The Dawn of (Novel) Creation

How do you begin the daunting task of writing your first novel? Before you begin putting pen to paper, consider these few words of advice:

Make sure you set aside a regular time to write, every day if possible. Set some goals, like, “I’ll set aside at least ninety minutes at least three days a week.” or “I’ll try to write a minimum of 1000 words every time I write.”

Find a place that’s comfortable (but not so much that you’ll fall asleep) and free of distractions.

Then your real work begins. Decide how you will organize your writing. Should you create an outline or just wing it? This is one of the hotly debated topics in the writing community. Here’s what some of the greatest writers of all time have to say.

“I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write.”

~ J. K. Rowling

So one of the all-time best-selling authors seems to take a bit of a middle ground. J.K believes you should plan, but only to a degree. But there are other writers who strongly disagree.

“Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.”

~ Stephen King

Harsh words from Mr. King! The truth is, it’s your novel, your ideas, and your decision. By all means, listen to the wisdom of these great authors. Just don’t assume it’s wisdom meant for you.

What words of advice would you like to share with budding authors?

Spring is Sprung: The Pen or the Petunia!

As the weather gets warmer, I find it more and more difficult to stay focused on my writing. I usually try to write at least 1000 words a day. But as nature explodes outside my window, the sap rises, my attention breaks, and I keep stealing looks at the profusion of beauty just a few feet from my monitor. I’ve found that if I get up early (say 5:30), I can get in a few hours of writing and still have time to go outside in the warmth and sunshine. Does anyone else have thoughts about how they stay on task?

Writing organizer

I don’t usually use any type of organizer for my longer written pieces. I divide up my scenes and shifts of time and place into chapters. However another writer I meet with every three weeks wouldn’t think of commtting his thoughts to paper without using a writing organizer such as outline in MS Word. Some of the more popular writng tools are:

  • A word processor/simple outlining tool like you’d find in MS Word, Open Office, Scrivener, Google Docs, or Pages (Mac only)
  • Uylsses (Mac only)
  • yWriter
  • Heminway Editor

How do you approach organizing your writing tasks?

Shifting Point of View

I’ve learned to pay closer attention, with the help of a couple of writer’s groups, to who is the narrator in my stories. Generally speaking, there are four points of view in fiction writing:

  • First person. This is when “I” am telling the story. The character is in the story, directly relating their experiences.
  • Second person. The story is told to “the narrator” (you). This is not common in fiction, but it’s still good to know about.
  • Third person, limited. This is probably the most common point of view in fiction. The narrator is outside of the story and relating the experiences of one character.
  • Third person, omniscient. The story is still about one character, but the narrator has complete access to all characters and everything going on in the story.

Here is an example from my first novel, Sparkles of Discontent, of a first person point of view.:

I leave my mom watching TV, knowing she’d fall asleep, slouched over a ball of yarn and knitting needles, working on some unlucky relative’s Christmas sweater. I trudge upstairs, following my nightly routine of going to my room to study for a few hours, watch a little TV, and then slip into dreamland before midnight. But tonight, something feels different. I lower my Chemistry book and listen intently, watching moonlight shadowed tree branches dance with wild abandon across my tattered window shades. Our house is old and has always made odd, creepy noises, especially at night. I remember my Dad laughing when I’d creep terrified into my parent’s bedroom at night. He’d explain in his quivering not-scary voice that it might be our old furnace and hot water pipes shuddering and shaking the night away as they made frightfully devilish sounds down in the cellar or maybe it could be the wind-tossed branches scratching at the windows trying to sneak in. Then he’d pull back the covers to make room for me to sleep safely between him and a disapproving Mom. But I’m seventeen now and use to all the odd noises. Dad’s been dead now for a couple of years. So there’s just Mom and me to ward off the not so scary monsters left from my childhood.

And here’s an example of third person linited from my second novel, Darkness in Paradise:

They swung in an easy rhythm, blissfully unaware that with each motion the trunk was imperceptibly loosening. “Something feels different.” She peered over the edge. “Odd. My fingers are moving deeper into the sandy soil with each swing.” Rachel heard an unfamiliar ripping, groaning sound. She felt a sudden shift in momentum causing her to shift her gaze up toward the dead tree holding one end of the hammock. Her momentary confusion was replaced by a horrified realization that a large dark shape was descending rapidly toward them. Reflexively, Rachel turned her body and raised her left leg to deflect the falling trunk. Her body exploded with pain. She heard a muffled scream from the warm body nestled beside her. 

I’ve found that as I write I need to pay attention to who’s telling the story, and how much does any one person know know (and share) about the past and present? Good suspence often hinges on, as Alfred Hitchcock would say, “Making them wait.” I’d be curious what other writer’s experience has been with point of view?