Thursday, July 31, 2008

Writing Fiction: Session 2 - Novel Ideas

Before you begin to write your novel, you must dream up a winning story idea. Once in a while, writers pull ideas for their novels out of thin air. Rather than waiting for the fiction-writing muse to strike, give her a nudge.

To start the brainstorming process, think about the types of novels you enjoy the most. When you go to the bookstore, do you gravitate to the mystery section, the sci-fi section, adventure, romance, historical saga, horror, westerns, fantasy, or general fiction? Most often fiction writers have the easiest time writing in the genre they read and enjoy.

Once you narrow down a category or two, pick three or four novels by your favorite fiction authors of that genre. Take the time to read them slowly -- cover-to-cover. As you read, dissect them ... feel the rhythm of the story, note the balance of narration and dialogue, internalize the pacing. Can you find some commonalities among the novels in your genre? If so, make note of them for future use.

Reading several novels in this analytical way should clear a path for your book idea. Keep a notepad handy and jot down all the ideas (no mater how foolish) that come to mind. Put the list aside and keep reading. If you let those ideas for ferment for a while, one or more will eventually rise up to claim your interest to an extent that you won't be able to leave it alone.

That's your start. Fiction writers tell me, and I know from personal experience, that once an idea takes hold, it'll start to grow on its own. Don't rush this process in preparing to write your novel. Waiting for the right idea will make the writing process so much easier.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writing Fiction: Session 1 - Introduction to Writing Fiction

Writing fiction is a little harder to define than non-fiction writing, but many of the steps to preparing to write overlap. For example, at some point:
  • you'll want to develop an outline;
  • you'll have to do some research;
  • you'll want to keep track of people for an acknowledgements section; and
  • you'll need to develop a note-taking system to keep your information in an orderly manner.

Before you do any of that and before you start writing fiction, you'll need to learn a bit about fiction and some of the ins and outs of writing it. Writing fiction, whether a short story, a novella, or a full length novel, is the art of telling lies. The longer the piece, the more lies you tell.

In order to gain and keep the attention of an audience, you'll need to put enough detail into your fiction writing to make your story believable without slowing it down. Plus when writing fiction, you need characters that ring true, pacing that keeps the story moving, and dialogue that brings your reader right into the conversation and into the story.

We'll work on each of these areas and more in the sessions to come on writing fiction. For now, start dreaming up your story.