How to Start Filling up the First Pages of your Great American Novel

By CBramkamp Newbie Guide Comments Off on How to Start Filling up the First Pages of your Great American Novel

Skulls- novelists Get EvenThere are countless books, (maybe even Don’t Write Like We Talk) devoted to how to write a novel.

Because apparently writing is neither automatic nor intuitive.

Allow me to give you the excellent books written by our guests who appeared on Newbie Writers Podcast:

  • The Writer’s Adventure Guide – Beth Barany
  • Shoot Your Novel  – CS Lakin
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction –  CS Lakin
  • The Author Training Manual – Nina Amir
  • How to Blog a Book – Nina Amir
  • You’ve Got a Book in You! – Elizabeth Sims
  • Starting Your Book – Naomi Rose

At the very core, writing is a purely creative endeavor.  No one writes like you.  No one filters and manages the world as you do.  However, the skills and techniques that will bring your creativity from scribblings and thoughts in a notebook to a product that you can proudly share with others, those skills can be learned.

 You won’t get rich, but you will get even

How to Begin

Cook what you like to eat:  Write what you like to read.  If you don’t have a plot or a style in mind, take a look at what is on your book shelf?  What books are dusty and what books are clean?  What do you love to read?  Start there.

Do you write fan fiction?  Many writers start their careers with fan fiction, EL James being the most notorious example.  Most fantasy writers started their practice by creating alternative adventures for their favorite Role Playing Game characters.    It’s a great way to loosen up.  Twilight, Star Trek, Little House on the Prairie.  What inspires?

Are you an expert?  Do you get the same questions over and over?  Write up the answers to some of those most persistent questions.  You are on your way to a non-fiction book.

There are two kinds of writers.  Plodders and Pantsers.  I don’t necessarily think those are elegant terms, but they do the job.

Pantsers, short for seat of the pants, are the writers who thrive in the free-for-all environment of NaNoWriMo. Pantsers allow their characters to run amuck and follow them through the story.  These are the writers who have characters talking in their heads day and night.  They are liable to drink.

Plodders, or I think Plotters, are far more organized.  These are the outliners, they know where everything should go and how to get all the characters there in one piece or five.

Plodders like to know everything before they write.

You can do both, we’re flexible.

Many times Pantsers start out strong, move forward into about 40,000 words and then lose complete track of what the hell they are doing.  By necessity, they must become a Plodder.

Outlines and organizing the book structure doesn’t need to be done in the rigid formats we were forced to create in school.  Use a mind map – Literature and Light’s Scrapple is a good on line mapping program. Or use huge pieces of paper – a white board.  Just start sketching out and linking.

I tend to mind map and/ or outline only when I’m in deep trouble.  But for some authors, sketching the plot out so it’s visible and clear, is the only way to manage the plot and the story.

Either or both, take heart that there are development stages to creating a novel.  These stages can be accomplished quickly or leisurely, it depends on your schedule and obligations.

You will (you should, we’ll talk more about this in later blogs)  create at least five drafts:

  1.  Raw –  from NaNoWriMo
  2. First – the real story  – you can use a writing group to help this process, or hire a writing coach for development and content help.
  3. Second – where all the adverbs become either nouns or adjectives and you actually take the advice of your writing coach and fix all the development issues.
  4.  Final – where you fix all the spelling again and consider the over all flow of the work and know that really, this is the final draft.
  5. Clean copy – this is the version that’s been rung through a fabulous copy editor. He or she will find typos, spelling errors and repetitive words or phrases.  They also may be the voice that says “I don’t understand this part.”  Don’t despair, that comment is a gift.  Make the change.

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. – Margaret Atwood

Catharine Bramkamp is the author of Future Girls and Future Gold

as well as the upcoming Don’t Write Like We Talk – what we’ve learned after three years interviewing authors, agents and publishers.

Tune into Newbie Writers Podcast

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