Tag Archives: writing a novel

Writing a Novel? Make Something Happen NOW (and on every page)

Action Margine of Terror

You’re writing a novel. Is something happening on every page? Action on every page is vital.

I’m a huge fan of Victorian novelists. I love Anthony Trollope. I reread his Palliser novels every few years. If Trollope were writing today however, I’m sure he’d use a different style. He would show, more than tell. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “show, don’t tell” before when it comes to writing fiction.

“Showing” is writing in scenes: writing action, exactly as it happens, from the point of view of one character, your viewpoint character, in a scene.

“Telling” is narrative summary: you’re relating events to your readers. Think of it as if you’re telling someone what happened in a movie.

Everything important which happens in your novel should be shown as a scene, and every scene should have ACTION to carry the story forward.

Cut the Talk, Cue the Action

Sadly in many unpublished, or self-published, novels by beginning writers, nothing much happens. Or something happens, and it’s weird.

If you want to see common errors writers make in their novels — even very good writers — read the First Page entries on the Dear Author blog. Brave authors summit the first page of their novels; I think the feature runs every Saturday and Sunday.

Authors’ biggest mistake is that nothing much happens on the first page. People talk. There’s some info dumping, but nothing HAPPENS. When something does happen, it’s weird. For example, one First Page entry had a woman on her own in a snowbound cabin. A stranger comes to her door. She welcomes him, and gets fussy about some potato crisps which were past their use-by date. You might well think HUH?! Undeniably, this novel’s heroine was TSTL (Too Stupid to Live)… she’s alone, miles from anywhere, in a snowbound cabin and she drags a strange man into the cabin… This could have been set up well, if she’d been nervous.. But she was worried about potato crisps.

The author’s novel has potential, and something happened on the first page, which is good. Sadly, what happened was silly.

You can’t go far wrong with your novel if you have action, and that action is presented logically.

Here’s an Exercise: Get Familiar With Action in Scenes

Pick a novel from the genre in which you’re writing. Read the first chapter. How many scenes are there in the chapter? How does the author transition out of a scene into the scene’s sequel? The “scene sequel” is the page after the scene, in which the viewpoint character thinks about what happened, and what he/ she will do next.

Next, make a list of actions in each scene. What happens? Even talk can be action (two characters plotting the murder of a third character, for example), so you don’t need to have your characters driving racing cars, or climbing a mountain. However, something must happen, in each and every scene of your novel. Indeed, on every page.


Story Power: discover how stories can kickstart your fiction sales

Story Power

Why should YOU write short stories? Three reasons. They’re fast to write, they can teach you a lot, and they pay.

* New to fiction? Short fiction’s useful for new fiction writers. They can learn how fiction works, and make money, without investing months and years.

* Established in fiction? Short fiction is also useful for novelists: build your name, and increase overall sales, with frequent releases.

* Stories are POWERFUL. Everyone loves a story. In the marketing world, stories have always been powerful, and companies are becoming more aware of the fact.

Learn more.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

photo credit: Rakka via photopin cc

The 30-Day Novel-Writing Challenge Is Winding Up

30 day novel

Our 30-Day Novel-Writing Challenge is winding up. In today’s message to members, we discussed adding humor to your novel, and tomorrow we’ll discuss layering.

I’m thrilled with members’ progress. If you’re having problems writing every day, I created a special time-limited offering on the “Write More And Make More Money From Your Writing: Develop A Fast, Fun Productive Writing Process” classes.

That offering is available until the official end of the Challenge, August 30. If you missed out on joining us, you can take the Challenge at any time. The material will stay online, so feel free to challenge yourself. 🙂

Indie authors’ earnings

Challenge members have asked about indie authors’ earnings.

From Indie Epub Authors: Let’s Talk Money…with Bestselling Author Theresa Ragan!:

$523.76 is how much I earned after my first month as a self-published author (3/11).

$107,816.07 is what I earned in my best month as a self-published author (2/12).

Be aware that Theresa Ragan has been writing for many years. Overnight successes are rare. No one is suggesting that you’ll make $100,000 a month — or indeed, anything at all a month, as a self-published author.

However, writing a book and getting readers is now possible for almost anyone. That’s NEVER been possible before.

I started writing romance novels in the late 1970s. I was prepared to give myself ten years to be published.

I wasn’t going to sit around and hope for publication. I worked at it. I decided to write a book proposal (three chapters and an outline) a month. It took me just a few months to get a multi-book contract. No one was more surprised than I was. 🙂 I fully expected to spend YEARS sending proposals to publishers.

If I were starting out today, I’d put the same energy into writing. I’d write and publish like a demon.

That’s all any writer can do. The big difference today is that you have access directly to readers. The gatekeepers of the past have gone. While that’s a good thing on the whole, it’s a bad thing too.

When you had to deal with acquisitions editors and editors, you got an education. Editors edited you. You learned that what you wrote wasn’t set in stone. You could and would rewrite. Nowadays you need to educate yourself. No will will force you to hire an editor, and rewrite.

That’s a real handicap, but only if you allow it to be.

Get beta readers. Edit yourself first. When you’ve done as much as you can, and think your novel is “perfect” realize that it’s not. Hire an editor. Rewrite.

These days, you can make a good living writing novels. However, do realize that if you want to make a career out of it, you’ll need to approach it as a real business. That means, educate yourself. Understand what you need to do, and do it.

There’s never been a better time to be a writer. If you’re just getting started, take the Challenge. Writers write every day. Learn that basic habit first. It’s the foundation of everything else.

Names In Your Novel: Are They Really Fictitious?

Working on a novel?

If you are, take great care when naming your characters. You also need to take care with phone numbers, email addresses, business names…

You’re writing FICTION. This means that the names in your novel, and assorted info, like phone numbers, must be fictional too.

If they’re not, you could be in deep trouble.

It takes just moments to check that you’re not deliberately using the name of a real person or an organization.

Angela Hoy gives you a basic plan to follow, in this article Does that “Fictitious” Business Name in Your Novel Already Belong to Somebody Else? By Angela Hoy:

“1. Search Google for names you plan to use in your novel

2. If you plan to use email addresses in your book, register for those email addresses to ensure they aren’t already being used and so nobody else can acquire them in the future.

3. Search the U.S. trademark website for business names or fictional products you plan to mention in your novel.”

You should also include a disclaimer in your front matter, along the lines that any names, titles, organizations mentioned in your book do not refer to anyone. Include a disclaimer in your afterword too, if you have one.