You’re staring at a blank piece of paper in front of you, pen poised, a blank computer screen, fingers trembling on the keyboard itching to get started. You want to write a short story, perhaps a novel. You want to bare your heart and soul. You want to make people laugh, and where appropriate, cry. Where to begin?
One – Write about what you know is advice that has been given to just about every budding author, so much so that it’s practically a cliché. But writing about what you know doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have lived every aspect of the life, lived the dream or lived the nightmare. It means you have to know your subject matter. Yes, you can research, but you’ll need to do enough research to feel comfortable with the world you are creating so as to not let the research show. You want to take the reader there. You don’t want to give them a history lesson or guided tour.
Two – Know your characters inside and out. Know what makes them tick. Know what makes them laugh and cry. Know what brings them to their knees. Know how they think. Caveat – you may have to think for them until they start thinking for themselves. Character studies come in all forms. I prefer just hanging out with my characters until I recognize them without a doubt and would know them anywhere, though they will surprise me now and then. What’s especially fun is when a character steps out of character and you think I can’t let him or her do that, and they insist otherwise. You’re writing along and the story dictates that you go back and let them take that uncharacteristic step because they actually may know more than you do at this point if you have let them develop accordingly.
Three – Know where you are headed. I’m sure there are novels that start out as road trips without any sort of map or GPS, but you may find yourself going around the block time and time again because you don’t have a clue as to where you’re going or where you need to be. I like knowing the story ending before I start. I like surprises along the way, road blocks and detours so to speak. I like a stop or two along the way to just look out at the scenery along with my characters and I like getting back on the road again. But I always know where I’m going.
Four – Don’t ramble. Don’t let your writing get in the way of the story. Don’t give too much description, don’t give too little. Be the type of storyteller that keeps a person’s interest all the way. You don’t want anyone taking a nap while you describe the bricks and mortar of a building facade.
Five – Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Make the story the best you’ve ever read let alone written. Read it out loud. Read it again and again. Then hand it over to an editor. Specify if you want strictly line editing for grammar, punctuation, word-use error. Let the editor know if you want plot or story editing suggestions. Don’t take the suggestions personally. Don’t be devastated by the blood-red ink all over your manuscript pages. Make the corrections you agree with, rethink the ones you don’t agree with. That’s part of the rewrite, rewrite. When done, send it off to your agent or publisher or printer and sit back and enjoy the moment. You’ve just successfully written a novel!
MaryAnn Myers is the Bestselling author of the novels “Favored to Win, Odds on Favorite, and Barn 14 – Meg’s Meadows” of the Winning Odds Series. Horse trainer, equestrian, and environmentalist, MaryAnn lives on an organic farm in Northeast Ohio with her family. She writes about what she knows and loves, horses!