I am often asked what it takes to write a novel. And like a lot of things, there are different approaches by different folks. Here are my suggestions on what you need to do not only start your novel, but finish it. I presented these topics as a workshop for the Oldham County Schools Art Center, where I am the Creative Artist in Residence.
WHAT MAKES A NOVEL:
- Anything over 55,000 words
- Romance: 30,000 to 60,000 words
- Mystery/Thriller: 70,000 to 100.000 words
- Fantasy/SciFi: 70,000 to 120,000 words
NICHE WRITING – DON’T DO IT:
Don’t chase the latest trends. By the time you try and catch the wave, you are already under it. Write what you like to read.
GOOD WRITING HABITS:
- Write at least fifteen minutes every day. No excuses.
- Turn off spell and grammar check.
- At the bottom of your work in progress write today’s date and the current word count.
- No rewrites until you finish your novel. Momentum is the most important thing when writing a novel.
- Keep a separate file with changes you want to make during rewrites. No changes until you write The End on the first draft.
- Don’t be tense and stay in the present. Avoid the passive voice and words such as had, had been etc.
- Avoid LY words. No “I’m tired,” he said sleepily. “I am going to kill you,” he said angrily. Delete them all.
IMPORTANCE OF REWRITES AND EDITING:
- Every first draft is the worst draft. You make your novel better during rewrites.
- Don’t worry about trying to write the perfect novel during the firsts draft. You use rewrites for improvement.
- Imagine your book from the point of view of each of the main characters for a different perspective.
- Make sure to run grammar and spell check when you are finished. Consider using a program like Grammarly to find errors in your manuscript.
- Check for “favorite” words (words you tend to use over and over). Avoid words like “that,” “just,” “suddenly,” (Avoid these words like the plague.)
CRITIQUE (PEER) GROUP:
- Find a group of people you trust to read your novel and offer feedback. Ask them three questions:
1) What did you like?
2) What did you not like?
3) And what would you change?
- Have a thick skin. They are offering up their perspective to help make your novel better. Don’t take it personal.
- Just because they suggest changes doesn’t mean you have to make them.
BEST BOOK ON WRITING:
- On Writing by Stephen King
IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING:
Before your novel is finished, start following authors who write what you write on Instagram and Twitter, and follow the people who follow them and comment on their posts. DO NOT START ASKING PEOPLE TO BUY YOUR BOOK. Make personal connections and they will want to help you out.