How do you write a novel?

Everyone has their own idea about how to write a novel – and to be quite honest, I don’t think there is a right and wrong way. I think that if you have an interesting story, and you tell it in an interesting way, or a way that’s easy to read, then you’re well on the way. When I wrote my first novel, the last thing I wanted to do was try and work to some sort of successful template, I just wanted to tell the story how it was in my head and not be influenced by other writers. ( Damn, maybe that’s where I went wrong! 😊).

Please note: For those not interested in how to write a novel, I’ve put a picture of a little kitten at the end, to create a bit of interest.

The book that has inspired me the most is American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – and not for a good reason! I remember buying it, wondering what all the fuss was about. I read this blockbuster and realised one simple thing. That if he can make it, then so could I. I hated that book, and the way it was written. It sold millions, so what do I know? Bret Easton Ellis, you’re the man! But I still hate that rubbish book. He’s probably laughing at me as he sits in his extra-large hot tub in LA, while I sit in my extra-small bedsit in the rough part of Hull!

Bret Easton Ellis, the super-rich author. Not that I’m jealous or anything.

So, here are my top tips to write a novel:

Plan it out in advance. Yes, I know there are some geniuses out there like Stephen King who just start writing and it’s amazing every time. Well he makes me sick!!! (Because he’s so good, and I can’t do that!). So, if you plan the whole story (roughly) and then break it down into chapters, you have a book, laid out in front of you like the Xmas turkey. All you have to do now is stuff the bloody thing with detail!

Planning your book solves one or two potential problems. Firstly, if you happen to get stuck, or have a case of writer’s block then you can just stop that chapter and skip to the next. Come back to the trouble-spot later when you have an idea for it. Easy! If you plan your novel and break it down before you begin actually writing, then it also helps you get over the hurdle of pacing the book. You can do a chart, stick it on your wall, and see where all the highs and lows are.

Write character sheets. Simply write each character’s personality and anything else you need to remember about them, such as their favourite movie or where they met someone, on to a piece of paper. Do this for all the main characters, as it’ll save you lots of time, and will enable you to write a novel that is consistent. Let’s just say I’ve learnt the hard way.

Do call backs. I’m not sure if this is an actual term that authors or publishers use, but comedians do this a lot in their acts. The call-back is a stand-up comedy term that means to refer to an earlier joke that got a laugh. For example Dennis Carney, a stand-up comedian, had a piece about performing in Las Vegas. He talked about how exciting it was to see his name on billboards and on the side of every fifth or sixth cab that went by. “Of course, it wasn’t my real name.  It was my stage name: Prime Rib $9.95.”  That punch line, which he delivered better than I am describing, got a good laugh. Later, he told another story about being in Las Vegas, and having a cop knock on his door. When he answered the door, the cop addressed him as “Mr. Rib.”  That call-back to the previous joke got another laugh.

A call-back in a speech or novel does not have to refer back to something funny in order to be an effective call-back.  It does need to refer back to something that will connect emotionally with the audience. I try and use call backs frequently in my novels as I think they also really help the reader realise that a lot of thought has been put into the story.  

My next novel, due out October 8th, 2020. I’m giving it 5 stars. OK, I’m slightly biased…

OK that’s enough for now. If any of the ideas above have been useful, let me know! Thanks for reading this blog. If you’re disappointed, I’m afraid no refunds are available! Bye for now.

A little kitten enjoying itself.

Published by comedyguy77

Comedy writer, novelist, screenwriter based in York, England

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