Tag Archives: How to Write a Novel

5 Requirements of All Genre Novels

A few threads tie all types of novels together. Consider the following important aspects of every genre novel.

  1. Plot Resolution—every genre puts forth a plot that requires resolution; the ending is not left for a reader to wonder about—the conflicts and dilemmas of the story are always solved. The mystery is solved, the romance is happily resolved, the suspense protagonist always escapes, etc.
  1. Likable Protagonist—the genre novel always revolves around a likable character, one that can be admired even as a flawed human being. Perhaps some of their flaws add to their admirability. For example, the recurring detective, Harry Bosch, in Michael Connelly’s novels is stubborn and determined. But its part of what makes him a good detective. Flaws also make the character more relatable to readers. Still, the main character will have more admirable qualities like integrity, courage, intelligence, compassion, etc.
  1. Justice—in a genre’s final analysis, there is typically some element of justice. Good triumphs over evil, the underdog wins, wrongdoers are stopped, caught or killed. There is some achievement, accomplishment or triumph.
  1. Emotional Impact—every genre carries an emotional impact. If not, why would anyone read it? The novel must pack some sort of emotional stirring that is consistent within its genre. Consider the following:
    • a romance novel will evoke feelings of desire
    • a horror novel will evoke fear
    • a mystery novel will evoke curiosity
    • a suspense novel will evoke the thrill of the chase

When a reader selects a book to read in their favorite genre, this emotional impact is something they count on.

  1. Entertainment—a genre novel should be fun and entertaining within its type. Entertaining means that the reader can’t put the book down, they are stimulated and provoked into turning pages. The reader picks up the novel with the expectation that it will provide an entertaining story, perhaps even help them escape to other places, people, and lives for a bit. Make it happen!

 

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How to Format a Book Manuscript for Submission to Editors

pexels-photo-447189.jpegIf you’re planning to submit your novel to a literary agent or an editor at a publishing house, it should be in as meticulous a condition as you would strive to be in if you were going to a job interview; and this means knowing how to format a book into a proper manuscript. Various guidelines exist on how to format a book manuscript, but those identified here are generally accepted requirements; they indicate what a literary agent or editor expects from you if they ask to see your novel.

And, if an agency or publishing house has requested to see your manuscript, you don’t want to screw up the opportunity by sending them a misformatted or an unformatted document. I think it’s better to learn how to format a book manuscript properly.

For a visual of how a manuscript will look after following these generally accepted guidelines, please click here to reference A Formatted Book Manuscript Sample.

How to Format a Book Manuscript – Creating the Page Format

A manuscript’s unique layout serves two important purposes:

  1. It allows extra space for writing comments on the margins by a reviewer
  2. It allows for an easy-to-read presentation of the novel.

To accomplish this, start by going Continue reading How to Format a Book Manuscript for Submission to Editors

Improve Your Novel with These 12 Top Writing Resources

GoodThere are many great writing resources on the web, but the best resources I’ve found are the ones on my own bookshelf. Writing reference books I’ve collected over the years have taught me how to write a novel, how to build characters, improve scenes, write dialogue – you name it – most everything that I’ve learned about writing has come from the treasures on my bookshelf.

Of course, there are several writing books on that shelf that I could’ve used as kindle for my fall campfires, but many of the books are like gold to me. I refer to the books when I’m writing an article about writing as well as when I’m writing my own fiction. I’ve taken the best of each book, combined some of their ideas, and come up with techniques that have helped me enormously. Many tips that I offer my followers were mined from these books.

Not so surprising is that many of these books are “Writer’s Digest” books. For many years, I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and loved their selection of books, gobbling up everything from books for mystery writers like Cause of Death – a Writer’s Guide to Death, Murder and Forensic Medicine by Keith D. Wilson, M.D. to the many on the basic elements of fiction writing. I want to share some of these treasures with you. Perhaps you will find some that help you improve your craft and get that novel written!

Great Novel Writing Resources – Writer’s Digest Books

The books listed here Continue reading Improve Your Novel with These 12 Top Writing Resources

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