Tag Archives: Reading

Writing Your First Novel

One of the common questions asked by novice writers on our sister Facebook site Writers Unite! is “How do I start?” To help new writers with the daunting but fun task of writing, I have begun a series of articles on how to prepare writing your first novel.

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Writing Your First Novel

Part One

Read

 “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”
― Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

All those words Gaiman speaks of rattle around inside of us. Eventually, the urge to allow them to escape becomes overwhelming. Time to write a story.

Fledgling writers come from all walks of life with a wide-ranging knowledge of the writing process. I remember my own experience when I decided to begin writing. Writing was not new to me, throughout my career I had written research papers, manuals, newsletters, speeches, and advertising copy.  However, crafting a fiction story was something I had not done since college. I recognized there was a lot to learn.

The question is where to start?  We can jump right in and begin to put words to paper or screen but are we providing ourselves and our future readers with the best effort we can make? Before we write, let’s explore the steps we should do to prepare ourselves to be good writers. Let’s begin with reading.

Read

What better than a book to fuel the imagination. One of my favorite quotes is from George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Reading the works of others is fundamental to the writing process. Any genre and any author (even a not so skilled author) can provide you with useful information. I do recommend selecting best-selling books in the genre/genres that you wish to write in, as well. Successful works related to the story you want to write can provide you with trends and what the readers of the genre prefer.

What you do you as a new author gain by reading? There are several reasons:

Vocabulary:

Reading increases vocabulary by presenting words we may not hear or see on a normal day. A diverse vocabulary is a great asset for any writer by providing an enhanced collection of words that convey the meanings and emotions of your story. A large vocabulary also provides alternate word choices which improve your writing style.

Grammar:

Grammar rules are analogous to rules of the road. Authorities expect us to obey the speed limit, stop at red lights, and follow the other traffic laws. Otherwise, chaos ensues on the roads. The same is true for writing. Grammar rules provide a framework for writing a clear and concise story that a reader expects. When reading, pay attention to sentence structure, verb choice and agreement, how complex or simple the sentence are. You will begin to acquire a feel for the author’s style which can help you find your own.

Plot Structure:

Read to understand how the author constructed their story. How do they open their novel, what hook did they use to draw you into the story? Notice the author introduces their main and secondary characters, build tension toward the climax, or employ foreshadowing, plot twists? Learn what techniques work to provide the reader with an exciting and emotional experience.

Trends:

While you should read all genres for a better overview of style, you should also select numerous books within the genre that you wish to write in. Trends are not only for clothing, but genres are also subject to the latest fad or the focus of a best-selling author. Knowing what your potential reader might prefer when choosing a new novel. A word of caution, trends fade, and by the time your novel is ready for publication, some other trend may have taken your place. Write your story the way you want.

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In subsequent articles, we will look at these topics in more depth as well as other tools for the novice writer.

(Quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/)

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Love to Read in Order to Write

How can someone be a writer if they don’t like to read?

Personally, I don’t think you can be a writer without a love for the written word. To me, it would be like a musician who doesn’t love music, or any other creative-type who doesn’t love what they create themselves.

A writer creates using the written word. And to understand how to do that, you need to study, or in this case, read. And not just in the genre that you love to write in, but across the board. Words have to be a wonder and a revelation to you in addition to making you feel things both good and bad.

So, what do you learn as a reader in order to be a writer?

First, the craft of writing: spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You have to understand basic structure in order to learn how to communicate not only clearly, but effectively. You have to study words and their meanings, and their usage in order to find the best ones to express your thoughts and feelings.

Second, you have to read stories in order to understand how they are told. This would be the mechanics of plot and character development. In order to understand how a story is told with a beginning, a middle, and an end, you need to see it in action. Books are not built like sand castles on the beach, but like houses and buildings. Once you understand working structures then you can build your own as every story has to have a solid foundation.

Third, when you read and are emotionally engaged you’ll see how that was done. For example, when I read ‘The Hunger Games’ about halfway through that book I felt this immense emotional churning inside of me. I was feeling what the main character Katniss was feeling, and I was blown away by how incredible and well-done the writing was to make me feel that way. I was reading the story and not only wanted to know what happened next in terms of the plot, but with the characters, too.

Writers don’t just create words and stories out of thin air. They not only read and study, but they also live. A good writer is an observer of human nature, and they read other observations in order to hone their own observation skills. Because writing is not just about putting words down onto a page: it’s about putting observations and feelings into words. I have been touched and moved and inspired by so many writers over the years that in a way my writing is a way of paying that forward.

My advice here then is this: if you don’t love to read then you need to figure out why and overcome it. Because if you don’t have a love and passion for the written word, you won’t be able to convey that with your own words as love and passion are the heart and soul of good writing.