3 Things to Consider When Writing A Novel

These three questions aren’t in any particular order, and they certainly aren’t irrefutable nuggets of truth. My ideas about writing may not match your ideas, and that’s perfectly alright. These questions simply explore what I have experienced and felt as both a writer and a reader, and I wanted to share them.

A Note: While I’ve geared this post toward novel-writing, I’m fairly sure it’s applicable to not only other forms of writing, but really to any form of creative expression.

This is huge. HUGE. You can’t write without a reason. Or, come to think of it, you could—theoretically—but there’s a 95% chance that whatever you wrote would be crap.

There are thousands upon thousands of reasons why people write. It can be therapeutic, rewarding, entertaining, but it has to be something. You wouldn’t spend $1 million on a mosquito, would you? (For those of you who answered yes to that question, kindly escort yourself away from my blog and into a mental hospital, please and thank you.) Not unless you had a reason for buying that mosquito. Maybe the mosquito is actually a robot and you are a collector. Maybe the mosquito is the last mosquito on earth and you are a (deranged) scientist who wants to preserve the species. But there is a reason you want that mosquito.

In the same way (leaving the horrid mosquito metaphor behind), you must have a reason for writing. Maybe you’re writing to make money (good luck, mate); maybe you’re writing to distract yourself from something unpleasant in your environment; maybe you’re writing because some mad bloke is holding a gun to your head demanding you write him a sonnet.

Whatever the reason, it must exist, and it must be solid. Otherwise, you can write, but you can’t create.

Personally, I write because I enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and I’m good at it. That’s my reason. What’s yours?

This isn’t particularly related to formatting, although that’s certainly something else to consider. But what do you want your novel to be? Do you want it to be cute and fun like Pulling Princes? Dark and dangerous like Dracula? Charming and magical like Matilda? Write with the spirit of your idea. If you’re going to write about a murderer hunting his next victim, don’t drop in slapstick humor just for the hell of it. If you’re writing a children’s book, don’t build a plot around real estate marketing or quantum physics research. Consider your content, your objective, and your own personality, and write with a certain tone already in mind. This will help you not only get to know your story better, but help you write it better too. A lot of writers don’t plot everything out from the beginning, but the good ones have at least the feel of the story and write every word to fit that particular mood.

3 Things3

This is sort of a trick question. You ought to be writing for your own sake, because you want to or you need money or some other reason that involves you. Writing is in many ways a selfish occupation, and using it for gain, healing, or entertainment is one of its primary functions for people. You must write for yourself before you can write for anyone else.

But with that note aside, consider your potential audience. You may not plan for your novel to ever see the light of day, which is perfectly alright, but if you have even a smidgen of an inkling that someone other than yourself might someday lay eyes on your work, think about that. Think about the kinds of people your book may attract and ask yourself what you would say to that group if given the chance. If you’re writing a teen romance, who might pick up that book? Teenage girls, of course. So what would you say to a teenage girl? What advice would you have to offer her? Perhaps you might want to remind her that breakups aren’t the end of the world, or her own self-worth is more important than any boy, or there are worse things in life than having zits or nagging mothers.

This isn’t something that you necessarily have to incorporate into your novel. Your theme doesn’t need to revolve around any particular gem of wisdom you have for your audience, but it will likely be influenced by how you answer this question.

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Let It Be

*ignoring the fact that I’ve been gone for months* So one of my very best friends, who also happens to be a writer, decided some time ago to turn her novel into her senior project for high school graduation. This basically means she spent twenty hours with her fantastic mentor Greg Wilkey, (a local writer whose books and other funsies can be found here), completed and revised her novel over the summer (well actually she’s still working on it even though school starts on Thursday), and is supposed to present the final product this fall to judges. It’s apparently the wussy version of the big-bad-bullying college theses. But the reason I bring up my friend’s situation is because the fact that she actually has a literal NOVEL under her belt (albeit not entirely polished) really pisses me off if I’m honest. Authors generally have overcome the inherent laziness that plagues most writers (especially moi), and my friend seems to be coming along respectably well. And you would think her success would be motivation for my competitive self to catch a fast train and attack my baby manuscript with determination.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

My competitiveness only extends as far as my mouth. I want badly to show everyone else up, and like most people, I have a dreadful tendency to brag on the occasion I do take the lead. I love feeling superior. But I am, for the majority of the time, unwilling to act on my ambitions. A major flaw? I definitely think so.

My novel originally started as a tale about a little girl who could turn herself into a lioness. It became a story about five young people who come from completely different worlds who are chosen to fight for the freedom their lands have lost. And the sheer amount of characters, plotlines, backgrounds, and culture is incredibly intimidating at times. Most people would probably frown and question why I’m making everything so difficult for myself. But I suppose when you have a story that you feel has greatness in it, the kind of characters you wish to God were real, the kind of places you could spend forever exploring, there’s not much to do but let that story grow in your mind. Sometimes the best poems, the best stories, the best art, the best music, come from people who are by no means experts in the craft, but who allow themselves to reach high from the beginning.

Of course, I could laud the magic of amateur creativity for days, but still there lies a far-from-finished novel sitting in my hard drive and it’s frustrating, I won’t lie. But I have to keep believing in it. Even if it takes me years to actually get off my ass and write it, I refuse to simply want myself to complete the final product. I expect it. I owe it to myself to write the story in my head and heart. You owe it to yourself. These stories aren’t just bits of our brain that we’ve plucked out; they can live, they can breathe, they can be, if we can find it in ourselves to let them.

As for me, I’m working on it.

I’m Not Dead, I Promise…

I’ve just been a little bit busy the past few weeks. I hope you’ve all been reading and writing wonderful things; I know I have. I’m currently lost in City of Bones, the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, which I’ll most likely review once I’m done with it (yes, I know I’m terribly late to the TMI party, shhh). I’m also working on doing a bit of plot-tweaking and solving a few somewhat big issues on my own project, so wish me good luck!

In more blog-related news, I’m considering writing a post about POVs. I’m having a mid-novel crisis about them at the moment, and I hope writing a post about will serve to help me sort it out and/or clear things up for you in some way. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in (input is love after all).

Anyhow, I just thought I’d write a quick note to reaffirm my status as “alive and not dead/missing”. I hope you all are having a great February, and happy belated Love Day!

 

Review of The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

**Warning: One or two spoilers**

So I read this novel, The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, on Tuesday in one sitting, which I honestly haven’t done in a long time. I’ve seen the movie twice already, and I’ll be pre-ordering it on Amazon in the next few days (if you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that I fell harder than diamonds for that movie).

What’s interesting about the book/movie relationship is that Stephen Chbosky wrote the book with a film in mind, and he produced, directed, and wrote the script for the movie version, which is a secret, far-away dream of mine. So I was really excited about reading Perks and seeing if it was as good as/better than/worse than the film, only to discover that any comparison is pointless. They are both incredible in different ways, and trying to pick one over the other is like trying to pick a favorite snowflake.

The novel, short at just over 200 pages, is written in a letter format, and I quickly grew to love the way Charlie, the main character, expresses himself on the page. For such an age, he is remarkably thoughtful and observant, and the way he sees the world and life around him is so refreshing. He made  me laugh one minute and cry the next, and I don’t do either easily when reading.

I was also very happy to see Patrick included and given a significant role in the story; I’m a huge support of LGBT rights, and to know that Perks has been a YA bestseller despite having a leading character who is gay (flamboyantly so) warmed my heart. Patrick is, I must say, one of my favorite characters, both in the movie and the book. Not only is he an incredible friend to those he cares about, but he has issues that many people can relate to and sympathize with. I teared up several times during a few of his scenes, especially the one in the cafeteria.

Sam was everything I hoped she’d be, strong and flawed and beautiful, far from perfect but still someone I can’t help but admire. She’s been through so much and she’s still standing, keeping her heart and mind open and never giving up.

This novel is so powerful because it is fearless. There is suicide, drug and tobacco use, sex, teen drinking, homosexuality,  physical and sexual  abuse, and dangerous amounts of good music, good books, and good advice. I can imagine many parents would find faults in its content, would protest their children reading such a scandalous book, but even though I personally don’t agree with many of the things the characters do, this novel merits not only respect, but appreciation. It is a coming-of-age story, an honest, fresh look of that crazy time between adolescence and adulthood, and it does it with a style that’s both whimsical and somber.

If you are willing to take a chance, try this novel. You may or may not love it, but you will certainly be affected by it.

As for me, it is and will remain among my list of favorites. Thank you, Stephen Chbosky, for giving us your words.

To chapter 4!

This past week has been a bit unproductive writing-wise because both my best friend from Arizona and my father’s family came to town for a visit at the same time. I had a great time, but I unfortunately had very little time to write, though I did my best when I got the chance. I also finally got an iPhone (the 4S model) and I’m absolutely in love with it. <3

I’m back now, thank Buddha, and I’ve reached chapter 4 of my novel, in which my main character…okay I’m sick to death of saying “my main character” (it’s such a mouthful for me), so his name is Dastan. Anyway, Dastan’s father is captured, and I’m excited but at the same time dragging my feet again because I know the first time writing that scene is going to be hard and probably not that brilliant, but I just have to get over it, don’t I?

I’ve also seen three very inspiring movies that I highly recommend (well, Pitch Perfect wasn’t really “inspiring”, but it was pee-in-your-pants funny), Les Misérables and Perks of Being A Wallflower. Neither are necessarily writing-related, but they have given me some really great ideas that I could work into a future novel. Les Mis is a movie that I have been obsessing over since I first heard about it, being a huge fan of both the musical and the book (though the movie was not all that special), and it did not let me down; in fact, it went beyond anything I could even imagine. The cast was just brilliant, the music gave me goosebumps like every two seconds, and it is simply one of the most incredible musical films ever made in my opinion. Go see it. Now. Then you can come back and finish reading.

Perks of Being A Wallflower was at the dollar theater, and all I knew about it was that it had a cool soundtrack, Emma Watson (my ladylove), and drugs. I didn’t expect it to be what it was, and what it turned out to be was unforgettable. I just ordered the book off Amazon, and I will without a doubt be buying the movie the second it hits stores. It’s not a movie for everyone, but if you have an open mind and you want to be inspired, then this is a great one to see. I absolutely loved it.

Now, last thing (my God, this is a long post). I went to B&N Thursday and picked up another writing book/guide/instruction manual shindig called 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet. I’m on page 56 so far, and I also read the end (because I fail as a human being, yes I know), and so far it’s a great read. Domet is very frank and no-nonsense (like a good deal of college professors), and pretty much a badass sassbucket, if you take my meaning. She had me laughing from the first page, and she has a very set way of approaching the novel-writing process, which may not be for everyone, but I’m certainly enjoying the read. The book works like an actual lesson plan, with first a prologue, and then actual day-by-day assignments that help you build both an outline and a completed rough draft. I love outlining and writing exercises, so I’m looking forward to trying out her methods, perhaps over the summer when I’m less pressed for time (and energy).

Hope your New Year is going well!