that awesome adventure, fall in love with that character or run in terror as Carrie throws kitchen knives at us with her mind.
Keep at it. You have a great novel in there somewhere. Eventually, like the pains of pregnancy, you will birth something really cool.