What are you looking for in a novel?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Are you looking for a nice, cozy feeling, for something that warms you inside and makes you feel at home? Are you looking for something that takes your breath away, raises your pulse and makes your heart beat faster? Or maybe you're looking looking for wisdom and knowledge, something you can meditate on and learn to apply in your daily life. For a virtual space where you can forget yourself and all your problems and dive deep into an alternative reality... For things that touch you in an indescribable way and make you long for places you’ve never been to, people you’ve never met and moments you’ve never lived... For something to stimulate your imagination and take you to its very limits...

I’m sure there are many more answers to this question and each one’s answer is different and unique. The fact is that we all have expectations and want different things from a work of fiction. I’ve read somewhere that rule number one for a writer is to write what he/she would like to read. And in a way, it’s common sense. Writing what you like to read is the key to meaningful, heartfelt writing. Because if you like it, somebody else might like it too. If it touches your emotions, it’s very likely it would touch someone else’s emotions, too. If you hate what you write or struggle with it, the readers will feel that struggle, they will read it in between the lines, on a very subtle level. A novel, a book – any book - has a reality of its own. It breathes with life. It pulsates with energy. If it lacks enthusiasm, it will also lack the power and magnetism to captivate its readers and make them fall in love with it.

So here is a good exercise for potential writers: try to become aware of what you’re looking for in a book. Listen to your heart and learn what makes it sing. Pay attention to it and capture the words, phrases, paragraphs that make it vibrate with joy and excitement. Write them down or summarize them in writing. Describe the emotions they awaken in you. Then starting from them, create your own. Let your heart tell you if it is pleased with them or not. Ask it a few times and if you get a consistent answer, if what you’ve written or imagined had passed all the tests, it’s time to take that first step and turn it into the starting point for your book.

One of the greatest myths about novel writing is that you have to start with chapter one and finish with the last chapter. In reality, the writing process is much more flexible. You can start wherever you want and it won’t affect the overall final impression of the book. You can start by writing the last paragraph if it suits you. You might have to rewrite it later, but it doesn’t matter. What really counts is that for the moment, you’ve broken the ice. It’s like a bridge over the abyss. Many people contemplate getting onto the other side, but few build that bridge and make the first step.

2 comments:

dirtywhitecandy said...

Lots of good advice. So many published authors don't start at page one and grind on to the end - sometimes what inspires them is the moment of resolution, or the tipping point that changes everything. As you say, it's important to keep in mind what connected you to the idea in the first place, what made you want to explore that situation, put characters in it, and what made you feel it was important to share.

hari charan said...

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