I've decided to write a novel....now what??

I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now, and I’ve finally decided to just sit down and do it. I’m not looking to write a GAN (Great American Novel), but I’d like to see if I can get something published.

Does anyone have any advice on how/where to start? I already have a few story ideas in my head, so I don’t need that. But, I’m wondering if I should take a creative writing course or should I just go ahead and let my imagination run wild and see what happens. Also, how does one go about getting published? Do i just send my manuscript out to everybody and then wait?

Any help is appreciated.

First you write. Then you tear it up and rewrite. Then you do that a few more times. Then you work up the courage to show it to a close family member or friend. Then you tear it up and rewrite it some more.

Take a creative writing class? Depends. Do you feel comfortble discussing terms like plot, theme, exposition, etc.? Do you have experience writing? Classes may help you with structuring and editing your work, but they won’t make you a writer.

As for selling your work, you may want to investigate the services of an agent. Many of them, however, will not take on an unpublished writer.

I suggest checking out the magazine Writer’s Digest (among others) for more information on the business end of writing.

People have been telling me for years that I should write a book. I heard good things about it (lots of good reviews) so I went out recently and bought Steven King’s new non-fiction book, I think called “On Writing”. Apparently it is chock-full of good advice on how to write a book. Have any writers out there read this book yet?

I came across an interesting quote the other day, I believe it was from E.L. Doctorow (and I’ll have to paraphrase it, since I don’t remember the exact wording ):

That’s the main advice I’d give anyone who wants to write. Don’t think about it, or plan it, or talk about what you want to write. Just sit down and write. Try to do it every day – if you can for the same time every day. Try to make yourself write a certain amount each day, even if it’s only one page. Don’t get up until you’ve written something, even if you tear it up the next day.

The second lesson is not to think about publication until the story is finished (unless you’re already published, or have a contract). Right now, your job is to write. When that job is done, it might be time for the “sell this story” job. It might not; many writers’ “first novels” are actually the third or fourth they’ve completed. Your first work won’t be your best; it might not be publishable. But don’t put the cart before the horse; don’t start dreaming about your book on the bestseller list while you’re stuck with plot problems on page twenty-seven. Just write the thing first; then worry about the rest.

Oh and “reading books on writing” is another popular way of avoiding writing. Those books can be useful, but only read them in addition to writing, not instead of writing. Don’t let them take away any writing time.

Just in case people think Miss Published Author is ignoring this site, I wanted to mention that I write biographies—which is a whole different animal from novels, as far as the writing, selling, publishing, etc.

I write all the time. I always have a notebook with me and my desk at home is packed with unfinished stories. Whenever I have a free minute, I find myself thinking about writing something. That’s how I knew I wanted to be a writer.

I don’t remember when I decided to actually sit down and finish a book, but I discovered as I wrote it that it ended up being a delightful blend of everything I’d ever written since I was about fourteen, which proved that all of my scribblings were meant for something :slight_smile: .

My one piece of crabby writer advice is this:

Get ready to tear your hair out.

I was rejected by thirty six publishers and about eighteen agents before someone decided to take me on.

My favorite quote from an agent who rejected me was this:

“This is a fascinating book, I really enjoyed reading it. I may be throwing away a great thing in not representing you, but I’m going to pass anyway.”

Very nice.

I’m going to call that woman when I’m number one on the New York Times Best Seller List.

jarbaby

Hornswaggler said it best. Writers write.

As for selling what you write, you need to know what it is you’re writing. The feature article business is different from the mainstream novel business which is different than the genre market.

One thing all these markets have in common is that you must have something to sell before you try to sell. Unless you are famous or are already a well known author, no one will take you on spec.

Good luck! And if you have any luck selling anything let me know.

The advice so far is dead on: you write by applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and typing.

Anything else? Well, it’s different for all authors. Some outline; some never do. I think the King of Hearts gave the best advice: “Start at the beginning and go on until you come to the end. Then stop.”

Probably the best book I’ve found on how to write is “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight V. Swain. It’s obscure, but chock full of great advice. But don’t let reading it prevent you from putting the words down on paper.

BTW, I’ve had one novel published, written several more, and also have had around 40 short stories in various science fiction magazines.

Sit down and force yourself to write a certain number of words every day. A good place to start is 500 words per day. If you think you don’t have the time, make the time. If you’re not in the mood for it, write anyway. I’ve written 3 (unpublished) novels this way, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they progress if you stick to the plan.

I write screenplays, not novels, but I suspect many of the fundamentals are the same.

In my experience, the other posters are all right; you must SIT DOWN AND WRITE. Start with Page 1 and go. It’s okay, and often very productive, to spend some time writing a plot outline or some character sketches. As long as you’re writing your novel, you’re on the right track.

Just bear in mind:

  1. There’s a good chance your first work will suck pretty bad. Don’t worry about it.

  2. You WILL have to rewrite your work.

  3. Writing productively responds to many of the same strategies as doing homework. Write in quiet and comfortable place with lots of room to spread draft copies, reference material, etc. Ensure you are physically comfortable. Try to write at about the same time each day and commit yourself to writing for a set period of time, at least. Have no distractions you can avoid.

  4. If you do have to skip a day or two, get right back into it. If you stop writing for a week or two it’s hard as hell to get back into it.

  5. Don’t worry if this all sounds like a drag. It’s actually really fun when you really get into it.

Selling your work is a completely different matter and there are lots of books in your nearest Barnes and Noble or whatever bookstore you like that will explin the process of selling any type of written work.

Wow - I didn’t realize there were so many actual writers on SDMB.
Thanks guys, your advice is great. I think I’ll go home tonight and get started. I also think I’m gonna go and find that Stephen King book; I had heard about it previously but didn’t know of anyone who actually read it. Why Not??

As someone who has only published in newspapers and not with stories or novels (much to my dismay), my advice may not be as knowledgable but…eh.

OK, first, stealing some advice from my favorite author, you must think of your story as the best story in the world and the worst story in the world. When you’re writing it, it is the best story in the world. When you’re editing it, it’s the worst story in the world. When you’re sending it out, it’s the best story in the world. When you’re getting the rejection back, it’s ok, because the story was never that great anyway. Write it again. Write it better.

It’s ok to delete. I must repeat this line over and over and over again when I’m editing because it’s so difficult. Naturally, everything I write is just electronic gold and if I delete a single word, paragraph, or page the world will never know the brilliance that it was. But often times that brilliance just does not work in what the story has now become. Delete it. Delete it. Delete it. Take a step back. Take a day away from it. Read it again. Then delete it.

Waiting two months for word from the editor sucks. Nothing you can do about it. Write another one in the meantime so that when you get word back, you have another one all ready to go. Do NOT send simultaneous submissions and always use proper manuscript format.

check it out here:
http://www.shunn.net/writing/coach/format.html

It’s a bad habit of mine to take part in threads about subjects I know absolutely nothing about, but here goes, heh…

I’m far from being a writer (I prefer pointless rambling, heh), but I’ve always thought that a good way to get yourself published is to write a few short stories and put them up on the net. You’d get some experience at doing a “start to finish” story, be a little more warmed up for writing “the big one”, and if you put it on the net, other people will see it. Then you’ve got a few stories for people all over the world to read and you write your big one, then put up a chapter or two on the net. Set up a Guestbook or something so people can easily reply to you, and ask “If my novel was published, would you buy a copy for X amount of money? Please leave a comment, as I’m trying to get published! Thanks!”

If your writing IS good, you might get a huge list of people (get them to leave a name of course, maybe an E-Mail address too) saying they’d buy the book if it were on shelves. I imagine that if you took that to a publisher, they’d have to seriously consider taking a chance on you because if they put it out, they’re pretty much guaranteed that most of those people will buy a copy, and that if the people who read your work on your page will buy a copy, there’s a good chance other people who haven’t seen your page will.

(you could even set up a weblog (online “journal” site, where you can basically write about whatever you want whenever you want, like having a diary but everyone can read it…you can set up a free one at http://www.scribble.nu/ that you can customize to look the way you want) type site and write, say, a week long story…adding another section of it each day for people to read. People love that kind of interactive stuff, heh)

If you haven’t been published and you’re an unknown writer, it’s a huge risk to take a chance on you…but if you can say, “Hey look, I’ve got my own fanbase right now!”, I’d imagine they’d be more interested in you.

This is purely my point of view, however…As I stated before, I’m not a writer. I haven’t had anything published, and I’m definately not a publisher myself, heh. But if I WERE, this is how I would be thinking. :slight_smile:

Good luck!

  • Tsugumo (nothing witty to put in these brackets today…curses)

The advice about starting with short stories is good, but putting them on the web isn’t going to help. No one in publishing is going to be particularly impressed by the guestbook on your web page.

Remember Griffith’s Rule: “Anyone can say he’s a writer. But when someone else says you’re a writer, then you’re a writer.” Putting things on your own web page means you just claiming to be a writer and means nothing, other than a demonstration you can convert the file to html. If they’re published somewhere – preferably in a paying market – that shows that someone else believes in your talent. That means a lot more.

It’s also highly unlikely you’d ever build a fan base big enough to make a difference to a publisher.

And though writing short stories is good practice, there’s no reason why you can’t just write a novel first. Publishers are perfectly happy to discover new, unpublished writers – provided (and this is the difficult part) the writing is good enough to be published.

As another person who writes for a living, may I echo what everyone else has said. Write!

It doesn’t hurt to read also.

I had my first story in a newspaper when I was 12, my first SF short story published when I was 17, my first mystery short story when I was 21.

I’ve expanded since then. I do all right. My experience has been that as I wrote, I became a better writer. And as I became better, people noticed my writing: First my newspaper stuff, then my short stories, and then a literary agent found me and then I received some pretty good contracts.

My experience is that you have to have a thick skin, and a willingness to be edited. In addition, as was said earlier, you have to tolerate rejection.

On my fiction pieces, I write five days a week usually two to three hours a morning (I edit a small town weekly newspaper officially [great source of story ideas]) and then each evening I edit what I wrote that morning. On the weekends I reedit.

If it all sounds like work, I suppose it is, but it’s what I do. I don’t know who said it, but one of the best things every said about writing/creating was “Art is one tenth insiration and nine tenths perspiration.”

Besides books on the subject, you might check into different writers’ workshops. Some very good writers have come out of those. Usually they are listed in “Writer’s Market,” “Writer’s Digest” and “Writer.”

They are also a good source of publishers and literary agents.

The thing is to develop a love for the words. So get rid of the PC (I’m ABSOLUTELY serious - they steal creativity and stick it on message boards - I haven’t written a word since I got it) and buy a wordprocessor that will only let you write. This thing must be your only option for electronic entertainment. You will begin to enjoy putting words down and making yourself laugh/shiver/wonder/etc. You will start to enjoy the layout, everything - and if you can get to the point where the words themselves are what you need to feel fulfilled, you’re on the way.

Also, read more. Probably you’re reading plenty already, but don’t ever copy just one book - just let a vague sort of sense of possibilities form before you, and follow them. Don’t be afraid to take ideas from other books and expand them. Never be afraid to explore any style, even those which seem high-falutin’. Don’t try to be what you’re not - but don’t be afraid to BECOME what you’re not. And in bookshops, only look at one shelf at a time. Don’t think about (a) how many books are published every year; (b) how many are NOT. Neither of those figures means anything. More folk writing just means more folk reading.

You are quite capable of writing a novel. All unfinished novels become short stories, by the way - waste nothing!

“Only write when inspired… and make damn sure you’re inspired at 9am every morning…”
- Winston Churchill

(never worked 4 me but maybe that’s why I gave it up)

The thing is to develop a love for the words. So get rid of the PC (I’m ABSOLUTELY serious - they steal creativity and stick it on message boards - I haven’t written a word since I got it) and buy a wordprocessor that will only let you write. This thing must be your only option for electronic entertainment. You will begin to enjoy putting words down and making yourself laugh/shiver/wonder/etc. You will start to enjoy the layout, everything - and if you can get to the point where the words themselves are what you need to feel fulfilled, you’re on the way.

Also, read more. Probably you’re reading plenty already, but don’t ever copy just one book - just let a vague sort of sense of possibilities form before you, and follow them. Don’t be afraid to take ideas from other books and expand them. Never be afraid to explore any style, even those which seem high-falutin’. Don’t try to be what you’re not - but don’t be afraid to BECOME what you’re not. And in bookshops, only look at one shelf at a time. Don’t think about (a) how many books are published every year; (b) how many are NOT. Neither of those figures means anything. More folk writing just means more folk reading.

You are quite capable of writing a novel. All unfinished novels become short stories, by the way - waste nothing! What I’m trying to say is, the thing is to develop a TALENT, a GIFT, not just to design a new entertainment. If it’s a talent it will grow naturally. You just have to give it the right environment. If it’s not a talent… hey, who cares? Go for it! I also found that taking a JOB as a writer (journalism) actually sapped me of the desire. My father also found this. Me and my dad are probably two of the most natural writers, and two of the most unknown ones, in the world.

by the way have you thought of who you’ll dedicate this work to… I always thought the name “Ross McGovern” looked well in print…

“Only write when inspired… and make damn sure you’re inspired at 9am every morning…”
- Winston Churchill

(never worked 4 me but maybe that’s why I ‘gave it up’)

Step 1: Obtain a corporate grant based on a draft chapter.

Step 2: Engage one or more volunteer research-interns.

Step 3: Engage a volunteer writer-intern.

Step 4: Engage a volunteer editor-intern.

Step 5: Print up some galleys at Kinko’s and send the corporation the bill.

Step 6: Hold a launch lunch at the trendiest eatery in town and send the corporation the bill.

Step 7: Keep the grant money for a rainy day.

– OR –

Just sit down and write and write and write, and then write some more.