Frankly, there are a thousand different people out there who can tell you how to write a novel. There are a thousand different methods. The best one for you is the one that works for you.
The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel
I teach the craft of writing fiction at writing conferences all the time. This page is the most popular one on my web site, and gets over a thousand page views per day. Over the years, this page has been viewed more than six million times. So you can guess that a lot of people find it useful.
Look it over, decide what might work for you, and ignore the rest! Different writers are different. Have fun and. You can do the design work before or after you write your novel. This article will give you a powerful metaphor to guide your design. For a number of years, I was a software architect designing large software projects. Before you go further, take a look at this cool web site.
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Not here, anyway. But part of the work is just managing your creativity — getting it organized into a well-structured novel. You may do some research. You brainstorm. You start hearing the voices of different characters. But before you start writing, you need to get organized.
You need to put all those wonderful ideas down on paper in a form you can use. Because your memory is fallible, and your creativity has probably left a lot of holes in your story — holes you need to fill in before you start writing your novel. You need a design document.
Here is my ten-step process for writing a design document. I use this process for writing my novels, and I hope it will help you.
Step 1 Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture. When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. So make the best one you can!
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Step 2 Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter.
If you believe in the Three-Act structure, then the first disaster corresponds to the end of Act 1. The second disaster is the mid-point of Act 2. The third disaster is the end of Act 2, and forces Act 3 which wraps things up. Things just get worse and worse. You can also use this paragraph in your proposal. Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup.
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Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending. This paragraph summarizes the whole story. Your back-cover copy should summarize only about the first quarter of the story. Step 3 The above gives you a high-level view of your novel. Now you need something similar for the storylines of each of your characters.
Characters are the most important part of any novel, and the time you invest in designing them up front will pay off ten-fold when you start writing. For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:. Go ahead! This is good—it means your characters are teaching you things about your story. The purpose of each step in the design process is to advance you to the next step. Keep your forward momentum! You can always come back later and fix it when you understand the story better.
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Step 4 By this stage, you should have a good idea of the large-scale structure of your novel, and you have only spent a day or two. If the story is broken, you know it now, rather than after investing hours in a rambling first draft. So now just keep growing the story.
Take several hours and expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in a disaster. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends. This is a lot of fun, and at the end of the exercise, you have a pretty decent one-page skeleton of your novel.
What matters is that you are growing the ideas that will go into your story. You are expanding the conflict. This is basically a Big Lie.
#1 – Schedule Your Book Writing Time
But I luckily stumbled upon the fact that there are bestselling authors hanging out at a lot of specific places, and they are very friendly and approachable at those places. The advantage of getting to know some bestselling authors is that you will discover we are ordinary folk, and you fit in very well when we get together. A bestselling millionaire author would much rather hang out with a beginning writer earning minimum wage as a waiter while writing his or her book than a banking tycoon or multimillionaire builder.
One amazing thing I discovered was that I was treated with the same welcoming energy and respect before I had written my first book as I was when sales of Moneylove started approaching their first million copies. And the lectures and workshops at AHP conventions were fascinating and gave me a lot of material for future books. A strategy you might explore is to get in touch with some successful authors and find out whether they attend any of the writers conferences or other professional associations, and, if so, whether they would be willing to meet with you for a chat.
Of course, if you have any bestselling authors in your city, you can contact them and ask for a personal interview. As a former newsman, I sometimes used this ploy and just asked a favorite author if I could interview them for a possible article or newsletter. Now we have blogs to serve that purpose.