Greetings! Over the last several months, I toiled to complete my first fictional novel. I spent a lot of time editing. It was a challenge to fulfill the word count but other writers that I know don't have that problem. What inspired me? I was watching the movie "Adaptation" and came up with a few "what ifs" of my own. What if a woman got married but was tempted by another man? What if she acted on it? What would be the cost? Then I started thinking about romantic plotlines, lovers' triangles and unique twists which might make my novel different from other romance novels. I decided on a basic story arc and character types.
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I sat down at the computer and quickly wrote the first chapter to develop a hook and an introduction that would attract the reader. In my first draft, I concentrated on the characters and events I wanted to include. I condensed a lot into one chapter. It was the bare bones but provided a good foundation.
On the second draft, I was able to break down each paragraph and expand. I slowed down the pace to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the characters illustrated through their thoughts and actions. I had to get into those characters' shoes and express what they were sensing and thinking in each scene. Also I gave more detail about the settings and events. I desired to create drama and emotion. I established an omniscient point of view but decided to begin and end the story with the female lead's perspective.
Novels give writers room to dwell, meander and explore themes through literary tools. Use those analogies, metaphors and similes. Engage your reader with your unique writer's voice.
One fellow writer said that it's best to have a chapter-by-chapter outline before one begins to write. Previously, in short stories and novellas, I would dive in and start to write, hoping the story would evolve independently. However, I learned part of novel writing goes into the preparation before you begin to write your story. Research and organization are tools that can improve your writing. During the writing process, you may introduce new ideas or twists that compliment your original plotline.
One fellow told me the first part of a novel puts characterization and conflicts in place. The second part of a novel moves toward your conclusion or planned outcome. There are many ways to reach the same destination but a well-told story is about the journey.
Lee Masterson is a freelance Australian writer and the editor-in-chief of Fiction Factor. In an article that she wrote, she outlines the following breakdown regarding word counts. She states first-time novel writers should aim for 70,000 words. (see Resources below for more details.)
Micro-Fiction up to 100 words
Flash Fiction 100 - 1,000 words
Short Story 1,000 - 7,500 words
Novelette 7,500 - 20,000 words
Novella 20,000 - 50,000 words
Novel 50,000 - 110,000 words
Epics and Sequels over 110,000 words
You may benefit from a detailed plot grid, showing each ongoing plotline or subplot and the relationships and developments between different characters in the book. Screenwriters may use a grid to establish consistency and continuity.
Well-written novels shouldn't be black and white or written with absolutes. Introduce the grays, the shades of good vs. evil and love vs. hate. Make it specific in detail rather than vague which will add credibility. Use intrigue and clues rather than explanation. Don't spell everything out.
If you were in a singing competition, you would strive to show your best. You would choose songs that were entertaining and had powerful lyrics and rhythm. The same goes for writing. Make the everyday dramatic and use words and rhythms that are effective and interesting. The way you tell it may make or break your story.
Let the ideas flow, be disciplined and diligent, and I believe it will pay off. Setting up a writing time schedule may be helpful. A weekly schedule might be based on time (such as two hours a day) or quantity (like 1,000 words a day). Prioritizing means making time to write if you are serious about it.
Having said that, if you hit a block in writing your novel, take some time away and do something else. Solutions may pop into your head, or you might see or hear something that triggers your thoughts or inspires you in the right direction. I had lunch with a friend and she wanted to hear about my book. She gave me some great suggestions and ideas, which I incorporated into my writing.
After you've written a draft from beginning to end, let the manuscript sit for a while and come back to it with fresh energy and objectivity. Having a fellow writer read your manuscript may be valuable to point out things you may have missed.
You can pay an outside party to edit your manuscript but I wouldn't recommend it for every writer. I would utilize writers forums, classmates or writers groups to get initial feedback. Also you can read their work and learn from them as well.
My idiom of the month is "pack a punch" in your writing. Let your muse work for you. Go for the gusto. Hard work equals success. Good luck!
dmoz Writers Resources
Lee Masterson's article on word count
Suite101.com article on plot outlines