Please Kill Me,
Salutations, my loyal patri/matri[archs] (or however you self-identity #Unicorns), and welcome to the long-awaited (or likely feared) threequel. That’s right my lowly scribbler’s of the night – it’s time again for another hefty dose of things you should do, (from someone that you probably shouldn’t listen to).
For you newbies, (#MostofYou) -every once in a while, I get a particular gnaw in my nether regions to up and dump some useful wads of info all over your favorite keyboard – so sit back, relax, (continue doing your substance of choice), and enjoy – So You Wanna Write A Novel: 10 To-Do’s From a Sociopath. (Seriously though, the drugs may help).
1.) Plant – Like anything worth growing, every story’s inception begins with the idea. Not just any idea – but the MOST INCREDIBLE FRIGGIN’ IDEA THAT’S EVER BEEN THOUGHT! So with that, it’s important that you -of course- write it down, and then (somewhat anti-instinctively) let it burrow deep into the core of your brain, and stew for a bit (preferably between “I’m thirsty” and “My ass hurts in this chair”).
We do this because this isn’t just another kick around tale (that you came up with on the toilet). Novels require a certain level of planning and forethought – in that spirit- it’s in your best interest to let the story evolve in your subconscious for a while – and grow independently of you- to an extent, (as it will surely be influenced by your day to day meanderings). Obviously, take notes, but be careful not to think it out of existence.
Confusing right, (well it won’t be) because as you’re incubating your literary fetus, you should be meeting your –
2.) People – That’s right you Children of the Corn – (this is probably the only time in your life that you’ll hear this but) – it’s time to make acquaintance with some imaginary friends. Though you are certainly awaiting your mental zygote to reach appropriate maturity – this is no time to lollygag. The active mission here – is to develop some friends to play with, (#NotThatKindOfPlay #GetOffThePornSite #NotThatKindOfGetOff).
The period before you begin to gain the momentum of your story – is when you should be working on your character development. Who are they? What are their goals? What are their quirks? (Do they have a hot friend?) – All of the imperative facts that-though the audience may never specifically know – you, (as the author) should have down pact.
Even if some of these details don’t make the completed story, (and please don’t force them in #Giggidy), knowing, or having an idea of them – will assist you in moving the plot forward, smoothly and sensibly, as well as help you to avoid some (what I assure you, in retrospect will be) blarringly troublesome plotholes and artistic hiccups.
Once that’s all set, now you’re going-
3.) Places – That’s right fellow mental traveler’s – destination is key, (ironically enough, for us sedentary folk). For some obvious and not so obvious reasons.
a.) Obvious – WHERE THE HELL ARE WE?
b.) Not so Obvious – WHY THE HELL ARE WE HERE?
Okay, let’s move on…
Oh, wait that was kind of confusing,
When you’re writing a full-length novel, there are certainly some liberties that you are free to (and rightly should) take – if only to keep the audience interested, guessing, (and interested in guessing) – however the reader will only go with you so far (before they bombard your social media platforms with various versions of “What THE F–K??!!”). Be honest with yourself – and be wary of under explanation.
Now, the not so obvious – the why? This one is actually so simple, that I can’t blame you for having it go over your head, (though I will anyway).
Think of your novel as one REALLY long answer to the question of – Why. Before you guys get all stickler crazy- this doesn’t mean that you have to give exact locations ( or your archenemy’s address #UltimateRevenge) – but rather: why space, why the desert, (why hiding under Kylie Jenner’s mattress – that one Christmas) – where you are matters – don’t forget to (at minimum) give a hint or two of the reason behind it.
Now, the fun part –
4.) The Problem – Picture this – You’ve got the characters. You’ve got the locations. And your planted seed has grown into ONE HELL of an awesome [Insert admitted tree fetish here] and you’re ready to go. Now what? (HammerTime?). We SET IT ALL ON FIRE!! (…then #HammerTime).
Writing a novel is like baking a cake. Once you have all of the ingredients well mixed and in order – you dump them all together and create a mess -the likes of which no one has ever seen. It’s here that we see the catalyzation of events that will leave the audience eagerly anticipating the next page. Then, wait-
5.) Hold-Back – You heard me. Remember, you’ve got a good 65,000 words to get down. Don’t fall into the trap of (excuse the analogy, but it’s fitting) –“blowing your load” too quickly.
By no means should you bore the audience, but be sure to pace yourself in a way that allows the necessary time for a well-executed build up.
“And after Gotham is ashes – then you have my permission to-”
6.) Let Them Go – BAT-SH*T CRAZY! (You see what I did there? #BatmanRulez). That’s right kiddies, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s crunch time. It’s final quarter. (It’s 3 am on a Saturday, after beer and too much food), it’s time to GET SH*T DONE! (Sorry for the visual. I get excited easily).
Now, is your chance to let the audience have that massive gut-punch that you’ve been building toward. Hit them hard, hit them succinctly, and make them have to put the book down for a moment to recoup their sanity. THIS IS YOUR OSCAR MOMENT!
7.) It’s Not – (65,000 words remember?) – by this point in your novel, you should be at about the halfway mark. That -of course- means one of two things are true.
1. You’ve just dropped one (of at least two) bombshells on your story.
2. You may not have planted that seed deep enough.
Remember, the audience can get bored easy. (Why do you think I throw all those poop jokes in these things.) So, even if you’ve got a killer twist – try to top it. Don’t settle for first opinions. You should be eternally striving to one-up yourself, and if you ever have problems with that midway hump –
8.) Trust In Your Characters – Remember that character development (that you should have done) from earlier? Here’s where it pays off. It’s not uncommon to go through what I’ve (passionately) nicknamed the mid-book slump (also known as a street in Harry Potter novels)- this is when you become: less author and more of a creative medium.
Let your characters take care of the story for a little while, and recharge. It may not all be gold, but you also may be pleasantly surprised by where they take you. (Just make sure it makes it to the page, and not hollered into a crowd of strangers. I’ve made that mistake enough for all of us.)
9.) Finish BIG – Ah, yes the BIG finish – the ever elusive being of every author’s discontent, (so dramatic). Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea of a story having an actual beginning or an ending. Truth be told – they don’t. There will always be something left out. The novel simply serves as a snapshot of the larger picture. Try not to obsess too much about it, (though you most assuredly will). Instead, attempt to use your best judgment at when to decide that “enough is enough” (Spoiler Alert: It’s somewhere between “this is INCREDIBLE!” and “WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE!” – write accordingly.
10.) Regroup – Novels are hard work, (Yea, No SH*T Sherlock) – so once you hit that “The End” moment, take a little bit of time off (only a few days, don’t get lazy) to pull yourself back together (and away from that cliff) before you dive back in for Draft #2. Trust me, you don’t want to be the author who loses their marbles because they can’t figure out why their commas aren’t periods. Regain your sanity – your momentum will hold – and then get back to it.
Alrighty folks, thanks for hanging in there with me once again. I hope that any -if not- all of this will help to pull you through your novel – and at worst I hope that you at least got a few “ha-ha’s” out of the deal.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your lessers.
And that about does it for me today. I’ve got to go see a man about a goat, (totally legit – I promise).
*villainously twiddles thumbs*
See You In The Footnotes,