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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Novel Within

People always ask me questions about writing. How do you get started? How do you write a book?
Here's a workbook from a workshop I did a few years ago. Hope this helps.

The Novel Within


What Do You Want To Write?

          Every novel starts with one sentence. What do you want your sentence to say? How do you want to hook the reader into moving on to the next page?

Exercise 1.

Open your favorite book and read the first sentence. Write five things about it that captured your attention.

Exercise 2.

Write a sentence with an interesting hook.

Exercise 3.

Build a paragraph around the sentence from exercise two.

Planning and Plotting

          There are many ways to start writing your novel. You can plan it with an outline, defining your plot, developing your characters and describing your setting.
Or you can “wing” it. It depends on what you’re most comfortable with.
However, if your goal is to get published, then you will need to write a synopsis.

What is a Synopsis?

 What is a synopsis? Webster’s defines it as "a shortened statement or outline, as of a narrative. Abstract." Nothing sounds particularly evil in that definition. Let’s look at it a little closer - "shortened statement or outline." Hey, look at that, "outline." Now, there is a little word we’re all familiar with. Does "outline" make you cringe as much as "synopsis"? What about "shortened statement"? Not me. Probably not you, either.

Start with a Simple Sentence

Let’s start with the shortened statement. I’ll use the popular children’s story, Lady and the Tramp, to help demonstrate my points.

What is our story about?

"Lady and the Tramp is a story about dogs." True, but the portrayal is dry and uninteresting. Would you want to just read a story about dogs? What makes this dog story different? Let’s see if we can add some more information to better describe the story.
"Lady and the Tramp is about two dogs from different sides of the track."
Good. Now we know that there are two main characters. And, we know that these two characters are different in some way. Let’s see if we can do a little bit better.
"Lady and the Tramp tells the adventures of an upper-class, well bred cocker spaniel and a roguish mutt from the wrong side of the tracks."
Okay. Now we have some description and a hint at a story. We know that these two distinctly different characters are going to have at least one adventure.

Describe Your Story in 25 Words or Less

So, now we need to think about our audience. The synopsis generally goes to an editor, agent, or publisher. So, we must capture their attention. Give them something to grab onto and not let go. This is where you can really get creative and meet the "describe your story in 25 words or less" challenge.
"Lady and the Tramp is filled with exciting adventures of Lady, a lovingly pampered cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a roguish mutt from across the tracks."
Whew! There it is - 25 words - exactly. We’ve just written a strong hook for the opening of our synopsis.
Every synopsis should start out with a statement that describes your story in approximately 25 words. However, don’t be a stickler about trying to hit the "magic" number. There isn’t really a magic number. But, keeping your description to approximately 25 words helps to focus your writing on the key elements of your story.

Developing Characters
People want to read about characters that they can identify with.
But this doesn’t mean that you should write about people that you know and just change their names.
Sure, good fiction has a pinch of truth in it, but you will lose friends if you write about them and they don’t like their characterization.


Develop a main character. Create a back story, give this person a history, give him or her flaws, and give him or her emotions. What does this character look like? Who does this character remind you of?

Books that will help you

·        Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
·        Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood
·        Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella
·        The Forest For The Trees by Betsy Lerner
·        The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
·        The Joys of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict
Web Resources
African American Online Writing Guild -
Romance Writers of America - National -
Children’s Writing Resource Center -
Christian Booksellers Association -
Publisher’s Weekly -
Novelists, Inc. -
BookWire  -

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