Can you help me choose the first novel should write?
August 2, 2018 5:53 AM   Subscribe

The time has come to knuckle down and write my novel. The problem is I have 3 in mind, can you help me choose a project?

I've been writing since I could lift a pen, wrote a few mini novels when I was 8 but it was all just a practice. I'm 26 now, have had a few short stories published and have written a couple of short plays. But I feel all this has just been a lead up to writing novels.

Novel 1: Last November I started writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It was a development of a short story I had written first, its set around the topic of islands and community which is popular where I'm from - and its in the crime genre. Recently I've been dreaming about the setting & am considering going to the island to do more research next month. I've also designed a front cover.

Novel 2: I wrote a short fictional piece when I was 17 and my then tutor told me I should make it into a novel. Over the years I have developed the idea in my head but it was dormant for quite a long time. Last year, however, I started to amp up the research and the characters/plot started to callibrate in my head. I really care about this one and want to get it right.

Novel 3: I did a dissertation on this one. Its another historical novel that I absolutely know I want to write at some point but haven't felt as much urgency about in recent times. I still continue to develop the plots and write little descriptions here and there, but it has taken more of a back seat although it consumed me at one point.

Lately I've been thinking I should write 'Novel 1' but that was never the plan! I was always going to write them in order from when I first thought of them. What if I choose to write the wrong one first? Does it matter which novel I write first and how can I decide? Looking for advice, especially in terms of prioritising projects.
posted by Willow251 to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Going by the title, I may need to work on editing more closely ;D
posted by Willow251 at 5:53 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

you sound most enthusiastic about novel 1, and it has the advantage that you've already broken the ground a bit with the NaNoWriMo work. The others will still be there afterwards.
posted by crocomancer at 6:11 AM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

On the "build one to throw away" principle, I would save Idea #2 until after you've written your first novel, so you can bring that experience to bear.

Since Idea #3 doesn't seem to have much story, only facts, you can either pretend you are James Michener and crank out something that uses up your index cards (j/k OK not really), or follow the story already bubbling in your head in Idea #1. I would go with #1.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:17 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Adding the disclaimer to ignore me if you know yourself well enough to know that this wouldn't work....why not work on all three simultaneously?

You know - start working on #1, and if you hit a point where you hit a wall with it, you've made a good effort to get past the block and it just isn't coming, then maybe pull out #2 or #3 and work on that a little while your subconscious is mulling over #1. Then when you finally figure out how to move forward with #1, put #2 or #3 away again and go back to #1.

If you're not comfortable doing full-on writing for #2 or #3, then just work on "prep-work" for them - brainstorm about a plot for #2, do a little reseerch for #3...stuff like that, so you can hit the ground running on those or better assess where there's even a "there" there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you really care about the last two choices. So write the first one instead. You are going to make mistakes, and they won't hurt as much with a theme you enjoy but hasn't been occupying major headspace for years. Write to get it done, warts and all, and then you will have the experience and reputation and maturity to move on to your two real passion projects.
posted by seasparrow at 6:37 AM on August 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Write the fun one that isn't THE ONEEEEE so that you'll have practice when you tackle your favorite idea.

But more importantly, write one.

The book that's written is always better than the book that you're gonna write someday. And then you will have written a book, which will give you all kinds of confidence, just knowing that's a thing you are able to do.
posted by oblique red at 7:15 AM on August 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

You write the one you most want to write. Which one that is, I dunno. Based on what you've written here, I'd say 2, but only you can know for sure.

Novel 1: I've been dreaming about the setting & am considering going to the island to do more research next month. I've also designed a front cover.

Novel 2: I started to amp up the research and the characters/plot started to callibrate in my head. I really care about this one and want to get it right.

posted by Don Pepino at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2018

Scrunch all three into one novel?
posted by notyou at 12:16 PM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the post modern thing to do is to just write three short novellas and throw em in the blender. It's a thing these days.
posted by ovvl at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2018

There are lots of components to a novel: plot, use of language, plus what I think of as lit crit stuff: symbolism, metaphors, etc. Your three potential projects probably differ in the mix required, and you are probably stronger in some areas than others. And, there is the question of goal: is this a learning exercise, or are you looking for the fastest route to publishable work, or whatever.

I suggest a hard-minded calculation: determine the goal and work out which project gets you there quickest.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:12 PM on August 2, 2018

Write the one you can finish fastest. Write a bad first draft. Then, guess what? You did it! You wrote a novel! You’re a novelist!

Which a) gives you confidence and b) gives you words on pages that you can edit. Just take five minutes, decide which one sounds easiest or that you’re most passionate about right now, and write it. Revise later. You can even put the whole draft away for a few years and pull it out later to edit when you have more experience with novels, if that’s what you want to do. But one bad first draft is better than three great but unwritten ideas. Words on pages is the first step.
posted by bananacabana at 5:06 PM on August 2, 2018

If #2 has to be Perfect then it probably shouldn’t be your first novel. If you’re excited about it then maybe write a first draft, then put it away and work on #1 or #3.

Alternatively, roll a die. Let it decide which one you’re gonna do. If you really hate the result then suddenly you were rolling to see which one you WOULDN’T write; flip a coin to pick between the remaining two.

Whichever one you write you’re gonna want to do a second/third draft after, anyway.
posted by egypturnash at 8:00 PM on August 2, 2018

Thank you everyone. I've come to the realisation (precipitated by the help of this advice) that perhaps I'm better off just being open to working on more than project at once seeing as that's the direction my brain seems to want to go in.

I completed a creative piece last week which I feel good about - I've submitted it and will get guaranteed feedback soon. I've begun with 1, so hopefully I can focus on and develop it now.
posted by Willow251 at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

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