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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Starting your novel - some words of advice

"Gosh", people sometimes say to me, often from a considerable distance because I have a look in my eye that suggests I might throw things at them if they come closer, "I'd really like to write a book!" Then they look at my ragged clothes and my unheated, damp house and add, "A successful one though." And then, cautiously, sometimes poking me with a stick, "Can you give me some advice?"

So I thought I'd use this blog to give that advice, without the poor souls having to come any closer to me. Can't really help with the 'successful' bit, but I can tell you about how to go about starting...

1. Make sure you are writing for the right reasons. Don't think you will write a book because it's a good way of getting famous, making lots of money or easy. If you think it's a good, easy way of being famous and making lots of money, then writing a book is not for you. Why not try being a contestant on a game show? It will give you your desired effect with less humiliation than writing a book.

2. Make sure you have a Big Enough Idea. That interesting thing that happened to you once won't even fill a chapter, trust me. Your characters have to grow and change and develop over the course of a novel, and dropping an ice cream won't do that. Unless your character is the Incredible Hulk, of course, Because I imagine dropping his ice cream would make the Hulk grow and change quite a lot.
3. Have a vague idea of which genre you are writing in and read up on those genres. For example, romance (my genre) has certain conventions. Like having a happy ending, where the couple get together. Now, you can break that convention, but it will mean your book will become 'women's fiction', and publishers may shake their heads and mutter, and, as a first time author, you don't want to give a publisher the chance to shake their head and mutter. Know Your Genre.
Trust me, romance and the happy ending does not have to mean 'fluffy' books. But work with the conventions.

4. Write. And, whilst writing, ask yourself if everything you are putting in that book is necessary. Remember what I said about characters growing and changing (and possibly ripping their trousers, if they are the Hulk)? Well, every word must either move your story on or develop your characters. No lengthy discussions about dresses, please.
Not relevant, not relevant, not relevant - but nicer in the blue, with the sweetheart neckline and more embroidery on the bodice...

5. Finish it. Doesn't matter if you hate it by the time you get to the end, we all hate every word we've written once we get to the end. But the road to Writing a Novel is paved with unfinished first chapters, you need to stick with it and keep going. It will feel like pulling teeth and you will pray for death around about 50,000 words, but Keep Going. We will talk about making something readable out of what you've written, next time.
When you've written these words, you have my permission to go and eat a lot of chocolate. Or biscuits. Or cake...look, just go and eat everything you can see. It's fine. You're a writer now, it's what we do...


Revjackal said...

Darn, writing that late life bestseller was my retirement plan. I guess i better start brushing up on Jeopardy.

Jane Lovering said...

I recommend some gameshow where there is the maximum potential for humiliation, whilst failing to actually gain any money. That is almost *exactly* like writing a book.