Topic #3: Plot and write a novel.
There is false mystery assigned to the process of writing novels. Hollywood portrays it as something magical that happens only to writers who have some unquantifiable talent they were born with and reluctantly must act upon. Bollocks. If you want to write a novel, sit down and write it, and learn as you go from anyone willing to help. As Thomas Edison said, “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”
There is no one formula for plotting a novel. Some writers create notecards for each scene and shuffle them to see what sequence works best. Some writers don’t plot their novels at all, preferring to let the story unfold as they write. Or you could use a software application designed to help writers develop and organize characters and scenes (https://goo.gl/2G28nz).
Then there’s my approach. Grab a hot mocha, put my feet up, and start scribbling ideas onto a yellow legal pad. Eventually an intriguing concept begins to form. Take that concept and jot down possible story arcs until I have one that could be a novel or short story that excites me. Write a rough outline of what happens during the story and how it could end. It might be a bulleted list less than one page long. Then I flip to the next page and start writing the first scene. The final story won’t resemble the outline much, because the best ideas come when you are deep into the writing, not while outlining.
Here’s an example. Recently I decided to write a short story. I made a list of concepts that interested me. One of them stood out: What if there was a computer that could find your perfect romantic match out of all the people in the world? (Confession: this idea came to me because several years ago I had read Death Match, by Lincoln Child). I scribbled out several scenarios for a story based on this concept. I decided it would be interesting if a teenage girl is one of the first to try the software out, and she steals her mom’s car and drives hundreds of miles to see the person who is supposedly her perfect match. As I was writing the story, I decided to make it tragic (like Romeo and Juliet). I named the protagonist Juliet and came up with a new ending. I finished the story and then edited it a dozen times. If I want to actually publish it, I’ll ask at least one person with professional-level editing skills to go through it (my son, Micheal Smith, often helps me).
The final story is THE MATCHMAKER’S DAUGHTER. Would you like to read it? Here is a free copy. Let me know what you think of it. And share this post so others can read it!
That’s it, there’s no mystery to the process. Bottom line: Just do it.