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How To Write A Novel


patina

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From Writer's Digest Facebook page.  Eerily similar to my writing process!  (Except I don't have a Twitter or Tumblr account.).

 

When I begin a story, the first sentence frequently turns out to be somewhere in the middle.  I'm not a linear writer, although I have written from beginning to end, without detours, a handful of times. 

 

1. Open a new Word document.

2. Save it as tentative book title.

3. Wonder if any other books have this title

4. Check Twitter.

5. Google tentative book title.

6. Feel relieved that you’re somewhat original…

7. Type the title and “Chapter One” in Word document.

8. Check e-mail.

9. Check Facebook.

10. Stare at blinking cursor in Word document.

11. Check latest favorite blogs & tumblrs.

12. Type first sentence.

13. Click “save.”

14. Feel accomplished.

15. Feel thirsty.

(How many blog page views are enough to impress an agent?)

16. Refill water glass.

17. Check Twitter.

18. Click on five different-yet-equally-inane HuffPo links.

19. Stare at blinking cursor after first sentence.

20. Realize that, though this is the third novel you’ve written, you’ve completely forgotten the principles on how to successfully start a novel.

21. Write blog post about it.

22. Type second sentence

 

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Sadly true. I would note, however, that the author forgot the most important part of the process: shopping for all the stuff.

 

Those who write by hand must procure just the right writing utensils and paper to enable the physical act of writing to be pleasurable. Unnecessary scratching of pen on paper, or a slippery pen barrel, or an annoying wire spiral binding, can all be enough to derail your train of creative thought.

 

Writers who compose on a computer or other electronic device require an appropriate keyboard, a screen large enough to view the necessary sections at once, and - most importantly - the requisite special software since everybody knows that if you don't have Scrivener or its ilk, your novel is doomed from the start. As to the latter, don't forget to build in time to select, download, install, troubleshoot, and learn to use said software, including the time spent cruising the internet for everyone's opinions about which versions are best and whether the upgrades are worth the trouble. The wrong software can doom your novel, and you certainly don't want to take that chance.

 

Locale is also important. Good manners dictates that if you write at a coffee shop, you must periodically purchase something to justify your occupancy of that table in the front window where everyone can see you working. Those with annoying roommates, loud children, and other distractions at home must periodically escape to conferences (see below) or, at a minimum, a local hotel where they can settle into a lovely room, order room service, and commune with the muse in between treks to the hotel pool and sauna. Alternatively, if you wish to write at home, furnishing (or building) a proper writing space is of paramount importance if you are to create art. (Stephen King wrote Carrie in the crummy four-room apartment where he lived with his wife and two little kids, but that dude's weird. An artist would never tolerate this. Decor is essential for inspiration.)

 

Naturally, no one can just sit down and write a novel. Books and articles must be acquired and studied at great length. The more money you spend on writing books and periodicals, the clearer it is that you're a serious writer. Don't forget highlighters (different colors for different purposes - yellow for craft suggestions, pink for inspiration, green for recommendations about publishing, etc.), post-it notes to flag extra-special sections, and new reading glasses since you can't possibly expect to appreciate nuances without appropriate corrective lenses. (If you don't currently have a need for reading glasses, you can buy the kind that have plain glass instead of lenses. The point is that, as everybody knows, all writers wear glasses when they're working.) The best part is that you don't actually have to read these volumes - it's enough to be surrounded by them. Inspiration seeps right off the pages and into your creative spirit.

 

Don't forget about your social media presence. Facebook and Twitter are all very well and good, but it goes without saying that if you pay for something, it must be better. There are countless writer sites that will allow you access to their wealth of wisdom for an annual subscription fee, and you must research them diligently to ensure that you join only the best ones. Also, there are classes (in person or online), conferences (ditto), and numerous other ways that you can spend money to associate with other writers and add to your store of knowledge, and these too must be assiduously researched. You will need to devote substantial sums and time to setting up your writer website since everyone is going to want to know where they can find you online when your novel is finally published. Plus, when you go to the classes or conferences in person, you need business cards to hand out because all the other writers will want to keep in touch with you. (Note that this last is essentially the equivalent of your bunkmates at summer camp promising to write. It won't happen, but you'll have a nice little collection of cards to review when you want to take a break.)

 

All in all, if you manage the process correctly, you can spend copious amounts of time and money without having to produce a single sentence. (Luckily, it's tax-deductible, but that's another conversation.)

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9 minutes ago, patina said:

And that tax deduction will come in handy when he book profits are far less than the costs incurred in production (buying supplies, paying for Internet service, traveling to conferences, etc.). :biggrin:

 

If it weren't for that, who could afford to write a novel? (Not to mention the expenses involved with having an appropriate author photo taken - Weight Watchers subscription fee, personal trainer fee, hairdresser, makeup consult, wardrobe, photographer, airbrushing - as well as replicating all this on the book tour which, since publishers no longer pay for them unless your name is Kardashian, the author will have to underwrite as part of the package provided by the privately-hired publicist.)


Of course, this doesn't even get into the manuscript-related post-writing/pre-publication expenses. Many who wish to submit their oeuvres to agents or traditional publishers - and, in the opinion of many, those who intend to self-publish - require the assistance of freelance editors who may address developmental issues (story arc, characterization, theme, etc.), line edits (grammar, word choice), and/or copy-editing ("semicolon or period?"). (These people are pricey. Trust me. I recently got a quote from one who charges $4/page for developmental edits with "light copy editing". A page, by the way, is Times New Roman 12-point double-spaced with 1" margins all around - just in case you thought you'd pull a fast one by sending 8-point copy single-spaced with 0.25" margins.) Somewhere in there - I don't recall where - are the people who fact-check your manuscript so you don't end up with glaring errors like Joe sexting with Julia Bulette when anybody who does their research knows that the cell towers in Nevada back then weren't nearly adequate to handle such volume. (They probably aren't now, for that matter. Monumentally hot young guy and woman who knows what she's got coming and going. No way 4G LTE is sufficient.)

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I can very much relate to that, even though I don't do Social Media. The WWW substitutes that prettily.

 

They forgot, though, the part where your family demands to be fed just when you start to type sentence two. And the moment when you realise that the sentence you wrote is the worst piece of rubbish anyone has ever written, you wonder why anyone ever read anything by you without vomiting, and you know you'll never be able to finish that novel. Or anything at all. Because you suck. Royally.

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12 hours ago, faust said:

I can very much relate to that, even though I don't do Social Media. The WWW substitutes that prettily.

 

They forgot, though, the part where your family demands to be fed just when you start to type sentence two. And the moment when you realise that the sentence you wrote is the worst piece of rubbish anyone has ever written, you wonder why anyone ever read anything by you without vomiting, and you know you'll never be able to finish that novel. Or anything at all. Because you suck. Royally.

 

You're supposed to become a hermit or soundproof one room in your house and declare it off-limits to family and friends so you can dedicate every waking minute to writing (you must limit food and liquid intake so writing isn't interrupted by bathroom breaks; inspirational bathing is occasionally okay).  Then you're supposed to miss family events because 1) you don't really need all those calories in things like birthday cake and 2) writing comes first. Finally, remind yourself that craptastic writing can result in big bucks, thanks to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight trilogy, and ff is legit, thanks to E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. 

 

I've yet to see rubbish from you, faust.  Let's face it--we're each our own worst critics.  

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4 minutes ago, patina said:

 

You're supposed to become a hermit or soundproof one room in your house and declare it off-limits to family and friends so you can dedicate every waking minute to writing (you must limit food and liquid intake so writing isn't interrupted by bathroom breaks; inspirational bathing is occasionally okay).  

 

So glad you explained this, P. I thought the choices were: (a) live alone because you're so devoted to your art that you cannot possibly bear to have humans in residence, especially small noisy ones with sticky hands, large hairy ones who complain about dinner not being ready, or obnoxious ones who barrel into the house with their new greatest love in tow; (b) marry so that there's someone with a day job and benefits who is obligated to support you; or (c) train all household members to tiptoe around you, whisper whenever they're within 20 feet, and never, ever to interrupt you unless someone is bleeding copiously and there's going to be a large stain on the rug if you don't intervene with reasonable promptness.

 

The inspirational bathing sounds good. Do I assume correctly that this involves an uninterrupted hour, wine, scented bubbles, scented candles (scents must be complementary), snacks, reading material, background music, and a notebook that will survive if it gets damp when you snatch it up to scribble a brilliant thought?

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2 minutes ago, pjb said:

 

The inspirational bathing sounds good. Do I assume correctly that this involves an uninterrupted hour, wine, scented bubbles, scented candles (scents must be complementary), snacks, reading material, background music, and a notebook that will survive if it gets damp when you snatch it up to scribble a brilliant thought?

 

Of course it does. Just be sure no one is around to interrupt you with their demands for food, clean clothes, or medical assistance. 

 

When I used to do fieldwork, I had a record book with waterproof paper.  Fantastic invention, especially in hot, humid summers when sweat alone smudges ink or pencil on ordinary paper. 

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13 minutes ago, patina said:

 

Of course it does. Just be sure no one is around to interrupt you with their demands for food, clean clothes, or medical assistance. 

 

When I used to do fieldwork, I had a record book with waterproof paper.  Fantastic invention, especially in hot, humid summers when sweat alone smudges ink or pencil on ordinary paper. 

 

Of course no one is around. You've already taken the precaution of not marrying, reproducing, or allowing others to live with you.

 

Waterproof paper sounds divine. Where one would procure such useful stuff? (We may have to add it to the list of things one must purchase to be a real writer. That, and a pen with run-proof ink. How else can a person be expected to write heartwrenching prose that will drive everyone - even the author - to weep uncontrollably?)

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33 minutes ago, patina said:

 

You're supposed to become a hermit or soundproof one room in your house and declare it off-limits to family and friends so you can dedicate every waking minute to writing (you must limit food and liquid intake so writing isn't interrupted by bathroom breaks; inspirational bathing is occasionally okay).  Then you're supposed to miss family events because 1) you don't really need all those calories in things like birthday cake and 2) writing comes first. Finally, remind yourself that craptastic writing can result in big bucks, thanks to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight trilogy, and ff is legit, thanks to E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. 

 

 

I knew there was a trick. Is there an official looking print of the part I underlined? In German, so I can show it to my father-in-law next Christmas when he insists we're going to that restaurant again?

 

18 minutes ago, pjb said:

 

So glad you explained this, P. I thought the choices were: (a) live alone because you're so devoted to your art that you cannot possibly bear to have humans in residence, especially small noisy ones with sticky hands, large hairy ones who complain about dinner not being ready, or obnoxious ones who barrel into the house with their new greatest love in tow; (b) marry so that there's someone with a day job and benefits who is obligated to support you; or (c) train all household members to tiptoe around you, whisper whenever they're within 20 feet, and never, ever to interrupt you unless someone is bleeding copiously and there's going to be a large stain on the rug if you don't intervene with reasonable promptness.

 

The inspirational bathing sounds good. Do I assume correctly that this involves an uninterrupted hour, wine, scented bubbles, scented candles (scents must be complementary), snacks, reading material, background music, and a notebook that will survive if it gets damp when you snatch it up to scribble a brilliant thought?

 

If there's a manual for (c) I want it. Or a personal trainer who does the job for me.

 

The Inspirational Bathing (capitalised!) thing works exactly that way. Although make it two hours, and in a perfect world there should be an inspirational massage afterwards. No, wait, an Inspirational Massage. Capitalised.

 

 

11 minutes ago, patina said:

 

Of course it does. Just be sure no one is around to interrupt you with their demands for food, clean clothes, or medical assistance. 

 

 

In fact, you'll need someone around who provides all those things for you. In the tub.

 

11 minutes ago, patina said:

 

When I used to do fieldwork, I had a record book with waterproof paper.  Fantastic invention, especially in hot, humid summers when sweat alone smudges ink or pencil on ordinary paper. 

 

Are those books still on the market? There might be a sudden rise in demand of them after this thread.

 

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22 minutes ago, pjb said:
23 minutes ago, pjb said:

Waterproof paper sounds divine. Where one would procure such useful stuff? (We may have to add it to the list of things one must purchase to be a real writer. That, and a pen with run-proof ink. How else can a person be expected to write heartwrenching prose that will drive everyone - even the author - to weep uncontrollably?)

 

 

 

Forestry Suppliers is where I got my field books. Their website is full of "must-haves" for geologists and archaeologists.  

 

D5BD1346-BDF0-43B5-9B03-F77983FF8A10_zps

 

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On 1/5/2017 at 6:26 PM, pjb said:

Naturally, no one can just sit down and write a novel. Books and articles must be acquired and studied at great length. The more money you spend on writing books and periodicals, the clearer it is that you're a serious writer. Don't forget highlighters (different colors for different purposes - yellow for craft suggestions, pink for inspiration, green for recommendations about publishing, etc.), post-it notes to flag extra-special sections, and new reading glasses since you can't possibly expect to appreciate nuances without appropriate corrective lenses. (If you don't currently have a need for reading glasses, you can buy the kind that have plain glass instead of lenses. The point is that, as everybody knows, all writers wear glasses when they're working.) The best part is that you don't actually have to read these volumes - it's enough to be surrounded by them. Inspiration seeps right off the pages and into your creative spirit.

 

This made me spew my coke all over the computer screen, only in my case it's more books about whatever subject I'm writing about. This is completely me, right down to the part about reading them. It's why I have some 500 books in this little room alone, and a garage literally full of hundreds more books in half-thought categories--classical music, Franco-Prussian War, Communard Uprising, South Pacific Islands, Nez Perce Indians, Victorian England, medieval Russia, history of Spain, Barbarian Tribes of Europe & Asia, Winston Churchill, Trains...and so on and so forth. How many of them have actually been read? Probably at least fifty pages in each one, but to be honest, only about a third of them were read from start to finish. 

 

Not sure whether to feel extremely chagrined or whether to be glad I'm not the only one.

 

sandspur

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2 hours ago, sandspur said:

 

This made me spew my coke all over the computer screen, only in my case it's more books about whatever subject I'm writing about. This is completely me, right down to the part about reading them. It's why I have some 500 books in this little room alone, and a garage literally full of hundreds more books in half-thought categories--classical music, Franco-Prussian War, Communard Uprising, South Pacific Islands, Nez Perce Indians, Victorian England, medieval Russia, history of Spain, Barbarian Tribes of Europe & Asia, Winston Churchill, Trains...and so on and so forth. How many of them have actually been read? Probably at least fifty pages in each one, but to be honest, only about a third of them were read from start to finish. 

 

Not sure whether to feel extremely chagrined or whether to be glad I'm not the only one.

 

Oh my, how on earth could I have forgotten about the research books! I was thinking only of writing books. Mea maxima culpa!

 

You're absolutely right, though. Buying research books is essential, because everybody knows that the purchased ones are so much better than any articles you might find for free online. Even if the books were available at the local library, it wouldn't be the same as actually owning them, because what if you returned one to the library and then you needed it later? It could prevent you from finishing your novel (assuming, arguendo, that you had already started it - except that you couldn't have started it because you hadn't completed your research and everybody knows you can't start writing until the research is finished). So purchasing and owning research books as well as writing books is crucial to the writing of the novel, and we're delighted to hear of your achievements in this area. (And don't worry about not having read them. As discussed above, the most important part is the spending of money, followed by acquisition and possession of the subject volumes. The contents are absorbed by osmosis.)

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2 hours ago, pjb said:

 

Oh my, how on earth could I have forgotten about the research books! I was thinking only of writing books. Mea maxima culpa!

 

You're absolutely right, though. Buying research books is essential, because everybody knows that the purchased ones are so much better than any articles you might find for free online. Even if the books were available at the local library, it wouldn't be the same as actually owning them, because what if you returned one to the library and then you needed it later? It could prevent you from finishing your novel (assuming, arguendo, that you had already started it - except that you couldn't have started it because you hadn't completed your research and everybody knows you can't start writing until the research is finished). So purchasing and owning research books as well as writing books is crucial to the writing of the novel, and we're delighted to hear of your achievements in this area. (And don't worry about not having read them. As discussed above, the most important part is the spending of money, followed by acquisition and possession of the subject volumes. The contents are absorbed by osmosis.)

 

Which reminds me of the book I once bought for an obscene amount of money (small academic editions...) because it contained crucial information I needed for my doctoral dissertation (or so my dissertation adviser told me). All the articles in there were in French, which I do not speak. Aside from, "Une verre de bordeaux, s'il vous plaît," which sadly was not in the book.

 

But still, it was good to have it. Apparently i didn't buy enough of those books, though, because I never completed the dissertation.

 

OMG, now I finally know what went wrong. Didn't buy enough research books. :doh: Shoulda known back then.

 

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For my very first ever fanfic (Adam believes family are dead and ends up living with a band of Ute Indians) I scoured Amazon and ended up with a couple of books by Dee Brown, a dictionary of the Old West, a book on being captured by Indians (read how they scalped people - grief!!!) a selection of Ute folk tails, a tiny little book on the Shoshone (couldn't find one on the Ute), a history of American Indians, a great book on what every single tribe of American Indians wore (so second hand some of the pictures had been cut out) - and this was for a fanfic. Can you imagine my little study when I really get going on my novel!

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