From the beginning to ‘The End’ (working title)


This is the first true post as I begin to write this non-fiction book relating the creation of a novel. Every non-fiction book I have read from historical biographies to Butcher’s Copy-Editing has an introduction. It gives the author their first chance to say hello and to give a flavour of what their book will be about, what it will cover and how they plan to go about it.

I wanted to give my prospective readers a chance to get an idea of what they could expect and to learn a little about the bloke who thought he had something to offer.

If anyone has any ideas on what else they think should be covered in the Introduction please leave me a comment and if I like it, I will include it and give you credit in the acknowledgements. Thank you.

Introduction and Biography

What prompted you to buy this book? What do you want to get out of it? Do you think it will help? It will. Help that is.

This book isn’t about the formula of writing a novel and the mistakes that you will make if you don’t follow a prescribed method. There are a thousand books available covering that approach; some free, others reasonably priced and many ridiculously expensive. There also some excellent books that adopt different approaches; whether it is free form writing where a looser ‘empty your soul on to the page’ approach or instructions on how to write and research non-fiction. If that is what you are looking for then scan your local bookshop or the Amazon website and convert your cash into advice.

This book is about a journey taken by a writer describing how he creates a work of fiction from an initial idea through to publication. I am the writer and I wanted to describe the process that I am going  through when I write my novel. For me this is a very personal approach as it lays open my own ideas and philosophies on writing and creating fiction. I want this book to be read as a way to write a novel, not as the only way to write a novel, it’s a way that works for me and I hope that my approach helps by giving you a blueprint to write the story inside you as well as offering ideas and practical advice.

When I write I need the comfort of structure and planning to ensure that I am not faced by a blank page with no idea what to put on it. The plan changes, they always do, but those changes will add depth and texture to the story and improve the finished novel. By having a plan, a detailed plan, I know the direction in which the story is heading, what will happen at a given point and how each scene will affect the story as a whole.  My plan is only the initial view of how I expect the story to progress, the changes are what will allow the story to develop within the original framework.

This very structured approach to writing I know won’t suit everyone. Stephen King believes that plot is best forgotten but situation is important. He also says, ’I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.’  Conversely John Irving says, ‘know the story—as much of the story as you can possibly know, if not the whole story—before you commit yourself to the first paragraph….If you don’t know the story before you begin the story, what kind of a storyteller are you?’

This book will lead you from your initial first glimmer of an idea, testing the idea, planning in detail, first draft, rewriting and more rewriting, from there to editing, cover design and on to publication, both traditional and indie. It is a blueprint that you can use time and time again. Using it as a guide when writing your early works to a reference as your experience grows.

I hope you enjoy the journey.

Biography

Simon is a novelist, proofreader, copy-editor and blogger. This will be his first non-fiction work which he is writing alongside his second novel: The Impact of History. His first novel is available through Amazon as an ebook, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased). Click here, to buy it.

You’ve got your idea … What next?


The idea has arrived and it’s beautiful. You know this is the one, the idea that will transform fiction writing, film production and theatre. You are twitching to put pen to paper and get cracking with the great British/American/Australian novel. Before your keyboard is reduced to a charred and tangled mess by the ferocity of your typing you still need to test your idea to ensure it will have the staying power that you are sure it will have.

When I have those moments of blind panic as I stare blankly at the screen, wondering how my main character has run out of things to say and do, the idea for the story is pathetic and my anti-hero has decided he/she wants to be fucking nice, then I wished i’d taken my own advice and scribbled a few bullet points down first. Outlining gives you the time to take a breathe after the first rush of enthusiasm and excitement is falling away. It forces you to ask a few questions about your idea and honestly decide if it is any good. Not just any good as an idea for a novel, a short story or flash fiction, but whether it is worthy of your time and effort at all. Some idea’s will appear to be great and will be amazing. Others appear at first glance to be fantastic, but are in reality shit.

I can only describe what I do when I scribble an outline down and how I think it through. Here goes:

In each section I just write a few lines; enough to remind me how I wanted the story to flow and to help identify if there is enough there. By now I also know who I am planning on writing for, their age group, gender and the planned genre of my story. However the best laid plans of mice and men…

Opening

How you want the story to open? This section sets out how you see your stories opening and how you see the beginning shaping the rest of the story. Do you start from the beginning? From the end with the remainder of the story going back in time to set out how you get to your opening pages? In the middle of the action, thrown in at the deep end? Your choice, make it.

Mid Section

These sections are the meat of your story, where you develop your characters, bring in other story lines that complement the main flow of the story. You can cleverly introduce character back stories, introduce some red herrings, some twists and turns. These sections are where you can have a lot of fun. Don’t forget to keep your eye on the end – that’s what you are building towards.

Conclusion

This is my favourite part. you’ve chosen how you want to begin your story, you have developed the story and the characters keeping an eye on the final part and now you show how inventive you have been. The twists and turns that will keep your readers intrigued until the end. You can make your ending as lively or as intense as you want, it’s your story.

These three sections will go a long way towards helping you decide how you want to structure your story and what format you would like it to take.

Is plotting okay?


Dandelion

 

I ask this question because of Stephen King. Let me explain. I have been listening to his book – On Writing – which is amazing and he is vehemently anti-plotting and advocates a free thinking, stream of consciousness approach.

I have and would continue to struggle with that. I like the structure that is offered by a planned plot line. I know where I am, I can see how the plot will advance and how my main characters are interacting with each other. I know I have covered all of my bases and not let a  character or sub plot slide off to one side and disappear, unconnected to it’s encouraging introduction. Is this wrong?

Should I feel intellectually inadequate because I prefer to have what some view as an a cheat sheet to see me to the end of my novel?

I have thought about this a lot and come to the obvious conclusion. Of course not. In my view plotting a novel doesn’t suppress spontaneity, it helps you focus on the nuts and bolts leaving your sub-concious the time to work on the twists and turns. An outline is a roadmap or perhaps even a shopping list. It allows you to see the routes from beginning to end and not lose sight of subplots and minor characters.

Will I continue to write in this way? Yes. Should I join the free thinking seat of my pants writing? May be one day when I have the confidence and trust in my ability to venture away from what I know and am familiar with.