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It was a wonderful evening. The hosts were the fine Vienna Storytelling Collective: you can read about the event at their Facebook site. If you are interested in writing, reading, or listening to new talent and live in Vienna, I encourage you to join them.
I started off talking about this blog (NB for some reason the videos are previewed sideways before you click on them; but they appear the right way up when you click “play”).
What is the best way to write a novel? Let’s explore two common methods. I’ve tried both. Each can work well: which is best for you will depend on how you write and what you are writing.
Before we look at that, let me cite the US fantasy author Stephen R Donaldson, who was once asked by an admirer how to achieve success in writing. “Start today,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson’s advice is great. If you want to start writing fiction, don’t wait until the conditions are perfect and all the stars are aligned (“I’m waiting until the kids grow up”; “I have to get some new writing software”; “I’m too busy right now”). Set aside some time tonight, this afternoon or even this morning; get out a pen and paper; and start writing.
How do you begin?
How to begin? There are different ways of writing a novel
The first method is taught in writing courses and top universities across the world. You should plan your story around a standard structure. This structure is set out in a thousand primers – try googling “narrative structure” or “three act structure”.
This plan goes back to the ancient Greeks. That’s no bad thing: it has stood the test of time. In brief:
- the first part (or “act”) of your story introduces your main characters and describes their situation, usually including a problem or conflict;
- the second part involves an “inciting act” (eg: a letter in the post; discovery of a body; a glance across a crowded room) leading to, or highlighting, a conflict or problem. This then escalates, perhaps via a series of mini-crises, to become a crisis;
- the third part sees the main character or characters developing and changing (“digging deeper than ever before”) to a climax where they overcome the crisis, often preceded by a section where it seems that “all is lost”. This leads on to the end of the story, with the main character in a new equilibrium.
I once visited a wonderful friend who was a successful writer (DF – it was you!).
At the time, I was struggling to complete my first novel.
When she suggested we go for brunch at her local cafe to read the New York Times and the Washington Post, I was delighted. As I waited to go out, I glanced at her writing desk, filled with admiration for her hard work and achievement.
On the desk was a book about writing technique. Intrigued that she, a well-known author, should need such advice, I leafed through it. A sentence leapt out at me.
You can see the results of all this in my Berlin thriller Blood Summit
“Don’t keep writing and re-writing the same chapter or the opening to your book,” the guide said. “Doing that risks preventing you from completing the task. You must keep moving forward.”
At that point my friend was ready and we went out for a terrific brunch in Alexandria.
But I never forgot that sentence. I have found it invaluable in helping me to complete many novels.
“Wait!” I hear you cry. “Surely I shouldn’t write (more…)
I recently started a list of e-mails for people who might want to hear about my writing activities – eg my next reading from “Blood Summit” in Vienna on Monday 17 June.
The e-mail list is organised by a company called “Mailchimp”. You can sign up to receive comments here (in theory, a pop-up should appear at this point – do feel free to subscribe if it works!) Or you can e-mail me on email@example.com and I’ll be delighted to add you to the list myself.
I send an edition of “Robert Pimm’s Writing News” rather rarely – over the past 18 months I have sent five of them. They are a good way to stay in touch.
But if you want to stop, you can unsubscribe by clicking on the link in the mail.
If you do sign up, please reward yourself by downloading a free Hotel Story by clicking on the link.
Nice to have you on board!
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