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Tips for Writing a Novel – Slow-Roasted
Many of us have at least seen pictures of a pig being roasted over a fire pit. While I personally find the image a big disgusting, the meat that comes from it is really delicious. The entire process involves hours upon hours of slow cooking, removal of that huge chunk of meat, carving it up into smaller portions, removing fat and other inedible parts, adding some more seasonings, and ultimately having a wonderful feast. Writing a novel is a lot like roasting that pig – it takes time; the entire production must occur in chunks of thought and time; and, before it is ready to be published there is a lot editing – removing what doesn’t fit or distracts, adding more that will improve the story or characters, etc. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to increase your potential as a writer of long fiction.
- Gut Check: Successful writers need three things – passion for writing, imagination to create scenes, characters, and plot twists, and an amazing work ethic. None of these tips for writing a novel will matter if you don’t have these three things, because you will never finish your book.
- Pick Your Poison (Genre): Will you write a mystery, a romance, a spy or legal thriller, or a work of science fiction? One of the most critical tips to writing a novel is to stick to the genre that you love to read most. This is the style, the tone, and type of plot development with which you are most familiar, and you will write a better novel.
- Plot or Character: Among the most frequent tips for writing novels given by best-selling authors is to decide whether your book will be plot driven or character driven. If you plan on a series with the same major character, your book will be character driven; if not, it can be lot driven. This determines how you begin. If character driven, your work begins with the character doing something; if plot driven, it begins with an event.
- Clear a Wall: Technology is wonderful, but nothing beats a storyboard on the wall. This is one of the most important tips on writing a novel plot. You need to see the entire story in front of you, so that you can delete and add as you go along (remember, you have to cut off the inedible parts of that pig, and add seasonings when necessary). If you eliminate something, it may impact the sequence of your plot, so you have to see the thing as a whole.
- Write every day: You cannot shirk this responsibility, and this is one of the most important tips for novel writing. Every successful author states that s/he does this and writes right on through blocks. If you experience a block, keep writing – write anything. Write a letter to a character in your novel; start your autobiography – anything. John Grisham writes every morning at the same time – it works.
- Stay at Home: If you are not intimately familiar with a locale, do not set your novel there. Of course, if you have the staff to do the research or the money to travel and spend a good amount of time, you can do this. You need to write descriptions and to put real landmarks into your book – it lends credibility. This is one of the most important novel writing tips for beginners, because they often get into a novel only to realize that they have to change the locale – lots of wasted effort.
- Keep Them Real: When you develop your characters, one of the best writing novel tips from the masters, is to make them combinations of people you know. They will have more depth and credibility, and you will probably be in there somewhere. And speaking of characters, there are a couple of other really key writing novels tips regarding them:
- Don’t give the reader a full physical description of your characters. It is unnecessary and actually a bit boring. You can let little dribbles of information leak out as the story unfolds, or let the reader conjure up his/her own picture.
- Sometimes it helps to find pictures of people that might look like the character you are trying to create. Post them up on your storyboard wall for inspiration
- Be Note Taker: Evernote is a great app for a tablet or iPhone. It allows you to make notes to yourself no matter where you are. If you are watching a movie and a great idea hits, you have to commit it to writing – or you will forget. Barring that, carry a notebook at all times.
- Be Lonely: your workspace is sacred territory and is not to be invaded, especially when you are working. And your writing space is not the place for that stack of bills or those catalogues you want to scan at some point. It’s a mind thing – just do it.
- Your Skills: If there were a quick way to become expert in writing, many before you would have taken the step. If you know you have issues with grammar, sentence structure and punctuating dialogue then you will need to explore courses on how to get good writing skills. While you mastering these skills, keep on writing. You may be able to find a grammar whiz to edit, or locate a website that writes essays and that also has an editing service. You cannot send off a piece of poor writing – no one wants to read through your errors – it’s too distracting and you won’t look professional.
A novel does just not cough itself up. It is pulled out of you in chunks, sometimes rapidly and sometimes very slowly. It is the rare writer who says, “I just picked up my pen and it all came forth.” You probably are not one of them, so be patient, embrace your slow moments, and love your fast ones. The last sentence will come.