Tag Archives: novel

How do I know if I am truly a writer?

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them  think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway

Some athletes are “born athletes”.  To say someone is born that was is to suggest that they have some genetic disposition.  Athletes have varying skill sets that were at one point essentially to their survival. Successful hunters had to run many miles with sudden sprint bursts. Genetic selection has led way to some great runners.  Those same legs make for some other great athletes like cyclists.  Having strong upper body strength has had similar phylogeny like great swimmers. Some athletes are not genetically gifted with strength but rather a disposition for not being susceptible to injury.  As such they can train harder and longer and that hard work has made them successful. Success in athletics is really in some large part a result of genetics.

But can writers be “born writers”?   Can genetics help you?  I don’t think so but feel free to leave a comment.   Writing is something that has only recently come on the world stage.   And fiction writing has only been around for a few hundred years.

Then what makes good writers?  I believe it’s a willingness to succeed.  Sure, some of us have had advantages growing up.  These advantages have led to some succeeding early in their twenties.  For others, writing came only later on in life.

But only because you didn’t have a great start doesn’t mean that you can be a good or even a great writer.  You just need to really want it.

Get Your Damn Novel Written Already! Three Critical Rules

This post doesn’t have anything that is new.  It just cuts to the chase and lets you in on the bare essentials of writing.

First things first….there are many tips – great tips – on writing but never become too prescriptive on your approach.  Why? Because every writer is different.  Keep what works, drop what doesn’t.

So let’s get started:

Rule 1:  Don’t get discouraged!

Here’s a scenario: you’re an avid reader; you work in a dead end boring job; you decide you want to write a novel.  You finally sit down to write a novel.  You have an idea (perhaps you don’t) and you stare at a blank piece of paper and after 10 minutes you write the first sentence:

   It was a rainy night and Bernie was lying dead on the asphalt of his driveway.

You decide you’re tired and go watch TV and the next day you read the first sentence of your first novel.  You conclude it’s crap.  You decide you’re no writer.  Full stop.

Getting discouraged is EASY.  It has happened to the GREATEST writers.  The single biggest detriment to writing that great novel is YOU.  You need to believe in yourself and get passionate about what you’re going to do.  It’s not the easiest pursuit but it may be one of the greatest ways to earn a living.

Rule 2: Inspiration doesn’t come – it’s made!

That’s true.  Many beginning (and some established) writers only write when inspiration comes.  The truth of the matter is that inspiration comes when you take the time to write.

So how do you actually make inspiration come?  You need to follow the next rule.

Rule 3:  Set aside time each day to write!

Writing consistently is key to gaining momentum on your writing.  One of my biggest challenges as a new writer was setting the time each day to write.  Then some ten years ago I came across NaNoWriMo.  The annual event that challenges writers to write a complete (50,000 word) novel during the month of November.  That first year I wrote 63,000 words.  The novel turned out to be crap but the experience was key in developing a writing habit.  To this day I write every day.

Rule 4:  Don’t re-invent the wheel!

There are only a few dozen stories to write.  That’s it!  Some 20 Plots  make up the bulk of any (good) story that has ever been written.

The Plot forms are as follows:

  • Ascension and Descension
  • Coming of Age (also called the “Maturation” plot)
  • Escape
  • Forbidden Love
  • Rescue
  • The Riddle
  • Rivalry
  • Underdog
  • Temptation
  • Metamorphosis
  • Adventure
  • Chase
  • Discover
  • Love
  • Quest
  • Revenge
  • Sacrifice
  • Transformation
  • Wretched Excess

All great stories come from these basic plots.  Learning and mastering their form will make for not only well-rounded stories but also help you in deciding how your story will (and should) develop.

 

You Can Write a Novel! The Five Essential Rules to a Polished Manuscript

Something I’ve come to learn about the craft of writing a novel is that anyone can do it.  However to do so there are certain RULES that you must abide by.  Break one and you are likely to fall into one of the following scenarios:

  • You’ll hit the Writer’s Block wall
  • You’ll get discouraged and quit, or
  • You may find another way through it

If you fall within the last category consider yourself lucky.  By all means, writing isn’t an exact science but certain principles have proven trustworthy to get writers (both novice and professionals) through the process – from original idea to final polished script.

Some tips – such as creating an outline of the story before you start is certainly advantageous but it isn’t necessarily a magic bullet intended to benefit everyone.  Some writer’s swear by the outline whereas some will disagree claiming it hampers their spontaneity and creativity.

But some rules are dogmatic to the writing process.  Break these and you’re likely to stumble.

RULE #1: Come up with an Idea

Seems simple enough yet many starting writers have a very bleak idea of what their novel is about.  If asked what their novel is about they’ll say something like “It’s about a boy growing up in New York.” Okay, but what’s it about?  Note, I’d like to make a distinction here regarding what the story is about and not necessarily about how much wording you need to use to convey your idea.  If you recall from my last article, a good idea could (and should) be conveyed in as little wording as possible.  But in order for a story to work you need to have conflict.  A problem is what defines a good story.  Without it all you have is a bunch of words and no matter how good a writer you are – you couldn’t keep a reader interested without introducing conflict.

Instead of “It’s about a boy growing up in New York.” try “It’s about a boy in New York running from the law.” or “It’s about a lost boy in New York.”  Suddenly your story gains the interest of the reader.

 

RULE #2: You Must Write

Seems simple enough but you would be surprised at the sheer numbers of aspiring writers who have a good idea for a story but fail to take the next step of writing it.

To do it effectively you must set aside time (preferably each day) to sit down and write your story.  Without a good writing schedule you will fail.

RULE #3: Don’t Wait for the Muse

When you sit down to write you must hit the ground running!  Inspiration doesn’t come easily.  If you wait for that “good feeling” you’ll just sit staring at your notebook or computer screen.  No, instead you should begin somewhere anywhere.  Start writing and don’t STOP!

Once you have a few good pages – another helpful tip is to go back and edit what you have written.  But don’t dwell there too long.  Immediately you should start a new sentence and write.

RULE #4: Don’t Edit While You Write

By now you should know that you shouldn’t text and drive at the same time.  Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  For writing this concept is especially crucial because writing and editing are done via two different brain processes.  You can either go into one mode at a time.  A good analogy is going for a workout at the gym.  For many – myself included – I find it difficult to get off a warm cuddly couch in the middle of winter and drive to the local gym for a workout.  I’ll do anything and everything to avoid it.  But incredibly, once you get to the gym – what happens?  You immediately get into the mood for a workout.  Writing is like that too.  You either decide you’re sitting on a couch watching tv or running laps around the track – and once you commit yourself – you’re committed.

Say to yourself you’re going to write for an hour straight – or half an hour – or for a time that meets your schedule.  Once you begin don’t stop for anything.  Don’t even go back to correct spelling errors.

RULE #5: Edit, Edit, Edit

After you finish the writing exercise you will need to go back and edit.  In fact, you may need to go back many times to polish your manuscript up.  Whereas rules one through four are critical in getting to a manuscript, unless you never plan on submitting your novel to a publisher or agent, editing is the step that will get you to a finished manuscript.

So there you have it.  Follow these 5 simple rules and you WILL have a finished manuscript.

Happy Writings!