Progress On My Debut Novel – Post 01

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I am working on my debut novel, book one of a dystopian survival trilogy, which I am not prepared to share the details just yet. This story has been bouncing around in my head for nearly two years. In that time, I have gathered a ton of notes about the story, characters, and scene ideas. This list has grown in size and randomness, meaning they weren’t placed in a linear order.

After a couple of failed starts, I buckled down in June making writing a daily priority. I have set and track loose weekly goals, though I don’t beat myself up over it if I fall short. Consistency is vital, I have read, and I am proud that I have been consistent in my writing, with occasional days off for pressing matters and family time. Overall I do write for at least an hour on weekdays (workdays), and 2-3 hours on weekend days. I am pleased with my progress.

Knowing my personality and how my brain works, I had to make some changes to how I approach successful writing. I looked at what led to my failed attempts in the past to see what I could do to cross the finish line of writing my first novel. I am a person who can get bogged down by over-organizing, over-thinking, over-planning, and having to learn everything there is before starting; in other words, being too much of a perfectionist. I have read, listened to, and watched so many books, podcasts, and videos trying to learn the craft of writing , that it took up most of my time writing time.

Sometimes the topic I dove into had no relevance for where I was in the writing process. For example, how to market your book or self-publishing tips. I haven’t even written the book yet. Or I dive in the worm-hole that is the writing community on social media. I am NOT saying this is terrible, but if not managed, it is a total time suck. Additionally, I stopped following or doing writing prompts. Once again, NOT a bad thing, but NONE of this was getting me to my goal of writing my first novel.

When I set out in June to build a habit of writing consistently so I could get to writing the words The End, I told myself enough trying to learn to write a novel, it is time to write a book. Focus on the task at hand, write the first draft. Editing, publishing, marketing, etc. can all wait until I have the first draft.

I started by working on my theme, for the overall story in book one, and a general concept of theme for books two and three. Done.

Next, I worked on my antagonists for the trilogy, focusing primarily on book one. I put in as much, if not slightly more time into the antagonist as I did the protagonist. The antagonist has a personal theme, a character arc, and their own wants and needs. Once this was complete, I moved on to developing the protagonist (in-depth) with a personal theme related to the overall theme, their character arc, wants, and needs. Antagonist & Protagonist Done.

That was followed up by fleshing out the rest of the main characters. Character Development Done.

I should mention while all the above was in progress, I was continually writing more notes about the plot and specific scenes.

As of last week, I started outlining the structure of the novel by organizing my notes from two years into specific beats within the structure of book one. If the notes didn’t have a place in book one, it was moved to book two or book three notes. Organizing notes within book one structure – Done.

I am currently working on the outline for Act I, breaking down what I want into structure beats and chapters. This is going really smooth, and I am having a blast putting this story into some form of coherence. I have set my goal to finish the outline at the end of September.

I am so excited to get going on the first draft, and I have set my goal for finishing the first draft at the end of the year. I am shooting for 90,000, and have broke that down into 7,000 words a week, which should get me to the target. To hold myself accountable, I have put my progress in the sidebar to the left under “Current Project.”

I am enjoying the process, I am motivated to write daily, and I can see this book morphing into reality.

George Orwell’s “1984” Turns 70

 

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Original Book Cover

George Orwell’s “1984” is 70 years old today, published June 8, 1949. This book was influential in my youth and has only grown stronger in my adulthood. It is required reading for my children. It was my the portal to my love of the dystopian world, and the warning to monitor your government to hold them accountable. Which has never been more important than the time we are currently living.

I have read many of George’s works, and he is definitely on the short list of people throughout time whom I would love to break bread.

If you would like to see another side of George Orwell read “Homage To Catalonia.” It is summarized on Goodreads:

“In 1936 Orwell travelled to Spain to report on the Civil War and instead joined the fight against the Fascists. This famous account describes the war and Orwell’s own experiences.”

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Thank you, George, for one of the most influential books I have read (several times).

Remodeling the Protagonist

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I am in the midst of working through character sketches and outlining for my first novel. I would describe the story as a dystopian/survival/alt reality. The common thread I have noticed in reading/listening to other books in this genre (sub-genre) is that a good number of them are cut from the same cloth. Often there has been a terrorist or EMP strike, and Mr. Prepper has to get home to his family. The main character lacks a character arc, and he knows exactly how to survive the situation, with the obligatory minor setbacks squeezed in here and there.

I realize that sounds arrogant, but that is what I have come across so far. There are some good examples of this genre, such as Year One by Nora Roberts, it is a fantastic example. Though many other books I have read fit the first scenario. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places, but if you know of more good, contemporary examples, please pass it on.

Early in the process, I developed a sketch of the antagonist and the antagonistic forces in play, including the character arc of the antagonist. Next, I started the same process for the protagonist, developing a sketch of who the protagonist is as a person and what their character arc would be through the story. Development was moving along nicely, and I was happy with what I was creating in this process. I was getting a real good feel for who the protagonist was and how they would react in various situations.

As I moved to the next phase of collecting and developing the ideas floating around in my head into an outline, I hit my first stumbling block. The protagonist that I had created was a CIS white male, and while there is absolutely no issue with that in general (after all, that would describe me) when I looked at that in context of my story it eroded much of my desired conflict and tension. Without giving too much away, a CIS white male would have the benefit of white male privilege in my setting, which is close to our current modern day situation in America. Now I have to admit, while I get the concept of ‘white privilege’ and I recognize the benefits that it affords people like myself; every time I hear that phrase I get an uneasy stirring from within that urges me to be defensive. That is my issue, and it is an issue I need to get over.

Back to the story at hand. At the beginning of my story, if the protagonist were to remain as is, a CIS white male, the reader would most likely be thinking, “That guy would not have that much of a problem getting through that situation.” Whereas, if the protagonist is a person of color, an immigrant, female, LGBTQ, etc., then that ups the stakes of the danger they would be facing in the early chaos of the story. Sadly in our world and the setting of my story, the people in these communities are at greater risk. Coming to this realization, I have decided to go back to the drawing board and start over in developing the protagonist for my first novel.