The Problem with Problem Novels

For everyone that reads the blog, I’m sorry for the lapse. I’ve been struggling through the beginning of my current WIP, and I just couldn’t bring myself to blog while I’m trying to clean up the mess that I have so conveniently created.

FYI – my WIP is still a mess, but I just can’t look at it anymore tonight.

I have a big problem with, well, problems. My novels tend to start out very problem-heavy, and I slowly snip away at all of the extra, unneeded problems over the editing period. However, this can take quite a while (three years on my last novel), so I’m determined to try to nip this whole problem thing in the bud before I get too far.

Unfortunately, “nipping it in the bud” basically meant that I wrote the first few chapters of four different versions of the same novel. The characters and the theme are practically the same; I’ve just toyed around with the plot of the novel. And after all of my tinkering, I’m still not sure if I’ve got something that’ll work. I was able to chisel down all of the problems to one major one and a few minor ones while still keeping the characters that I originally envisioned, but then again, my writing always looks good around 11:00 at night.

I’ll sleep on it tonight, and take a look at it again tomorrow. If I still feel good about it, I’ll write a few more chapters and send it to the critique group for their opinion. If they give it a thumbs up, I’ll sent it to my agent to get her say.

And if there are any editors out there that are looking for a novel dealing with drug use, sex, prostitution, mental illness, and child abuse, let me know. I’ve got the perfect novel for you.

3 Responses to “The Problem with Problem Novels”

  1. Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness

    What’s up V? Been laying low lately, I see. I understand…in WIP-hell myself lately.

    Is this a YA?

    You know what my latest problem is? Voice! I want to do all first person POV from the MC’s POV and am finding it hard.

    My other work is 3rd and the only other first person I did was a revolving first person.


    What would we do without problems?

  2. Cynthia Leitich Smith

    Varian, I hate to say this, but it sounds like you’re fighting your own process. If you’re a writer who has to write large, get it all down, and trim…well, in some ways that’s better than being one who can’t think of anything to happen to the characters at all. You have to honor your process. Sophomore novels are the hardest, I think, because of the temptation to rush. Beware of that trap. That said, have you figured out what your protagonist thinks s/he wants and really wants? That may help you focus the story.

  3. writeaway

    Hey Varian,

    I was just talking to Miss P about the same thing. My current WIP is driving me crazy. Originally, I had it finished but after reading it back several times, felt the ending was too happy. I know everyone loves a happy ending to wrap up a character with endless problems but I’m the type that prefers the European endings to movies. I want the main character to BAM-up and die on you in the end-LOL. (Think the original subtitled, The Vanishing)It leaves more of an impression long after the book is finished. I guess I need to find that happy medium.

    Good luck