When I first began the story that would become my first novel, it started off in a writing class. My teacher gave us a prompt to create a scene where two characters had secrets they were keeping from on another. We were apparently a sad sack class, one that could not create tension for the life of us.
Demoralized because I could rip off a great metaphor but no plot, I went home to the large, slightly scary house I was staying in and wrote up the scene, the big thwaps of the moths hitting the screen keeping me tense the entire time.
By the time the class was over, this scene had grown to four pages. The week following the class, I kept at the story, and by the time I was "finished," it was 17 pages long. And, I thought, the best damn thing I had ever written in my entire life. I was likely a genius.
With pride and exultation, I brought it to my writing group, where I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn't done. Not at all. It was, in fact, a novel, that now just needed 250 additional pages. All I needed to do was write them.
For the next year, I filled in that short story, stretching it literally as I wrote scenes that would explain the ending I had already written.
This was not a perfect way to write a novel, and when I came to my second novel, I truly had no idea what to do in terms of shape an form. This inability to see the shape was summed up by my then editor who told me--after a read of my second draft--that I was "about 49% there."
But by the time I got to my third and then forth novel, I'd moved into thinking in a novel shape. I know how to do chapters, and while this might make some of you laugh, I really didn't know how to "think" in a chapter. Where did the damn thing end? I used to wonder. Help me stop it!
Now, I've bounced around in the genres, know more about different kinds of structure, and I can pretty much whip up a good lather about how to do it, novel writing, that is.
Starting January 10th, I'm teaching an online class for UCLA Extension that is in need of some novelists. You don't have to have a novel going to start in this Novel One class. You need an idea, a scene, maybe one where two characters are telling each other secrets, finally.
Here are the specifics and the contacts:
Novel Writing I: Writing the First Novel (Online)
That novel is inside you waiting to emerge, but deciding where and how to begin and the demands of writing the manuscript may seem daunting. It need not be. Weekly assignments, group interaction, and instructor feedback help you explore various methods of writing your first novel while learning the key craft points of plot, structure, point-of-view, sense of place, and voice. The goal is to complete the first chapter of your novel by establishing an intimacy with your characters as you artfully shape their journey, and to develop an overall concept to guide you through your story
OR: try this fabulous site, the UCLA Writer's Program Site itself.
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