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How To Write A Novel The Easy Way
How to write a novel the easy way? Can it be done?
Absolutely. Learning how to write a novel doesn’t have to be complicated. When you follow a step by step process, you can take the complexity of how to write a novel and “dumb it down” to such a simple system that it becomes almost like paint by numbers.
Easy novel writing is a series of connections. You know, like “the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone.”
In the case of novel writing, your connections look like this (feel free to add the “Dry Bones” tune to this list as you read it if you know it):
IDEA is connected to
Whew! Seem like a lot. Well, it is a lot. But that doesn’t mean it’s complicated.
Let’s break it down:
1. IDEA. Your novel idea is the basic concept. For example, the idea for my novel, Alternate Beauty, was that an obese woman finds herself in an alternate universe where fat is beautiful. This is kind of intriguing, but it’s certainly not enough for a novel. So you have to start asking
2. QUESTIONS. To flesh out an idea, you need to start asking questions. Your seed question needs to be “What if”. For instance, what if the woman who was in the alternate universe began losing weight. You throw out a bunch of answers to the what if question, and then you pick one that tickles your fancy and ask another what if question. It goes like this: Once the woman begins losing weight, she ends up as unhappy in the new universe as she was in the old. So what if she got fed up with being unhappy. Etc. etc.
As you work through what if questions, you throw in “Why” questions. Why does the woman lose weight? Why is she unhappy?
Keep stringing these questions together and you’ll begin to find your
3. CONFLICT. Conflict comes from a character wanting to get something and being blocked in some way from getting what he or she wants. A good novel makes characters’ lives miserable before everything turns out in the end (either good or bad). You weave your questions together in a way that reveals your character’s desires and what obstacles preventing him or her from achieving those desires. It’s the conflict that keeps your reader guessing when you keep creating
4. STORY QUESTIONS. Story questions are the secrets you keep from the reader so the reader has questions in his or her mind. You layer the conflict, one upon the other, so the reader has to keep reading to satisfy his or her curiosity. All the story questions, when answered at the end of the novel reflect the
5. THEME. The theme is the central message of the novel—the statement you want to make about the human condition. The theme is the unifying element of everything you put in your
6. PLOT. Plot is the story—the culmination of conflict and story question. It’s not just what happens in the novel but why what happens is compelling. Plot is compelling when it’s driven by life-like
7. CHARACTERS. Characters are the people in your story. Think of them as the train that carries your plot along. Characters only carry along a plot in a compelling way when they have clear
8. MOTIVATION. Motivation is the psychological and experiential explanation for why your characters do what they do. Once you have a central motivation for each main character, you can easily create
9. CHARACTER SKETCHES. Character sketches are your character’s bios. These include everything from physical characteristics to history to personality to favorite color. Great characters are rich with detail and they live in equally rich
10. SETTINGS. Settings are the place of your novel. You can create settings that your reader can easily visualize when you create
11. SETTING SKETCHES. Setting sketches are the who, what, where, why, and how of your settings. They consist of diagrams, pictures, and other specific information to make settings unique and interesting. You get this information and every other fact you need to support the story of your novel from your
12. RESEARCH. Research will answer all the detail questions, and if you do it right you’ll have a good balance of enough information and not too much to bog down the story. Once you’ve done your research you can create
13. SCENE CARDS. Scene cards are index cards that contain outlines of every scene in your novel. Scene is a specific chunk of the story, one that is its own closed loop. Every good scene has a purpose and it leads to the next good scene. This is how you create a
14. SCENE CARD FILE. The scene card file is where you put all your scene cards. Since each scene has its own card, you can easily rearrange scenes as needed to create perfect
15. PACING. Pacing is the rhythm of the novel. You take the reader for a thrill-ride, and then you slow things down. Speed up, slow down. The story questions you created when you plotted is what helps create the speed flow. When you have your novel paced well in the scene cards you’re ready to write a
16. QUERY. The query is the one to two page letter needed to submit to an agent or editor. When you write it before you draft your book, it embeds your theme and central plot in your mind. It also helps you write the
17. SYNOPSIS. A synopsis is a narrative outline of the novel, told in a compelling way but placing all essential information in a concise package of only 10 to 30 pages or so. If you can put your story in this space, you’ll find it incredibly easy to then take the skeleton of the story, fill it in with the meat of your scene cards and write a magnificent first
18. DRAFT. The draft of your story is the natural result of all the connections that have come before. It’s simply sitting at the computer and using all the elements you’ve created to spill the story onto the page. Once it’s there, you can
19. REWRITE to polish the words to pristine perfection. Then you’re ready for
20. SUBMISSION. Submission is easy when you’ve done all the other work. You already have a query, synopsis, and polished manuscript. So you just need to hit Writer’s Market and find a list of agents or editors to whom to send your query. When the agent or editor asks for more, you’ll send the synopsis and eventually the draft, and one day you’ll get the call telling you that you’ve made a
21. SALE. This is when you scream and jump around and go out and buy your favorite meal and then be annoyingly perky for weeks on end.
And just like that, you’ve created a novel readers will love. All because you followed a paint-by-numbers system for how to write a novel.
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