Monday, October 25, 2010
Yeah I don't make a good drill sergeant.
But! In today's first installment of NaNoWriMo week, I wanted to talk about the most important element of starting a novel: starting with the right novel.
Chances are, if you are a writer there is one idea that you hold above all others. It is the one that has stuck with you despite the shiny distractions of other ideas. It is your one true unwritten love. Even when you look at the bestseller list and see how zombie ballerina novels have grown massively popular and you think to yourself, "Ya know, it would probably be smart to cash in on this zombie ballerina trend," your true unwritten love keeps popping back up and demanding your attention, and no amount of zombie ballerinas can distract you, no matter how simultaneously cute and terrifying they are.
This is the novel you should write. Write the book you want to write, not the one in the genre that is currently popular or that you think the publishing industry would like.
Committing to writing a book is kind of like getting married. You're in it for the long haul. And if you want the marriage to last, it's best to choose the one who makes you truly happy, the one who makes you a better person/writer, and the one who doesn't mind how your jaw clicks when you chew.
But this doesn't mean that you don't stop trying to improve the relationship. It can always be made better with effort. SO TOO with your novel.
So yes, you have a great idea for a novel. Awesome. Now start refining it (and you have a week to prepare before November!). Does the character have a well-defined arc? Are you sure you have a plot? Do you know the novel's high points and low points? Is change underway in your novel's setting? Have you thought about whether your novel should be in first person or third? Do you have a killer climax?
Here's a checklist of things to know before you start writing (pulled from my post How to Write a Novel):
- The main arc. Where your characters start, where they'll end up, how they'll change along the way. You don't have to know everything, but the more you think of the long arc the better.
- The main obstacles in the character's path
- The protagonist and his/her/its qualities
- The setting, and how it influences the character
- The style in which you plan to tell the story
- The climax. The most important sequences, where something very exciting happens that changes everything
Have a rough idea of these elements in place? Awesome. You're ready to begin.
For further reading on starting before you begin:
How to Write a Novel
Do You Have a Plot?
How to Craft a Great Voice
Archetype vs. Cliche
What Makes a Great Setting