Writing a novel is not an easy thing to do. You have put time and effort into your planning stages and built your character profiles, now it’s time to… write! Remembering what was said in Beginnings and Endings, let’s take a look at the middle.
Constructing a Scene
Every scene in a story has both a verbal and a nonverbal content. The verbal content is the storyline itself and the nonverbal content is the background you are creating. Every scene presents a problem of some kind for one or more characters, and shows us how the characters deal with that problem. That, in turn, shows us something about the characters and moves the story ahead.
A scene may be a paragraph or two, or it may take up 10 or 15 pages, whatever it takes to get the message across. When it ends, the reader should know more about the characters involved, and their problems should have increased.
Try not to make the scene too ‘busy’ with characters. The reader will loose track of who’s who and become quickly confused. Even if there are a lot of people in the scene, there’s no need to name each and every one of the them.
When writing you must try not to tell your reader what is happening but place an image into their imagination so that you are showing them. A scene cannot, and should not, be just words on a piece of paper. You should be conveying something that the reader can actually see in their own mind, and hopefully, they can even picture themselves in the crowd. You know you’ve succeeded when the reader feels that have experienced the hardship, courage, terror, love along with your character.
Some Simple Suggestions when Writing
- Keep your writing simple and straightforward. Say what you want to say in the clearest and most direct fashion.
- Avoid long words if shorter ones are available.
- Avoid cluttering your work with too many adjectives, adverbs, metaphors and similes. Try not to overwhelm your narrative with descriptions.
- Avoid cliches. Most readers find these very annoying.
- Select the right tense for your story and be consistent. All verbs must agree with the chosen tense.
- Repetition of a word or phrase can be highly effective when trying to emphasis something but try to avoid overdoing it.
- Try to choose strong words as these words usually have more meaning.
- Wherever possible, avoid the passive tense. Have your characters do something, rather than have something done to them.
- Vary your writing. Contrast will highlight the strengths and don’t forget to vary sentence structure and length.
- Good writing should be fluent. The easiest way to find out if your story is fluent is to read it out loud.
Conquer Writer’s Block
Someday you’ll face the dreaded affliction known as “writer’s block”. You may suffer this ‘afflication’ for a day, a week or a month (let’s not even consider the possibility of a full year!). All writers fall prey to writer’s block at some stage but you can do something about it. Here are some things to try that are sure to get your mind working and your fingers typing:
Start a Journal – Keeping a journal is one of the most effective ways of combating writer’s block. Write honestly about what you’re sensing or experiencing. Are you angry? Sad? Euphoric? Why? Be as specific and descriptive as possible. Don’t set limits on the frequency or length of your entries; instead, concentrate on consistently writing in your journal, whether it be daily, weekly or monthly. Remember – no one else will read this prose so it doesn’t matter how rough it is or whether the sentances are structured correctly. You can use your own thoughts later to get an idea moving.
Use your Powers of Observation – If you don’t watch people go about their daily affairs already, start doing it now. Begin by writing down expressions and mannerisms of members of the general public engaged in daily activity. Note any habits that could be used as an effective “tag” for your fictional characters. Carry a small notepad and record not only people’s characteristics or witticisms, but the surroundings, as well. People tend to behave differently depending on whether they’re attending church or attending a football game. Write down information about the flora and fauna of your hometown surroundings, as well as any areas you visit on vacation. Observe the similarities of people living in small towns, mid-sized cities or large, sprawling urban areas. Use these simples notes and observations as a springboard for setting in your next story.
Use Magazines and Newspapers – This might sound silly but it works. Cut pictures from magazines and newspapers. Anything that strikes your fancy. Use both people and objects, as well as beautiful scenery that inspires you. Pin the clippings on a cork board near your computer to give your mind a bit of a sick along. A mental image will form and then you can ask yourself who, what, why, where, when and how. Who is the little girl in the picture, and where are her parents? What is her hometown like, and how long has she lived there? When is she due home for dinner, and why is she happy/sad in the picture? Sometimes this is just enough to get your creative mind back on track.
Don’t Write! – That’s right… leave your computer and do something else for a while. Sometimes your body and your brain just needs a rest. So, go for a walk or do some gardening. Take the kids to the park or spoil yourself and go shopping. The key here is to relax. Stop trying to come up with the perfect idea that will sell a million copies in the first month of release. Leave your computer, relax and don’t write. When you do return to your computer it will probably be because the idea is already there and you just have to write it down… and keep on writing!