Write Your Novel – back to work

Okay, the break is over. Time to get back to work. By now, you should have an idea of what you’re going to write, the characters, and the setting. You have your writing area set up – or know where you’re going to go to write. So it’s time to get to work. Writing.

That’s something I can’t teach you to do. It’s just plain hard work and something you need to do every day. Writing is a mostly solitary activity and you have to have the discipline to actually sit down and do the work. Don’t think you’re going to push out a full length novel in a few days. It’s not going to happen. To use a cliche, you’re in this for the long haul so don’t let it get to you. Just keep plugging away.

So what’s next on my agenda here? The next few weeks are going to be dedicated to what you do after you finish the book. That’s when the real work starts – the editing. Ugh. It’s not fun. It’s hard work, but it’s also necessary. So, here are the first steps for you to consider. I’ll post more each week.

The End.

Excuse me? I can see the raised eyebrows and hear the questions now. What are those two words doing here. I told you I was going to give you tips. And I am. “The End” is what you write when you have written the final sentence, but it doesn’t mean you are done. In most cases, when you write “The End”, you are actually at the beginning of the hardest part of the writing process – the editing. Oh, you think your agent or editor will take care of all the problems when they accept the manuscript? Don’t count on it. They will correct minor problems, but if you are an unpublished author – or even one who has been published multiple times – most agents and editors won’t look at your manuscript unless it’s as close to perfect as you can get it. They don’t have the time to correct multiple misspellings, grammar faux pas, or other mechanical errors. It won’t matter if it’s a great story – if there is an abundance of errors, you’ll get it back, along with a rejection letter.

Okay, before you go off and decide to catch up on missed sleep, give this a chance. You’re here for one reason – you’re a writer, as am I. We love words – the way they sound, the way they go together to make us laugh, cry, hope, despair, love, hate, or think deep thoughts – or shallow ones. It all depends on the way they’re put together.

When we put a bunch of words together in a more or less coherent semblance, it makes a sentence. Put together a number of sentences and you have a paragraph. Build on that and you have a chapter or a short story. Add more and you have a book. It’s a little like building a tiered cake. You start with the raw ingredients, put them together in a particular way, bake it, and build it.

The raw ingredients consist of plot, style, pacing, dialogue, sensory details, voice, point of view, facts, spelling, grammar, punctuation and word use. How you blend them together into a coherent recipe determines whether you end up with an edible creation, or something better fit for the garbage disposal.

Can I guarantee you’ll get published after you do all this? No. Nobody can do that unless you’re talking about a vanity press – but that’s an entirely different issue. The publishing business is too subjective for guarantees. But when you’ve finished, your writing will be tighter and have more impact, and you may even learn a thing or two that you can apply to your next manuscript. So good luck and get ready to get to work.

Tip #1: Put the book you’ve just finished writing away for at least a week, more is better. Watch movies, read other books, take long walks, relax. Or, better yet, start your next book. Do anything other than look at your manuscript. That way, you can come back to it with a fresh eye.

Note: Although I “cite” rules and “you should…”, remember, the novel is yours. If you want to break a rule, and have a good reason for doing so, then break it.

Homework this week: get to work writing. Or, if you’re done, put that manuscript away and start the next one. Then come back next week and we’ll work on editing for plot.

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