So you want to write a novel? Here's how!

As an award-winning author of eleven novels and novellas, I often get asked by aspiring writers what books they should read before undertaking their own novel.

There are many books for the different stages of your writing life, but here are few of the top ones I would recommend:

Inspirational books:
On Writing - Stephen King
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage - Ann Patchett
How I Write - Janet Evanovich
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

How-To craft books:
Goal, Motivation and Conflict - Debra Dixon
Save the Cat - Blake Snyder
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers - Christopher Vogler
How to Write a Damn Good Novel - James N. Frey
Story Genius - Lisa Cron
Outlining Your Novel - K.M. Weiland
Plot & Structure - James Scott Bell
The Author Training Manual - Nina Amir
Romancing the Beat - Gwen Hayes
Steering the Craft - Ursula LeGuin
Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg
Techniques of the Selling Writer - Dwight Swain
Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting your story through action, emotion, and theme - Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld

For help polishing your story after it’s written:
Fiction First Aid - Raymond Obstfeld
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Renni Brown and Dave King
Writing Active Setting: The Complete How-to Guide - Mary Buckham
The Emotional Thesaurus - Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know - Shawn Coyne
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes - Jack Bickham
How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript - James Scott Bell
Writing Subtext: How to craft subtext that develops characters, boosts suspense, and reinforces theme - Elizabeth Lyon

There is an endless supply of books that will teach you how to write, but here’s a secret all authors know:  the best way to learn how to structure a story is to pick up your all-time favorite novel and reread it! What did you love about the story? (Characters? Emotion? The unique setting?) Your own book will need that, too. What kept you reading late into the night? (Plot twists? Non-stop action? A black moment where you thought all was lost for the characters in the book?) Consider including those elements in your own story! 

By perusing your favorite novel with an author’s eye instead of a reader’s eye, you can learn a lot about how to write, simply through osmosis. (And have fun while doing it.) Everyone has a novel inside them, so take a deep breath, sit yourself down at your keyboard, and start writing yours!

And let me know if you have any questions J



beachpoet said...

Interesting. Up until now, I've always tried to outline my writing, and always run into roadblocks. I've recently begun writing a novel with a co-author. He's a Scottish highlander, a retired deerstalker, and a fantastic (published) writer and poet. He writes from the male perspective, and I write from the female perspective. The story just emerged and has taken on life. It weaves us together, his life experiences and my own, within the characters. It's also pretty erotic. Instead of having an outline, we're just letting it fly. We're letting the characters tell their own stories. Later we can edit and organise, but for now, this is really working. I've never been more prolific, and this is his first foray into fiction, although heavily informed by autobiographical detail. It's a more organic process. For now, I don't think I want to read about writing, but maybe when we et to the point where we've told at least this part of the story, and thinker's time for the coda, before moving on to the sequel. I'd love any feedback you might have. Thanks! Jacqie

Leigh Court said...

Jacqie - That sounds like a fabulous and fascinating novel. Good luck with it!