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March 3rd, 2005, 11:14 AM
This one’s for all you published authors. I would like to write a novel (a rousing fantasy adventure). Now, I’m not looking to start a revolution or win the Pulitzer, I simply want to be a part of this literary genre (and the money, of course). In your opinions, what is THE very best way to get started? Now, bare in mind I’m young (18) and inexperienced (I’ve never written anything of any significant length and the thought of 10 000 words sends me scurrying under the nearest bed for a good cry).

Should I write in a linear fashion, from start to finish, or jump around the storyline as the mood strikes me? Obviously brainstorming is important but should I plan it all out in advance or go with the flow? Let me know.

March 3rd, 2005, 11:22 AM
I don't have a novel published, just a handful of short stories, but the SNOWFLAKE is a good place to start:


Also, check out the 'On Writing' thread, which plugs a great book on plotting, pacing and well... writing.

March 3rd, 2005, 12:55 PM
Hey Zanzibar, I'm from Ontario too. :)

I'm not published, and I haven't finished my novel so I'm no expert, but I have to say that I don't think you'll get a cut-and-dry answer from any published author as to the "right" way to produce a novel. There are as many different ways to write a book as there are authors. Some just start at the beginning and keep on going, not really knowing where the story is going to end, and some intricately plan out the entire plot before they write the first chapter. Others write random bits and pieces and then put it all in order. You have to find the method that works with the way your brain operates.

If you really don't know where to start, I'd recommend a good book, "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Crawford Killian. There's a lot of good basic info in there on how to plan and write a fantasy novel. Also, "On Writing" by Stephen King is a good book on writing in a general sense, in terms of style, grammar, stuff like that.

March 3rd, 2005, 02:16 PM
Zanzibar, well I don't have a published novel either, but I'm trying to publish a first book and I'm currently enjoying the writing of a second one at the moment, so I'll tell you what worked for me.

If you want to write a book, write.

Really, that's it. For my first book, I had absolutely no plan where anything was going. But I had some time on my hands after being laid off, and so I decided to write a book, which is what I always wanted to do. My problem in the past was that I would critique myself as I wrote, and that never gets you anywhere. So I set a very big rule: I couldn't revise/edit a thing until I was done with the rough draft. And I ran with it. I made plot changes on a whim, fiddled with the traits of my main characters, drew a map that seemed to fit what was going on, had fun with it, and 100,000 words later I had a rough draft. It needed extensive revision of course, if only to make the plot and characters line up, and this revision and renovation has been a much longer process than the actual creation. But that method got a story and a thread and a theme onto paper and I don't think I ever would have accomplished those things if I had been critiquing myself along the way.

And now I'm creating the second book, writing by hand for an hour a day, no editing allowed. Now that I know where the story is going, it's very enjoyable to me.

Some people like to plot and world-build before setting out, but I think that is putting the cart before the horse. You need to do some of that of course, but I think a little at a time, when it is required, is just fine. Most importantly, you have to develop good characters, and honestly, it's no joke, as you write characters will emerge: they'll differentiate themselves, some becoming funny, some annoying, some malicious. And they'll talk differently too, which is always crucial, because dialogue can make or break a story. No one wants to read characters who speak Boring.

So that's my advice. Write!


March 3rd, 2005, 02:31 PM
I simply want to be a part of this literary genre (and the money, of course).
WHAT money??? I don't see any money 'round here. If you want to make money with your writing, try screenwriting! The only novelists who earn a living on it are the super-mega-best-sellers . . . about 50 people out of the 400,000 published novelists in the USA.

Should I write in a linear fashion, from start to finish, or jump around the storyline as the mood strikes me? Obviously brainstorming is important but should I plan it all out in advance or go with the flow? Let me know.
Some published authors go with the flow, and some outline the novel in advance. You'll find successful authors in both camps. Try one, and try the other. Personally, I've run into problems every time I try to write a story without a clear idea of the beginning, middle, ending, conflict, and resolution. I'm at a point where I've completed four novels and lots of short stories, but I'm still trying to get read by a major publisher.

March 3rd, 2005, 05:36 PM
why does everyone who is interested in writing assume they have to (or can) start by writing a novel?

do you write everyday? have you ever plotted a story? built characters? edited a manuscript?

of course not, but if you want to learn those things you start small, you start by trying to tell a story in 3,000 or 5,000 or 8,000 words until you understand what a story is from the inside out. write short stories, read short stories and pull them apart, and write your own; if you can do that, if you can build the storytelling muscles as well as the discipline to write frequently and constructively then you can write successfully at any length.

assuming you even finish the first novel, something i doubt ninety-five percent of novices attempting such a feat achieve, then you will have undoubtedly learned a lot. but if you wrote ten short stories in the same time i think you will have learned much more, ten different situations to plot, ten different sets of characters, moods, settings, perspectives. and at the end of the effort say only one short story of your hypothtical ten is 'of publishable quality,' that's still one more success than you will most likely have with an amature novel attempt.

and everytime you finish a short story you get the satisfaction of a job done, a door closed, a house built and ready for occupantcy. contrast that with being knee-deep in a meandering novel, with no clear direction and no end in sight.

what's going to make you sit down and face the chore of writing? it can be a chore you know, its a lot easier to face when you've got a few notches on your belt, and nothing builds confidance like finishing what you start. much easier to finish 3,000 words versus 180,000.

start small, what's the rush? you are eighteen, if you have pipe dreams about bashing out a novel and getting rich during summer break fuggetaboutit, ain't happening. if you seriously think writing is something you want to do than begin at the beginning, start small, work hard at it and learn from your completed projects. send your shorts out to magazines and see if you can get published, you won't be rich but you will be on the way to being a writer.

save the novels for when you know what you are doing, you think first year med students perform brain surgery? ;)

March 3rd, 2005, 06:13 PM
Good all but hey, I never said I was starting now! Besides, I'm HERE to start gaining experience. I've been writing short stories and this is where I had intended to start (and where I will stay for at least a few years). A novel's a long-term goal for me and I sincerely doubt I could churn one out any time soon. The writing process is long and arduous for me and try as I might I find myself editing every paragraph I jot down right after I finish it.

As for the money deal, I don't have a job now (Jesus, I'm aspiring to be the one who takes you pizza orders :eek: !!!!!). A dollar earned is a dollar more than I had when I started and if I'm writing anything in my spare time I'm not really losing money because of it.

As for all of your suggestions for getting started, thanks a bunch. I'll take it all under advisement.

Jules Dante
March 3rd, 2005, 06:25 PM
You can write your first novel, structurally, in six years. Then spend the rest of your life in editing hell like me.

March 3rd, 2005, 06:59 PM
Adding to this I would state that the short stories I've been writing (and am writing) are mostly exercises (not always intentional). For instance, most are in third person perspective but a few are in first, one in particular was an attempt to portray realistic British accents, etc. I'm hoping by continuing to explore and not settling on one thing and one thing only I'll be able to more easily churn out my future novel.

March 4th, 2005, 01:45 AM
Good luck with your future stories and novel, Zanzibar! And I hope you get a comfy job sometime soon.

I don't think there's any "rule" that one must start with short stories. :rolleyes: I started with humonguous novels, and learned a lot from doing that . . . but I missed out on learning certain things about structure and plotting. Those gaps in my self-education were filled in later when I finally sold a few short stories. There are lots of writers who start out writing novels--and some of them never write a short story. Other writers stick with short format throughout their entire career (H.P. Lovecraft is an example of this). I don't see anything wrong with either one.

It sounds like you're on the right track, giving yourself some writing experience before you invest obsession-time into it. I do believe that anyone who wants to be a successful novelist ought to try writing a few short stories (or feature-length screenplays). It's a good way to hone your plotting and character development skills.