I Am Not Alone

I rarely write a blog telling you to go read a different article. But I noticed this article was full of things that I would tell you, anyways. So here it is: “How Not to Write a Novel” by James Scott Bell on Writer’s Digest online. I don’t remember how I came across this 2012 article the other day, but I thought I should share. WARNING: Keep reminding yourself that this is written in the negative (“How Not to Write a Novel), so sort of like sarcasm.

Click HERE to view.

And if you don’t want to leave me at The Starving Artist (thanks), here is a summary, in the affirmative. So, “How to Write a Novel”:

  1. Don’t wait around for inspiration. Establish a writing quota and stop lingering over yesterday’s work.
  2. Keep looking ahead and keep writing. Try these exercises: Write for five minutes each morning without stopping; write a page-long sentence describing something; when stuck, make a list without filtering.
  3. Learn and practice the craft. Respect the craft.
  4. Don’t take rejection personally. Let it hurt, then get back to writing. Or learn from it.
  5. Write from your heart and passion, not the market.* Concentrate on the feeling of the story and read widely.
  6. Spend the time it takes to get it right. Use test readers and hire an editor.
  7. Keep going.

*I agree with this point, to a point. I think the article alludes to the flip-side of this, which is that you want to be market conscious. I think many aspiring novelists write artistic rubbish that no one is going to want to read because it is so personal and/or niche and/or angry and/or clueless. It helps to have a general idea what people in your genre like to read, for length, style of language, pace, type of character, vocabulary, etc. I would say that you could wait to tackle these issues until you’ve worked out all your demons on a first draft, but mightn’t it be a little less painless to know ahead of time that you don’t want any sex scenes or language in a particular book? Of course, you also want to use your own voice and push the envelope. That’s what the new world of indie publishing is all about, right? We don’t have to limit ourselves to the old rules of publication, like never writing about college students or always putting “and” in a list of things. But conventions are there, and what you want to make darn sure of is that your audience will understand you, that they will have a reference point. And you sorta want them to enjoy it, too. There are, indeed, two people involved in the process of “book,” you and the reader.

And on that topic, here is my favorite quote from the article:

“There’s a saying in publishing that the moment you spot a trend, it’s too late to join it. By the time you finish writing something you think will be popular because it’s popular now, that ship will have largely sailed.”


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