Well, here is where I don my writing coach cap and whistle and draw your attention to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), being celebrated in November across the country.
If you’ve ever wanted to write fiction, you should definitely go for it next month. Just sign up at NaNoWriMo.org and draft a 50,000 word novel or novella. You track your progress, get pep talks and support, and meet fellow writers online and in person. What more could you ask for?
Sure, any writer can tell you that good novels are not just written; they’re re-written, edited, and edited some more. But still, this is a great starter exercise, if it only motivates you to get the story down. You can re-write/edit later. In fact, once you get your first draft roughed, then the fun really begins as you revise. So go for it!
A Less Solitary Experience
It’s nice that today there is so much support, online and otherwise, for would-be writers. The effort is not quite as solitary as it once was. Perhaps there are enough ways to link up to other writers and readers to overcome the isolation of the computer screen. I’ll tell you, readers who will take time to give you considered feedback are solid gold. Makes the long, hard slog of writing a novel more fun. A reader will have a different perspective from yours, and will tell you honestly when your story is unclear, etc., plus engage you in discussions that will summon up good ideas. Solid gold indeed.
The good thing about this one-month challenge is that it forces the writer to write every day. That’s great because, as I’ve mentioned, for a new writer, especially in the beginning, creating a novel can be more than challenging. It’s like your brain has inertia of rest: you’ve got to cut your way into the story with a sword or an ax. Once your story is going, however, it’s like inertia of motion: it’s painful to be kept away from your tale. At some point, the act of creating your story is so pleasurable, so exciting, so fulfilling, you don’t want to stop. It’s more than worth the pain of getting started.
An “Easy” Method
Frankly, when I get an idea for a novel, I’m pretty ready to go—I can’t wait, in fact. Experience, perhaps; but the only way to get experience is to start writing. One fun way to go about crafting a novel is the method Syd Fields’ book, Screenplay, suggests for writing scripts. I’ve used it and recommend it.
Divide the story into four roughly equal segments. Come up with three major plot points: a quarter-way, half-way, and three-quarters-way in. Then decide on your dénouement or climax. These are guideposts and may change somewhat. In fact, the events at these guideposts may change meaning by the time you get to them because your story has outgrown them. It’s great if things change or evolve: that means you’re creativity is taking over!
Make sure you know what your major characters want; or if they’re confused, like Hamlet, why they’re confused. Then make their actions true to their motivation, which will keep the story moving forward. In this way, your characters can come alive, and your story will be more than a simple narrative. Often, your characters will fool you and change the story. To me, this is the magic of fiction writing—being surprised and delighted by your own creation!
Next week: More on creating characters, depth and themes, and how I developed the characters in my forthcoming novel, The Lies That Bind (TouchPoint Press, November 2015).