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.
One thought on “LET’S WRITE A NOVEL”
Such meaty advice, given in your wonderful, clear manner. I wish I’d read this years ago when I started work on my debut novel! I could have saved myself a lot of struggling as I slogged my way through learning the steps you laid out. I found step 2 to be the one that I discovered (after much trial and error) to be extremely helpful in retaining continuity in the story. I look forward to your writing posts so much! I’m copying this one, so I can revisit the advice. Thank you Dvora!!