Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Write a Novel in Three Easy Steps

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."  W.Somerset Maugham

There are, I’m guessing here, about one hundred and fifty thousand books written on how to write a novel. I have about one hundred of them, give or take, gathering dust in my library of writing books. It seems we all want a how to guide for navigating the tricky, often confusing, often frustrating task of novel making. A kind of cookbook with story recipes or a set of instructions like the ones that come with the some assembly required box of furniture you purchase at IKEA would be just the thing.

The trouble is, writing a novel isn’t like assembling a desk or baking brownies. As Somerset Maugham suggests, rules for novel writing don’t exist. This is because there are as many ways to write a novel as there are novelists. Some of us take an orderly approach, mapping out the story ahead of time. Some of us are messier, getting lost on purpose to see where the road will take us. Sometimes we have arguments on which approach is best. Some of us write books about our approach, which is why there are so many books on writing. 

The truth of the matter is there is no one simple answer. What works for one writer won't work for another. Moreover, what worked with one novel might not work with the next. Novel writing is hard business; it takes time and energy. You make a lot of mistakes along the way. No one can tell you how to do it. That’s okay. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

My best advice for novel writing was given me by my friend Sherry. I call it how to write a novel in three easy steps. Step one, write a sentence. Step two, write another sentence. Step three, repeat steps one and two until you get to the end of the book. 
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Julie Eberhart Painter said...

One foot in front of the other. Remember BIRD BY BIRD, by Anne Lamott?

Ute Carbone said...

I love that book, Julie. Now there's a writing book worth its pages.

Susan Roebuck said...

yes, one step at a time. Mind you, Ute, you're lucky because you have a very strong writing voice (which I love and envy...rats!)

Ute Carbone said...

Aww Sue. You are too kind and lovely. And a terrific writer as well.