New Voices in Fiction Authors from William Morrow discussion

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Obstacles for First Novel

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message 1: by William Morrow (new)

William Morrow | 8 comments Mod
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in writing your first novel?


message 2: by Mary (new)

Mary McNear (marymcnear) | 22 comments Mod
Self doubt. I wrote the first book in the Butternut Trilogy not knowing whether it would ever be published. Every day that I sat down to work on it, I wondered whether anyone outside my family and group of close friends would ever read it. That's why it's so important to believe in your story and the characters in it. Ultimately, I felt I owed it to them to finish the book and get it published. By the time I was done the characters felt very real to me. It's why aspiring writers need to have faith in themselves and in their ability to craft meaningful characters.


message 3: by M (new)

M Cooley | 21 comments Mod
For me, the story of Ice Shear needed to be told, but it was really hard to carve out the time to do it. So many things--important things!--can demand my attention, and for a few years it was easy to push my writing down the priority list. I made a promise to myself that I would finish the book, and ended up making unbreakable appointments with myself to write two days a week. Those two days created momentum, and the project went much more smoothly after that.


message 4: by Emmi (last edited Aug 20, 2014 04:41AM) (new)

Emmi Itäranta | 19 comments Mod
Like Mary, I would have to say self doubt. When you are an unpublished writer, it's easy to feel like you are writing in a vacuum. I had to convince myself every single day that the story was worth telling, even if no one else would ever read it. Writing is full of uncertainties and external rewards are never guaranteed, so for me the only real reason to write a book is a strong internal need to write it. This is what became a driving force behind Memory of Water.

Time was also a challenge: as a writer, you learn to give up some other things in order to make space and time for writing. It's a strange combination of creating the illusion that you have all the time in the world and in reality squeezing a lot of hard work into moments that are sometimes quite short.


message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Creech | 7 comments Mod
I'll support Emmi here and say time, time, time. I wrote Season of the Dragonflies while my daughter napped from 1-4 PM. The structure her sleep imposed turned out to helpful. I knew I needed to be productive because those were the only few hours I'd have to write for the entire day.


message 6: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Harbour (katherineharbour) | 27 comments Mod
Time was an obstacle for me also, since I had two jobs, but it's true that you use those few hours a day you have quite thriftily. While writing Thorn Jack, I did my best creative thinking late at night. When you have time to write, that's when you really need to use some discipline!


message 7: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 4 comments How do you come up with names for your characters? I can only think of common names and I'd like something a little unusual, any suggestions?


message 8: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Gaynor (hazelgaynor) | 26 comments Mod
Like the others, I would have to say time and self doubt. I wrote the novel when the children were pre-schoolers, so my writing time was limited (to say the least!) In a funny way though, that simply made me more determined and organised. Overcoming self doubt (and rejection) and persevering anyway is a skill I think all writers develop at some point in that first novel experience.


message 9: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Gaynor (hazelgaynor) | 26 comments Mod
Jenn wrote: "How do you come up with names for your characters? I can only think of common names and I'd like something a little unusual, any suggestions?"

Hi Jenn,
I tend to use a combination of family names and names that would have been popular/common in the era I'm writing in. Old newspapers and - quite grimly - graveyards, can reveal some fascinating names.


message 10: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 4 comments I had someone suggest the obits section of the paper because again with older people you get names that are not as common. Thanks for the tip.


message 11: by Joshilyn (new)

Joshilyn Jackson | 9 comments Mod
Jenn wrote: "How do you come up with names for your characters? I can only think of common names and I'd like something a little unusual, any suggestions?"

Hey Jenn!

Sometimes I look for a name that sounds like who the person is...A kind of naming onomatopoeia. A hard tough person, might have a short name with sharp, staccato consonants.

Sometimes the name evokes who they are for me -- William Ashe was named William because I wanted him to have a very classic simple male name that sounded strong and unerring. His last name was always Ashe, but I did not realize until much later how perfect that name is for a man who has lost everything---his whole life has been set afire and is utterly gone at the beginning of the book. It is ashes.

And sometimes? I resort to the Great Big Book of Baby Names. :) Shandi is a Celtic name that means Gift of God, but it can be very LITERALLY translated to mean "I am pregnant." It is also used as a nickname for a traditionally Jewish name (her dad is Jewish) and a Wasp-y name (Her mom is a WASP), and I wanted that blend to be reflected in her name. SO... that one took HOURS with the Big Book of Baby Names.

Now this may JUST be me, but I find that angsting and researching about naming is a GREAT way to avoid writing, but eventually the name slots into place and I have to face that blank, bare, spooky page. If you think you are doing this, then stick a placeholder name in and promise yourself you can play names after you get your word count in.

Best of luck to you as you pursue this maddening and delightful craft---Joshilyn


message 12: by Nadia (new)

Nadia | 19 comments Mod
William Morrow wrote: "What was the biggest obstacle you faced in writing your first novel?"

Believing. It's one thing to have an idea for a story but quite another to believe it's possible to make that story into something that anyone would actually want to read. I didn't have a literary or writing background so at times it felt like I was trespassing. It takes a certain resolve to cast off those heavy hesitations and just go for it.


message 13: by Carrie (new)

Carrie La Seur (carrielaseur) | 20 comments Mod
I wrote my first novel years ago and hid it in a drawer. It's terrible. The Home Place is at least my third novel. It became easier every time just to tell myself a story I wanted to hear, whether anyone else would ever read it or not. I think a significant component of writing honestly is letting go of ambition for this particular piece of writing - maybe not for your writing in general, but with whatever you're writing today. You have to set it free.


message 14: by M (new)

M Cooley | 21 comments Mod
Jenn wrote: "How do you come up with names for your characters? I can only think of common names and I'd like something a little unusual, any suggestions?"

In my first draft of Ice Shear, 80 percent of my characters had a name that began with M. I found it confusing and I can only imagine how it would have been for the authors, so I made some changes in the second draft. For the last names, I started with family names. I changed most, but kept Brouillette--the name of the victim's powerful parents--and Lyons, the name of my hero.


message 15: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Pedersen | 1 comments I have an idea, part autobiographical, part fiction. Do I start with an outline or just write as I intend the story to unfold?


message 16: by Emmi (new)

Emmi Itäranta | 19 comments Mod
Hi Jenn,

I think the most important thing about naming characters is to think about the era and cultural context of the story. Since Memory of Water is set in a future where cultural influences have blended, I got to play with resemblances between Finnish and Japanese names, but I always tried to keep the names credible and gender-appropriate.

Furthermore, like Joshilyn, I try to find a name that fits the character. For instance, in Memory of Water, my main character is studying to be a tea master and her best friend - arguably the most important person in her life - is named Sanja, a Finnish name which bears a close resemblance to sencha, a type of Japanese green tea. I also ended up swapping two character names at the last minute, because I kept mixing them up and felt that I had named them "wrong"! Once I made the swap, the issue disappeared.

And I find baby name books and websites a great resource, because they tell you the meanings and etymologies behind the names.


message 17: by C.J. (new)

C.J. | 16 comments Mod
Suzanne wrote: "I have an idea, part autobiographical, part fiction. Do I start with an outline or just write as I intend the story to unfold?"

Hi Suzanne!

I honestly think that some people are outliners and others are not. I know that so much of the thinking I do about a book or a story happens in the writing itself, and that there are whole scenes or moments I never would have thought to include in an outline that just pop up organically in the writing process. (But of course I know some writers who swear by their outlines too). It depends on which method is more in line with your way of thinking and working.

Sometimes, as a kind of compromise, I'll list three major turns of fortune or shifts in character I know I want to hit in a story...and then use those shifts as stars by which to navigate. That way I'm not totally in the dark....but I don't get the wriggly-claustrophobic feeling I do when I have an outline to follow.


message 18: by Emmi (new)

Emmi Itäranta | 19 comments Mod
Suzanne wrote: "I have an idea, part autobiographical, part fiction. Do I start with an outline or just write as I intend the story to unfold?"

Hi Suzanne,

I would agree with CJ that some people are outliners and others are not. I'm an outliner all the way; I find that I need to know what I'm writing towards in order to get anywhere with the story. It's best if I know the end from the very beginning. The outline can and will change during the writing process, of course, and I revise it as necessary.

But I also know writers who are perfectly happy to sit down without much (or any) planning and just see where the story will take them. I think it all comes down to your personality. If you prefer to plan things ahead in general, chances are that you will find it helpful in your writing process too. If, on the other hand, you are not a planner, you may prefer not to outline too much.

There is no right or wrong here, I think, simply different approaches. You just need to find what works best for you. Good luck!


message 19: by Lacy (new)

Lacy Crawford | 14 comments Mod
Time. Both finding it, to write, and living it, to have some authorial distance over the story.


message 20: by Nadia (new)

Nadia | 19 comments Mod
Suzanne wrote: "I have an idea, part autobiographical, part fiction. Do I start with an outline or just write as I intend the story to unfold?"

Both. I found having an outline immensely useful so you have something to guide your story. At the same time, I found in writing that the story would take on a life of its own and very often the outline would move in a very different direction because it needed to.


message 21: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Gaynor (hazelgaynor) | 26 comments Mod
Suzanne wrote: "I have an idea, part autobiographical, part fiction. Do I start with an outline or just write as I intend the story to unfold?"

Hi Suzanne! As the others have said, I think it really depends on what feels most natural to you. I've heard people refer to this as being a 'plotter' or a 'pantser' (i.e. write by the seat of your pants!) I am a little of both, but more the latter. I certainly think it helps to map out some key moments/events you already know are in there as a must, but if the instinct is to just write, then I would encourage you to do so. All books are really 'written' in the rewrites and edits anyway - getting that first draft down is the key.


message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol Jackson | 4 comments Sometimes I feel that what I want to write has already been said a hundred times in other books. I read constantly to see how other authors form their stories, use their characters, etc. I want to write my story to help even one woman come through a terrible childhood and make a positive life for herself. I am not sure where to start. Any suggestions?


message 23: by M (new)

M Cooley | 21 comments Mod
Carol,

People sometimes say that there have been no original plots since Shakespeare. I haven't analyzed Shakespeare enough to know for sure if it is true, but I think your concern that you have read your story 100 times may actually be you picking up on the universal experiences a lot of us have shared in these stories. I think stories of hope are wonderful, and if you are true and honest, the story can be no one's but your own. I'd say go for it!


message 24: by Carol (new)

Carol Jackson | 4 comments Thank you. Several years ago I wrote a book for my son and his son so they would know what it was like growing up in the 50's. Because he knows part of my abusive childhood, he was afraid to read it. It took a long time to some up with positive, fun memories to share. I want other women to see that they can break the cycle and live their lives in peace. I appreciate your encouragement.


message 25: by Nadia (new)

Nadia | 19 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "Sometimes I feel that what I want to write has already been said a hundred times in other books. I read constantly to see how other authors form their stories, use their characters, etc. I want t..."

Hi Carol,
I would say you can either start with an outline or you can start with a scene that you readily imagine. If you have a certain character in mind, start writing what he or she would be saying. The point is to just start. You might scrap it completely but at least it will get the process started and you can grow from there.


message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol Jackson | 4 comments Thank you Nadia. I have started in bits and pieces of memories and people. Now to start putting it together


message 27: by Mary (new)

Mary McNear (marymcnear) | 22 comments Mod
Carol, someone once said that it's not the story/plot that's important; it's how you tell it. And if you tell it honestly and from the heart, it will be uniquely your own story. Good luck!


message 28: by Carol (new)

Carol Jackson | 4 comments Thank you so much


message 29: by Nadia (new)

Nadia | 19 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "Thank you Nadia. I have started in bits and pieces of memories and people. Now to start putting it together"

Best of luck with it. I'm sure you'll surprise yourself with what you can do and have fun along the way.


message 30: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Gaynor (hazelgaynor) | 26 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "Sometimes I feel that what I want to write has already been said a hundred times in other books. I read constantly to see how other authors form their stories, use their characters, etc. I want t..."

Hi Carol - I think the others have covered this, but would agree that there are certain universal emotions and experiences that perhaps feature in some way or another in most forms of art - novels, art, music, theatre etc. As writers, we are encouraged to find our 'voice' - it is that (the unique way we each write) that allows us to tell a story in a new way. I would encourage you not to be intimidated by other authors and their novels and to tell your story, your way. Very best of luck with it.


message 31: by Diane (new)

Diane  Holcomb (dianeholcomb) | 2 comments How do you tackle revision?


message 32: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Harbour (katherineharbour) | 27 comments Mod
After the first draft of a story, I set it aside for a few weeks, then come back to the work with a fresh view. I usually end up rearranging most scenes, cutting out ones that don't drive the characters' motivations, and simplifying and clarifying. (It's like assembling a large puzzle with extra pieces!) On my last draft, I mostly concentrate on how it reads.


message 33: by Diane (new)

Diane  Holcomb (dianeholcomb) | 2 comments Assembling a puzzle...yes, that's it exactly! Sounds much more fun than what I try to do. My focus tends to be too close. I need to see the big picture of the puzzle before I can home in on the pieces. Thanks!


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New Voices in Fiction Authors from William Morrow

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