Writing Tips Season 2 (Writing A Novel) #1: Warming Up
It’s 2020, the year you finally write that novel. It’s going to be exactly what you need it to be. Over the next twelve weeks, I’m going to be giving you tips on writing the novel. It’ll range from structure to character to narrative lens. Rather than a writing prompt, I’m going to give you specific novel homework to do.
You’ll be coming to this with many different energies: for some of you, it’ll be the first thing you’ve done. For others, you’re a writer of other things trying a novel. For others, this is your second or third or seventh novel. All I can say is, you know your novel best. You have the answers. You have the ability. Writing a novel is like a marathon. Those first three miles are super easy then it’s the worst thing in the world and you keep wanting to give up, but then you see the end and you start sprinting. Take your time. You don’t need to write a novel in twelve weeks. Work out a way of drafting that works for you, fits into your life and most of all, gets you at your best.
As ever, these are free but there are ways you can show me some love. One is to buy one of my books and tell social media about it and leave it an Amazon and/or GoodReads review. Another is to petition Marvel to let me write a Spider-Man comic. And the easiest is to buy me a coffee through this freelancing site, ko-fi. It’s a super-easy site that uses paypal to give freelancers coffee money. This newsletter took me two coffees to write. J
Ready? Let’s write a novel.
WRITING TIP: WARMING UP
You wouldn’t start deadlifting or running a 10k or play football. You’d warm up first. You’d stretch. Do the same with your novel. Don’t start it just yet. Spend some time getting to know the world of the book. When I start my novel, I create three new Word documents. One is called EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THIS BOOK (thanks Alice Jolly for this), where I dump everything I know about the world, the precincts and the people in the world. I might write that this takes place in July 2018, during a World Cup Match. I might make notes on what’s happening politically, what’s the song on the radio. I might create some characters. I might sketch out the local pub. I may even take photos of streets on my phone, or landscapes that I want to replicate in the book. For the thing I’m currently working on, because it takes place in the world of hotels, I’m putting photos of the types of hotel into the document. Sometimes schematics, sometimes stationary. Whatever I come across. I’m also interested in the backrooms of these hotels, so where I see them, on films or photographs I collect them. This is a living breathing document. Whenever something crops up, I stick it in.
The other document is my character document. Here I build up what these characters look like, how they dress, what their faces do when they laugh, how they speak. Maybe they talk in questions. Maybe they never say what they’re thinking. Maybe they use innit as a full stop. It’s useful to know. Again, this is a living and breathing document, because as I get into the draft, things will occur to me. It’s important, thought, to give some thought to the basics of your characters. What is their major flaw? Who do they want to be and is that different from who they need to be? What is dysfunctional about their live that our novel is going to show them is no longer fit for purpose? What are some significant moments in their lives? Who are their significant relationships, both positive and negative? What is their living space like? Some of this stuff won’t even make it into the final novel. But you need to know who these guys are.
The third document is my plot document. I already know what the story of my book is but now I need to apply it to a plot. I know what it’s about, now to work out what actually happens. I try to keep this document brief. But if I work out a basic roadmap before I start writing, I know where I’m going and it doesn’t mean that I’m throwing in random dramatic conflict later on just to keep the plot going. Remember: a novel could be 50,000 words, 40,000, 100,000… there’s no fixed way to be. However long it is, it has to have a plot that justifies the reader’s investment in reading it. So this plot document, remember to ensure causality. Action creates more action creates reaction creates action creates conflict and so on. The plot document is where you will work all this out. You know the characters, the precincts, now… give them some stuff to do. Remember, BUT BECAUSE and WHY when you’re working out your plot. He does this BUT this happens and BECAUSE this happens this now happens WHY did it happen? And so on. Even if you’re one of those people who’s like, ‘dude, I like to work it out as I go…’ I’m gonna tell you, it only works for some of that first draft. You have to have a roadmap. It doesn’t need to be super detailed. But it has to show you why things move the way they do.
Okay, this is us warming up. This is what we need to do before we start writing. You may have the perfect opening paragraph or scene. You might think you know all this. But it’s all in your head currently. Get it out of your head. Because in your head, it’s perfect and slightly amorphous and abstract. Getting these things down on paper will allow you to make this novel actually happen.
WRITING PROMPT: DO ALL OF THE ABOVE
Super simple this week. Create three new word documents:
1) EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT THIS NOVEL
Start filling these things out. As much as you can. I would focus on character first then plot and as these two are worked out, things will organically be added to the everything doc.
Do it. Remember these are all living breathing documents. Things may change as we go.
Let’s get ourselves warmed up. Now, what you need to know is, I’m starting a new novel this week, so I’ll be with you each week. I’ll close each newsletter going forward with a little insight into how it’s going for me.
Just a reminder to buy a book or buy me a ko-fi. Thank you.