I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. And it came back to me when my module instructor for the Creative Writing course mentioned in class that you should write your first novel and then throw it away.
For a second, I thought he was asking me to throw away The Final Year Project. Just the thought was so painful! But then I realised, I’ve already thrown away two. Granted they weren’t completed novels but let me tell you just how much effort I spent on these before I decided to scrap them.
The Grad Trip – 28 977 words, about 6 months. I continuously wrote scenes to propel the plot. Every dialogue, every action was just for the plot. But it was a plot-driven novel. And it was a lot of telling. It was terrible. I had super long dialogues that were all exposition. I obviously had no idea how to weave in backstory with the novel without making it seem like someone was recounting their life in dialogue form. It was terrible. The dialogue went for over a page – one dialogue. I mean I knew I always had to come back to it but I never knew how I would go about changing it.
Contract Marriage – 38 739 words, a year to a year and a half. See this story, I really, really wanted to make it come alive. I went back to the drawing board so many times with this one to make the backstory seem seamless. I tried many different styles. None of it clicked. And the characters were just not it. I have to admit I didn’t understand my characters. I put them in many situations (plot points) but I never knew how they got to that point and I didn’t know how to get them out of it. Everything just felt very disjointed. And it was hard.
What worked with The Final Year Project I find is that I built my characters around one particular scene. What is this scene? At this point, I can’t remember. I don’t even know if that scene is in the book and if it is, I don’t know if I developed the scene the way I had initially imagined. But I got to understand my characters in this scene. I had a general idea for the beginning and the ending but everything in between was a ride. But in this specific scene, I built my characters. How I wanted each person to react. What I wanted each person to feel. What I want them to do for them to head towards the general vicinity of the beginning and ending that I had planned. Once I got that figured out. It was really a matter of letting my characters tell me how they got to that specific scene. And while doing so, I’m pretty sure I had to change that specific scene. I had to go back to the drawing board with this story a quite a few times too. It wasn’t always a smooth ride. Your characters start to want to take reign. And sometimes I ended up taking the easy way out by making them do things that weren’t true to their character just to get to the plot. That’s why I kept editing the book. You have to keep writing different ways to make it clique. And you have to trust your characters.
I edited my book one more time after publishing it hehehe which is another reason I took it off of sales. But now I can completely believe it is the best version…
Or is it?