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Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Write A Novel

I didn't know how to write a novel until I wrote one. (I'm not going to talk about getting it published...that's a whole 'nother subject!)

But if you were wondering, here are my suggestions.

  1. Come up with a simple idea. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy works like a dog to win girl's heart again is a story that will always appeal, and it's dead simple.
  2. Come up with characters whose company you enjoy. Write down their characteristics, their loves and hates. Keep a notebook, and tape in pictures cut from a magazine to give you a visual anchor. Do it for the main characters, and the most important minor characters.
  3. Sketch out the plot. Not just as a numbered list of chapter headings...take a big piece of paper and draw a timeline, that shows what happens when.
  4. Write every day. Try to write a LOT every day, because there's nothing like a rapidly increasing word count to make you feel progress! Don't worry about perfect. Editing will come later. Just get the story written.
  5. Give the characters freedom. usually the fastest way you write is the best...if scenes just rip through the keyboard, you're on to something. If you have to think through every line, you're struggling, and it will show. Go with the rip.
  6. When you're about 3/4 done, write the ending. Then build a bridge to get you there.
  7. When it's done, it's done. You can cut it up in the edits to your heart's content, but for the first draft, get a finished product.
I'm about to finish my fourth novel in four years. Did I do these? Some of them. Well, three of them...5 through 7.

What I did was to just sit down to a blank screen, and I started to write. I invented names on the fly, made up the story as I went along, and in NO case was the finished product anything near what I'd envisaged in the beginning. I don't recommend doing it this way, though. You can write your way into a story that's foreshortened, on one that's a shaggy dog story...a joke without a punch line.

So...go write your novel!

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