Steps to writing a fiction novel
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Get my monthly writing and publishing tips delivered to your inbox. The first thing you need to know about writing a novel is that there are no easy answers. Every novel demands its own structure, its own pace, its own way of looking at the world. Outlines are good, unless they are bad. The nice thing about an outline is that it gives you a direction. For the first fifty pages, at least, work without an outline.
See where the story is beginning to take you. Need help with this? Try The Paperclip Method http: Setting encompasses not only place, but also time. Where does your novel happen, and when? When I began writing The Year of FogI knew that this book could happen only one place: And I knew the story of a child disappearing into the fog must begin on Ocean Beach, where the summer fog is so dense, you can see only a few feet in front of you.
When you consider the setting of your novel, be yo specific as possible. If it begins in a city, what part of the city?
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Why does the story source here? Who is telling the story, from what distance? Do you have a first-person narrator who is at the center of the action, an omniscient narrator who is able nkvel go into the thoughts this web page any character at any time, a limited third person narration that sticks closely to one character?
We understand his motivations from his own point of view, and, as a result, actions that might otherwise seem reprehensible begin to make sense to us. There has to be someone at the center of the action.
Generally, this will be someone your reader ends up rooting for, no matter how flawed the character may be. And he or she must be flawed in order to fictiion realistic. Emma Bovary is deeply flawed, but in the end, we care what happens to nvoel as she hurtles toward self-destruction. Every great novel is character-driven; your protagonist must be a character worth caring about. Not everything has to be a full-fledged chapter in the early stages of novel-writing.
If you have a scene in your head that you know you want to write, go for it. But if you sit down at your computer and feel flustered and uncertain, allow yourself the freedom to think in small bits. You can piece your novel together later. For now, get some stuff on the page. Try a workbook like Novel Starter: Every story begins with conflict. In Gone Girl, a woman goes missing in the first chapter, and her husband appears to be implicated in her disappearance.
My latest novel, Golden Stateopens with a hostage crisis at the VA hospital in San Francisco. Make the reader understand, somewhere within the first 10 pages, why this story is being told.
What is at risk in the story? What does your protagonist stand to lose or gain?
What does he or she want, and why is it important? The stakes must be clear if you want the reader to care. Often, there will be more than one thing at stake, more than one big risk. The stakes are both personal and public. Remember, your characters do not exist in a vacuum; their lives play out tp a larger backdrop. They are part of the wider world. In the spirit of discovery, allow one character to work in a field about "writing" you know very little, or allow some element of the plot, or a subplot, to delve into something you find novel. Why stes make her a welder instead?
Consider a moment from your childhood or past that stuck with you. Editing one of my ARKANE novels Start with self-editing I like to print out my entire draft and then edit by hand. What matters is that you are growing the ideas that will go into your story. Just write, whenever and wherever you have the time. Set small goals — finishing a chapter, a few pages, or a certain amount of words every few days — to keep yourself motivated. Make a writing calendar and reward successful writing days Creating a reward process is a crucial part of becoming a productive and motivated writer. It's okay to leave some loose ends undone — if your readers like your novel, they'll be more than happy to tie up those loose ends themselves speculation, fan fiction, discussion, and the like.
Then fictioh online and research welding. Take read more welder out for beer. Write five paragraphs that can wroting sprinkled throughout your novel that embrace the lingo and physicality of welding.
I call these breathers, and I go into depth on the subject in The Paperclip Method: The No Outline Novel Workbook. When I was writing No One You KnowI had a character who was a math prodigy. Math was always my worst subject in school, and even in adult life, my limitations in mathematics have been something of an albatross. But the book required me to stretch myself, and I ended up writing in depth about The Goldbach Conjecture, a mathematical mystery that has remained unsolved for hundreds of years. I learned a great deal not only about that one math problem, but about the world of mathematics and the personalities that populate it.
Not for the completion of the novel, but for the first fifty pages. Set a second deadline, far enough in the future, for the completion of the second fifty pages. Be kind ro yourself and set yourself up for success by setting realistic deadlines. But hold your horses. Give yourself some time to get your own vision onto the page before other visions interject. Many novels are written by collaboration, but most are not written by committee. Michelle Richmond is the author of four novels and two story collections, including Golden State and the New York Times bestseller The Year of Fog.
She is the founder of Fiction Attic Press. Her new novel is forthcoming in 27 languages. Did you find this article helpful? Follow The Caffeinated Writer.