National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

You Are What You Read

images-1In the same way the food you eat literally builds and shapes your body, the books you read shape your mind. What you read, forms the basis for your beliefs, and serves as your base of knowledge. Books color the way you view the world and how you interact with people. Words have power when spoken but they have just as much power when read. Did you know that the type of books you like to read says more about you than the clothes you wear?  One of the tools that FBI agents use to learn about the mind of a serial killer is to review the list of books they have checked out from the library.

What have you been reading? I challenge you to take a look at what you like to read? List the top five genres that you read regularly in order of importance to you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is it about the number one genre that I like the most?
  2. Do I primarily read for information or entertainment?
  3. If you could not complete the list because you only read one or two types of books, what don’t you like about other genres?

They say self-examination is good for the soul. However, the answer to these questions will lead you to some important insights as to the type of person you are becoming. For example, If you only read nonfiction/self-help books and you primarily read for information, you are most likely looking for a solution.  I know people who don’t like reading newspapers or magazines because bad news and current events depress them. There are other people who have to read dry academic writing for work and so when they sit down to read for pleasure, they only read fiction, because they need to escape.

If you want to be a well-rounded individual and writer, you should read a balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction and several genres.  I tend to lean toward non-fiction, so I on occasion will make myself read fiction. I’ve also recently tried my hand at writing my first novel, just to prove to myself that I can write fiction. I prefer a good mystery, but have challenged myself to read a sappy love story. Sometimes I’ll ease into a genre that I’m not as familiar with by reading what I call a hybrid genre. I’d rate Science Fiction as last on my list, but a Sci Fi Whodunit might grab my attention.

Next time you reach for a book consider that maybe it is not you that chooses the book but maybe the book has chosen you.  There are times when I’ll find a book at the precise time I need to read it. Then there are books that I’ve bought and could not read them until years later. But when I did, I found I was in a place to receive the information, whereas I may not have been when I bought it.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

Every Writer Needs an Editor

Edit Ruthlessly

Regardless of how great a writer you are a good editor will only make you that much better.  I’m prepping a book for publication and I hired an editor to go through and make sure I didn’t have any typos or spelling errors.  I didn’t have any, but what I did have, was a bunch of missing or misplaced punctuation.  I know that I often misuse and abuse commas, colons and dashes.  So having a professional go through and fix my messy punctuation has given me the confidence to publish this book knowing that it is the best work I could have possibly done.

An editor can also help you with flow and syntax to make your work easier to read and understand.  I’ve read some books, especially non-fiction, that were just hard to digest.  The information was good but I would have to stop and re-read several passages to try to comprehend the text.  Editors can also help fix plot construction for fiction writers and make sure that you are writing in a consistent voice throughout.

Even if you consider yourself to be a good editor and master of punctuation and sentence structure, having a second pair of eyes is always a good thing.  If your writing is pretty good, the cost for a quick read through by an editor will be minimal and money well spent.  You can find plenty of great editors online through freelance websites like Elance and oDesk or find an editor at your local college or university.  There is no excuse for unedited books being brought into the world.  The saying goes that writing is rewriting. Well a good writer always has their work edited before they send it out into the world.

Until Next Week,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin