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Books, Fiction

21 Tips for The Art of the Novel

1. Find a great plot or story.

2. Play with form and language.

3. Have the reader enjoy identifying the plot.

4. Combine plot and character.

5. Create stories that continue long after having been read. (e.g. William Trevor)

6. Place surprise on the page: even on every paragraph. (e.g. Jorge Luis Borges, JG Ballard)

7. Leave holes in your plot and refill from your subconscious(!)

8. Write from a place of excitement. Only write things that interest you.

9. Write quickly: faster than you think. Create the first draft in scene; figure out explanation later (second draft.)

10. Change writing methods when you get stuck: write by hand; write by computer: write by voice-recognition.

11. Get the first draft done in less than 3 months.

12. Write notes on the characters: what is their back-story; which one will be the narrator; what is their tone (voice.)

13. Have a general idea of the narrative arc; don’t plot or outline excessively.

14. Don’t fill out the story with too much background. Avoid using voice unless it’s compelling.

15. Make the story less cerebral and more about recognition (intuition.)

16. Create an architecture for yourself. Alternate characters, PoV, timelines etc.

17. Don’t over do the back-story. Try not to lock the user into a single narrative exposition. Don’t use flashbacks unless you absolutely have to. Present the backstory as a psychological alternative to the present.

18. Create short stories out of the characters’ back-stories. Publish them separately. (Or interpose them between the chapters of your main story.

17. The past is the iceberg. Only show the tip. (Hemingway) Always leave something to the imagination of the reader.

18. Imagine a history for each character. Decide how you want to introduce the history of each character. (e.g. William Trevor and the weight of history, “The Piano Tuner’s Wife”)

19. Trace (outline what successful authors do; then steal their technique.

20. Reread your own work and read others for technique. See how they solve problems or resolve the plot.

21. Focus on the relatability, not the likeability, of your characters.



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