Friday, October 22, 2010

When to Write or Wait on a Novel

Since National Novel Writing Month is slowly creeping up, I thought I'd post something about trying to decide when to write an idea or when to wait on it. Part of the reason is this year's nanowrimo novel is one I got the initial idea (though it changed greatly the first few years) back when I was in high school. Luckily, most of you don't know what I look like so I don't have to show ID to prove that has been years ago (lol). If I've had the idea since before I came up with 60 other novel ideas, then why didn't I write it back then? Ah, that is a good question *talks to self*.

Write or...
(image by Amor Magno, taken from


This can be a tough choice. When I got the idea for the epic fantasy novel, currently titled Gathered at Dawn, I was maybe a sophomore in high school, though it may be earlier. It started out as an alternate history novel idea set during the Civil War. That changed slightly to add a sci-fi element of a gaming system that puts the group of characters into a Civil War like world, which soon split into two different ideas. There is the Civil War story that has two main characters that aren't anything like the original characters and the plot is different but somehow it came from the first idea. Then there was the gaming idea, which sounded cool at the idea, where at the end not everyone leaves the game. Somehow, that shifted to become the awesome (although not the most original) epic fantasy story. The idea has been an epic fantasy one, with the same plot and characters, for about 4 years or more.

So, why wait 4 years or so (and thus accumulate 60 other novel ideas) to actually write the first draft of the novel?

The basic answer is simple. I wasn't ready to write an epic fantasy. I wasn't ready to write a novel even. When I first started writing on I had a few poems posted and tried a little writing but nothing big or serious. By the second year I was writing scenes and "short stories" or "flash fiction" for contests on WDC along with more poetry. 2006 was my first attempt at novel writing. By then I had at least 10 ideas for stories(novels) and things increased from there.

Also, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the genre. There are such amazing books out that are epic fantasy and it has such a large word count, I didn't think I could write a good epic fantasy based on my writing skills. 100,000 words is a large number for someone who had only written 5,000-ish, or 14,000 (nano 2007). Even if it was never going to be seen by any other person but me, I wanted to do things right.

Elves, dwarves and humans aren't the most original combination for an epic/high fantasy story either. But I love elves and mages. The main characters were inspired by friends of mine with one being the closest to a mary sue character that you'll ever find in my writing. But don't worry, since every character has taken on a life of their own and don't even look like the influenced person anymore.

So, I chose to wait on that novel as I learned more about writing and worked on different novels (along with coming up with many many more ideas).

Why am I ready now?

I have written 3 finished first drafts, including one that came out at 90,000 words. I have been writing for the past 4+ years and think I'm better at the process and it's my fourth year doing NaNoWriMo. Considering in March I was able to do 50k in 15 days, I should be able to do 50k in a month. The novel idea is solid and hasn't changed since it became an epic fantasy. I am excited for the novel and overall, I just think it's time to write the novel for me as I prepare my two mutants series to eventually send out.

Do you ever wait on an idea? 
If you do or don't: why?
Guess what? It's almost time for NaNoWriMo!


Ariana Richards said...

I totally understand what you mean about waiting to write an idea. The one I decided to write this year is an idea I came up with about two years ago and just couldn't flesh it out enough back then in order to make it a novel. Likewise, the one I was originally going to write this year, I couldn't flesh out enough so I've decided to hold onto it until I can.

Summer Ross said...

I'm really excited for NaNo- I've never written more than about 5000 words, but I'm more confident i can this year then i have been in the past. I do agree sometimes you just know that its not time to write the story. And like you- as I have learned a great deal of things in the last four years, its been easier for me to write, and I've been reading myself for it at the same time so now is the perfect time for me to start NaNo. Good luck!

Dawn Embers said...

Ariana - It's good you were able to see it wasn't ready as that can be a difficult decision. Will be looking for nano updates next month. ;-)

Summer - ooo Good luck to you. Before my second year where I got 14,000 words, I was like you and hadn't gotten very far. But my next attempt went from 14k to 51k. So, you can get 50k even if you haven't made it close to that far before. *cheers for you*

drea moore said...

I really identify with waiting on some ideas. By 2005/2006 I had been able to complete 4 rough drafts...and then I turned to revising/rewriting the 2nd, after shelving the 1st, and have been focused on that stage since. I got to the point where I think I *finally* have the right approach...but I think the idea (which is diverging a tad from the original) needs to wait a bit...

While I focus on something completely different...which is proving to teach me a lot more about writing along the way :D

Dawn Embers said...

Drea - It's good to focus on something completely different. Even when we don't see a link, there is usually something we can learn from the writing.