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

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Three Words

As a writer we are often asked to sum things up in 200 words or less. Writing lean is something I’ve been blessed to do. It was very seldom that my teacher’s complained that my papers were too long. If there was not a specific word count the odds are they would be too short. I’ve found a way to use as many words as it takes to get my point across and then I stop writing. However, when it comes to writing promotional materials and other book related copy, I some times find myself complaining that I need to write more.

How good are you when it comes to summarizing your work in 50 words or less? A good exercise, that I’m sure you’ve done on some level is to choose three words that best describes X.  If you had to distill your 250 page novel or 400 page self-help book into three words, could you do it? Challenge yourself with this: Take the synopsis or maybe a review written about a work that you’ve read and tell the story with three words.

Being brief is a good skill to practice. If you want to use social media to market your books, you’ll need to catch a reader’s attention in a few sentences. If you’re giving an elevator speech, you need to capture your listener’s imagination in as little as 30 seconds. Most readers will not continue to read beyond page three if they are not drawn into the story by then. Attention spans are short and getting shorter with every new piece of technology that becomes available.

Make it a practice to never use two words when one will do. Get to the point and get there quick. Once you have their attention, then you can take your time. But remember readers have questions, like ” why should I care” and “what is this all about.” The quicker you answer their questions, the more likely they are to want to stick around and learn more.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin