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Fussy Novels and How to Fix Them

“Fussy Novels and How to Finish Them”
April 28, 2022 3-4pm SLT
Second Life – Fantasy Faire’s Literary Festival (to benefit Relay for Life)
Ceejay Writer hosts a workshop for writers with novels in progress who need help getting to the finish line. We’ll brainstorm to find you the tools, motivation, and inspiration you need to get ‘er done. Writers at any stage of the novel-writing process are welcome. Every attendee will leave with a Writer’s Toolbox, packed with resources! Discussion is in local chat, not voice. Join this event in the Hall of the Golden Stag on Mythspire Ridge.

Event chatlog transcript follows:

Ceejay Writer: Am I up, or is there a small vaudeville act before I go?
fyre: lolz Ceejay
Jolie Carter: Applause, applause!!
Saffia Widdershins: You are up – please grab a chair!
Magda Kamenev: Yay, Ceej!
Rory Torrance shuffles off to buffalo and calls out “You’re on, Ceejay!”
Magda Kamenev: hands Ceejay a hat and a cane.
Saffia Widdershins: Welcome everyone!
Ceejay Writer shuffles off to Buffalo….
fyre: I thought the schedule read “Fuzzy Novels”
Callipygian Christensen: RL calls :/
Ceejay Writer: Well, some ARE fuzzy, so that’s okay.
Jolie Carter: Voice? or Stream?
Jolie Carter: I hear nothing.
Ceejay Writer: Not voice – local chat.
Saffia Widdershins: Ceejay Writer is part of the nominatively determinist Writer family in Second Life ,…..
Ceejay Writer: Is that what I am?
Saffia Widdershins: For many years we worked together on Prim Perfect and the Primgraph magazines 🙂
Saffia Widdershins: nnnhnmmm
Ceejay Writer: We had SUCH fun!
Saffia Widdershins: You have the name – and you live up to it!
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Good evening to you too Ceejay, and lovely to see ya again Saffia!
Ceejay Writer: Aww. I try. There’s a heck of a good family of Writers in SL.
Saffia Widdershins: Her other great interests are coffee and chocolate and for a number of years she ran a GREAT website discussing the two!
Siren Says: Indeed
fyre: most excellent
Darlingmonster Ember: even a cafe for both
Ceejay Writer: yep – that was, now defunct, BUT I have another site… – really!
Saffia Widdershins: and giving recipes
Ceejay Writer: I decided to have this workshop in local chat instead of voice, since I want ALL of you to interact and speak up at any time.
Saffia Widdershins: She writes under her rl name of Lori Alden Holuta –
Darlingmonster Ember: is all local chat Magz
Jolie Carter: I’m afraid we must go. Good night all.
Ceejay Writer: Take care, Jolie!
Saffia Widdershins: writing steampunk novels that are in part set in a city that has distinct echoes of New Babbage, urchins and all.
fyre: nice
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Noe of my novels are finished, you
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: *you’re a step ahead of me lol
Saffia Widdershins: I do hope, Ceejay, that one day the famous red shirt family of New Babbage might also make an appearance.- The Biggins clan!
Ceejay Writer: Hint duly noted. *wink*
Darlingmonster Ember: that was a serious hint
Saffia Widdershins: Today, Ceejay is going to talk about “Fussy Novels and How to Finish Them” – and she has a GIFT to help you all.
Saffia Widdershins: So take it away, Ceejay!!!
Ceejay Writer: I do have some free stories at my author website if you want to sample my style –
Ceejay Writer: Saffia should have a copy of my gift, and perhaps could set it out for you all to grab.
Saffia Widdershins: And she also runs a GREAT writing group here in Second Life
Magda Kamenev: Woo hooo!
EZ Animator: Stopping All Animations
Ceejay Writer: Let me ask a couple of questions of you all to start….. who here has a novel in progress?
Reghan raises a hand.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: raises hand
Rory Torrance: i do! but you knew that
Ephemeria: raises hand too
Darlingmonster Ember: raises hand
Gilgamesh Alpha: same
Saffia Widdershins raises hand
Ceejay Writer: Rory’s is going to be a million words long at the rate he’s going.
Rory Torrance: yep
fyre: I’m told I should but I do noT lolz
Ceejay Writer: Its wonderful to see some of you are working on books! You KNOW I am going to want to read them all.
Ceejay Writer: Fyre… just dooooooo it!
Magda Kamenev raises a paw.
Ceejay Writer: Magda, I may have seen a glimpse of yours?
Ceejay Writer: Okay, how many here are pondering starting a novel?
Gilgamesh Alpha raises hoof
Magda Kamenev: You’ve seen the steampunk one, not the historical romance one.
fyre raises paw laughing at herself*
Rory Torrance: one nervous breakdown at a time, please!
Ceejay Writer: Aaaaah! Got it, Magda.
Saffia Widdershins: ohhhh – is that the Regency romance?
Ceejay Writer: Regency romances are ALL the rage right now.
Ceejay Writer: Blame it on Bridgerton.
Darlingmonster Ember: ah
Magda Kamenev: Excuse me, Dimmie.
fyre grins and nods*
Darlingmonster Ember: no worries
Ceejay Writer: But.. don’t be put off if your book isn’t in a popular style. Readers are fickle and we cannot predict what or when the next trend will be. So that’s my first bit of advice. Just write for yourself, not a perceived trend.
Ceejay Writer: Now – who feels brave enough to speak up if they are stuck in the writing process?
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: I am?
Siren Says: I’m stuck.
Gilgamesh Alpha: I’m stuck as well
Ephemeria: Me too 🙁
Rory Torrance: hasn’t happened yet, knock on my wooden head
Magda Kamenev: Mee me me.
Reghan: Not yet, but I expect it to happen.
Ceejay Writer: Is there something in particular that seems to be your roadblock? Any of you can answer.
fyre shoulder bumps Jaime* yayz speak on it!
Ephemeria: Yes I can try.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Well, for me, I’ve built the world, laid out the outline of the trilogy, however find it difficult to get the wheel on the path, as it were
Ceejay Writer: Ah. That first chapter can be intimidating.
Gilgamesh Alpha: I do as well
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Mine’s prologue takes place five centuries before chapter one, which helps none in that regard XD
Ceejay Writer: If you know what you want to have happen in the first chapter, try just making a note of the action…. and then leap into chapter two. That sometimes works.
Rory Torrance nods
Ceejay Writer: Or else just try letting your protagonist start talking. Let them chatter. Write it down as if that’s chapter one.
Ceejay Writer: Remember you are going to be doing a first draft.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: as if they are a true narrator?
Ceejay Writer: Those are always a MESS. *laughs* No one expects perfection right off.
Ceejay Writer: Jamie… sure! If that would feel natural for you to write, give it a go. Let the character tell you how they feel… write that down. IT may crack the ice.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: hmm… perhaps it just might. Through RP i am so accustomed to third person narrative, that that may just do the trick
Ceejay Writer: The best advice I ever got was to just plow on through the first draft. Don’t worry if it’s pretty or grammer-perfect. Get that storyline down. Later passes, you can flesh it out, change things that seemed to hit dead ends…
Rory Torrance: i totally agree that its important to get something down even if its all wrong and has to be replaced later.
Siren Says: 1. I very frequently have trouble deciding the scale of the stories I want to write, be it by age group (which children’s age is right for THIS story?) or the length (Should this be a short story, novelette, novel?). I generally try to lean on whatever’s organic to answer the problem. I can’t write a trilogy before I write a novel, after all.
2. I often have the REST of the story well-mapped out, but it will change based on how an early scene is written… but getting stuck on said early scene. Usually when stuck, I consider my own feelings and impressions and thoughts about what is happening in the narrative, and use that to break my own ice. But sometimes that doesn’t work.
Ceejay Writer: Use your RP experience to your advantage, Jamie.
Ceejay Writer: Question 1…. Don’t worry about the length, just tell the story without constraining it. By the end, you’ll know what you have.
Ceejay Writer: Same for chapters, I know a lot of people worry about chapter length.
fyre: that makes good sense
Ceejay Writer: A chapter ends when it’s done… there’s no rules.
Rory Torrance: ive seen once-sentence chapters!
Ceejay Writer: Heck, Terry Pratchett wrote entire books with NO chapters.
Rory Torrance: ahahahaha
Ceejay Writer: Rules are for mundane people. YOU ARE WRITERS.
fyre: lolz Truth Ceejay!
Rory Torrance: they’re guidelines, nothing more
Ceejay Writer: Sirens, #2… I wrote out a few things in notepad to use if needed. Let me paste in a long bit that might help you with that.
Rory Torrance: every artist knows, rules are there to be broken
Ceejay Writer: Freely use placeholders. For example, say you’ve been working up to a terrific fight scene. It’s going to be epic, the highlight of the chapter. And now you are there! And you’re stuck. Just type [Epic fight scene happens here. Protagonist wins (or Villain wins)] – and move on ahead to whatever happens AFTER the fight scene. You don’t need to write it right now. You can come back when your headspace is feeling more fighty. I use [brackets] because I can use the Search function to find them all later to write them in detail. Bonus: If you decide later that the fight scene should have been a different type of confrontation, you haven’t wasted all your energy writing it yet.
Rory Torrance: i like the brackets idea. im gonna use that.
Ephemeria: wow that is useful for my block right now
Ceejay Writer: I can’t tell you how many perfectly edited scenes got brutally ripped out of my first drafts. That’s known in the trade as ‘killing your darlings’.
Ceejay Writer: I’m glad that may help, Ephemeria.
Rory Torrance hums “you always hurt the one you love”
Ceejay Writer: Here’s another tip that has really helped me out:
Ephemeria: I tend to write the key scenes first and than try to connect them. Will that work out, do you think>
Ceejay Writer: Act out! Literally. Crank up the font size on your monitor so you can see your manuscript from the middle of the room. Go to the chapter right before the point where you lost control of the writing. Get out of your chair and read that chapter aloud, and act it out, too! You might find some ah-ha moments this way – plus, you get some exercise, and hopefully have a bit of fun, too.
Darlingmonster Ember: damn that’s a good trick
Ceejay Writer: Ephemeria… If you have solid scenes that span a full book – with a beginning and end, that should work. It’s like you’re writing an outline on steroids.
Ephemeria: blushes* no, not on steroids, but I do have a clear out line in my head
Ceejay Writer: I also have conversations with my characters, while doing boring tasks (weeding, driving) and we hash out interesting details together. 😉
Ceejay Writer: Then go with that outline. Write what you have. Then set it aside for a couple of days to clear your vision and then get back to it.
Ceejay Writer: Any other specific problems we can talk about, anyone?
Rory Torrance: my biggest problem is just figuring out what order to tell things in…
Rory Torrance: chronological isnt always best
Rory Torrance: and im not one of nature’s linear thinkers anyway
Saffia Widdershins: Last year, we had Steve Miller and Sharon Lee as our special guests …. and they talked about how they roleplayed their Liaden Universe novels together as they wrote them
Rory Torrance: i waste a LOT of time rearranging chapters
Ceejay Writer: I get it. You’re allowed to rearrange chapters at will, if that helps?
Siren Says: Apologies, my browser crashed right after I posted my question. If anyone’s got a NC of the local chat to share, that would be lovely.
Ceejay Writer: Cut and paste may be your best friend, Rory.
Rory Torrance: oh it is
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: How to write out someone adjusting to a modern world from one of the past XD (for the reader- using chapters of ‘dream sequences’ to give more backstory on the protagonist)
Ceejay Writer: Siren, one reason I wanted to do this in local chat was to preserve the entire session. I’ll be saving a chatlog and can share it.
Siren Says: Thank you
Ceejay Writer: Interesting Jamie! Are you looking for a way to show the change in your writing style?
Darlingmonster Ember: apologies… cats demand dinner
Darlingmonster Ember: well worth the time thanks!!!
Magda Kamenev: Night, Dimmie.
Ceejay Writer: The classic movie trick is to drop someone into a busy setting, like rush hour in NYC, or in the middle of a social event
Ceejay Writer: Then you can have them panic, struggle to understand, slowly assimilate….
Ceejay Writer: Or if you are writing back and forth, you could use a change in writing style. Crisp and modern vs. flowerly vintage prose
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Potentially! the series is ‘song of the last legionnaire’, and takes place 500 years after the prologue, with the protagonist and one of the nations lost diarchs getting chucked back out of the void into another looming war. Only issue with them coming into a busy setting, is they get thrown out near where they entered the collapsing rift, which has since become the ‘wasteland’ an expanse of desert south of the country the story takes place in
Ceejay Writer: Wow, that’s ambitious and sounds really engrossing.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: the worldbuilding took 2 years XD
Ceejay Writer: Okay… so you have a wasteland, and then you have a war setting?
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: well, sort of, they come back -before- the third coming of a primordial war, sort of as prophets to its coming. The first book is the lead up to the war and assimilating to the world, war won’t begin in earnest until book 2
Magda Kamenev: Any advice for those of us with undiagnosed ADHD/imposter syndrome who struggle to revise our work (I can’t kill my darlings, they’re all I have! *sob*)?
Ceejay Writer: Worldbuilding is fun! There’s a template for that mentioned in one of the notecards in the writer’s toolbox on the stage
Rory Torrance chuckles
Ceejay Writer: Magda…. I once killed a character I adored. LOVED the guy, but his death was needful. And hilarious.
fyre: Oh! ty for tools <3
Ceejay Writer: He was an inventor, and invented reversible wallpaper, and a freak accident happened. They had to bury him floral side out.
Reghan snickers.
Ephemeria: Side question: how can we use the toolbox on the stage?
Ceejay Writer: I felt so bad about it later, I wrote a children’s book called A Life Invented, and gave him his childhood.
fyre: just rightclick>touch
Reghan: Aww.
Ceejay Writer: The box is stuffed with notecards.
Magda Kamenev: It is!
Ceejay Writer: Jamie… you might try having the two settings have distinctly different weather and temperatures.
Ephemeria: 5 notecards, correct?
Ceejay Writer: That will help the reader make the jump, too.
Ceejay Writer: Yep! 5.
Ephemeria: Thanks a million
Reghan: Thank you.
fyre can’t stop smiling @floral side out*
Magda Kamenev: Thanks, Ceejay.
Ceejay Writer: Gerard Liddle, my inventor, appears first in my novel The Flight To Brassbright, just to get a lil plug in there.
Ceejay Writer: Jamie, has the advice helped?
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: well, bright side of that is the area they are in in the prologue and chapter one goes from a war torn and destroyed forest to complete desert… And yeah! ty ceejay, so much
Magda Kamenev: Alas, work calls! Thank you again, Ceejay, Saffia. Happy Faire, all.
Ceejay Writer: Take care Magda!
fyre: blessings Magda
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: take care, mags!
Ephemeria: ciao Magda
Ceejay Writer: A writer friend once said this about finishing a novel, and I saved it.
Ceejay Writer: Finishing a novel is the most humbling thing I think I’ve ever done. As someone said about poetry, you can’t finish one; you can just abandon it. Even a good, well constructed novel ending feels that way. – Rebecca Meredith
Ceejay Writer: Just so you know…. it’s not just you. 🙂
Rory Torrance: true of art in general i think
Saffia Widdershins smiles
Ceejay Writer: And a READER friend says this!
Ceejay Writer: Just remember, there are fans of yours out there waiting impatiently for your Novel to be finished. We are here even if you don’t know who we are. David Driscoll, Avid Reader
Reghan likes that.
fyre: My girlfriend said something like that to me about my lyrics/poetry that’s wonderful
Ceejay Writer: I keep a little text file with encouraging words that are said to me, or that I see in social media, etc…. it’s nice to read them when I need the inspiration
Reghan: That’s another great idea.
Ceejay Writer: Fyre, you have a keeper girlfriend. 😉
fyre: she’s the only one I ever read to besides you all today and lyrics i’ve actually sung on stage in the past
Ceejay Writer: Ah! And here’s a weird little tip that REALLY helps me out: When you finish writing a scene and want to stop for the day, DON’T STOP until you write three sentences about what’s going to happen in the next scene. This will make it much easier to get into the swing of things the next time you sit down to write.
fyre: ya, she is gold, my Junebug heehee
Ceejay Writer: <3
fyre: That is great advice!
Ceejay Writer: Now, as Rory knows, there’s a writer’s group that meets every other Saturday morning in New Babbage, 7:00-8:30am slt.
Rory Torrance: indeed there is
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Well, Frederich Nietzsche once said that ‘art is the proper task of life’
Ceejay Writer: All of you are welcome to join us. I list it on the Aether Chrononauts calendar as Tall Tales and Outright Lies!
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: and cool! i will have to make a trip when i can escape novus lol
fyre: whew brutal hour for a SLaturday but, maybe good for me to be only partially out of dreams writing
Ceejay Writer: Our next session will be here at Fantasy Faire, check the litfest calendar for Saturday after next.
fyre: most excellent!
Rory Torrance: oh so we’re not back at the burton?
Ceejay Writer: Yeah… we were in the evenings, but changed it up for a while to accommodate some folk.
Ceejay Writer: One more time here, Rory! Then back home.
Rory Torrance: oakily doakily
Ceejay Writer: I send announcements about all my literary events in my group – if you have room for another group, it’s this: secondlife:///app/group/d85c42ac-0831-7281-abe6-79f5ce24fc92/about
Ephemeria: Joined!
Ceejay Writer: (you also get some cool tags to wear over your head like the one I have on.)
Ephemeria: Thanks.
fyre: joined* My creativity has been properly reignited this season
Ceejay Writer: I’ll review the group later today and make sure new joiners have all the tag permissions granted.
Ceejay Writer: Fyre, that makes my heart happy!
fyre: Thank you very much Ceejay & everyone here
Saffia Widdershins: 🙂
Ceejay Writer: We have a few minutes left. Anyone have any last pleas, or words?
Ephemeria: Yes,
Reghan: Yes. I would enjoy a writer group, but the one you mentioned is too early in the morning for me. Is there another one that you have, or do you know of any others?
Ceejay Writer: I’d like to post this at my writing site… if anyone doesn’t want their name mentioned, holler.
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: other than a huge thank you to you and saffia, im good <3
Ephemeria: I try to write in english, however I’m not a native speaker and I have my doubts
Gilgamesh Alpha: thanks for the session 🙂
Ceejay Writer: There are others. One of the notecards in the toolbox lists all the literary locations in SL that I know of. I suggest popping by each and see if they have a schedule or information
Ephemeria: Okidoki
Reghan: Thanks for that. Also, thank you for the session, this was great and informative. 🙂
Rory Torrance: i know there are other writers groups but i dont have the particulars
Ceejay Writer: Ephemeria, just write. And when you are all done, find an editor that knows you aren’t a native speaker.
Reghan: All right, good to know.
Ephemeria: Will do. Thanks for your advise
Ceejay Writer: You all have been wonderful. I worried no one would open up about their work!
Ceejay Writer: Saffia says I have to do this again next year. She’s so mean. 🙁
Ephemeria: How can we not open up to you?
fyre: Absolutely!
Saffia Widdershins: So, Ceejay – thank you so much for this! You’ll be happy to know, people, that I’ve just booked her for next year
Saffia Widdershins: so you can all update her then!
Ephemeria: *oops thick fingers between the keys*
Ceejay Writer: Yes! You have a year to make some progress.
Ceejay Writer: If might help you to know that my current work in progress was started in 2016.
Ceejay Writer: Sigh.
Saffia Widdershins: This has been really inspiring – it makes me want to get back to my own novel …
fyre: stellar! blessings all, I look forward to Next Saturday I shall set the gentle alarm
Ceejay Writer: Yes, please do Saffia! We need that story!
Ceejay Writer: I’ll send out a Ceejaytopia announcement when the chatlog is up for your reference.
fyre: thank you kindly!
Saffia Widdershins: 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Take care all, enjoy the Faire!!!!!
Ephemeria: Thank you Ceejay and Saffia
fyre: see you all often for the rest of the Faire <3 Blessings!
Rory Torrance: well i must fly. thanks ceejay. see you saturday
Ceejay Writer: NEXT Saturday, not the coming one, Rory.
Ephemeria: See you around the faire
Saffia Widdershins: I am going to slip away and take a breather before the 5pm LitFest Tour – we’re going to the Hunros Mine!
Rory Torrance: oh yes, so it is. thanks ceejay
Saffia Widdershins: Bye for now
Rory Torrance: chronologically challenged, here…
Ephemeria: Oh, that is really nice, I’ve been there
Ceejay Writer: Thanks for keeping me company up here, Saffers.
Saffia Widdershins: My pleasure 😉
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: I’ll see ya there likely, Saffia, i’m going to head down there and see if theres any rp to be had <3
Ceejay Writer: I’m going to go have some dinner!
Jamie Vakari-de Vhir: Thank you again for this wonderful session, Ceejay
Ephemeria: blessings all!
Ceejay Writer: Get your toolbox, everyone, if you havent!
Ceejay Writer: Jamie, it was my pleasure.