The Great (Insert Nationality Here) Novel
January 26, 2007 10:05 AM   Subscribe

So this is the year you are going to write that novel eh? You're going to need some tools, and a lot of help. [mi]
posted by eurasian (27 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
You've read all about famous author's lives, pondered their quirky habits, and really wanna be one of them. You'll have to avoid cliches, of course. But hang all that.
How do you actually get it done? I mean, where is a really comprehensive guide to the whole rigamarole? How do you go about structuring it? Maybe you need a plan of somesort?

Maybe you need to brush up on Ye Olde Grammar? Get those sentences tight. Develop your own style.

But then there are always rules.

What about podcasts? There are scads. I personaly prefer this one.

You're done already? Great! Now you gotta critique that badboy.

And you're done. Oh, but are you? You'll
have to bone up on the whole
publishing industry.

If after all this, decide instead to write for TV? Well, good for you.
posted by eurasian at 10:05 AM on January 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I love that this is the fifth question down on NaNoWriYe's FAQ:

Are there going to be award icons?

posted by hermitosis at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2007

I'm holding out for NaNoWriDec. Or maybe NaNoWriCent at my current rate.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:29 AM on January 26, 2007

If you are not writing your novel for a cleverly designed gif optimized for Firefox and Safari, you are writing for the wrong reasons!
posted by eurasian at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2007

By the way, Bananowrimo have regrouped and are back on tour.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2007

I tried NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, and immediately got blocked. This despite the fact that I've been a prolific writer my entire life. My friends have only now let me live that down.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:56 AM on January 26, 2007

Damn you, now I'm starting to feel motivated. Terrific post!
posted by treepour at 11:03 AM on January 26, 2007

More motivational material.
posted by LordSludge at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2007

Thanks treepour.
And now for just a few more links for your bookmarks,
these ones, for critiquing.

Sorry in advance for the slight Sci-fi/Fantasy slant. For a instruction on writing literary fiction, take any non-credit course on creative writing at your local college/university.
posted by eurasian at 11:33 AM on January 26, 2007

Also, check out Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner, one of the best books I've ever read on writing. Rather than focusing on mechanics or content, she goes over common writer's quirks of personality and what not, and then onto what to expect in the publishing process.

And of course, for more of a screenwriting bent, though absolutely as worthwhile, read Story and re-read it. It got a little bit of bad press from Adaptation, but there's not better nook on how to best use structure and develop characters.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2007

there's no better book on how to best ... develop characters

I completely disagree.

And YES, goddamnit, I will write a novel this year.
posted by dobbs at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2007

Superb post and thread, thank you for your generosity in bringing those links together so well eurasian.
posted by nickyskye at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2007

I've been playing around with that free yWriter app and it's really very helpful as an organizational tool.

posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:14 PM on January 26, 2007

Damn it... I always get sucked into these things and end up pushing it to the very end. BUT... this year I have a leg up... I already started a novel on Jan 1. So I signed up.

I am going to finish the thing. Finally.
posted by Benway at 1:50 PM on January 26, 2007

nickyskye : No problemo. I was really just using nanowriye as an excuse to dump all these links that I've found super duper helpful. And knowing how literate Metafilterites tend to be, I knew 'writing that novel' must be on many "to-do lists".Well, maybe "to-do lists, someday", or more likely "to-do lists, eventually".

As an aside, I know there are real live published novelists/authors out there, so please feel free to submit your useful links.

I'm still a tadpole in the whole game. Not published, but I've finished one novel, and working on a second. I found the King and Straczynski links to be most helpful. Namely, the 'writing 2000 words a day'. Or more accurately, write 2000 really shitty words a day. Edit later. Of course, I don't write near that. On a herculean week, maybe 10k words. Never more than that.

And finally, to lengthen this already lengthy comment to my own damn post, here are a few quotes that helped get my ass in gear.

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent."
--Sophia Loren (1934 - )

"I didn't know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago."
--Gabriel Garcia Marquez (speaking about Kafka's The Metamorphosis - in a translation by Jorge Luis Borges)

"All our talents increase in the using, and the every faculty, both good and bad, strengthen by exercise."
--Anne Bronte 1820

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, 'press on' has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race."
--Calvin Coolidge
posted by eurasian at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

That novel you're working on?

[someone had to do it]
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:20 PM on January 26, 2007

Great post. Let me add one quote. It's by Jorge Luis Borges, and has been hanging on my wall here for what seems like forever. One day I'm going to figure out what it means, and then I'll write that damn novel.

"If I had to give advice to writers-and I do not think I need to because everyone has to find things out by himself- I would give them simply this one, and ask them to tamper as little as they can with their own work. I do not think tinkering is any good. I think that the moment comes when one has found out what one can do, when one has found out one's natural voice, one's rhythm. And then I do not think that slight amendations should prove useful. When I write I think not of the reader, because the reader is of course an imaginary character. I do not think of myself - perhaps I am an imaginary character also- I think of what I am trying to convey, and do my best not to spoil it."
posted by Siberian Mist at 3:43 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

freemind is an entirely useful tool for many things.
posted by 3.2.3 at 7:44 PM on January 26, 2007

Writing a book and publishing it, making a movie, cutting an album, composing photos, all of these things hold a fascination leftover from their past exclusivity, when only individuals seen as truly talented could do them. I wonder how long it will take for society in general to realize the fact that anyone, regardless of talent or lack of thereof, can do any of these things these days, and how many people will lose interest in doing these things once they realize it.
posted by Poagao at 8:25 PM on January 26, 2007

When writing a book, think not of the money you may receive. Think instead of all the things you can buy with that money. Like a Wii. Better yet, you could go down to your local toy staore and buy all the Wii's in front of expectant children who'll then have to wait for what seems like forever for their own. Then, if you're feeling particularly saucy, you can offer the Wii's to the children for free, right before throwing them into a fire, except for your own, which you'll take home and play all night long while drinking soda and eating chips and jumping on the bed. And you will smile. Oh yes, you will smile. Think of that when you are writing.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:38 PM on January 26, 2007

I write between fifteen and twenty novels a year. It's my job. I don't use any of those fancy tools. I just write.

Then again, I get paid, so I have an incentive.
posted by watsondog at 9:54 PM on January 26, 2007

Oh, and navelgazer, unless you're unbelievably lucky you don't make *that* much money from a novel. You have to be either very prolific or very lucky.
posted by watsondog at 9:55 PM on January 26, 2007

Fifteen to twenty a year? Really? Holy. Smikies. Amazon link s'il vous plait.
posted by eurasian at 10:07 PM on January 26, 2007

Neat collection of how-tos and their ilk.

I've recently reinvested myself in my writing, and have retooled for the effort. I've made the switch to a Mac, and with it, to CopyWrite, which I'm finding a very spiffy tool... part editor, part database, and virtually no page layout crapola to get in the way.
posted by deCadmus at 10:28 PM on January 26, 2007

Excellent post, thank you. I will enjoy tucking into this later :P
posted by Acey at 7:25 AM on January 27, 2007

eurasian, Just came back to this thread, not thinking you'd actually reply to my comment and pleased to find you did. :)

I really like the quotations you included.

Personal anecdote: Years ago in London, 1973 and 1974 to be exact, I got the chance to illustrate one book on charms and talismans for a going out of business publishing company, Lorrimer, who were making a last ditch chance to sell anything to keep financially afloat. The occult was trendy in those days, The Exorcist movie and book raking in the bucks, so Lorrimer decided to buy old copyrights of occult books or illustrations for cheap, like 50 bucks per copyright and create a collection of patchwork books on the occult.

The thing was I had to do 50 drawings in 3 days, for 50 pounds, then worth about $120. For almost nothing, but a chance to be published at 18. I was completely untrained artistically, except a weekly hour of high school art class and just buckled down to the task, doing all 50 rapidograph illustrations in 4 days. That done, Lorrimer then asked me and my boyfriend (who balked at the task and left 90% of the job to me) to write a book on demons, using 50 marvelous (and often hilarious) illustrations by Collin de Plancy. So I did. For $2500 advance and the same on publishing. Written in a month and horribly, embarassingly inaccurate but published in England and also by Simon and Schuster in a couple of languages.

The cool thing was being published, or so I thought. But at 19 I knew nothing about how the publishing world worked, how to move on from there - and just foundered. Discouraged and a bit lost about the whole how to be a writer thing, I went to live in India for a decade instead of persevering. And now at this late age, it would be nice to write a novel. So your collection of links means a lot to me. Thank you again.

To add to the links already here, I'd like to recommend Reel People at
There is some decent information about personality types with practical tools in the black tabs of the title bar, especially "The Personalities" and "Workplates".

Other good resources: Suite101 and Small Press Center, NYC.
posted by nickyskye at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2007

That is an interesting anecdote. The cool thing about being published is that you know you can pass a certain muster (mustard? muster?). I've seen some slush pile excerpts, and you'd be surprised at how poorly people can write, for an entire novel.

I, on the other hand, have never been published. Ever. Not even in a school paper, work newsletter, or Crazy Guy On the Corner Hand Printed Manifesto. But hey, that doesn't stop an occasional cock-eyed optimist!

Thanks for the link to Reel People. I've seen those character sketch thingies. The thorough side of me really appreciates them, helps me figure out if I've missed anything. But the side of me that just wants to get the draft down simply ignores them ;)
posted by eurasian at 6:28 AM on January 29, 2007

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