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A Writer On Writing: How to Write a Novel

...the prospect of writing anything longer than about 3,000 words terrifying!...

But Sally Jenkins now thinks that writing a novel may be possible.

As you may have gathered short stories and articles are my Ďthingí. I find the prospect of writing anything longer than about 3,000 words terrifying! I succeeded in NaNoWriMo 2009 but my 50,000 words were rambling and certainly nowhere near a coherent story.

Hence my decision to sign-up for Martin Daviesí Novel Writing Starter Kit.
Last Saturday was the big day and I came away thinking that writing a novel might actually be possible. Martin was very generous with his advice and here are the most important bits :

* Writing is a habit that gets easier the more you write. Decide when and where you are going to write. Donít be too ambitious because that makes failure more likely. Sticking to 10 minutes, twice a week before bed is easier to maintain than trying to write for the whole of every Saturday afternoon. Remember that little bits, done regularly, will add up.

* Set a time limit for each writing session and donít use that time to re-read or revise what has gone before. Donít worry about the standard of your writing Ė just keep going.

* Write what you enjoy reading. You will have to live with this novel and its characters for months, maybe years, so itís no good trying commercial chick-lit if you hate reading that genre.

* Donít wait for a fantastic, original idea to drop into your lap. Most plots have been done many times over and itís perfectly acceptable to re-tell an old tale or legend. Maybe set it in a different time period or tell it from a different point of view.

* People + Events = Change. This is the formula for a novel. Drop an event on your characters and watch as they react to the ripples and changes around them.

* Create a structure for your story. Include the main events plus the milestones that must happen to lead up to these events. This is your map for the journey ahead but remember, you can change this as you write and get to know your characters better.

* Only include subplots if they have a reason within the overall plot. For example they may give an insight into the character of your main protagonist or give necessary information to the reader.

* Know your setting but donít go into reams of descriptions about the landscape. Feed small details to the reader and they will build their own images.

* Similarly with character descriptions, less can be more. Show your heroís characteristics through action where possible.

* Donít get bogged down by research. If youíre unsure of something when writing donít stop the flow to find out, put a question mark and look it up later.

* Keep your first novel simple. You will gain confidence from finishing it, whether or not it is published, then you can move on to a more complex story/structure.

Sounds simple doesnít it? Just stick to Martinís mantra of íWriters Write!í and you canít go far wrong in turning yourself from Ďsomeone who likes the idea of writing a novelí into Ďsomeone who has a completed novel under their beltí.

So, fired up with enthusiasm, I am now publicly setting myself the goal of writing a 30,000 word My Weekly pocket novel and Iím going to start by brainstorming some ideasÖ

My writing buddy, Helen Yendall, also attended Martinís workshop Ė you can read her take on the day here. http://blogaboutwriting.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/starting-that-novel-feel-the-fear/


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