I’m sure I’ll be tinkering with Goddess of the Hunt up until the point it’s (I say with unbridled optimism) published – but, for the moment, I feel I can call it ‘finished.’ With some painful cutting, I got it down to about 101,000 words, and I’m starting the query process and thinking about my next novel.

So now that I’ve ‘finished’ one novel, I’ve learned some big lessons about making my next book better and less painful to write. Not that these would be helpful to everyone. A big part of it has been learning what works for me, and what suits my own style best. But as a reminder to myself and just in case it’s interesting to anyone else, here are a few.

  • I’m not a pantser. I need to start with a general outline of the plot. I fully expect it to change over the course of writing the book, but I have to begin writing with a destination in mind, or I’ll just founder aimlessly.
  • Whatever plot I outline should be vetted by several critique partners before I even begin. I’m lucky enough to have extraordinarily clever CPs who will find all the loopholes in my internal logic and also weigh the story’s emotional integrity. Soliciting their opinions and answering their questions is how a vague idea becomes a fleshed-out plot.
  • I will crystallize the “high concept” and “hook” before I write the darn book. I did that back-asswards this time, and it’s been a pain.
  • The most important question to answer before I start the book is not “how do these people fall in love,” but “why do these people fall in love?” I blogged once a while back that I wanted my readers to fall in love with the couple, not the hero, and that means I need to create a h/h who fit together like puzzle pieces. What is it that the hero does for the heroine that no one else could possibly do? How does she realize that? What makes her decide that it’s more important than anything or anyone else in her life? And vice versa, from the hero’s POV. I don’t think I can craft an emotionally satisfying story without answering all those questions first.

How about you? What lesson did you learn or are you learning from your first project that you’ll be sure to heed in the future?

8 comments to “Things I Learned for Next Time”

  1. CM
    · March 20th, 2007 at 11:09 am · Link

    I think I learned something that was almost the opposite. I need to have some idea what I’m working towards, but I think what I learned this time around was not to pull my punches.

    That is: I need to not worry about making problems so hard my characters can’t solve them. The whole point of the black moment needs to be that nobody can see a way out. Ideally, that nobody should include me. So I should trust that I’ll be able to figure some way out.

    Another way of saying this is that I need to write towards problems and hooks, rather than solutions and endings.

  2. Maggie Robinson
    · March 20th, 2007 at 3:44 pm · Link

    I am such a total pantser that I must, for my own sanity, make some attempt at structure…and then give myself permission to depart from it if I have to. My current WIP is a departure from the usual story arc, but my next project will be much more conventional. I’ve got to write some rules and follow them.

  3. Lindsey
    · March 20th, 2007 at 6:24 pm · Link

    I’ve learned it’s helpful to hang out with people who are much further along in their projects, because then you can learn from their mistakes!

  4. Ericka Scott
    · March 20th, 2007 at 6:58 pm · Link

    I’ve learned to roll with the characters. . .even if that means ‘starting over’ Argh!

    I tried soooo many different ways to write a novel (I have *all* the how-to books), but it wasn’t until I started with the hook that I was able to get anywhere.

    That being said, the second book was easier to write. . .the third book IS A BEAR!!!

  5. Lenora Bell
    · March 21st, 2007 at 7:06 am · Link

    That reminds me that I need to figure out my hook before I go any deeper into my story. I’m trying a new method right now for my third book (and yes, it is a bear, Ericka). I’ll blog about it soon. But it’s closely related to your why instead of how, Tessa.

  6. Alice Audrey
    · March 22nd, 2007 at 8:09 am · Link

    I keep thinking I need to plot more before writing, but always end up restructuring anyway. For me the big thing is keeping the emotions on a good, clean arc. I currently working on an outline based on emotional arcs.


  7. lacey kaye
    · March 22nd, 2007 at 11:37 am · Link

    Absolutely perfect Things to Know. Those were my lessons learned, too, and I managed to write my second book in only 2 months because of it. Welcome to Logic! (It really makes one wonder what the hell she was thinking before, doesn’t it?)

  8. Tessa Dare
    · March 23rd, 2007 at 9:26 am · Link

    Great comments, ladies.

    Lacey – two months!!! Rock on, girl.

    AA – I’m totally with you on the emotional arc. That’s what I meant about outlining first. I’m not super-concerned about having every picky plot point set, but I need to know how events and emotions will generally intersect.