Writing a Novel: An Ultimate Resource Guide
Whether it’s the initial composition of the first draft, or editing a mostly complete manuscript, there are quite a lot of things that go into a novel before the public ever gets to see it. I don’t consider my advice or experiences infallible, every writer will invariably find their own rhythm, but I do think I have some helpful tips to offer. With that said, I’ve compiled the articles I’ve written over the years into a central guide for anyone hoping to get into the novel writing business. Some of these articles are perfectly valid for other forms of writing, and even though I focus primarily on genre fiction, I think literary writers can also find some helpful suggestions. But in the end, writing a novel will be up to you. It requires a great deal of self discipline (to get it done), confidence (to believe it’s worth selling) and passion (to love the project even when it doesn’t love you back).
Books on Writing
Composing a Novel:
How to Seriously Write a Novel – This is the best place to start as I provide the basics for getting your novel out of the idea phase. Writing a book is a daunting prospect, so you’ll want to start small and expand where things are working. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and then a second, and then a third. So, try not to think of the 1000th step when you’re at the first.
How to Write Genre Fiction for Beginners – Writing a novel is challenging, but it takes on different hurdles when it’s genre fiction. Believability plays a major role in how you develop your science fiction, fantasy, or horror novel. And there must also be a balance between cliché, new material, and familiar material. “The elf ate doba in the snarg” is problematic in so many ways.
How to Seriously Write for Yourself – This is a surprisingly easy lesson to forget. Often times we will write with a certain audience in mind. For me, I was constantly aware of the literary crowd since that’s what I was taught in college. I agonized over details that I thought would be acceptable in a literary setting, only to realize it was sucking all the fun out of writing. Since novels are such large projects, you can never lose sight of the most important reader; you. Write what you would want to read, and an audience will follow of its own accord.
A Guide to Creating Interesting Fictional Characters – Characters are the vehicles through which we experience any story. So, regardless of genre, they should be reliable enough to get us to the finish line. The better the character, the smoother the ride and the more likely readers will be to come back again. In this article I provide a crucial template from which to start building your sleekest and most memorable characters.
How to Make Strong Character Names- While you don’t have to adhere to genre staples, there are many different tricks in use to help writers come up with good, lasting names. Ideally, you want your reader to remember the character well enough, after the book is over, that they could call them by name to a friend or co-worker (and spread awareness of you as an author). Part of making a name memorable is worrying about pronunciation and familiarity. Just because a name is unique doesn’t mean it’s memorable. Inside I examine multiple sources for inspiration as well as some general rules you can use if you (like me) struggle with new character names.
How to Write Your Own Creation Myth – While this will primarily apply to fantasy writers, I believe it’s important to create an underlying mythos to ones novels. It’s the stuff that your reader will probably never see, but that will enrich your writing significantly. For example, knowing why magic exists in your fictional world will help you govern its use so that every bum on the street isn’t a world class wizard.
How to Describe a Fantasy Creature (and City) – There are many ways to describe fictional locations and creatures and it’s easy to go too far in one direction. Too little and the audience can’t picture what you’ve created. Too much and you’ve transitioned into an encyclopedia. In these two articles I help you figure out what details to look for, and which to record.
Why You Should Write with a Notebook instead of a Computer – Sometimes the difference between a finished novel, and an unfinished one, is a piece of paper. Computers are one of the greatest technological advances for writers. They are also one of the most distracting procrastination machines ever invented. (Well, to be fair, that’s the internet more than it is the PC.) But I’ve found that one of the best ways to hammer out a new draft is to ditch the facebook machine and get back to basics.
A Guide for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is an event that takes place every November. Writers from all over the world agree to one very straightforward goal; 50,000 words in 30 days. It might seem like a daunting challenge but I’ve also discovered it to be one of the best igniters for procrastinating writers. It provides a goal and an environment to crack the whip of creativity. And, even if you don’t complete the book, no doubt you’ll be farther along than ever before.
Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction – Knowing what genre you’re writing is helpful in many ways. It focuses the efforts of your book as its being developed and provides an ending target for publication. It also outlines what sort of books you should be reading as inspiration. However, I believe that it is important, and healthy, to read across genres. Not only will it give you a greater appreciation of fiction, but it will also build your creative muscle to incorporate the best of both worlds when you create your own.
Learn the Field
Editing a Novel:
How to Seriously Edit your Writing – Editing is hard, at least, it is for me. Writing something new is exhilarating, but digging into its technical shortcomings is the equivalent of doing calculus. (No offense to those who enjoy calculus.) But, whether you have an editor or not, it helps immensely to edit your manuscript before sending it out. With this in mind, I’ve developed a few methods to help structure and pace the editing process, each one detailed in this article.
How to Motivate Yourself to Write – Motivation is easy to lose. You’re at work, you get an idea and you want to write it immediately. But, by the time you get home, you’re tired and just want to watch television. I get it. But that book needs to get done eventually, so I’ve developed a few tricks to jump start your motivation.
How to Crush Writer’s Block – Someone once told me that writer’s block is a myth and I still believe that’s true today. There is no literal condition where in our creativity is clogged in the funnel of our minds. However, getting over the perception of writer’s block, onto the road of productivity, can be quite grueling. Once again it falls to motivation and sheer force of will to grab that plunger and blow out the clog.
Guide to Literary Agents
Selling a Novel:
Tips to help you Publish Your Novel – Don’t be stupid when you try to publish your novel. Whether you’re going with the traditional industry, or self publishing, there are some things that you probably just shouldn’t do. For example, naming your character after yourself or writing a book that is just too large to market. Learn from my mistakes and start off strong.
Literary Agents accepting Genre Fiction – If you are going through the traditional publishing market, you’re going to need a literary agent. During my time trying to get published I compiled quite a long list for those that accept genre fiction. Each agency is different, but I’ve included the important things to look for as well as links to all of their websites.
Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazines that pay for short stories – One of the best ways to get noticed by a publisher or an agent is to have published short stories under your belt. In this article I link to a number of different fantasy and science fiction magazines that not only publish short stories, but will also pay you for it. While they are difficult to get into, the experience will be priceless to your career as a novelist.
How to Make Your Own eBook Cover – If you decide to publish your own novel, one of the potential price hurdles you may encounter is creating a cover for the book. While there are great graphic design services out there for e-publishers, not all of us can afford them. Inside I detail some tricks to making a respectable design all on your own.
Quotes to Inspire your Writing – I collect quotes as a hobby and I’ve discovered that many of them pertain to writing in some form or another. For this article, I compiled all those that I found personally inspiring when writing gets me down. Now, I am passing them on to you.
Recommended reading for Science Fiction (and Fantasy) – One of the best pieces of advice I can give to new writers is to read, read, read. However, if you’re new to your respective genre, it might be a little daunting without the proper direction. In these two articles, I outline what books I consider to be important and influential for the fantasy and science fiction genres.
5 Books Every Writer should own – Unlike the recommended reading section above, this article focuses on general books that every writer should own. They may not be the most entertaining reads, but they each stand as pillars to the craft that I think every writer should examine at some point in their careers.
The Summer Reading Challenge – It bears repeating that a writer’s best resource is books. However, with our hectic lives, it can sometimes be hard to sit down with a good novel. The Summer Reading Challenge is a very specific goal, set during the time of year where you, hopefully, have the most time to dedicate to reading. Nine books in three months. I’ve done it twice, as of the writing of this, and I’ve found it to be an entirely rewarding and delightfully surprising experience.
My Struggle Writing an Epic Fantasy Novel – Sometimes the best encouragement for a writer is the personal accounts and struggles of another writer. In this series of articles I chronicle my influences, trials and triumphs writing my first epic fantasy novel. My hope is that, by reading this, new authors see that we all start at the same place.