Tag Archives: Tips

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.

 

What’s Your Story About?

In the movie “The Player” a Hollywood studio executive played by Tim Robbins, takes time to listen to ‘Pitches’ for movies.  He goes from one appointment to the next.  This is in fact very true to the way movies are seeded.  Without a good pitch the executive simply passes.  He or she cannot waste time – time is money!

There is a chance that we will someday be called to ‘pitch’ our story.  And just like the Hollywood executive we need to make the strongest possible impression in the shortest period of time.

Mistakes Often Made

When I ask a new writer to tell me what their story is about often you’ll hear them rambling.

“It’s about a dog that runs away from home only to find that life on the other side isn’t all that’s cracked up to be.  The dog eventually find a friend who is a cat.  They go on this crazy adventure and end up in trouble in the local pound.  Then…”

The story is often convoluted and full of twists and turns.  However, to truly grasp a reader or potential readers interest you need to be capable of describing your story within one or two sentences.

Here are some examples:

The Godfather

  • A war hero returns home to rise to the top of the family mafia empire

Cinderella

  • An orphan manages to escape the evil clutches of her step family and marry a prince

Terminator

  • An evil robot is sent back in time to thwart a future uprising by killing the mom of the uprising’s leader

Then, of course, once you get the person’s attention you are now free to build on that premise.