Tag Archives: writing process

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips
Not sure how to start your novel? Perhaps you’re like my students, who procrastinate on their novels’ beginnings. I wrote this article for my students. If you feel that your novel’s beginning isn’t what it should be, I hope that these tips will help you too.

Your novel: who wants what, and why?

I’m a confirmed pantser; that is, someone who starts a novel as the mood takes them. I just start writing. However, I keep three things in mind:

  • Who is this person I’m writing about?
  • What does he or she WANT, and …
  • WHY does he or she want it?

Once you’ve settled on those three things you’re well underway, but you’ve still got a major nuisance… how will you begin your novel?

These tips will help.

1. Start after the beginning: start anywhere you like

Writing the first few pages of your novel is intimidating. I know that if I read page one of a novel while I’m browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon, and hate the first page, that’s all I’ll read.

You need to hook your reader on page one.

How do you do that?

Trust me, you’ll figure it out, but usually not until you’re well under way with your novel.

For years, I hated starting a new novel because of what I called the Page One Dilemma. Should I start right in the middle of the action (always a good thing) leaving explanations of who the characters were, and what they wanted until later, or should I:

  • Create atmosphere first;
  • Start with dialogue;
  • Make a foreshadowing statement…

I’d play around with beginnings day after day, until I got sick of myself and kept writing, figuring that I’d fix the beginning once I knew more about the novel I was writing.

Finally, I decided that any novel’s beginning was immaterial — all I had to do was BEGIN writing, and keep going. Sooner or later I’d figure out the best beginning.

And I always do. You will, too. 🙂

2. Frame your novel with a prologue

Prologues have gone out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

I think of a prologue as splashing something vivid onto the page. I may discard the prologue completely later, or I may incorporate it into the body of the novel somewhere, but a prologue gets you started with a bang.

Consider how “prologues” are used when you’re watching a movie, or a TV episode. Law & Order for example always starts with someone’s murder, or serious injury. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, you might begin with the murder too.

Think of your prologue as:

  • Setting the mood of your novel;
  • Foreshadowing a major event in the novel; and most importantly…
  • As something you write casually, which you may or may not use in the novel.

3. Writing the ending of your novel FIRST

I love writing endings first, because I know that the ending will change. So you can write the ending easily enough; there’s no pressure.

However, once you’ve written the ending, you’ll find that you’re on fire to start your novel. And you’ll get started, without thinking about it, because the ending is “done.”

Yes, this is a psychological trick you play on yourself, but it’s a good one, and it usually works.

Try this simple strategy if you’re finding that starting your novel is a huge challenge.

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

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.

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Resources to build your writing career

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

You’re writing fiction. You want to know how much to write… How many pages? I often get questions about length for novels, novellas and short stories, so it’s worth looking at this.

I find “pages” confusing, because print books’ pages can have huge variations in formatting. And of course, in ebooks there’s Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which can be considerably different from the number of your novel’s pages that you estimated.

So let’s focus on how many words in fiction. When it comes to length, it’s easer when you count words.

Writing fiction and length: it depends…

Writing fiction and length: it depends

We talked about how many scenes you need this post, Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?

Over the years, for my own rule of thumb, I’ve estimated novels to be somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 words. That said, a lot depends on the genre.

For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy novels tend to be longer. It’s all that world-building. 🙂

In the Romance genre, word counts vary widely. Contemporary Romances (many are at 50,000 to 60,000 words) tend to be shorter than Historical Romances, for example, which may come in at 120,000 words. Again, with the historicals, it’s the world-building.

In today’s world, length doesn’t matter

How long or short your fiction happens to be doesn’t matter in today’s world. No one’s chopping down forests of trees for your Kindle ebooks, after all. KENPC may or may not matter to you, again, depending on the genre in which you write.

That said, readers have expectations. So let’s say that you’re writing in a genre which is new to you. How do you know how many words to write?

Writing in a new-to-you genre: guesstimating your word count

Here’s what I’d do, and what I suggest to my students.

  1. Read in the genre, and make a note of the word count. Look at the top sellers in that genre. That’s usually an efficient guide to readers’ expectations.
  2. Ask. Check with authors of that genre. You’ll find these authors in Facebook groups, as well as mailing lists. Ask what word counts they use.

How to fix it if your novel’s way under the word count for the genre

Another popular question: what if your novel’s too short? 🙂

Let’s say that you’re writing a historical romance with paranormal elements. You’re aiming for 100,000 words, but you’re at the mid-point with its major plot twist, and you realize… you’ve only written 30,000 words. At that rate, you’ll finish at 60,000 words.

You’ve got choices:

  • Accept it. This is the length for this novel. That’s perfectly fine. It’s completely up to you — no one’s making any rules, when you’re self-publishing, other than the ones you make for yourself;
  • Slip in a sub-plot or two. I’d insert at least one sub-plot, and I’d juice up a couple of minor characters. Who knows? You might decide to write a series.

There are no rules when you’re writing fiction today, especially if you’re self-publishing; there are only reader expectations. Your fiction’s length is what you decide it will be.

Have fun. 🙂

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.

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Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Your novel is DONE! Kudos… Now it’s time for editing.

Start by thinking about your readers. Writing is all about the reader. Sometimes we forget that. In the back of your mind, you always need to remember the reader, and his reactions as he reads.

In nonfiction, you write to inform, or to entertain, or persuade your reader. When you’re writing fiction, you write to give the reader an emotional experience.

Think about the emotional experience you want to give readers before you start writing, when you choose the genre of your novel. Are you writing a mystery? A romance? A science fiction epic?

Think about how you choose what you’ll read too. If you’re reading a mystery, why did you pick up that book? What attracted you to it? What emotional experience are you hoping for?

Once you start writing however, you’ll forget the reader, and that’s how it should be. In your first draft, you simply write. You’re discovering your story, and its characters.

Let’s imagine that you’ve completed your first draft. You ensured that every scene you wrote had a viewpoint character, who had a goal. Each scene contained conflict, and ended in a disaster for your viewpoint character.

Now it’s time to revise and edit your novel.

Nitty gritty revision: Motivation Reaction Units

Sadly, it’s VERY hard to get what’s in your head onto the page.

One of the best ways to ensure that you do that, is to make sure that every scene, and its sequel, contains a sequence of MRUs.

Randy Ingermanson has a wonderful explanation of MRUs. “MRU” means “Motivation-Reaction Unit.” They’re a way of decoding what’s in your head, so that your reader has the experience you want him to have. Once you understand MRUs, and apply them, your writing will instantly improve.

As this article, Dwight Swain’s Motivation-Reaction Units | The First Gates, says:

“Motivation-Reaction Unit is the fundamental building block of an action sequence (it’s important to stress that it does not apply to description, exposition, or reverie). It’s pretty simple: something happens, the hero reacts to it, the situation changes, and something else happens. “

MRUs are the way your reader experiences your fiction. Your reader is in your viewpoint character’s body, seeing what he sees, and reacting as he does. They’re powerful. You need to learn how to use them, and then write in MRUs as you edit your fiction.

Watch how writers use MRUs in your reading, too. Getting your head around MRUs is a challenge. Focus on scenes first. Does the viewpoint character have a goal? What’s the conflict? How could you make the conflict more intense? What’s logical? What’s unexpected? What’s the disaster?

In revision, you’ll find that in some scenes, nothing much happens. Be brave. Delete those scenes. You’re providing your reader with an emotional experience, remember. If there’s no emotion, the scene must go. Save deleted scenes to an “Extras” file, if it makes you feel better.

Discovering MRUs, and using them, will immediately improve your novel. Sometime today, take an early scene in your novel, and rewrite it, using MRUs.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

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 →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Updated: January 22, 2018