So you wanna write a novel?
A co-worker wants to write a book. This is the advice I gave her.
Remember the feelings and thoughts that you had when you read a good book or saw a good movie? Those are the feelings and thoughts you want to give your readers. Learning the skills to give that to readers is not a small matter. It is the most important thing you must do in the beginning that eventually achieves excellence in your presentation of the story. Keep in mind that people are going to pay for your book with their hard-earned money. Eventually, if you succeed, an agent or a publisher is going to pay you money for the product (your manuscript) and they don’t want to waste their money nor do they want to waste their time with amateur writing/storytelling. They’re busy critiquing a mountain of manuscripts already and if yours slips up in the first five pages, they chunk it. It’s a business decision. So, excellence and professionalism from you must be at the forefront of your efforts. If you are not prepared for great sacrifice and tremendous effort, then walk away now. The Karate Kid was told, “The man who can catch a fly with chopsticks can do anything.” Well, writing a good book is like catching a gnat with pool cues. It is extremely difficult and requires talent, skill, and a burning desire to shoulder through many challenges you can’t even imagine yet. And, If you are not going through tough challenges, you’re book will probably be awful not matter how great you think the story is.
Don’t even think about publishing at first. It is naïve. Thinking about publishing is like saying you are going to try out for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and expect to be accepted by simply showing up. Put it out of your mind! Focus on the fundamentals of storytelling and writing. That’s it!
When you look at a house or a car, you can’t see all the hard work that went into it, you just see the finished product. It’s the same when you hold a book in your hand. You don’t see all the years of effort the author put into it. What you hold in your hand is concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot points, milestones etc.) Years have gone into the author finding his or her writing voice and learning how to write a scene properly using dialog and narrative. You can’t slack off in any of these areas. If you do, you will flounder and/or give up like a two-wheel drive car when you needed a four-wheel drive monster truck.
Books I highly recommend to start you off are “The First Five Pages” by Noah Lukeman and “How to Write the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass. Google the titles if I’ve got a word or two off. If you read these books, I have more to recommend.
All really great advice! The two books you mentioned are on my bookshelf and they should be on every aspiring writer’s bookshelf. “How to Write a Breakout Novel” in particular helped me shape my characters and plot in ways I never would have figured on my own. Maass also has a companion workbook that is an incredible tool when its time to revise and edit the first draft. 🙂
Thanks for the comment. I’m still working on my book. I found both of these books a tremendous pratical help and a Maass was particularly inspiring.