Jul 22, 2011

How to Write a Novel

Some of you may know that I’ve written two novels. Only two, but this is something many writers find hard to do.

The first thing would be to find an idea that you just want to writeIf you don’t enjoy the ideas you get, don’t force yourself through them.

To build onto this would be to plan the story. Of course, that depends on what works for you. Some just need a brief summary and build the story off from that, writing whatever comes to mind, while others write a synopsis with character plans. Either way, make sure you have something in mind so that when you hit a rough spot, you still have an idea to push the story forward.

The next would be to set goals. Notice how I didn’t say write? Well, when you have a goal (and a reward, of course), if gives some people the means to get stuff done. Maybe plan to finish this 50000 plus word manuscript before the end of the year. Have a daily goal, like maybe 500 words every day for the next five days. But if you have a sudden burst of inspiration and write more than 500 words in 10 minutes, make sure you keep going.

With plans and goals in hand, it’s time to write. This could be the hardest and best part of the process to write a novel. Some have already envisioned the first five chapters, but once you pull up Word (or Pages, you Mac owning people), the blank white page either inspires you to write, or you sit there for hours on end, staring at the chapter’s title.

This is where you can word vomit (writing everything and anything that comes to mind, not making sure it’s pretty), think so more, or force yourself to write (like using WriteorDie.com). Once the words start following, it shouldn’t be hard to work past the first chapter.

But if you end up staring at the screen after page one, it may be that you need to take a different approach to the chapter. That, or do what I do and force myself through the rough spots. They say that forcing yourself to write doesn’t help the writing’s quality itself, but rather getting through that spot so you can just write.

Once you’ve typed the last line (and survived through writer’s block), it’s time to edit. Do not start querying right off the bat. It is very likely that the manuscript has errors upon errors throughout the story. What you do now is simple: let the story sit for a month or two. The story is still fresh in your head, which means you need a distraction. Maybe start a new story and work on that until a month or two has passed.

Then you really start editing. What you do now is read through the story, maybe jot down a few character descriptions so Fred doesn’t end up as a blond one page, brunet on the other. This is also the time you cut out any unnecessary words and scenes (the things that don’t push the plot forward). Sometimes, you have to remove that character you loved so much, but wasn’t necessary to the plot. Plus, having a few trust-worthy friends (ones who will point out that a certain character never reappeared after chapter 2 and that there was a scene that left completely confused) read over the story helps, along with finding critique-circles. You’ll learn a lot from both experiences.

(Plus, there are many great reviewers on inkpop (and you could just post little sections of your story, if you’re worried about copyright infringements) that would love to help out.)

It is hard, but worth it when you can tell friends that “I’ve written a novel and I’m proud of it.”
This ends the novel writing process.

My next post should be about some writing quirks that can be hard for beginners—even hard for those who’ve been writing for years!

Yours truly,

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