By AJ Barnett
Are you writing a novel?According to certain online sites, an element of new and inexperienced writers think that writing a novel is merely a matter of typing their story into a computer, wrapping it, sending it to an agent, then sitting back until fame arrives… They couldn’t be more wrong.
The first draft of a novel is but one small step on the long road to achieving publication.
In fairness to them, to actually complete a novel is an amazing accomplishment. Anyone doing it should be proud - most people never get that far.
However, more is required before submitting a manuscript to an agent. Inevitably, most manuscripts need a large spoonful of revision before reaching the standard required for publication. Even experienced and successful authors write several revisions before their work is acceptable.
Writing A Novel - Don’t Be An Amateur
Editors recognize amateur writers quite easily. Amateurs tend to be intimately caught up in their manuscripts, aggressively fighting off all efforts at censure. Professionals regard constructive criticism as part of the writing process. Amateurs often take remarks about their work as a personal snub. Professionals realise that publishers have individual styles, so are prepared to measure up.
Writing A Novel - Now Put It Away
So, you now realize that something needs to be done to tone-up your novel - great stuff… However, the days immediately following the completion of a manuscript are not appropriate for starting the process. If you do, you’ll only read what you expect to read.
Place the manuscript or disc in a drawer for a few weeks. When you next read through it, you’ll be surprised at the flaws you’ll find - and with a bit of luck there will be parts that will make you flush with pleasure.
At this point don’t be tempted to make alterations. Take note of the changes you want, and then put it away for yet a few more days. Now is the time to think long and hard about the manuscript.
Writing A Novel - 11 Essential Checks
- Writing a Novel #1 - Does the first chapter hold the reader’s attention - does the opening need to be more interesting?
- Writing a Novel #2 - Are you pleased with the characterisation? Do characters come over as real people who behave in logical and coherent ways?
- Writing a Novel #3 - Is the dialogue exactly right? Dialogue should appear real yet NOT be the same as everyday speech. Real speech is too jerky and inarticulate to make good reading.
- Writing a Novel #4 - Is the story line sufficiently strong and does it run unequivocally all through the novel?
- Writing a Novel #5 - Have you maintained a good tempo throughout the story - a tempo that varies yet doesn’t flag?
- Writing a Novel #6 - Are the conflicts strong enough? Are they credible and do they create sufficient tension?
- Writing a Novel #7 - Is the theme of the story unmistakable yet not painstakingly in-your-face?
- Writing a Novel #8 - Have you balanced light with dark, pleasure with heartache? There should never be continuous gloom-and-doom, readers are searching for release from the daily drudge - they are seeking entertainment.
- Writing a Novel #9 - Is the finale reasonable and logical; will it be fulfilling for your reader?
- Writing a Novel #10 - Is all business complete? There should be no questions from the storyline left dangling around.
- Writing a Novel #11 - Does your writing run effortlessly? Remember - style is everything.
Writing A Novel - The Second Draft
Once you’ve determined what alterations are required, you can start the second draft - but be courageous about it. Don’t cling to segments simply because you think they’re a splendid example of your writing. No matter how brilliant you might think it is, if the writing doesn’t advance the tale, it should be removed. Each word should make a difference.
Writing A Novel - The Final Tasks
So the second writing of your novel is now complete, surely it is ready for submission now? Sorry, not yet.
One of the final tasks when writing a novel is to read it line by line. This time, begin reading at the last page and work backwards towards the first. This might seem odd, but this technique precludes the problem of admiring your own work. This time you are seeking out technical blunders such as grammar, purple prose, long sentences, repetition of favourite words, etc.
You now need someone else to check over your work. However, you should avoid asking for help from someone who is unqualified. So who do you ask?
- Opinions of friends and family are almost useless - there will be too much bias involved and not necessarily bias in your favour.
- Comments from your local writers’ circle might be useful, but unless they are published writers their remarks might be tinged by a certain amount of envy.
- A reasonable and impartial critique might be obtained from an online writers’ circle.
- For an unprejudiced assessment of your novel submit it for a professional critique. If you can’t afford a critique for the complete novel, consider the first three chapters. The feedback will provide a useful guide for further revisions.
When you’ve noted these final faults and flaws, you’re ready to make the ultimate copy of your novel - the copy you’re going to submit to your agent.
Don’t be duped into believing that it’s an editor’s task is to resolve these problems. Agents and publishers require your work to be as pristine as possible - if it isn’t, someone else’s will be, and yours will be consigned to the slush pile. Writing a novel is hard work but can be incredibly satisfying. Be happy about your writing, be wise - be prepared.