How to Write a Novel: Part I

It’s kind of funny for a first-time novelist to tell somebody else how to write a novel, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned.  Writing a novel is nothing short of an adventure, but first you must have a burning desire to write; otherwise, you may give up before the baby is birthed.

Museum of Fine arts, Springfield, Mass

Museum of Fine arts, Springfield, Mass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I say “baby” (or first car?) because your novel is like your baby.  In your eyes, it’s drop-dead gorgeous; but in the eyes of another, it might be downright ugly.  So when you start, be careful about sharing what you’ve written with others.  Writing a novel is a process that can improve with each revision.  Shop around for a critique group or go it alone.  Critique groups can be helpful or harmful, depending upon the group.  Consider constructive criticism, but toss non-constructive criticism into the garbage where it belongs. In the long run, you must be happy with the finished product.  After all, it’s YOUR baby (or your first car).

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from reading about writing–and from trial and error:

1) What do you like to read?  Romance, mystery, detective stories, general fiction?  More than likely, you’ll want to write a book in the genre you prefer.

2) Who is your favorite author?  Examine his/her style of writing, and maybe you’ll find your own “voice.”

3) Which do you like better: character-driven novels or plot-driven novels?  In a plot-driven novel, you want to hurry up and find out who-dun-it.  In a character-driven novel, you’re sorry to see the story end.  Romances tend to be character driven; mysteries plot driven.  Either way, you must have a solid plot with interesting characters.

4) Just as your finger print is unique, your writing style and methodology are different from others.  Some flesh out the entire novel in their minds before they begin writing. This type may begin with a chapter outline before penning Chapter One.  Someone else may choose to write the last chapter first.  I created my chapter outline after I finished the book.

Novel in progress

Novel in progress (Photo credit: MarkPritchard)

I started somewhere in the middle and finished the first chapter last.  The plot developed as I wrote.  The characters took over and determined what would happen next.   The only thing you have to know when you start writing a novel is how it will end, so that the plot moves in that direction.

5) Write what you know about.  Take into consideration your childhood; where you grew  up; where you have lived; your family; your favorite subjects, hobbies, and interests; what you like and what you don’t like.

I love romance.  My favorite writer is Augusta Evans Wilson.  My favorite romance is ST. ELMO.  My favorite actor is John Gilbert, who starred in the film adaptation of ST. ELMO.  I love history, especially when it involves Virginia and the Civil War.  I’m a Methodist preacher daughter.  When I began writing THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, I was living in Fairfax County and writing historical articles for THE CONNECTION, a local newspaper; so the City of Fairfax became the primary setting for the novel.   I enjoy traveling.  My trip to England inspired several chapters of the book.  Boating and hiking are two of my favorite my hobbies.  I worked all of this and more into the story.

For more information about THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER or to buy it, click here.

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