How to write a novel

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...
Image via Wikipedia

Writing a novel is not for sissies. Sure, anyone can tell a story, but can you do it without putting your reader to sleep? Storytelling dates back to the dawn of humankind. When you ask someone what they did today, you’re looking for a story, not a statistical analysis of the day’s activities. Who did you meet? What happened at work? Why do you care? Characters, plot, motivation – all reasons we like a good story. Don’t forget this when you’re writing your book.

So far I’ve completed one novel and written half of another, and another, and another. It’s much easier to begin than to finish.

Here’s what I’ve learned from finishing the novel that is now under contract with an agent:

1. Choose a topic you’re passionate about. You’ll be spending weeks, months, years at the task. If you’re not passionate about your story you may lose interest before you finish – and when you think you’re done, you won’t be.

2. Write quickly. It won’t be perfect, so just don’t worry about that. When I finished my first manuscript, I thought it was perfect. I’m a member of Mensa after all! Wrong! Step #3 is as important as any other.

3. Put your manuscript away and don’t look at it. Take a break for a month or two. Reward yourself with a vacation or something else fun. You won’t be able to look at your manuscript objectively until you’ve been away from it for at least several weeks. Get it out of your head so you can approach it fresh when it’s time for step #4.

4. Have fun with editing. Laugh at your mistakes. Don’t get too attached to specific words or phrases. There’s a million ways to tell the same story, and odds are, you haven’t found the best one on the first go-around. Eliminate anything that interferes with the flow. Read it out loud and see how you like the sound. Be ruthless with adverbs and flowery language. Simplicity is always best.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Going over your work once will result in dramatic improvement. Doing it twice is the icing on the cake. Even twice may not be enough. You learn as you go, after all, and by the time you get to the end you may have a different opinion of the beginning. But don’t edit your book to death. Unless it’s a classic that will stand the test of time, when you’re sick of editing, move on. Your next novel may be better yet.


manuscript by Saint Andrzej Bobola, Polish Jes...

Image via Wikipedia

That’s it. Nothing magical. Just perseverance and elimination of ego. If you get this far, finding an agent and publisher should be a piece of cake. 

Copyright 2010 MD Books USA

Enhanced by Zemanta