Phillip Simpson's book "The Minotaur" is coming out in 2015
Writing a Novel
At the time of writing this, I have just completed my seventh novel. This is on top of the fifty odd chapter books I have had published.
Most of my novels fall between 70k to 110k words. This is a lot of
words. Even if you typed ‘and’ 70,000 times, you’d find that it would take you a while.
Writing a novel is a serious undertaking. It involves a great deal of commitment in terms of time and energy – time and energy that many people simply do not have. I read a recent blog that stated that 97% of writers never finish their novel. I understand why.
Whilst I may have written several novels, it’s not to say that I’m an accomplished novelist. In fact, I still think that in many ways I am still at the prologue of my career. Not all of my novels were successful. In fact, not all of my novels were that good (I think five of the seven were, but that’s just me).
Saying that, I have become better with practice. Not only that, I have become better at planning – or not – but I will explain further in a moment. Coming up with ideas is the most important, however.
This is where my top tips come in. The idea or premise is crucial. Your agent (if you
have one) won’t be pitching your amazing writing. What they will pitch is the idea. Without a good premise, who cares about your writing (not entirely true, but I’m trying to make a point here). Sure, it’s going to come under scrutiny later, but you have to intrigue people first with your idea.
A good idea can be summarized into a couple of sentences. If it’s good, it will immediately get people’s attention. It’s like being hit by lightning. Perhaps you’ve taken an
idea that’s been done before and put a twist on it, perhaps it’s something completely fresh and different (unlikely – as Bono said ‘every artist is a thief’) – it doesn’t matter, it just needs to be good.
You’ll know it when you hear it or read it. I often lie in bed at night just thinking of ideas, taking any situation and imagining ‘what if.’ I know straight away when I’ve got a good idea. I feel it in my bones.
Without a good idea, you really don’t have a novel. Your writing might be exceptional but without it being scaffolded around an excellent idea, it won’t matter much. Most people read a book because they like the story idea. If the writing is terrible, they will probably not read any other books by the same author, but at least you hooked them for a moment. Besides, a writer might have shockingly clumsy sentence structure for one or two novels, but after that, it should improve. Being a good writer takes time and practice. In spite of any internal or external limitations, it will get better.
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