I’ve been thinking recently about the state of our novel selection in book stores and libraries and the like. And, as I assume you know based on my usual content on this blog, what I’m most interested in is finding ways to improve the books out there so they’re more original and interesting. Not to diss on authors, of course. I am one. I know how difficult the writing process can be.
Cue this post’s subject matter. What if, instead of telling authors they had to write a novel all on their own, we instead encourage a group of people to work together and play to their strength? I’m not talking about co-authoring, although I suppose technically that’s what this is. Co-authoring is usually looked down upon, as if the authors weren’t capable of writing their own novel and so had to work with someone to help them make it better.
Consider movies, though. Obviously, the process of creating a movie is vastly different than that of creating a novel: screen-writing is often done alone, and the writing itself doesn’t matter if you’ve got a poor director or poor actors. Of course, even with excellent directing and an excellent cast, if the writing is crappy, then you’ll likely have a crappy movie.
Even in explaining the differences, though, it’s clear that what is most different about movie-making is that writing is only half the battle.
Writers have different strengths.
There is no shame in admitting that you are really great at, say, dialogue, but can’t really draw up 3-dimensional characters to save your life. I know that I’m pretty good at character development and world-building, but plot and writing are the two main aspects that I’ve had to focus on during my revisions. It’s why I’ve had to start from scratch so many times for my WiP, Dire Fate.
Naturally, the way we’ve been working the system up until this point is to simply do heavy revisions until our weaknesses fade into the background or disappear altogether. But if a team of writers came together and pitched ideas back and forth according to their strengths — one teases out the novel idea they’ve got, another sets up a world to set the idea in, a third creates characters to inhabit that world and go through that trial, and a fourth to take all that information and make it sound amazing — would make novel writing that much simpler.
The only downside, of course, is that you’d have to put a lot of faith and trust into each member of your team. But if people in charge of movies can find a way to search and hire people best suited for the task, certainly novelists can too.
Novel writing is in and of itself very hard work.
Writing a novel is a massive project. It’s not just belting out words left and right. It’s not about one’s skill at writing or revising. There are so many aspects to novel writing that it’s no wonder we’ve got so many books that have decent plot ideas or decent character development or decent world-building, but so few that have all three.
The worst part is that people expect you to do it alone. Or you find it easier to do it alone. In either case, especially in the fledgling stages of writing, you’re constantly changing things up and making them better or finding that previous ideas were better than the newer ones. It becomes difficult to talk to people about it without confusing them about your current plotting.
Naturally, with your writing team, you’d have a small group of people intent on a single, final goal. There’s potential for drama if people disagree on how to best reach that goal, but the point remains. You’d have maybe four or five people — maybe more, maybe less — who may not necessarily be good at what you’re good at doing… say, character development… but they’re still invested in making sure all of the components come together smoothly. So if you don’t know whether to make a character X or Y, you can talk about it with your team. Or if the plotter of the team doesn’t know what could happen after X disaster, you could tell them what your characters would most likely do. Essentially, it takes away much of the stress that comes with writing because if you’re not sure something would work, you can ask your team.
Teams are different than support systems.
One could argue that it’s a risky business to include several people into this kind of process. And I mean, it’s true, it can be risky if someone chooses that they’re not happy with the way a thing is going and potentially pulls the whole thing apart. But they could do more than supporting friends or family could do. You would be coming together, basically during the outlining stages of the novel, and determining what’s best for it before you get in too deep with the writing. Supporting friends and family cannot always be there, or can’t always know which way would be the best way to go if they haven’t been following closely with the changes you continue to make.
Your team would effectively be your support system in the most fragile part of the novel writing process: its beginnings.
It would minimize the selection of mediocre writing and potentially make way for better novels.
The problem with publishing at the moment, I think, is that a lot of people have really good ideas or halfway decent ideas but don’t know how to translate that onto the page. Often, I pick out a book in the library and I’m impressed by the back cover but find the book lacking in substance or intrigue. Basically, many of the books I’ve read fall short because the author tried and failed to work past their writing weaknesses to make an amazing novel. It’s not really their fault. Ideally, though, a wannabe author could take their amazing idea and form a group that could help improve the idea through great writing and amazing characters and beautiful worlds.
A Conjuring of Light
Author: V. E. Schwab
Rating: 4 stars
Overall, I thought this was a stellar conclusion to the Shades of Magic series. I think we saw a lot of character growth, and in terms of plot, I was pushing my way through this book from start to finish. It was, for the most part, very intense. I did have a few problems with it though. Personally, the choppy writing style got a little annoying after a while, especially since all of the characters were written in that kind of way. All of the characters were well-developed, but they sometimes sounded the same just in terms of general narration. Also, there were several PoVs that in the end seemed unnecessary, if only because they didn’t really add to the plot. At least those chapters were short, though. Really, my main problem (and it wasn’t exactly that big of one; more of an annoyance than anything else) was that the conclusion left a lot of things open and unanswered. Several points that I think were meant to feel like closer just felt like pretty words instead of actual definitive notes on what happened at the end. But I think it was still a pretty good book.
From deepwaterwritingprompts.tumblr.com: “There are all sorts of princesses. Some live in deep holes, and have too many teeth.”
Bonus! We have kittens!
My family and I are currently fostering a mother cat and her four kittens for a lady who lives down the street from us. The plan is to get the mother cat fixed when the kittens are old enough to be weaned (and then probably get the kittens fixed when they’re old enough for that), but the adorable little fluffballs are only two weeks old. So I think we’ll be holding onto all five of them for another few weeks.