Want a Fun Way to Start Your Novel?

writing collage

Here’s a fun way to start your novel — collaging.  I explain the process in this post:

Free write elements for your collage
Free writing is simple to do – I like to think of it as free form brainstorming.

Here’s how to free write. Set a timer for five minutes, and start writing. It doesn’t matter much what you write. The results of a particular free writing session aren’t important.

Collaging is a wonderful way to start your book. You’ll find that it also helps to keep you inspired, and on track. My students love this process; I hope you do, too.

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How to Pitch Your Book Even If You’re Terrified

presentation

We’ve been discussing pitching this week on our freelance writing blog. A couple of readers asked me about pitching your book. They’re going to a conference, and want a quick pitch they can make to agents.

Here’s the best advice I can give you for live pitching: rehearse, and demo your pitch. Rehearse until you know your pitch by heart, and can repeat it in your sleep. Then demo it to everyone you know. Say it. Over and over again. Until you hate it and your friends are plotting to do away with you because they’re so sick of it too.

I covered the basics of pitching a book even if you hate it here:

Should you send your pitch to one agent at a time?

I’m often asked whether you should send your pitch out to many agents simultaneously.

You can do whatever you feel is best. However, I suggest one agent at a time. Research the agent online first. Read her/ his blog. Study the agent’s client list.

Personalize your letter/ email message, to ensure that the agent knows that you’re not sending out a mass email. Write something like:

“I enjoyed your blog post on _________ (whatever. Tell her why you enjoyed it.) _____ (Author name) is one of my favorite authors, I loved his ________ (whatever) book.”

Terror is natural when you’re doing something which is new, and important to you. Rehearse until you’re tired of it. I dislike pitching in person too, but rehearsing until you’re bored truly works. You’ll get to the point where you’re no longer self-conscious.

 
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Writing a Novel? You Don’t Need to Be Perfect, But…

Parts of a horse

Parts of a horse

Writing a novel is exciting. Your imagination helps you to build an entire world, into which you take your readers. For a few hours, you allow your readers to escape their daily lives. Their heartbreaks, stress and boredom drop away. You’re giving them a gift.

Be careful: don’t snatch away that gift, and jolt your readers awake. It’s easily done.

Last week I was reading an historical novel. I loved the world of the novel, and surrendered to it.

Suddenly I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The hero helped the heroine onto her horse, and she kicked it in the withers to get it moving. Withers?! What on earth was she, a contortionist? The withers are just above the shoulders on a horse, they’re the highest part of the back. I would have loved to have seen anyone, in a sidesaddle no less, kick a horse in the withers…

A little grumpy, I went back to reading. She kicked the horse in the withers again. AND she called her horse’s fetlock something else, I forget what.

At that stage, I removed the novel from the Kindle app on my iPad. My fictional dream was destroyed, by a careless author.

How challenging would it have been to look up the parts of a horse on Wikipedia?

When you’re writing your novel, you WILL make mistakes.

As I said in this article:

It’s impossible to write the “perfect” novel, and never make mistakes. You will make mistakes in every novel you write. However, those mistakes shouldn’t be egregious. If something’s easy to look up — details of crime scene procedures, Regency-period forms of address — look them up.

The fear of making mistakes shouldn’t stop you writing. You WILL make mistakes. That’s fine. Just do your best to correct mistakes. ASK questions. Check your facts. For aficionados of a genre, an author’s mistakes, especially if they show the author’s been lazy, show disrespect for readers.

No one’s perfect. Have fun writing your novel. When you’re writing, focus on it completely, and let yourself go. However, at some stage before publication, check facts carefully. You owe it to your readers, and they’ll love you for taking them away from their woes for a few hours.

 

Can’t Write? Tell a Story

Alice in Wonderland

Use your imagination: tell a story

Over the weekend, I chatted with a writer who’s written several nonfiction books, and wants to write a novel.

He’s used to doing lots of research, coming up with ideas, testing the ideas, and writing. But he’s procrastinating on his fiction.

My advice? Start writing. Fill the computer screen with words.

As I said in this post on writing what you don’t know:

Please take this to heart: all writing is discovery.

Let’s say you want to write a thriller about a hit man (or a hit woman.) This will be a real challenge for you if you’re anything like me, and are squeamish about using snail bait, or swatting a spider.

Nevertheless, if I had a great idea for a book, and the main character happened to kill people for a living, I could write it. And so could you.

Here’s why. Fiction is all about emotion. You’ve had every emotion everyone else has had. You’ve been angry — and you’ve gone beyond anger to primal rage. Neither feeling is comfortable. You may want to tap into that when you’re writing about your hit person. Not for the killer, but for the person who’s hired him.

I suggested that he tell himself his story first.

Start with “Once upon a time…”

Like so:

Once upon a time, a man called Chris lived with his wife, Pamela, and their little boy, Jesse. Chris loved his wife, and was shocked when one day, someone at work told him that his wife was having an affair.

At first, Chris didn’t believe it. Then, he decided to…

See how it works?

Just pretend that you’re telling someone a story. I like to record these musings into Dragon Dictate. After ten or 20 minutes, I’ve got the bones of a story.

This is a painless way of getting the kernel of a story. Just start with a couple of characters, and a situation. Once you’ve got that, you can either outline your scenes, or you can start writing. I tend to just start writing; I create an outline once I’ve got around 10,000 words. Do what feels right to you.

have fun. 🙂
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