Why my novel isn’t as good as A Deepness in the Sky

Day 6 JaNo – 2458 today, 13512 total

Lots and lots of words, but it doesn’t read like a novel. Fortunately, this is practice, so I’m not too concerned that the end result isn’t quite right. I’m starting to get a feel for what sorts of mistakes I’m making. A lot of it boils down to insufficient worldbuilding and character development. I spend as much time as I would have liked ironing out the details of the world and the nitty-gritty of the characters, and so the novel thus far doesn’t feel real. It has a vague disconnected quality to it, where isolated images are striking, but these good images are disconnected from the rest of the world. This is a problem that I have with my short stories as well, so hopefully working through it as I write this practice novel will give me insights as to how to improve my shorter stuff as well.

As I’m writing, I’ve been re-reading Vinge’s _A Deepness in the Sky_ in hopes of figuring out what makes that book read like a novel and feel real, while what I’m writing does not. (The first time I read something, I can’t dissect it, because if it’s any good, I get lost in the story of it. So if I want to analyze how novels work, I have to do it with a book I’ve already read.) One of the key differences between my work-in-progress and Deepness is that I overemphasize the importance of individuals, and neglect the larger groups. Vinge manages to seamlessly work in references to the royal family, the prominant military groups, the major religion. Also, in Deepness everything has a name, which grounds everything, makes it specific instead of vague (I’m actually less worried about this, as to a large degree my lack of specific names is the direct result of not coming up with the idea for this novel until three days before I had to start writing it. Next time around, far more outlining and note-taking will have to take place beforehand).

The other major difference I noticed was that Vinge was making each sentence serve more than one purpose. It advanced the plot and described the world. Or described the setting in a way that shed light on the POV character. At the breakneck pace I’m trying to keep, most of the sentences are just advancing the plot, or just describing a character or a place. Every now and then I’m managing to have a descriptive bit on the setting that illuminates the character, but most of the words I’m spewing out at the moment are only serving one purpose.

But, all that being said, I’m quite pleased with how things are going. I’m generating a lot of words, I think there are some useable ideas buried in it somewhere, AND, most importantly, I’m learning about how this whole novel-writing thing is supposed to go. Plus, I’ve made quota six days straight.

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