Novel-Writing 101: Getting Through the “Crazy Phase”

So—you’re writing a novel.  You have a magnificent idea.  A magnificent plot.  Magnificent characters.  Maybe you even have a magnificent first draft (though first drafts can rarely be called “magnificent”).  Yet despite the fact that you’ve been working on this novel…

A month?

Six months?

A year?

Two years?

You still feel as if it’s going nowhere.

You are not alone in the slightest.  Every writer I’ve ever talked to has been in this predicament in one way or another at some point in their careers.  This is what I call the “crazy phase” of writing.  This is the phase that culls the weak from the herd, so to speak.  This is the phase where you stare at the ceiling for hours on end, obsessing over plot holes and lapses in character development and wondering if you’ve always been this bad at writing.

Then, ultimately, you do the absolute worst thing: you give up on your novel.

No.  Do not do this.  It’s not worth it, I promise you!  Part of writing a novel is pushing through the “crazy phase” and proving that you are strong enough to do it!  And I have some tips to help you do just that.

 

#1: Marry Your Novel

Yes, you heard me right.  Say “I do” to that ginormous mess of words, page numbers, and headaches.  You MUST be committed to your novel in order to finish it.  Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be chained to your novel for the rest of your days (divorce is always an option, after all), but once you have committed yourself to a project, try your best to stick with it.  By metaphorically “marrying” your novel, you will hopefully think twice when the next tantalizing, juicy “plot bunny” (a persistent new novel idea that has nothing to do with the novel you’re writing) threatens to distract you.

 

#2: Turn Off the TV

Depending on how addicted you are to technology, this could be either the easiest or most difficult step.  Television is wonderful.  It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and it allows you to temporarily escape from reality.  Unfortunately, it is also incredibly addictive.  How many times have you logged into Netflix with the intent of watching just one episode and ended up spending 6 hours paralyzed in front of the screen?  Don’t lie to me, you know you’ve done it.  You cannot successfully write a novel if you regularly squander your weekends and free time watching The Office for the 5,000th time.  My advice is to cut out the television cold turkey.  The first week or so will be rough, but after a while you will get used to it, and I promise you: writing will be much easier.

 

#3: Take Inventory

I don’t know about you, but I am a very messy writer.  My work for just one novel can be scattered throughout 30 word processing documents, 5 notebooks, and dozens of random scraps of paper.  That is not an exaggeration.  When I start to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, I transcribe all my traditional writing into my computer, and then compile everything into one single word document.  Then, I organize everything by character, in chronological order.  After that, I read through all of it and take notes on what I have already written.  I read through the notes and take more notes on what I still need to write in order for the plot to make sense.  Is it time consuming?  Oh, yes.  But is it worth it?  Absolutely!  I understand this method might not work for everybody, but if you think it will work for you, I absolutely recommend giving it a shot.

At the very least, write down what still needs to happen in order for your novel to make sense.  I believe every writer needs to do that, no matter how organized they are.

 

#4: WRITE!

Magnificent idea?  Check.

Magnificent plot?  Check.

Magnificent characters?  Check.

The beginnings of a rough draft?  Check.

Commitment?  Check.

No technological distractions?  Check.

A list of what you still need to write?  Check.

Well, I’ve got some good news for you: you’re ready to write!  Put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and create a masterpiece!  Remember: only you can tell your story.

 

So, what are you waiting for?

 

Millie

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Last Man Left On Earth

By: Millie

“Noma, this is Markson.  Do you copy?”

Static.  Buzz.

“Copy that, Markson.  How are you feeling?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.

“I feel dizzy.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.

“Dizzy how?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.

“Just sort of foggy, like waking up from a dream.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.

“Interesting analysis.  Any pain?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.

“Not as of yet.  Should I be expecting any?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.

“We haven’t tested this on any other human subject, we have no way of knowing.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.

“I know that.  Don’t you have any extra information?…You’re not the one on a dead planet.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.

“Our animal subjects have displayed signs of anxiety and irritability at about the five minute mark.  How long has it been in your system?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.

“About…Three and a half minutes.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.

“Any pain?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.  Wince.

“You already asked me that.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.  Wince.  Grasp.

“I know.  With this medication, things…Happen…Very quickly.”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.  Wince.  Grasp.  Clench.

“Well, I’m fine…Wait…I…”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.  Wince.  Grasp.  Clench.  Hit.

“What is it?  …  Markson, what happened?  …  Markson, this is Noma.  Do you copy?  …  Markson, this is Noma.  Do you copy?”

Static.  Buzz.  Click.  Pop.  Spark.  Step.  Crunch.  Coo.  Whistle.  Sigh.  Bite.  Blink.  Wince.  Grasp.  Clench.  Hit.  Stuck.

“Markson, this is Noma.  Do you copy?”

STahTIc.  Buzzzzclick.  POP.  SsssssspAURk.  Step-crUnscH.  WhistlesighbiteblinkwincegraspclenchHITsssssssstuck NO.

“Markson, this is Noma.  Do you copy?”

StaticbuzzclickpopsparkstepcrunchcoowhistlesighbiteblinkwincegraspclenchhitstuckNO gone.

Gone.

Gone.

Gone.

“Markson, this is Noma.  Do you copy?”

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Gone.

15 Joyful Things

By: Millie

  1. Your favorite song comes on the radio
  2. You see the one you love after a long absence
  3. A complete stranger smiles hesitantly at you
  4. Someone laughs, and it sounds like music
  5. You touch the pillow-soft black fur of a 10-week old kitten
  6. A phone conversation between you and your best friend accidentally lasts 5 hours because neither of you want to hang up
  7. You live out a day full of real and honest fun
  8. You and a friend make new private jokes
  9. You have a squirt gun fight with someone you love on a miserably hot summer day
  10. Someone gives you a clamshell of cake
  11. Someone tells you you’re never a waste of time
  12. “Thank you.”
  13. “I do.”
  14. Two wine glasses gently collide and make a soft “clink”
  15. A baby smiles

Marlena, Your Majesty: Part 1

By: Millie

It was the glow of the lamp that softened her resolve.  Or maybe it was the sheets.  Yes, it was the sheets, those impossibly soft, warm crimson sheets.  They glowed under the lamp’s light, just as she did.

It wasn’t a bedroom, really.  It wasn’t even really a room.  Clothes lay haphazardly on the floor, having been recently discarded.  They formed pathways and misshapen piles of fabric where tired feet had sloppily sauntered through them in the journey to get to the bed.  Burnt-out stubs of candles were fused to the night stand, leaving hard, yellow wax over the mahogany wood.  At least fifteen glasses, all of different sizes, sat on the table in the middle of the room.  They each contained varying amounts of water.  Crumpled sheets of paper decorated the floor alongside the wrinkled clothes, lines of smudged ink still visible through the crinkles.  To the side of the room, a beige fainting couch sat, hardly disturbed aside from a large and rather noticeable coffee stain in the middle of the cushion.

No, it wasn’t a room.  Anyone who entered could see it wasn’t a room at all.  The sheets were too tangled, the scent too warm.  It was too familiar, too personal.  It wasn’t a room—it was a home.

Her quivering toes dug into the mattress at the foot of the bed.  Her legs, soft and luminous under the warm lamplight, shook at the knees, which she clutched with surprisingly muscular arms.  Her hands were knotted into each other, so tight her knuckles shone white.  Her chest heaved and her lip shook.

Footsteps.

Foot

Step

Foot

Step

Foot

Step

And then…

The woman’s eyes closed, she took a deep breath, and quietly muttered a question into the air, which hung before her for a moment.  She waited, smiled, and solemnly nodded.  When she looked up, tears fell from her eyes.

The door before her had fourteen locks on it, but she knew, just this once, they wouldn’t be enough.  She heard them click, one by one, all fourteen of them.  Then the door opened.

“It’s been a while.”

She couldn’t see his face, but the deep baritone of his voice gave him away.  The lamp beside her flickered out, leaving the room in darkness.  “You don’t have to do that, you know,” she whispered.

She heard the floorboards groan as he took a step forward.  “I’m trying to be nice,” he said softly.  “That’s the best I can do.”  She felt the hot palms of his hands rest on her cold feet, and she shuddered.  “I’m sorry they did this to you.”

“I’m sorry they made you do it.”

The air hung with nothing but darkness until the lamp fluttered back to life, and all she could see was his face.  “I’m not going to let them get away with this,” he said, and she could see in his eyes that he was telling the truth.

“Thank you,” she said.  Her chapped lips curved into a forced half-smile.

He stepped back.  “Now get up,” he instructed.

She did as he said, quietly moving from her perch on the bed and anxiously standing before him on weak legs, fear ever-present in her eyes.  Biting his lip and staring at her with a glassy glare of regret, he slowly pulled a syringe from his belt, removing the cap and gesturing for her arm.  Her head snapped up, a new, almost feral look in her eyes.  “No,” she pleaded.  “No, not again.”

Turning abruptly, she started towards the door, nervous sweat gleaming on her forehead.  He raced after her and had swiftly captured her wrist in his grasp before she had even made it past the threshold.

“Please,” she begged.  “It’s bad enough as it is, don’t make it worse.”

He winced at her words as he deliberately rolled up her sleeve, but didn’t reply.  Pulling her closer to him, he quickly plunged the needle into her forearm.  “I’m sorry,” he said as she let out a sharp cry of pain.  He pushed down on the syringe until the deep purple liquid was completely dispensed.  He withdrew the needle, carelessly dropping it to the floor.  “It’s protocol.”

She felt her eyes grow heavy.  She lurched forward, holding onto his arms for support, carefully calculating his expression.  He was sad.  Sad and…Afraid?  Anxious?  No.

No.

No.

He wasn’t…

Blink

Fall

Lurch

He was never afraid.

He was…

Blink

Tumble

Hands

Tears

Hands

Tears

I’m sorry

It’s protocol

Excited.

Day 1: Why?

 

Why start this website?  It’s simple.

As humans, we are living in one of the most confusing times our species has ever endured.  Opinions have never been more diverse, tragedies more documented, or lives more mourned.  Everyone has, to some extent, been witness to demoralizing, traumatizing, and altogether awful things–be it on the news, the Internet, or in our own lives.  I am no different.

However, we have also seen a great many beautiful things.  We have seen the sun rise and set.  We have traced constellations through midnight skies.  We have held babies, hugged elders, and grown plants.  We have loved truly and deeply and we have done everything possible to make that love known to the world.  There is good within us, there is joy; and while that joy persists we have nothing to fear.

 

So I am starting this website with the hope that I will help you realize humanity.  I hope that through my stories and through my art, you will realize the strength, the power, and the love that humanity is capable of.  I hope you will realize that you, as a human, are capable of that, too.

Philosophy aside, I do hope you enjoy my work.  I have worked quite diligently at it and I love sharing it with you.

Many thanks,

Millie