Tag Archives: Lillian

The Art of Finishing Novel One

One question I would get from my students when I taught creative writing was, “Will you read my book?”

My response was always the same, “Is it finished?”

98% of the time the answer was, “No, but it’s really amazing… etc.”

I won’t read an unfinished book from a first time novelist. Mean? Yes, I know it sounds very mean, but there is a method to this madness, I promise.
There are people who will try and write one novel their entire lives… statistically those people will never finish it. They have their rationalizations of why they will never finish it. Trust me I know them all, it took me ten years to finish my first novel. Here are my favorites; I can’t write the next part without editing what I have already written. It has to be perfect. I have too many novel ideas come to me so I have ten or so novel beginnings, and I try to work on them when the muse tells me too. I don’t have enough life experience/ haven’t suffered enough. I am not intelligent enough to work on it. I must be brilliant. Every word a stroke of genius. Etc.

It wasn’t until I shut all the voices in my head down and joined a writers group that I felt the strong desire to pick one of my many brilliant (sarcasm) beginnings and run it through to the end. Even though I had published some poetry and a few articles, it wasn’t until I ‘finished’ my first draft that I truly felt like a writer.

Why is finishing a first draft a game changer? Trust me, you don’t even know what your book really is unless you finish it. What you thought or had tried to plan sometimes takes a detour to something better. Not to mention that there is a lot to learn about your strengths and weaknesses with your first novel. It’s like walking through a dark and scary cave alone without anyone to hold your hand. You’ve just got to hold your breath, suck it up and do it to see what is on the other side. You come out learning so much about your own writing style, (or lack thereof) and you also get to put The End on your first draft.

Now I have finished more first drafts than I care to stop and count, I have a pretty good handle on what my talents are and what pitfalls I need to watch out for. For instance, I love to write as I go, but I also have learned that I need a general direction and not a full outline. I also have to have my character lead the way, so I need to have my character solid before I start. If I don’t have a solid character, I may as well be writing a Dick and Jane book. You know, See Dick run. See Jane run. Run Dick. Run Jane. Etc.

These are not specific to me, and I have seen people who struggle with the aspects I am confident at and pull out an amazing story.

So tell me… how did writing The End on your first novel make you feel?

If you haven’t finished a project, why do you think that is?

Happy Writing!

By Lillian J. Banks

A Lesson From Poetry: Writing Emotion

This month I was pleased to attend the Utah Poet of the Year concert. This is a prestigious award given by the Utah Poets Society, of which I am not a member. The event was orchestrated professionally and the winner Dawnell Griffin, was sophisticated and regal in her graceful acceptance of the plaque and the reading of her poetry book, On Judgment Day.

She, with her skilled way of putting the right words on paper, had the entire body of the audience in tears. The book itself, a masterpiece, and a glimpse into the moment of tragedy in a relate-able way, was at it’s core nothing but pure honesty. That unabashed honesty made me think.

As writers we can’t help but put our viewpoint into our books. We build characters based on our perception of others, and ourselves. Sometimes that perception is wrong, or skewed, but it is how we see it. The best writers I know take experiences from their own life and inject those emotions into situations that require that depth in their novels. After all, isn’t that how we generate a believable character? To fill him/her with human emotions?

Dawnell Griffin was able to put her emotions on paper without fear of being judged and claim them as her own.

As a novelist, I get the luxury of having characters present my emotions in a less scrutinizing way. The brilliance of that maneuver is my characters can sift through the feelings I give them and I can discard them as I move onto other types of experiences.

You may not have to write as bravely as Dawnell did, but the most important lesson in this to me was that emotions not only help your reader to relate to your characters, but also to validate the reader’s experiences in life. I will always feel very fortunate to have been at that concert because Dawnell’s book of poems made me feel. Emotions and ideas that I’ve had in my life could relate to her emotions she shared. Her traumatic moment was still full of hope and her true character, without being bogged down by self pity or martyrdom, shone through.

May we all be so brave.

By Lillian J. Banks

Writing Snippets Episode 6: World Building 2

Jocelyn MC’s this episode again as we talk about the importance of World building in science fiction writing, fantasy writing, contemporary and historical fiction.

(about 22 min)

Writing Snippets Episode One: Writer New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome to Writing Snippets!
Join your hosts Alice, Ava, Jocelyn, Lauren, Lilly, and Nichole in our first podcast as we discuss our Writing New Year’s Resolutions. We will explore why resolutions haven’t worked in the past, and tips on how we can succeed. Write your own resolutions in the comments below and add them to ours. We will track them throughout the year as we go on the 2011 journey together. And as always, no words were harmed in the making of this podcast.
Writer New Year’s Resolutions


****Leave a comment about your New Years Writing Resolutions to be entered in the drawing to win a Writer’s Digest Writing Planner. The winner will be announced on Monday, Jan. 31st.