Book Review: 90-Days To Your Novel

    Can you be a novelist in just 90 days? Many well-known authors write their novels in just weeks according to 90 Days to Your Novel – A Day-to-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book by Sarah Donet.   Can it be you? It all depends on your commitment to your project. 90 Days to Your Novel will require you to push yourself to invest two to three hours per day for the twelve weeks. At the end of the twelve weeks you will have a first draft of your novel but be warned, this book does not guarantee a great end product, only that you will have your draft finished.   Can reading a self-help book really create a bestselling book? Not a chance. What this book will do is breakdown how to create your outline as well as give you different techniques for writing. Do you know the difference between the Note-Card Technique vs. the Signpost technique? If you are new to writing novels, probably not and in the end, it really isn’t that important to know the difference. The most important thing you will take from this book’s Part I is figuring out how you want to start your writing process. What you are comfortable doing. What it’s called really doesn’t matter.   Part II is the “90-Day Writing Challenge”. The book advises you to not start reading the rest of the book until you can commit to the scheduled two to three hours a day for writing. When starting this book, your first three weeks are mixed with assignments that don’t necessarily pertain to your novel on the surface but if you really think about what you are writing, eventually you could incorporate those events, people or places into a scene of your story. An example of this is assignment #1, which is to brainstorm as many memories as you can on people, places and things from earlier moments in your life.   It’s important to remember in your first three weeks you are in the brainstorming, chart making and outline designing time period. If this wasn’t your first novel, you could probably skip over the first three weeks but really if you have already gone through the novel-writing process, you don’t need this book. It isn’t until week four that you start getting into your novel so you will need to have the patience to stick to your schedule.   Do you really need an assignment based, step-by-step guide to write your novel? Maybe, maybe not. It’s all about your commitment to your project. Your success of writing your novel has nothing to do with the how-to book you read. It has...

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Show Don’t Tell!?!?

  Show don’t tell—at once the best and worst piece of advice a writer can hear. The first reaction is “But I’m telling a story!” The next thought in line is “this isn’t a screen play!” A writer must balance their story with visual descriptors to avoid setting their story in a void. If the setting is not intrinsic to the story, then the audience will have a more difficult time sinking into it, melding with it. For example, while taking a writing class in my undergraduate program, I found myself in a discussion with a fellow student, about his work—a highly emotional tale about homosexual lovers in Nazi Germany. But he didn’t know anything about Berlin in 1938. His knowledge of the setting he’d chosen for his opus was based on WWII movies. Most of the story happened in very neutral environments that only happened to have a Swastika or Nazi flag in them. Without the Third Reich, his story could have taken place in New Jersey 1978 or Dubai 2001. It could have happened in space, aboard the starship Velvet. He was failing in his primary task of showing us, the audience, the world his characters lived in. His story happened in a void and made it unsympathetic to everyone. Setting and place is just one aspect of “show don’t tell.” The other piece is engagement of the reader. Look at the following example: A: He drank the whiskey. It burned and he coughed. His eyes watered. He sighed. B: He jerked his head back and choked down the liquid gold. The smoky poison made his throat clench tight. His eyes, suddenly wet from the burning vapors, turned the piss colored lights of the dirty bar into watery snowflakes. As the chemical heat suffused his body, he let out a long breath. Both A and B accomplish the same thing: they tell us that the character had some whiskey. In both A and B we get a sense for the characters comfort level with whiskey. That’s where the similarities stop. B also tells us that the character is in a bar (not a void), more about what the character is experiencing and feeling. The character is more real because we can more easily imagine his discomfort. His eyes are burning; he’s fighting back a knee-jerk cough from a shot of hard liquor. We also get the impression that the character is under stress—but we don’t know how or from what. In fact, while B gives us huge amounts of information, it leaves us with many questions. Not to mention the fact that it tripled the word count. The question now becomes, “How about situations where there’s a...

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Tips for Wary Writers

There’s always a scam. Someone’s always trying to pull something over on someone else. There’s a specialized scam for each industry, for demographic, even writers. On one hand, one thinks, “Wow, this is so elaborate it’s got to be real.” Then you come to your senses.   But if you’re new to an industry, breaking in to writing and publishing for example, you might not know what to look for in a scam. With the Interwebs extending the reach of everyone, making marks and tracks in otherwise unattainable terrain, a writer has to be especially savvy to avoid some of these pitfalls, booby traps and cons.   Here’s a quick list to shuffle through and keep in your back pocket.   Paying to be published This is an absolute scam. If an agent, publisher or any claiming to be affiliated with either asks you for money, it’s a scam. That’s not how it works. You have the talent and the craft. They market it. You both get money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this con. “The Literary Society of Peewackanee has chosen YOUR short story for inclusion in their latest anthology. To be included, send $10.00…” Yeah, that’s a scam.   Paying to be entered into contests This is not a scam. It’s crappy and an unnecessary drain on the oft already strained wallets of struggling artists with true talent, but it’s something that is considered legitimate. Entry fees range from $5.00-$50.00 (though I’ve no doubt they go higher), and usually there’s a discount for poetry or multiple submissions. For the record, Spectacle Publishing never charges for entry into their fiction contests. One more thing – I’ve never known anyone who has won one of those contests. I’m just sayin’…   Write your novel in thirty days Thirty days. That’s about 10 pages a day, which seems entirely feasible, until you figure in work, sleep, laundry, showers, bathroom breaks, picking the kids up from school, making (and eating) dinner and all the rest of the things that occupy our days. Recently (actually what inspired this article) I read a post on this very topic from a woman who claims to be able to write a novel in a weekend. For 280 pages in in 48 hours, you’d have to write 10.285 pages per minute. Not eating, sleeping or thinking about plot go without saying. Your book is done when it’s done. There is no other magic book, workshop or course that will get you writing a novel a month. Not unless you’re stealing ideas, rewriting things that have already been written and don’t have a shred of artistic integrity.   Vanity Press The real advantage...

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