Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Rules For Writing a Novel

W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

I think fellow author Jack Bludis came close to discovering the first rule when he said, “I think a writer must like what the writer likes before he can please anyone else.”

Most authors spend a lot of time trying to analyze books that sell well, attempting to discover that tiny element that creates a ‘bottled lightning effect’ and sends sales soaring into the stratosphere. There are all kinds of tweaks that we can give to our manuscript to improve the story, but if you don’t like the darn thing yourself, then why should someone else?

The writers of the television series, ‘Breaking Bad,’ came up with an improbable scenario. A science teacher has a desperate need for money for cancer treatments. He produces and sells methadone to meet that need. This story works because the writers sell us on a character caught in a desperate situation. A similar state of affairs is the character in Stieg Larsson’s novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’ Lisbeth Salander is everything a character should not be, but she grabs the reader’s attention with a vengeance and doesn’t let go for the next 700 pages. If you analyze Larsson’s writing, scene by scene, you discover that he is far from being the best writer around. He is a storyteller who knows how to create an adorable character, and he does that very well. So maybe the question we should ask ourselves is not about our new marketing plan, but about the story itself. 'Do we like what we are writing, or have we fallen into the habit of producing a certain kind of story because they seem to be moving well in the marketplace.'

I’m going to back up to the opening scene of my current WIP and examine all of the characters afresh. I want to fall in love all over again with Lori, Sandi, and Chris. I hope in the process of doing so, the reader will catch that magical spark and fall in love with them too.

You can view Jack Bludis novel, Dirty Work, by clicking on the title of this article.

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