Monday, June 23, 2008

How To Write A Novel

s,How to write a novel in nine easy steps.

1. Read two or three novels. I would suggest ones you can get in paperback. Here are the three that come to mind for me:To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Devil's Own Work by Alan Judd, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin -- they're all pretty short. Keep a journal of your reading. Note two things: What makes you interested (by really honest here -- what really keeps you focused -- not what youthink you should answer) and waft do you NOT see (for example in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper "I am a LESBIAN, get it?" Lee there is only one heterosexual marriage that 'works". Sculpture is about removing what isn't part of the statue.

2. Do not write your experiences, write from your experiences.

3. You can not make things too tough for your main character.

4. Passive voice is bad, avoid forms of "is" anytime you can, avoid adverbs.

5. Senses are very important -- sex has a taste and smell as does everything else. Mention food and wine often.

6. There are no little people. Don't do this,"The shopkeeper sold Ralph a package of cigarettes." Do this, "The Korean shopkeeper has a Hitler mustache and smelled of kimchee as he handed me the cigarettes he said,'Malboros are a manly cigarette.' I didn't know if was a come-on, sarcasm or just what passed for salesman ship."

7. Don't write it in present tense. It really does not make the text more interesting. It just pisses people off.

8. Follow your weird. If what interests you are Roman sewers, Japanese pop culture and phenomenology --write about that.

9. Shakespeare had it right -- include death, violence, mystery, sex, love and humor in everything in varying amounts. I will send you some essays as well.

Most web-advice on the novel sucks. Here is some that doesn't:


Read these summaries to think about somethings that you can do with the novel

The novel is anything you can get away with!


Anonymous said...

thank you... But oh, dear, my entire novel is mostly in present tense. The agent hasn't complained, yet and is still certain he can sell it. Time will tell.

Apotropos said...

Thanks! Wow. This certainly provides some _very_ humbling perspective.


Michael said...

Nice blog. It is taking me a long time to finish this first novel. Maybe your blog will give me insight. Cheers!