You’re a new novelist, writing your first book. Kudos to you. Yes, writing a novel can be intimidating, so avoid thinking about all the words you need to write.
Focus only on the words you’ll write today. Do that tomorrow as well — do it every day. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re making progress.
You’re a new novelist: map the terrain
We’ve talked about a novel’s milestones. Be aware that you must hit them:
The setup (at the 25 per cent point of the novel);
The midpoint, where everything changes, at 50 per cent;
The OOPS milestone: the kick in the pants. Think of it as a sharp jolt, or the dark moment. It occurs at the 80 per cent point.
The climax: the BIG scene, in which the hero does battle for what he wants. Alternatively (in mysteries for example), the big reveal — the sleuth unmasks the killer. You should hit this at the 90 per cent point.
Read the complete article. It’s vital that you understand the terrain of your novel.
Now let’s look at the tips.
1. Keep going, even if you get a “better idea” for a new novel
Everyone gets ideas. Writing begets ideas.
Unfortunately an idea for a new novel can seem like a solution when you’ve hit a challenging scene, or think your novel’s running off the rails. It’s tempting to trash your current novel and begin something new.
Your idea is a mirage. Write it on a sticky note, and look at it tomorrow. It’s doubtful that it will look as wonderful tomorrow as it does today.
Ideas are nothing in themselves. No single idea can support a complete novel. Create a Collection for new ideas in your novel’s bullet journal, and get back to writing.
2. Recognize “the wall” and bulldoze through it
Every novel hits the wall sooner or later.
Suddenly you hate your novel. You want your characters dead. You’re certain that your plot is the biggest load of trash any author has ever tried to foist onto an unsuspecting public…
This feeling of hatred is another mirage. Just like the “better idea” mirage, it’s not real. My walls usually loom up at around 25,000 words. I’ve no idea why.
When you hit the wall, you’ll know it. It’s a deep, visceral dislike for your book. As we’ve said, it’s not a bad novel just because you hate it at this moment in time.
Keep writing, even if it takes you an hour to produce a paragraph. Read through what you’ve written, and write.
Avoid the thought that: “I just need to wait for inspiration”. Trust me, when you hit the wall, inspiration won’t come. You’ve got to go through it, so be brave. Grit your teeth if you must, but write anyway.
3. Make your fiction real by using your senses
Where are you?
Look around for a moment. Perhaps you’re in a coffee shop. What can you see, smell, hear, touch?
Practice grounding yourself in this way several times a day, so that you can do the same in your fiction. You make your fiction real by putting the reader into your novel, right into the action, via his senses.
4. Yes, you really do need a “story question”
I was chatting with a new novelist the other week. He’d lost faith in his story question, and want to know whether he really needed one? He’s writing a science fiction space opera, and wanted to get on with the next galactic battle in the novel.
Yes, you do need a story question. 🙂
No matter how episodic your tale, something keeps your main character going, and that’s the story question. You’ve planted this question (we hope) sometime in the setup phase — the first 25% of your novel.
Maybe your character’s beset by vampires, or accused of murder, or wants something desperately. Maybe it’s a coming of age story, and your character’s troubles and travails help him to grow up.
Your character has goals. Aways. He must achieve those goals or die, literally, or metaphorically.
My new novelist friend wasn’t aware of the suspense devices you can use to bring the story question alive — both for you, and for your readers.
In this article, I offered some suggestions for devices, like the ticking clock, you can use to create suspense in your fiction:
… let’s say you’re writing a thriller, and a child goes missing. Every minute counts — the longer a child remains missing the less chance there is that the child will be found alive.
Your main character is a detective. You could start your chapters: Missing Three Hours… Missing Five Hours, etc.
In the “missing child” story, your story question might not concern the child at all. Maybe your main character is a female detective. Everything’s gone wrong for her. She wants to quit. The story question, which you might never state explicitly, is: will she overcome all her challenges and stay in her job?
As long as you know what the story question is, you’re good. It’s common for the story question to change several times. When it does, go back and revise, so that the your question fits seamlessly into your novel.
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.
If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.More info →
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.More info →
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