Welcome to Finish Your Novel.
I haven’t got the statistics, but in a very unscientific ongoing survey, I have discovered that almost everyone wants to write a novel. Nearly everyone has a brilliant idea they would love to put into print and have others read leading to fame and fortune. All I have to do is mention I’ve got seven published novels and the person I’m speaking with will invariably say “I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” or “I’ve started my novel a dozen times and I can’t find the time/know how to plot/work through the conflict,” or any number of different excuses.
While I cannot promise to get your novel into the hands of publishers or readers, I have enough experience that I can help you with the writing process. I won’t promise it’s easy, and I won’t promise it can be done quickly, but what I can promise here is to give you techniques you can use to get your novel from a rough start (or even an idea) to a completed work.
My techniques should work for any genre and for every level of writing ability. You can use these techniques to write a middle grade children’s novel or an adult fantasy and everything else. My techniques will be general, and when possible, I’ll suggest published works to add to what I’m saying.
What have you got to lose? Sit back and get your computer ready. We’re going to write a novel.
Ok, the first thing I want you to concentrate on is character. Your characters are what move your novel. Not the plot. I know this is heresy to plotters, and especially to those with plot driven novels (most mysteries fall in this category), but think about all the novels you remember. It’s not the plot that immediately comes to mind, it’s the character. There’s a story probably apocryphal, about a group of strangers sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner together, and the talk got around to Holden Caulfield. One person, not realizing they were speaking about the novel “Catcher in the Rye” said, “Holden Caulfield. I know him. What’s he been up to lately?” The character of Holden Caulfield was so strongly developed by J. D. Salinger that he became real. People even years later remember Holden Caulfield and want to know more about him. This is what you need for your characters, a fully fleshed, rounded character that your readers will root for, and buy your second book (even if it’s not a continuation like a trilogy) because they love your characters.
Take a minute to think about your favorite novels. What comes to mind first? It’s always character. I’ll use the movie Star Wars here as an example. When you think of Star Wars you think of Luke, Han, C3PO and Chewy. It’s only after grounding yourself in your love of the characters that you start to think about setting, plot, and resolution.
For every character in your novel, I want you to have a character sheet. Keep these in a notebook and handy while you’re writing. This is important: you don’t have to have the character sheet completely filled in before you start writing. You’d slit your wrists first if you tried, but I promise you a character sheet will help you keep track of important things like hair color and traits. As you’re writing, as a new facet of your character develops, write it down on your character sheet to keep track.
Without a character sheet, you’ll be two hundred pages into your novel and then forget if your main character (MC) hair is black, red or brown and you’ll spend hours of wasted time trying to find the original reference. Writing time is precious. When you’re writing, I want you writing not hunting up minor bits of information that need to be kept consistent.
Make your own version of this and print out multiple copies so you’ll always have one available. Here’s a view of mine.
Scars or other identifying characteristics:
What makes him/her happy?
What makes him/her angry?
Important background information:
What does he/she want more than anything?
What is he/she willing to compromise to get what he/she wants?
What is he/she not willing to compromise?
I’ll write more later. I hope I’ve at least got you started in the right direction.
Thanks for reading.
Betsy J. Bennett