When you want to write a novel, it helps to know how to write. If you can’t, it’s not going to work. Sorry.

But if you can, there’s more to it than simply sitting down in front of an empty screen and letting the magic happen. Well, some people can do that, ostensibly, but those people certainly aren’t you and they certainly aren’t me.

This category of posts contains the detailed method that I use when writing a long work like LFBD. Hopefully you can get something useful out of it.

So, the first bit.

The late Roger Zelazny said that a good story needs to have one of three things — a memorable character, idea or image — and ideally it would have all three. This is your first task. If you just have an idea (i.e. a concept like “What if everyone turned into sentient peanut butter cookies overnight?”), you might think you’re ready to go, but you’re not. You need at least one character that will spark your reader’s imagination. You also need an image or scene that sticks in your head.

If you have any one of these but not the others, your idea isn’t ready for a novel length treatment. In fact, I’d say that you need at least two characters, one concept and at least three iconic images/scenes. Think about books you’ve read that you’ve really enjoyed. When you gush about a certain character, that’s what you’re going for. When you say to someone else who read the book “Oh what about when so-and-so came out and everyone thought they were dead! That was awesome!” That’s what you’re going for.

Let me also back up for a second to the statement I made that these things need to “spark the reader’s imagination.” That’s easy to say, but what does it mean?

To me, it means providing the proper bones in your fiction with the right points of attachment to let the reader’s mind fill in the details. As a writer, you can’t write everything, and you shouldn’t try. You should build the bones, give a couple of telling details, and if you’ve made the right choices with those two things your reader will do the rest. I’d argue that this kind of internal imagination and creation on the part of the reader is one of the things that makes reading good fiction so pleasurable. So give them that.

How to do it is another question.

But for getting started, get two (or more) characters that are compelling, pick a concept that hasn’t been done to death, and find three images/scenes that you think will make people say “awesome!”

Once you have that, you’re ready to start working.

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

3 thoughts on “Writing a novel: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Starting a sequel

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