Sorry for the lack of Topics & Frolics this week; it’s been crazy around here! But I try to never miss a Saturday, and I’ve been looking forward to today’s post for awhile now. Back in June I announced the “Summer’s Ultimate Novel” contest—to enter, participants had to comment every Saturday with their writing progress. It didn’t matter if they reached their goals or not, just as long as they commented. It was easy to choose the winners, because only two SUN writers commented throughout July. And the winners are … *drumroll* Vicki and Savannah!! Congratulations, ladies!!
Vicki and Savannah both came close to reaching their goals for the month, and probably would have if not for a family vacation that took them out of state during the last week of July. So actually, they wrote close to 40K words in just three weeks—very impressive! I had several questions about their SUN experiences. After all, I never came close to writing a novel when I was fourteen years old, and I was curious as to how it would feel! They graciously allowed me to post their answers here, where I hope they’ll be an inspiration to other young writers. So without further ado, here’s my interview with Vicki and Sav …
1. What was your total word goal for SUN? How many words did you end up with?
Vicki: My total word count goal was at least 49, 600 words, 1,600 words a day. I’m still working a bit every day on my novel when I have time, since I didn’t get to complete it in the last week of July, but at the moment, I have 39, 484 words total. I plan to try to finish my novel in around two weeks, but I won’t be following a particular word count goal each day, just the total word count.
Sav: My total word goal was 1,600 words a day and 49,600 total words. I ended up, as of now, with 39,388 words. I have not yet finished my novel, because of a trip, but plan to finish it soon.
2. Are you happy with the resulting story?
Vicki: There are two different answers for that question. Answering this when it’s not finished is difficult, but I’ll try my best. I have loved the idea of the story in my head (I fell in love with it a while ago *wink*), but writing it is quite another story. Not in a bad way, of course. I am happy with how the characters came to play out, and I love my characters, obviously. I’m satisfied with the way that things are turning out in their world right now, and so far, the procession of events is going quite well, though the transitions are a problem for me. On the other hand, I’m kind of unhappy with some of the phrases that I’ve used over and over again, and some of the grammar isn’t the best. The technical things, basically, bother me and will bother me until I have the time to write a second draft. But overall, I’m happy with how the story is coming out, for now.
Sav: Surprisingly, no. I love my characters and the idea and am fond of several sections, but the overall story written down… not really. It’s not just the mistakes that are getting to me, although I know there are tons of them that I don’t see. It’s just the lack of movement, how you can tell the difference between when I was having a good day and when I was having a bad day. And the fact that I keep repeating myself throughout the entire book. I think I came in with too many expectations… I’m still pleased with the story, what I have written now and the changes I will make, because it belongs to the music. And a private goal of mine was to write a story dedicated to the music, my passion, how much our lives (or at least mine) depend on music. And I think I will succeed if I keep revising the story.
3. Was SUN different than you expected it would be? How so?
Vicki: SUN was different than I’d expected, mostly because when I was thinking about how I would write the novel in June, and then I actually started in July, it was a different experience than I’d imagined. It’s hard to explain, but actually writing the novel was more time-consuming, somewhat more difficult. I’d written my short stories beforehand, but a novel is more difficult because you have to actually continue on to solve the problems, the disasters, or at least try. Writing is a God-given talent, but I [and you] have to work at it still. I have to work a lot at it, and it takes more thought than anything I’d done before. I hope I’ve answered that question sufficiently, but it’s kind of difficult to explain. 🙂
Sav: It was definitely different than I expected. Whenever you hear someone say, “Oh, I wrote a book,” it doesn’t really sink in how much work it takes. It didn’t hit me until the first day of writing how grueling and tiring it would be to write a novel. I didn’t see all the late nights coming, or how burnt out I was going to be. I also didn’t expect how proud of myself I would be, though, just the feeling of knowing that all the work I was doing was actually getting me somewhere. It wasn’t even the prospect of telling people that I wrote a novel, but the fact that I could be proud of simply writing a book for myself.
4. What was the easiest part of SUN? The hardest?
Vicki: The easiest part of SUN was kind of the hardest too. 🙂 It was easy once I got going to write, depending on the part that I was at, and make my word count goal. But it was also kind of hard to write sometimes, when I was distracted or when I was at one of the transitions where nothing much happens, and it was hard for me to sit down and plan for a period of time in June because of my exhaustion from school (excuses, excuses, I know *grin*). So, in this case, the easiest was also the hardest, depending on the day. Very helpful answer, I’m sure, but that’s the best that I can think of right now. 🙂
Sav: Truthfully, the easiest part was picking the music to listen to during writing. 🙂 Okay, seriously, the easiest part was writing the scenes that I had thought a lot about, the scenes that I had ached to write. The hardest part was writing 1,600 words a day while maintaining the quality of the first day. I did not succeed in that, and I shouldn’t have expected that. The middle and the end naturally suffer from the fact that I wasn’t refreshed and I was, essentially, not prepared enough.
5. Do you have any plans for your SUN novel?
Vicki: I’m going to finish it, first of all, as best as I can in the following week and five or six days, but then I’m planning on eventually writing a second draft, since I love the idea of this story, and I want to see how I can edit it to project the initial idea much better than I did in my first draft. Then maybe I’ll do a third, fourth, draft if it gets to that point, and I’m planning on sharing my novel somewhere in there (how vague!), since my family and a few of our friends have been asking about it, following our progress. But only the Lord knows if this will come true, so if it’s God’s will, then, someday, it’ll happen.
Sav: First: quickly writing out the ending. Second: start writing the second draft and get it to the best it can be. Third: share it with my family/friends.
6. Do you think you’ll try writing more novels in the future? If so, what will you do differently next time to improve the experience?
Vicki: Definitely! I’m not going to give up on novel writing, I want to get better so that when I get out of college, I know that I have a chance at becoming a writer. The more preparation I put in now, the more it’ll pay off. I’ve wanted to be writer for so long that it’ll be hard to give up on my dream, and I don’t intend to. Next time, however, I will definitely, as I say below, plan much more than I did, prepare much more, know the characters better. I will also try not to give myself as many distractions as I had (Internet, change of music, etc.), though I can’t live without music while I’m writing. You know what I mean. And lastly, I’ll try my hardest not to worry so much about the little grammar things and try to concentrate on writing as much as I can while I’m doing a first draft, and I’ll try to write more in the day (though night was working somewhat well until I was nearly falling asleep in my chair at midnight) so that I don’t have to stay up so late to finish.
Sav: I can definitely see myself writing more novels in the future: my brain has already been generating more ideas. 🙂 The next time, I know that I’ll need to get to know the characters first and foremost. This time around, I didn’t feel as close to the characters or like I knew them. And outline more than I did. (I used the short but complete outline, outlining each scene in each chapter. I only did this up to the sixth chapter, however, and the plot changed on the way.)
7. Do you have any advice for other teenagers who want to write a novel?
Vicki: Though I am no expert, I would have three pieces of advice for other teenagers desiring to write a novel: 1) Plan, plan, plan. I was a Panster, and let me tell you, that is the last time I don’t plan much out. I was tired from the school year, and I didn’t feel like doing some of the planning I should’ve, so it wasn’t bad writing the novel, but it would’ve been a lot better if I’d planned it out more. 2) Keep away from all distraction while you’re writing. Obviously, you have to stay true to your obligations, but while you’re writing, just crank out as many words as possible while you have time. I learned that the hard way and paid for it – I ended up staying up until about midnight or later for half of July, though I took the mornings off as a break. And 3) Just keep writing. I know you’ve said this many, many times, dear aunt, but I should’ve followed this better. I worry about grammar in the first draft, it’s just my worry-wart side, and I got along okay, but I should’ve just written more and worried less. 🙂
Sav: If you’re passionate: do it. Don’t wait until you’re “ready”: you’ll never be ready. You have to force yourself to start. And don’t skimp on the preparation: it really is necessary. Knowing the characters is the most essential thing, in my opinion. And don’t get discouraged if someone says you’re “too young, too naïve, too…” If you want to write a novel, do it for yourself, not for anyone else. Oh, and: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Wow … the maturity of these answers really struck me. I’m supposed to be the instigator, but they’re teaching me new outlooks on writing! And did you notice how they’re both perfectionists? They’re so determined! I’m amazed at how they strive to keep working, even if they’re burnt out and need a break before school starts (August 19th).
Savannah and Vicki, as winners of the SUN contest, you each get your choice of a book or CD, whichever you prefer. Let’s go shopping later this week! 🙂 I can’t put into words how proud I am of both of you for achieving so much at such a young age. Thank you for taking a chance, working hard, and sharing your insight with the rest of us. Good luck with all your future writing endeavors!!