Category Archives: How to Write a Novel

Simplify Novel Revision with These Best in Practice Methods

pencil-education-pencil-sharpener-art-159731.jpegRevision is a key process of novel writing, but to the detriment of many an aspiring author, it is often overlooked and/or misunderstood. Having knocked off that first draft of a novel – the one you’ve already spent hours, months, sometimes even years writing – you might think that the really hard work is done. But it is not done. In many ways, it’s just beginning. The reason we have a manuscript “first draft” is that there are subsequent drafts.

For some, the second draft means running a final spell check, cleaning up punctuation, and they may go as far as removing some of their overzealous adverbs and adjectives. They then declare their work a finished novel.

But not so fast. There is much more to novel revision than spelling and grammar. Much more. Revising a manuscript is a big job, one that an author cannot afford to skip.

Objectivity – the Key to Novel Revision

The new writer tends to be overly attached to their writing and is reluctant to remove any part of it. This is the first thing a novelist must overcome. Novel revision calls for objectivity – it’s not an easy thing. Sometimes we think we’ve written the perfect snappy line of dialogue, the most beautiful scene, and there’s no way you want to edit it out of your novel.

Advice: don’t be too much in love with your own writing. If something isn’t working to either move the story or reveal more about your characters – get rid of it. You don’t have to press the delete button, forever banishing your beloved words Continue reading Simplify Novel Revision with These Best in Practice Methods

3 Phases of Writing a Novel – Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

Every novel has 3 phases: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Phases of MoonWhen rushing through the first draft of writing a novel, a writer often thinks only about getting the story down in black and white. They don’t worry about the words they use, the punctuation required, whether the characters are being true to their primary traits, or any of the other elements of writing that they’ll eventually attend to before the novel is finished.

By the end of the first draft, a writer knows what the story is about, who the lead character is, what conflict the lead must resolve and how they will resolve it. It is the time for the writer to revisit the story, performing revisions that will create a readable, “unputdownable”, story.

Part of this revision includes reviewing the different phases of a story – the beginning, middle, and end; phases that ensure the writer fulfills the implicit promises made to readers.

Writing a Novel that Fulfills Its Promises to the Reader

When I begin a novel, one of the first things that I do is jot down in a few sentences what I believe the novel is about. I also write a few sentences about what I believe will happen in the beginning, middle and end of the story.

Jotting down these notes helps me immensely in knowing where I’m headed in writing a novel. While these notes are closely related to who my lead characters are, what problem they have to solve, what conflicts they might be up against that keep them from solving the problem, and then eventually solving it, their importance goes much further than that. I also need to take into consideration how each phase of writing a novel affects the reader.

Every novel makes two promises two readers:

  1. an Emotional Promise, and
  2. an Intellectual Promise.

The Emotional Promise goes something like this: “Read this and you will be entertained, thrilled, scared, titillated, saddened, or uplifted, but most of all absorbed.”

There are 3 versions of the Intellectual Promise. They are, Continue reading 3 Phases of Writing a Novel – Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

Writing a Novel – Learn What a Scene Is and How to Build One

books-book-pages-read-literature-159866.jpegOne of the biggest problems a writer encounters when writing a novel is misunderstanding the definition of a scene. I was once in the same boat. I have a slew of books on writing a novel – they’re all over the place in my home: in my office, living room, on the bedroom floor, in my computer bag, everywhere, a few are even on the bookshelves.

To write this piece of the novel writing puzzle, I dug through each of these rooms in search of the books with the best descriptions for writing scenes. And guess what? I found very little that talked about scenes – defining them, creating them. Novel writing books discuss plot, subplot, characters, motivation, emotion, dialogue, settings, descriptions, and publication – even how to write the blockbuster and breakout novels, but very little print space was allotted for describing how to write scenes.

No wonder writers have a hard time figuring out how to construct a scene when writing a novel. For many writers, the idea of writing a scene seems like a big mystery, something difficult to do that only the best writers know about. But that’s not true. If you’re writing a novel, you can learn to create scenes for it that move your story along and reveal the traits of your character. And that’s why I’m going to address what a scene is and how to go about constructing one.

Writing a Novel Requires Knowing the Definition of a Scene

The word “scene” as it relates to writing a novel (and movies, plays, the opera) can be defined in 3 ways:

  1. A scene is a continuous action set in one place
  1. A scene is a short section that presents a single event
  1. Scenes are the building blocks of a story’s plot.

When writing a novel, a writer must pull all of those definitions together so that the definition of a scene looks like this:

A scene is a short section (in comparison to the whole story) presenting a single event at a single location. A story is a series of scenes that when strung together make up the plot and ultimately the whole story.

Learn the Elements of Writing a Scene

So now that we know what the term “scene” means, let’s look at how a scene is constructed. Continue reading Writing a Novel – Learn What a Scene Is and How to Build One

How to Write Dialogue that Speaks Volumes

pexels-photo-688662.jpegKnowing how to write dialogue in a novel is right up there, on the same level of importance, as the knowing how to write the scenes that contain the dialogue. There are two things a novelist needs to know about dialogue. The dialogue in any novel must always perform the following huge functions:

  1. Dialogue must characterize and individualize the speaker
  1. Dialogue must give the plot, the story forward momentum.

You may recognize these function as being the same things said of writing scenes. It’s true, in this way, scenes and dialogue are united in purpose, go hand in hand, and all that.

Learning how to write dialogue that shines involves some work, but if you can learn to write a compelling scene, you can also learn how to write dialogue that speaks volumes. To get started, let’s look at Continue reading How to Write Dialogue that Speaks Volumes

Writing a Novel – 7 Tips on How to Create Character Emotion

man-person-people-emotions.jpgHow do we breathe authentic, effective emotions into characters when writing a novel?

The emotions of characters inform every aspect of a novel. Emotion is what pulls readers in and keeps them hanging on every word of every page. The best fiction writers take readers on an emotional journey, one with emotionally complex characters that readers will be thinking about long after they’ve finished reading the book. Because of this, novel writing is only for those who are willing to work hard enough to create complex characters that believably portray complex emotions.

Writing a Novel with Authentic Emotion

A typical writer understands feelings – we’ve all had our share of grief, happiness, anxieties, fear, exhilaration, depression, love, hate, and so on. Much good comes from writing a novel when we take the feelings and experiences we’ve had and use them to understand and portray our characters emotions. Using our experiences allows us to write with authenticity.

For example, in my novel, Peripheral View, my lead character (Pearl) suffers from epilepsy and her fear of having a seizure in public led her to have, first anticipatory anxiety, and eventually full-blown panic attacks. I wrote a scene that showed her reacting to the attack by trying to claw her way out of a bus.

A reviewer of the novel happened to be someone who had epilepsy. She asked if I suffered from it too. After I told her that I didn’t have epilepsy, her next comments both amazed and pleased me. She said that Continue reading Writing a Novel – 7 Tips on How to Create Character Emotion

How to Captivate Readers with Descriptive Writing that Rocks

pexels-photo-862517.jpegYou may think of descriptive writing as the flowery descriptive stuff that you skip over when reading a novel, although many an author and reader enjoy that type of writing too. But the descriptive writing that we are talking about here is the kind that makes a reader “feel” the story as if they were part of a scene or knew someone just like the one described in a scene or narrative.

Good description is not an easy thing to accomplish in writing, but if you want to have a story that readers can’t put down because they lost themselves in it and didn’t find their way out until they’d finished it, you’ll find that learning to write great descriptive stories is well worth your time.

Descriptive Writing is a Key Element of Novel Writing

Entrancing readers with stories that keep moving involves creating believable, vivid portrayals of people, places, actions, and events. Descriptive writing isn’t separate from storytelling; it is a variety of techniques, which are combined to make a story.

You may speed through a rough first draft of your story and not pay much attention to details, but after that glorious rush of having gotten your story on paper, you must go back to it and consciously review the descriptions of characters, scenes, etc. You will look at such things as: Continue reading How to Captivate Readers with Descriptive Writing that Rocks

How to Write a Story Setting Readers Can Relate To

country-lane-gravel-road-tuscany-way-52725.jpegWhat is the purpose of story “setting” and how do you establish it?

The setting of a story has a role to play, and that is to create a sense of “being there” for readers. A description of your story’s setting should establish a time and place in the reader’s mind and help them to visualize the characters in that time and place.

The story setting is not just a description of a mountain landscape, an urban street, or a country farmhouse. The setting is more than a visual description; it should also convey the sense of being there by describing what a reader (and character) might feel, hear, smell, sense, or taste in a particular environment.

Story Setting – A Misunderstood Element of Writing Fiction

Writing the setting of a story is often confused with writing descriptively (writing descriptively is often confused with writing well; see the upcoming article on Descriptive Writing for more information). You want to describe the environment that your character finds herself in, but to do it effectively you must consider certain novel writing elements.

Some writers will tell you that the setting of a story is the most often mismanaged, abused, even ignored element of writing. The reason for this may be due to Continue reading How to Write a Story Setting Readers Can Relate To