LET’S WRITE A NOVEL

It sounds daunting, but a novel is just a very long story.  In the course of making it, the storyline changes before your eyes.  It always happens.Some writers need to make outlines, character lists and plot lines before they start; but even these careful preparers admit changes are forced on them as the characters insist on taking the story in new directions,  perhaps quite unexpected ones.

 

Most novels run between 60,000 and 150,000 words.  If you find you have padded your story too much, cut down on descriptions.  Try to make your dialogue speak for itself without unnecessary adverbs. Instead of John said angrily, John said coldly or John said smilingly, go for strong verbs:  e.g. John snarled.   Adjectives are less worrisome, but don’t overdo them either.

Sometimes a novel makes you lose your way, which is why it is a formidable thing to undertake.  It is hard to keep track of all those words over the long time you are engaged with them.  But when the novel  is completed and you have the self-confidence you get from having completed such a ;huge task, you can round up the words that have strayed off and bring them back into a lean, clear line.  This separates professionals from those who just wish they were novelists.

 

Part of the task of writing is knowing when to finish – it may not be a great novel, but maybe it is the best you could have done at the time.  We all know of people who go off for 30 years, writing and writing until they feel they have reached perfection. The perfect novel probably does not exist. So write the long story you have in mind, get it down, self-edit it, and then send it out to the market-place.

 

Here are 4 pointers for writing your novel.

1) Write every day.  Even when you’re not inspired, because it is too easy to be seduced by other things – the television, guests, going out for coffee…. excuses are easy to come by.

2) Read the previous day’s work before you continue.   It helps bind the book together as you go along and keeps the action cohesive.

 

3)  Set a goal in terms of number of words per day.  If you can write a thousand words a day, you will have a first draft in three months – and the remaining work – cutting, editing, improving,will be quite easy in comparison.

 

4)  When you have finished the first draft, take a week off and let your brain cool down before making changes.  There are other tricks that you will find for yourself – maybe writing at a certain time of day; in a certain place; using outlines, character lists, maps etc.  If it works for you, it is good.

 

Finally, the most important thing about your novel is that it has tot have a kernel of truth, even if it is fiction. to be of any worth.  Shakespeare said it beautifully:  “This above all, to thine own self be true,

And it shall follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not be false to any man….”

 

So, keep the unwritten promise you have made to the reader – entertain, educate, share true emotions, keep the plot plausible,  aim for the heart and you will have a satisfied reader who will be looking out for your next title.

Most of my 13 books are obtainable by contacting me  – read the above sections Books or About Me for details.  I always enjoy your comments.

 

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Ten Tips for Writers

The oldest cliche for writers is “Write what you know!” For a beginner, it is good advice.  Here are some tips to help you on your way:

A plot is simply a problem and a solution. Ensure that the solution is plausible.

Make each event in your story an inevitable outgrowth of preceding events.

If finding names fo your characters is difficut, the telephone  directory is a great help.

Keep a  notebook  for jotting down ideas as they come to you.

Don’t show your work at frequent intervals to anyone while you are working on it.

Find the people who write as you would like and study them.

If you are using a character from real life, change him enough so he can’t be identified.

The background of your story is important … paint an exotic picture, that might evoke a nostalgic mood – readers will be captivated.

Be careful not to let too much description get in the way of your story.

You have an unseen attendant looking over your shoulder when you are at work.  He represents the reader you are trying to reach. If you have to make a decision between your taste and his, always yield to him.

I always look forward to your comments.  You can get my books by contacting me at About Me  above, and read about my work under Books.

Hapy writing.

 

 

 

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GENERATE SUSPENSE IN FICTION

Simply put, suspense just means the reader wonders what happens next.  For the writer, it must be something he/she is able to generate.  It is not just curiosity, but holding out the promise that readers will eventually get answers to questions.  Loose ends must be tightly knotted.

Suspense is emotional.  The reader must experience vicariously what the hero or heroine is experiencing.   This means the reader identifying with the character, and when he feels emotional tumult, so on a certain level will the reader.You want the reader, as soon as possible, to think “Yes I understand.  I’ve been there. I know exactly how he feels.”

 

There are several techniques for heightening suspense.  One of them is the ticking clock.  There is a time limit and your character must accomplish something difficult and dangerous, maybe it means life or death, and time is fast ticking away.   Another way is to let the reader know something the character doesn’t suspect, such as a time bomb ticking away in as minivan full of children.   If you’ve done a good job, the reader will unconsciously catch his breath now and again.

 

There are lots of variations if you want to write thrillers, such as a single woman living an outwardly normal life with a new room-mate she doesn’t suspect (but the reader knows)  is a psychotic killer.  The secret is to reach beyond curiosity and engage the reader’s emotions.  It’s not always easy , but it is certainly possible.

 

I’ve had some recent excitement – a letter informing me that I have been awarded a literary prize  in Israel  for my novel :The Pomegranate Pendant” – even though I’ve written 8 books since then, it is the one that goes on selling and gaining me new readers.  Also honored at the ceremony on Nov. 12th will be the producer of the movie made from my novel, titled “The Golden Pomegranate” – Mr. Robert Bleiweiss, and the movie’s director , famed film star Dan Turgeman.  You can obtain copies of the novel from me at the address in About Me and Books, or other of my books.

 

Your comments are always welcome and, new writers, if I can help you with any writing problems,

please contact me.

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Golden Notebooks

It’s been a while since my last Blog, so please forgive me – some keyboard troubles; a grandson’s wedding and some summer inertia, but I seem to have recovered now!

When I was a child, and just dicovering the beauty of words, I kept something I called “My Beauty Book”.  I would go to Melbourne’s Public Library at weekends, and go to the Poetry section and copy out all kinds of poems, some in translation, that spoke to me. And every time at school I came across a quotation I loved, it would be copied into this exercise book, plus my first few attempts at writing verse.

 

Diaries, journals, notebooks – they are gold! When someone asked Virginia Woolf what sort of diary she would like, she said: Something loose-knit but not slovenly; so elastic that it will embrace anything solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind….”

Every writer should keep some kind of a journal or diary.  I don’t know what happened to my childhood entries, but when I was 19, I lived a few years in London – a great city for a potential author.I searched for creative lives and found them in diaries of Franz Kafka and Virgina Woolf, who discussed the writing process in their internal conversations.

 

No matter how incomplete, journals are the missing link in creative life. They help beginners trigger new work and sustain inspiration. Virginia Woolf invented herself as a writer in her journal, from aged 17 to her death at 60, she moved from family sketches to memoir to novels.Joan Didion always used details from her notebooks in her wonderful writings.  Putting your memories into words   can break the dry spell in your writing life.

 

We only store in our memory images of value.  When you write about your life, you live it twice, and the second time is both spiritual and historical, was an observation made by journal-keeper Patricia Hampl.  Writing down random events and thoughts is advice I have always given to my students.  You might not know what you are going to do with them at the time, but re-reading them later can be the spark that ignites many, many ideas to use in your stories that will be all the more realistic because you once thought them worthy of jotting down.

 

If you would like any of my 13 books , contact me at the addresses above in “About Me” .  I welcome your comments, and you can ask me about any writing problems you may be having.

Until next time ….

 

 

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The Irresistable Book Proposal

The main thing to keep in mind is to make publishers an offer that they can’t refuse.  The book proposal is a selling tool.   It should use as few words as possible to generate as much enthusiasm as possible.  Think of it as a map.  A solid outline will enable you to see where you are going.

 

Books are sold in one of two ways. A complete manuscript is usually required for novels, especially first ones.  But if you prove that you can research, organise and write non-fiction , you can sell a book with a proposal consisting of an introduction, chapter-by-chapter outline and two sample chapters.

 

For non-fiction or how-to books, the introduction has 3 parts … Overview, Resources needed to Complete the book, and About the Author.  The first page should have only 2 paragraphs. Start half-way down the page and HOOK the editor with the single, most exciting, compelling thing you can say about the subject.  The 2nd paragraph includes the title – which must sell – and sub-title if you need one. Also your contact details.   If it is non-fiction,your first sentence should be:  The “title of book”  will be the very first book to ….

 

I have sold my 13 books to date  (novels, poetry, memoir) by sending  an irresistable first sentence, an exciting “About the Author” page – and remember, this is no place to be modest about your achievements – and at least 2 sample chapters.  Don’t overwhelm the Acquiring Editor with too much. If they like what you have sent them, they will ask for more.  Tell them if you have a complete manuscript or, if not, how long it will take you to complete it.  Don’t start by asking for an advance to do the work – that will be discussed much, much later into the process.

 

Revise your proposal until you are convinced that it is as well- conceived  and crafted as you can make it. Do your market research to ensure that it fits into the category that interests that particular publisher.  An agent is of course helpful , although in my own case – except for one book –  I have approached the publisher direct and built up a relationship in that way.  Simultaneus submissions are permitted as long as you are honest and admit that your proosal has gone out to other sources as well.

 

Good luck and good writing!

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GET STARTED ON YOUR NOVEL

No more prevaricating.  You’ve had the idea for a long time, so let’s get dow to work.

 

Before you start, make a realistic timetable.  Then stick to it.  Most pages are 250 words and aim to write 5 pages a day.  A book is around 500 pages, so in theory it should take 100 days.  But to be realistic, you know that you are not going to write every day – if you can manage 20 pages a week, you are doing well.  Add to that another 10 weeks of planning.  If you are conscientious, you can do it in 49 weeks.

Once  you start writig, don’t pause for punctuation or too much analysis – this will be your first draft and you can fine-tune it later, after the real work is over.  To get the dialogue right, listen to everyone – I eavesdrop shamelessly on buses and trains,  I once overheard a lad aged about 17 tell  his mother “Well, if I can’t get married, I’m going to buy a motorbike.”  Sadly they alighted before I heard her reply.

 

When the people in your book speak , try to hear their voices in your head.  Pretend you are listening at the door, and somehow it comes easier.  I usually make my characters  people I would like to meet, but there has to be a sprinkling of rotten apples as well.  There should also be strong, brave people who make the right decisions and don’t abandon friends or loves or duty.

 

If you pretend they are real people, they will become so.  Give your characters lots of clothes , records, pets and hobbies – even though you don;t mention them all in your book, somehow the characters will be more believable. Don’t let the heroes and heroines be sickeningly good; nor the villains completely evil.  Write what you know about, ad you will be on safe ground.  Write in your own voice – that way, you won’t be pretentious.

 

And finally, keep to your timetable. Start editing and polishing your first draft.  If you don’t have a publisher or agent, the horrible business of rejection will probably start.  But stick with it  – those who quit are leaving  the coast open for those of us who stick with it.  When you do get a pubisher, they will probably suggest changes to the title or ask you to change certain scenes – listen to them … theyare in the business and know what they are talking about.

Finally, when you write about  ordinary people – remember, nobody is really ordinary if you know where to look.  We are all heroes of our own life story.  Watch strangers’ faces – everyone has some kind of a dream, a hope, a plan.  No one is uninteresting.  Believe that, and you will never be without a plot, a character, or indeed an interesting life.

 

I am always happy to hear from you.  Be in touch if you have difficulty finding any of my 13 books.  My novel “Autumn Blessing” is available asan e-book, published by Prism Pu8bishers in USA . Happy writing!

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I’M A BLOG-SPOTTER TODAY

Although I am very limited in my computer abilities, co-authors with my e-book publisher, Prism Books, seem to have faith that I can do this (they have more confidence in me than I do.)  I am supposed to answer 4 questions, and then recommend 3 more authors. I’m willing to give it a try.

  1. What are you working on”  I am working on my 14th novel, called “Searching for Sarah.” Although it’s completely fiction, it is based on something that happened to me about 20 years ago, when I rented an artist’s studio for a short time on a rooftop in Jerusalem.  I found a painting, unsigned, that had been left behind of a young woman, very sad, looking through a window.  I became obsessed with her  story; and in my novel my heroine sets out to find her because she feels an inexplicable affinity to her.
  2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?  I don’t think it fits into any particular genre – it is very spiritual, has some romance, but is hard to categorize.
  3. Why do you write what you do?  In 1974 I was in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, where 15 people died and 35 lost limbs.  I felt I had been spared for a reason – and God had a job for me. Since then, most of my writing has had a spiritual element; a lot of it has been set in Jerusalem and I try to use my talent for good.
  4. How does your writing process work?  I have been writing since I was first published as a child aged 7.  I’m now 83, and not a day goes by that I don’t write something.  I have never had writer’s block – all the words are there waiting. I am sure I won’t live long enough to write all the things I want to.  I feel very blessed  that I actually get paid for doing what I most love in life.

I have picked the next 3 authors to answer the same questions.

MISTY RUSSON is a writer of romance and romantic suspense , whose characters face extreme circumstances with faith and good humor.  She also loves photographing nature – especially the sky.  She truly appreciates God’s magnificent handiwork . Read her post next week at : http:/mistymusings4u.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-forget-to-check-out-diamond-mine.html

AMBER SCHAMEL writes wonderfully vivid historical fiction , bringing to life characters from Biblical and other times. Her words are a treat to read.  Read her answers next week at: http/amberschamel.blogspot.com

LINDA WOLF is a wordsmith of many talents.She is a writer, proof-reader, editor and teacher. Enjoy her blogposts on her writing process as well as other insightful thoughtson her life and faith at: http./belonging2all.wordpress.com

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