Tag Archives: New Year’s Resolutions

Breaking the 10 Simple Rules for Writing a Novel

Maybe check if you’ve got paper first…. (Writer John, by Onomatomedia. (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0))

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. — W. Somerset Maugham

 Well, while surfing the net I stumbled across a lovely article advising people on how to write a novel in 2012 – you know, if that’s your New Year’s Resolution or something. And some of the advice is good. You really shouldn’t try to write a book based on what topic you think is “hot” right now (vampire novels are probably going to get stale pretty soon, by the way), or get distracted about what the “proper” way of going about writing is. But while lists like this usually bring up some decent points, there are always a couple rules that can be ignored or broken without hurting the novel too much.

For example, I’ve read numerous books that included the phrase “laughing eyes” or “warm eyes,” and have been guilty of using such phrases myself. Now, I don’t RECOMMEND you use the phrase, and I should probably re-edit several passages where I use the phrase. But I’d just like to point out that some editor probably noticed the poor author used a hackneyed phrase on page 282, and the book got published anyway. Remember, Twilight included the sentence, “He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare,” and it became a best-seller. My point is – you can’t predict this kind of stuff.

To take another example, a widely quoted review of Lord of the Rings complained both the work AND the characters were “anemic and lacking in depth.” You know how writing advice goes on and on about how you can’t have flat characters in your work? Well, as much as I love Lord of the Rings, I can’t claim the characters are the deepest things the literary establishment has ever seen. That, and the book goes through pages upon pages of description, poetry, and random characters that pop up and are never seen again. A classic? You bet.

Lastly, I’m going to mention Harry Potter. These books captivated me as a kid. I still have fond memories of them (though, sadly, I can’t love them as I once did). But some of the plot twists in them don’t exactly make much sense. The first book practically ends in a deus ex machina, just after a couple of kids get through protections that are supposed to keep the evilest wizards alive out. And the fourth book – tell me why the whole caboodle with the Triwizard Tournament really was the easiest way to get Harry to Voldemort? That’s still one of my favourite parts of the series, by the way.

So I feel better about the chunk of the list I’m planning to ignore. I’m not going to start outlining every story I write, because my mind doesn’t work that way. Shoot, I don’t even outline blog posts or university papers. I’m not going to shoe-horn a sex scene into every book just because it’s a “part of life.” And I never, ever have a title for my works till I’ve written a good part of them.

I guess my point is, readers and publishers overlook many, many faults in novels. Writers get nervous, because there’s absolutely no way to predict which faults they’re going to overlook. Perfectly reasonable, but you can’t let that stop you, and you’re never going to achieve perfection anyway. Just keep writing.


Ever read a novel yourself that broke all the rules but was fantastic anyway?


(Yes, finishing my current work-in-progress is one of my aims for 2012, but I really don’t need to finish another novel. I need to get the ones I have finished in publishable shape, and submit them. I’ve got so many stacks of writing, because apparently I find writing itself far more fun than the mundane reality of trying to get a book published. But in 2012 – who knows?)


Filed under Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, On Writing, Twilight

Not My New Year’s Resolutions


New Year’s Resolution {{PD-1923}}

I’ve never believed in the whole goal-setting thing as much as I should believe in it. (I’ve been told I must set goals or fail at life since elementary school, and when people phrase things like that I have trouble believing them). It doesn’t help when goals you have set – eg: finishing nursing school – just don’t happen.

All the same, I’m going to set a few goals for myself. Not as a New Year’s Resolution, but goals for myself as a writer. And not the usual sort of goals either (publish a novel by the time I’m thirty, become famous by forty-five, write my memoirs for my adoring fans when I’m seventy…) No, fun goals! Fun goals, as in fun side projects to do with writing that probably are a distraction from my main goal of getting people to read my novels someday, but which are too fun to give up doing anyway. After all, if writers aren’t having any fun, readers probably aren’t either.

These two goals are:

1.) Write a play and see it performed

2.) Write a graphic novel

The first one I’ve sort of already done – if you count ripping the dialogue from your favourite novel, making it a play, and performing it with all your friends for a Talent Evening. I did that in elementary school (it was based on a Road to Avonlea book, very Canadian). But I’d like to write an original one that’s clever and witty. I know writing a play is far, far difference from writing novels, so I expect to fail at this at first. But hey, failure is part of life, and I might get it right in the end.

I don’t why I’m so fascinated with writing graphic novels, since I can’t quite wrap my brain around reading them. I’ve tried, but I guess I’m too used to imagining the scenery myself. But I think it’s the way the art interacts with the writing – I have a secret love of design, though I don’t know if I’d ever be any good at it because I picked writing instead. However, in graphic novels you get to work with an illustrator! I’d love to write a story that can be artistically represented. I don’t think I’ll ever have the skills to do the artwork, but a collaboration would be fun.

Strangely enough, both of these goals are pretty dialogue-heavy. I must like writing dialogue, or something.

Anyway, now that I’ve revealed these, I’m not promising I’ll get them done this year. They’ll probably take a lot of time. But feel free to hold me accountable to keeping these goals sometime in my lifetime.


What about you – do you have a goal for the New Year? Do you set goals or not?


Filed under Randoms & My Life

Finding Time to Write

It’s the last week of January, and resolutions are meeting reality. All those lovely, grand plans we started the year with are starting to look a lot harder to achieve. Yeah, my resolution was to write more often. I know, I’m not the only writer out there who finds it hard to find time to write – it’s a battle for all of us, I think.

Too often, writing is not my priority. Back in high school and junior high, writing was my priority – so much so that I’d ignore whatever was going on in class and write novels instead (don’t worry, I still passed). Now reality has set in, and I get to hand over cheques for several thousands of dollars for every year of my university education, and suddenly, school is a priority. Not to mention, it’ll make a bit of a difference to my future whether I pass university or not. So – school first. And when I procrastinate on school, I end up procrastinating on writing as well.

Also, my brain gets tired. Too much stimulation – definitions to know, people to talk to, things that need to be done. There’s a HUGE temptation, when I finally get a chance to relax, to do a zombie-like and non-productive activity, like watching TV. And I write too many notes and papers for school. Writing for “fun” suddenly doesn’t sound like so much fun anymore.

BUT, I love writing and want to get experience. One strategy I use is to carry a notebook with me (yeah, not a laptop, I’m a poor student) and write while I wait for something: the bus to come, class to start, etc. If I get a sudden flash of inspiration too, I can scrawl it down and not forget it.

The other strategy is to just sit down and write, without letting the act of writing scare me too much. This blog is helpful that way – it needs an update semi-regularly.

Currently, though, I’ve been posting three times a week, and I don’t think that pace is sustainable for the rest of the semester. I’m actually surprised I ever got out three blog posts a week at all! So I think I’ll go down to two a week for now.

Are there any other tips and tricks out there for finding time to write?


Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life