Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing Guide Update

Thanks so much to everyone for the great response on my guide to writing a novel! I'm so excited to be doing this in Internet era. I mean, instant feedback on what to include and I'm not even done writing it yet.

There were some really awesome ideas and some questions as well. A few answers:
  • This guide is just going to be focused on how to write a novel. Just the writing part of the novel, uh, part. So there won't be anything about query letters or marketing or promotion or anything like that. Assuming this all goes well, however, I could definitely see making those separate projects.
  • A few people asked why I decided to self-publish instead of pursuing traditional publication. To be honest, I never even really considered traditional publication for this. I'm extremely curious about the self-publishing world and thought this would be a great way to experiment with it. My publisher and agent know it's in the works so I didn't shock them with my post, but even if a publisher made me an offer I wouldn't take it (except maybe if the offer was solely for print rights). This is going to be fun. 
  • I don't envision this as just a beginner's guide to writing a novel. I'm really hopeful that even people who have written novels before will enjoy reading it and get something out of it.
  • Other than that, you basically know what I know. Which is very little! I'm so excited to embark on this process and have already started putting out feelers for editors.
Most of all, THANK YOU for the terrific ideas. So exciting. Here's a rundown of the suggestions that people made.

These topics are already in the guide:
  • Revisions
  • Point of view and narrative distance
  • Character development
  • Voice
  • Dialogue
  • Crafting a good opening
  • Choosing what to write about
  • Planner/panster approaches
  • How to find and work with a critique partner
  • How to know when it’s done
  • Conflict
  • Outlining vs. freestyling
  • Writing through the middle when the honeymoon of brand-new-shiny-idea is over
  • Setting
  • Transitions and chapter breaks
  • Structure
  • Likeability
These are ones I'm thinking of adding:
  • How to focus (Nora Murad)
  • Writing description (Judith Rivard)
  • Research (Rick Daley)
  • How to take a vague idea and build around it (Sara)
  • How to get unstuck creatively (Sarah)
  • Humor (Kourtnie McKenzie)
  • Weaving in backstory (David Kazzie)
  • When to break up with a novel (thewriteedge)
And there were also some great suggestions about the nuts-and-bolts of the publishing process, but as mentioned those will be for later projects.

This is already fun. Thanks again, everyone!

Art: Still Life With Books by L. Block


Elizabeth Seckman said...

I'm sure it will be amazing! Best of luck.

Kate Kobriger said...

Sounds awesome! Can't wait to read it.

ddelano said...

I can't wait to read this new project of yours! Also, I am excited you are self-publishing and i am hoping you will let us in on the process as you go through it. - Very fun!

Marta said...

Looks like a solid collection of helpful topics.

Now, this one seems like a great idea for a blog post:
How to take a vague idea and build around it

Why wait if you've got something to say, and you might get a lot of great feedback on additional approaches that could be developed further in the book.

Nathan Bransford said...


I actually wrote that one last night. I want to have some exclusive material in the guide so it doesn't just feel like a collection of blog posts. I may post it later on, but for now I've been working to make it a mix of previously posted and totally new content.

Doug said...

Is this a complement to, or in competition with, E. L. James's forthcoming book on writing?

Karen Walker said...

Since I am working on my first novel after 30+ years of nonfiction, I would definitely be interested in reading this guide. Have fun.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds awesome and covers a lot of issues with writing. Keep us posted on what you learn about self-publishing too.

Nathan Bransford said...


Coincidence????? I think not. Haha.

Mira said...

Hey, so this is very cool, Nathan. I can't believe you've almost written it. That is awesome. :)

So, I noticed you said: "print only deal". That's indie-speak! You know the lingo! You're an indie author now, Nathan! :)

So, I did have another thought - what about a chapter on writing non-fiction? You may want this to relate to fiction only, but you are equally talented in non-fiction, and that could be a very helpful chapter. Or - you could write a second, follow-up book. Just a thought (no need for acknowlegement).

I really like that you have a chapter on 'likeability' - that's excellent, and good for both fiction and non-fiction.

Really looking forward to this! :)

Nathan Bransford said...


Ha- that's funny because I saw it as agent lingo.

To me the term "indie" will always mean indie presses, so I'm on team "self-publishing."

I think I'll stick to novels for this one, but nonfiction could possibly be another one for the future, thanks for the suggestion!

Mira said...

@ Nathan - maybe it's both? Since self-publishers are taking on roles that used to be filled by traditional folk, there is probably overlap in 'industry terms'.

I'll use 'self-publishing' here. I understand you are being respectful, and I'll honor that.

I'll hold out hope for a second book! :)

Calliopenjo said...

Good luck, Nathan. I wish much success.

Now to set aside funds to buy your book.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Bentley said...

Nathan, not to go all literary-talk on you, but you could also illustrate the difference between the climax and the denouement. (Wait, somebody already brought up E. L. James, didn't they?)

Livia Blackburne said...

Haha. My first reaction upon reading that Nathan was going to self publish was, "Mira's going to be so happy!"

Sounds like an awesome project, Nathan. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Eve Ness said...

I already have my place on the line, in my sleeping bag with a Thermos of martinis to keep me warm.

And, just in case it wasn't a simple typo: it's pantser, not panster.

Denise Vega said...

Nathan - You may have already heard of this, but I just saw a brief interview with the founder of 29th Street Publishing - basically they focus on delivering content by subscription to mobile devices (magazines, serializations). Maybe another avenue for your book - I'm thinking about it for some of the tips from my blog.

Mira said...

@ Livia - ha! 'Happy' is an understatement. :)

And hopefully, at some point, we'll see some self-published works from your brilliant mind, too. I'm crossing my fingers. :)

Dawn Simon said...

It sounds great! I look forward to learning from it!

Evie McLaughlin said...

Was thrilled to have my tweet favourited and for some reason which I can't explain, it looks as though this post is going to work because the 'comment box' now recognises my name!
I've written my first novel and am now revising/rewriting/freaking out etc, but doing the whole thing because I love to write (I only discovered this a few years back!) I feel I'd like to go down the traditional publishing route and when I'm ready I'm going to try to find an agent. However, following this blog will give me the opportunity to learn about the self pub option and that's really exciting.
Thank you for sharing what looks like it's going to be an amazing book on writing a novel. The content list looks perfect. :-)

Beth Camp said...

Sounds like a great project. How about a section on 'diving into character' for helping writers think about their characters more fully or maybe pantser vs. planner and how characters help lead the writer more deeply into story. Just signed up to follow your posts and hope you will write about e-pubbing one day!

River Byrnes said...

It all sounds great. I am looking forward to reading it!!! And so does my son! I might even take it to my writer's group.
It has to come out first though. Have you got any time frame for this book of yours yet, Nathan?

katrin said...

One thing I find a bit confusing reading your posts is that writing YA and middle grade is in a different category from writing novels for adults. I know, I know, adults read YA, but the structure and, I would argue, the scope and language of novels written expressly for the adult market is simply different. Does your book encompass ALL novel writing, no matter for what market?

Nathan Bransford said...


Not sure! Hoping it will be out by the summer.


I wasn't planning to delve into writing for kids vs. adults. Although there are unique considerations in length, voice, themes, etc., the basic building blocks of writing a novel are the same. So I'm going to stick to the universals, but a guide for writing for children could be a spinoff sometime in the future.

Anonymous said...

You know, having just received estimates from developmental editors, anywhere from $6K to $15K, I think it would be nice to be shown "how to be your own best developmental editor," or something like that. Lots of new writers out there don't have the money for this service.

Nathan Bransford said...


I definitely don't believe paid editors are a necessity. Here's a post on that:

Karen Myers said...

"Pace" would be a nice topic. How to keep a feel for flow over an entire Act.

inklings Anon said...

I'd love to see the chapter on research. That's the most fun part for me. I can plug away at 5000 words like they are nothing and then all the sudden get to a part I want to research and spend more time researching for one paragraph than I did the last 5000 words. My mom once commented on how she thought and it used to be that in order to write on something you had to experience it. She made that comment on two chapters I had in Venice Italy. With the emergence of Google maps, I can sit there and actually map out where my characters go. I can get a street (or canal view) to see what it actually looks like from the characters eye. I can look up what hotel they are staying in and figure out the geographic relations to the touristy spots. Normally I prefer to write on things I have first hand experience with but there are those times when you need a little extra help getting over the hump. I'd love to see what other people do for research.

Kim Batchelor said...

I'd like to see how you use research in the narrative, especially when it's historical fiction or fiction that provides an opportunity to show off expertise (or, sometimes in a very annoying way, "Look at me! I did research!) I once heard Rick Riordan in his pre-blockbuster days when he was writing police procedurals describe finding out just enough to write, then going back and researching when he needed to know something, not just doing research for research's sake. As someone who occasionally writes historically, I'm always struggling with trying to find out the important information to place the reader in the setting.

Kim Batchelor said...

inklings Anon, were you doing a Jedi mind meld or did I just miss reading your comment before adding mine?

Lorenda said...

Have you thought about adding information on creating and maintaining a series bible. This is an area I'd love to hear more about.

Anonymous said...

You're going to enjoy doing this. It's not simple, but after you finish and get through the stress, you'll go back for more.

After self-publishing successfully several times (coming from trad publishing background)I find one myth all the time that freaks me out: that it costs a small fortune to self-publish e-books. And that is just not the case. I hope you get into some of the technical aspects you encounter along the way.

One Anon said this:

"You know, having just received estimates from developmental editors, anywhere from $6K to $15K, I think it would be nice to be shown "how to be your own best developmental editor," or something like that. Lots of new writers out there don't have the money for this service."

This is just not realistic and it's not something authors need to to do self-publish. The fact is that with hard work, learning to format, and reading all the free info out there other self-published authors have written, a good book can be self-published for almost nothing. And, I have never met a self-published author who wasn't willing to help a newbie...for free.

thewriteedge said...

Nathan, I'm floored and honored that you would consider my idea about when to let a novel go! Thank you!! You made my day!

Just one small note: my blog's name is The Write Edge (not The Writer.) Thanks again!

Other Lisa said...

Awesome! Can't wait to read it.

I suggest "Writing as a job." It kind of overlaps with "what to do when your shiny new idea isn't enough."

Anonymous said...

But the most important thing of all.

To not not think.

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