The How-to Of Writing A Novel - Introduction

Posted at 01:06am on 11th August 2008

HOW TO WRITE A BOOK. OR NOT?

One of the flattering, if potentially fatal, aspects of being an author is that other people want you to read their manuscripts. It isn’t always that they want to know how to write a book. They have, they tell you, already done so. It’s just that, to date, no one seems to want to publish it. What they need (they say) is a comprehensive critique: the low-down on fiction writing and publishing their purple prose.

Seduced, in the early days when I was first published, I undertook to read through several dog-eared masterpieces. But the trouble is that some would-be authors didn’t seem to want the advice I so (bravely!) and helpfully had to offer. What they wanted was a pat on the back and an assurance that their literary genius was exactly what the market was waiting for with bated breath.

WEEKEND WRITING WORKSHOP

Fortunately, not everyone was like that. There were many who were prepared to put in the hard-slog that’s necessary in order to achieve in any artistic pursuit. And because I remembered the endless patience of those who mentored me in my early endeavours (as I clung to my perfect prose as if it were my baby and I was faced with a gang of child-snatchers) I decided that it would be only right and proper if I were to offer whatever expertise I had to others. So, when I was invited to lead a weekend-long writing workshop, following publication of my first two or three books, I began to develop a series of lessons based on what I had learned. That event led to other workshop opportunities – and ultimately to an invitation as Resident Writer in the city library in the county where I live. Sadly, it was an invitation I had to decline. Circumstances at the time, which have only in recent years been resolved, had forced upon me the necessity of earning a living, and I had little chance for my own writing, let alone mentoring that of others.

After ten years in the wilderness of an administrative post which has, nevertheless, faithfully put butter on my bread and brought me into contact with the loveliest of people, I’m now back in the arms of my first love, and raring to go. So – now that the navel-gazing is out of the way in respect of what this blog is all about – I thought I might begin a series on what it takes to begin a writing project, take it to completion, and thence into the hands of a publisher.

BEGINNING A SERIES ON CREATIVE WRITING

I’m not going to promise a daily, weekly, or even a fortnightly issue. You’ll have to bear with me, please, because there will be other things I want to write about in-between. But I know, from the people I meet, that some of you will be thinking in terms of writing a full length novel (min. 70,000 words if it’s for adults) and others will want to accomplish something rather different: perhaps a testimony – a story covering a relatively short period of your own life, which you feel may be inspiring to others. What I have to say will, I hope, be of help in all aspects of creative writing. That is to say, either fiction writing, biography or autobiography.

The topics I’ll be covering (and this list is not definitive) will be:

  • Plotting a story
  • Identifying a theme
  • Creating credible characters
  • Developing dialogue
  • Market and readership
  • Building suspense
  • Weaving all the strands together
  • Reaching a satisfactory conclusion

INVITING OTHERS TO ‘JOIN’ THE CLASS

You may know of other people who would like to ‘join’ the Class of Mel’s Muse. If so, please ask them to come along. The more the merrier. The joy of online interaction is that numbers are unlimited by strictures on venue size, health and safety and so on. Nor are there any formalities: no registration; no regular attendance requirements; in fact no obligations required of them at all.

The people you ask may not, necessarily, be aspiring writers. But often even readers – especially those in Readers’ Groups – relish the idea of acquiring an insight into the esoteric workings of an author’s life. And if you, or they, have questions of me, I promise I will do my best to answer them. At very least – if they’re genuine – you have my assurance that I will reply.

So – until next time, when we’ll be looking at Plotting a story. . . See you then.

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