Five Ways How NOT to Write a Novel

Much has been written on how to write a novel. Today, I’d like to address a few ways on how NOT to write a novel.

1) Do NOT wait for inspiration. If you do, you may never write a novel. Inspiration comes from discipline, determination, and dedication. When you apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair, inspiration will eventually come. At those times when I do not feel particularly inspired, I start my writing day by typing something like, “I have no clue what to write but I will keep on writing until I do have a clue.” I keep typing in this rather nonsensical fashion until an idea pops into my head that puts me in what I call “the flow zone”.  Once there, I sometimes find that good ideas flow so quickly that I cannot stop writing.

2)  Do NOT chase market trends.  The trend you chase today may end up being the trend of the past by the time your book is published–if, indeed, it is ever published. Instead, write the book of your heart.  Better yet, write the book of God’s heart. If you are connected to God, His heart will be your heart.

 3) Do NOT imitate other authors. Yes, be inspired by them, motivated by them, encouraged by them. But do NOT attempt to be a clone of them. You are a unique author with unique experiences and a unique way of expressing those experiences on paper. Write out of who YOU are. 

4) Do NOT circumvent the necessary learning curve for writing a novel. If you try to cut corners, your writing will show it. Instead, take the time to become excellent at your craft.

5) Do NOT give up. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine-percent perspiration.” Writing a novel involves a lot of sweat equity. While talent is important, perseverance is even more so. If you put your mind to it and your heart in it, you can write a story that will touch and transform lives.

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Copyright 2014 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA. All rights reserved.

Your Protagonist’s Inner Journey

It is a fictional truism to say that the best stories are character-driven.  Starting with this premise, let’s look at how we can make our protagonist–whether hero or heroine–one who will stand out forever in the memory of your readers. 

When creating your protagonist, it is essential that you give her an inner conflict. This inner conflict results from an issue the character has, an issue about which she may not even be aware.  But the issue is there, nonetheless, keeping your protagonist from fulfilling her destiny in your story. Unless she faces her issue and deals with it, the issue will eventually “break” her. The story is the protagonist’s process of facing her issue. This process, also known as the character arc, will force her either to deal with her issue or to miss her destiny. 

In his excellent book, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, novelist and editor Jeff Gerke states: “If great fiction is about bringing the main character to a breaking point over a particular ‘sin,’ then all the events of the story are about bringing the character to that moment” (p. 76). 

With what “sin” is your protagonist dealing? Bring your character to an emotionally powerful breaking point over that sin, and watch your fiction move up a notch on the scale of excellence.

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Source Cited:

Gerke, Jeff. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian FictionColorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press, 2009. Print.

(Business) Direct-to-Digital Publishing

digitalIn a recent article in Publisher’s Weekly, Barbour Publishers announced the release of a new imprint entitled Shiloh Run Press.This imprint will publish both genre fiction and non-fiction.

What I found particularly interesting about Barbour’s new line is that it will publish fiction in series or installments. This is a throwback to the early days of publishing when novels appeared in magazines in installments over an extended period of time. That practice proved very effective in not only gaining readers for the magazine but also in gaining buyers for the novels. 

Apart from its questionable origins in the legendary One Thousand and One Nights, the serial novel had its roots in France. In 1836, a Parisian newspaper owner brainstormed for ways to get people to buy his newspaper on a daily basis rather than a weekly one. He hit upon the brilliant idea of publishing a novel in installments. His thought process was simple: If the reader were left hanging on a cliff each day (the cliffhanger), she would be compelled to buy the next day’s issue of the paper to find out what happened to the protagonist. To this end, the Parisian business owner hired Honoré de Balzac to provide the stories, resulting in the birth of the serial novel.

The process took hold in England as well when Charles Dickens published The Pickwick Papers in serial form. Soon the serial novel had become the rage.

Now, with Barbour’s launch of the serial novel in digital format, this venerable publisher has resurrected an old practice and given it a new contemporary look. Kudos to Barbour! This house may have hit on something big, making the digital serial novel the new rage. Only time will tell.
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Source: A Short HIstory of Serial Fiction
Photo Source: Google Images

(Craft) Good Reasons to Outline Your Novel

decisionWhen I face a major decision, I make a list of pros and cons on a sheet of paper. Then, I study my list to determine a course of action. This procedure applies to fiction writing as well. 

Today, I’d like to make a list of some good reasons for outlining your novel. After you read the list, you can decide for yourself whether or not you think it will be beneficial to you to outline your next story before you write it.

  • Structural Sanity.  By this I mean that your story will make sense. Your inciting incident and major plot points will occur at the right places. Your story will have balance and be well-paced. Your middle won’t sag, and your ending will be satisfactory.
     
  • Character Continuity. By this I mean that your story will allot the correct number of scenes to each point of view (POV) character. In an outline, you can readily tell if you have assigned too many scenes to a lesser POV character and not enough to your main POV character.
     
  • Foreshadowing Finesse. If you’ve ever written a story without an outline, you know what it’s like to go back and insert foreshadowing. Almost impossible. If not impossible, definitely a crazy-maker. When you outline before writing your story, however, you can deftly manoeuver your foreshadowing for logical motivation and maximum impact.

These are only a few good reasons to outline your story before you write it.  What other reasons can you think of?
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Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart

(Craft) The Five Elements of a Story

componentsEvery good story contains five key elements that are essential to sound fiction. These five elements are plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting.   

Plot is the action or the quest of your story. 

Character is the person (or persons) who carry out the action of your story.

Conflict is the struggle experienced by your character both internally and externally as she carries out the action of the story.

Theme is a core belief expressed through your story.

Setting is the backdrop against which your story happens.

In future posts, I will explore each of these essential elements in detail.

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Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart