l.i.b.e.r.a.t.i.o.n. theory

love, life, and the pursuit of liberation

Five Lessons Learned from Writing a Novel


1. You don’t have to know where the story is heading in order to start. 

I first started Pieces of Her as part of a Nanowrimo challenge back in 2006. It was before I was married and I was in a long distance relationship. I wrote the first five chapters with no idea where the story was heading or what the outcome would be. I picked it up again in late 2011 as I was sharing with my friend Enigma how I couldn’t write fiction. She urged me to continue it as part of a weekly series, so I did. Then I put the draft down again during the year of my separation and divorce. It scared me because I wrote from a “what if” standpoint (see #4) and it seemed that the writing foretold what I would be experiencing emotionally in my own life.

For the next book, I am going to try this process again with a slight modification. I have the “somebody who wants, but” part of the writing conflict technique down. But I’ll leave the “so then” part to the writing muses to inspire me.

2. There’s no such thing as finishing the draft.

It’s a continued work in progress and at some point, you have to call it quit. Like I said above, this book has been an eight year endeavor when it’s all said and done. The bulk of it was written in 2012 as a web series. I revised it and reworked it to DEATH for another year, and I am now at the point where it has to be done. One, I need to give up perfectionist tendencies and give myself permission that my first book will not be on Toni Morrison’s level. Two, I need to end it so I can emotionally put that chapter behind me. Three, I need to free up my cypher for the next one. My next book will not be in another eight years. I can promise that!

3. You cannot be your own editor.

Part of what held me back was the incessant proofing, not revising. I read this advice before, but I thought the English teacher in me rendered me competent enough in this area.  After the initial web series, I reworked the draft and then spent too long trying to edit all the grammar, word choice, punctuation, etc. Next time, I’m going to concentrate on taking my time to get the story out and focusing only on that. After all the effort I put into Pieces, I still needed other eyes on it. My beta readers pointed out some issues I needed to address and my editor gave another round of invaluable advise. I still am going to give it one last read before I release it on May 1st. The lesson in all this? Since I have to do all of this at the end, I should have just saved the beta, editing, and proofing until the end instead of delaying my process earlier.

4. Write your way to liberation.

When I started this book, I stalled after the first five chapters. I didn’t know where to go with the story, so I decided to consider the scariest thing I could imagine in a marriage. Each time after that, I kept pushing by having the character confront every fear that was around each corner. I found that as I wrote about my character being that brave, I became a bit more courageous in my own life. My book took on an energy that catalyzed my own growth. Serendipitously, aspects of the plot started to happen in real life. Not all the juicy stuff (you’ll have to read to see what I mean *wink*) but the emotional decisions. Writing has been liberation and magic.

5. Write the book you want to read.

I think my friend BC said this to me. Or some other wise soul. It is absolutely true. Characters that look, think, and feel like me are few and far in between. The closest I remember were Bebe Moore Campbell’s characters in the ‘90s and Pearl Cleage’s magic in her books. But a woman who is married to another woman and “coming out” not being the topic? Few and far in between and we do exist. I need to tell the world our stories because they are important and relevant for everyone.

That’s it for now. I cannot wait to share more details about my May 1st release of Pieces of Her.


One comment on “Five Lessons Learned from Writing a Novel

  1. Pingback: What’s On Your Mind: 3 Ways to Ask Questions | l.i.b.e.r.a.t.i.o.n. theory

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2014 by in nanowrimo, novel writing, pieces of.her, Uncategorized, writing and tagged .

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