Friday, December 22, 2006

How to Write & Sell Your First Novel

(Written by Oscar Collier with Frances Spatz Leighton)

A review (of sorts) and comments

I've just finished reading How to Write & Sell Your First Novel for the second time. I read it immediately after reading James N Frey's How to Write a Damned Good Novel (again for the second time).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading both books the first time, though I did not read one immediately after the other. The second time around, I have to admit to skimming some of the sections of Oscar Collier's book whilst James N Frey's book continued to educate and inspire me. Perhaps the two books are not quite aimed at the same market, and the format is different for sure.

The main benefit, for me anyway, of reading How to Write & Sell Your First Novel was the 'before they were famous' section on successful authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, John le Carré and others. The first time I read these accounts of how these writers overcame rejection after rejection but still succeeded in getting their first novel published (sometimes only after getting their 'second' novel published first) did truly inspire me.

So I've decided to post very small clips of this book, to share the wisdom. This book has definitely helped me believe that my writing a novel is possible.

  • Novelists are made, not born
  • Write what you feel strongly about, even if it goes against the accepted norm [according to David Cornwell aka John le Carré]
  • "What is a novel? A piece of yourself - but just a piece - not the whole picture. A novel is the tip of the iceberg. Never give it all away" [According to published novelist Steven Linakis.]
  • Never give up. If you feel strongly about your writing, someone will like it and publish it. take a chance. Get it all out. Don't talk about it too much - your idea can wear thin... Your novel must have conflict - man against nature, man against man. Your protagonist must survive conflict.
  • Learn by writing...
I read about the determination of so many authors, their inconvenient writing schedules and what it took for them to write that novel, I couldn't help but think I can do that, too. And, according to Oscar Collier's book you have a 95% improved chance of getting your novel published by starting (and finishing) the first draft of it! I can do that, too.

"Writing is a question of practicing and getting better. There are so many stories of writers who were rejected over and over again who clearly made themselves writers by being persistent. You never know what can happen."

What also comes across in the book is the importance many writers give to revision. In short, the writing begins when it's time to revise

Final book verdict: read James N Frey's book for a step-by-step 'how to' when it comes to writing a novel, and read Oscar Collier's book for a more rambling insight into writing but a fascinating look at how many successful authors overcame all obstacles to get their first novel published.

Friday, December 15, 2006

No more energy...

I have no more energy.

(Guess that's why I'm not a successfully published author at the moment.)

I will begin again in January, re-energised, revitalised, re... ionised?

I will be back! And - hopefully! - Arnold Scharwenegger will not be with me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Not Much Happening, Today

I was going to post another book review, today, but I just don't have the time. Work interrupts play, as it were. I have to spend a few hours this afternoon tweaking my websites otherwise I will worry that I don't have enough money to take sufficient time off work next year.

(In case you don't know what I do, I'm what's known as an affiliate marketer. I sell advertising (very loosely speaking) on various websites. It can be quite a passive income. And if you get it right (which I haven't, alas) you really can put it on auto pilot. Well my autopilot needs some serious pumping up, but I'm not sure where the valve is (think Airplane, with the inflatable autopilot).

Anyway, the fact that I can only spend half a day today preparing to write --
  • Finishing off How To Write A Damn Good Novel
  • Reading another hour of London Fields (so far so excellent, but I think it's not going to inspire me to write my own novel - the opposite, if anything)
  • Going through some more magazines and newspapers looking for intriguing story-lines and looking at photos of potential characters
-- only serves to remind me what discipline is required to be a successful writer. Those people with much busier lives than me - parents or carers or people with time-consuming jobs - do very well indeed to still be able to write day in day out, or week in week out.

Yes, so not much is happening today. But at least I've written this blog explaining why.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Novel Will Not Appear Here!

It might seem like a good idea to write a blog called Write A First Novel, and for the blogger to then include the words of that resultant novel in the blog itself. As if he were going to bake a cake, say, and then include the various stages of the process, with photos and even cake samples. It would indeed be educational to do so.

However informative this might be to (imagined) readers of this blog, it would not be a good idea to this particular blogger-cum-wannabee-author.

Let me explain why, by continuing with this food analogy a little longer.

Think of me as a cook happy to present the cooked meal to you, but of being most unwelcoming to having you (or anyone) in the kitchen beforehand. I would not want you to see how I prepared the meal, the cooking techniques I used, nor the many mistakes I made in preparing it.
Instead, I would welcome your judgements after seeing the meal, and tasting it.

The same goes for the words of my novel.

I shall not be posting any part of it, here. It is bad enough that you may actually read my novel when it's finished, let alone read it in any kind of rough draft form.

This is not perfectionism, just a writer's coping strategy.

The Importance of Premise

I've been reading about the importance of a novel having a premise today. As James N. Frey puts it in How To Write A Damn Good Novel: writing a story without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars.

So what is a premise?

Well, Mr Frey thinks it's
  • the love in a marriage
  • the point you have to prove
  • the reason you are writing what you are writing
  • the raison d'être of your novel
Basically, the premise holds the author to his/her subject, contends Mr Frey.

Example premises?
  • Premarital sex leads to disaster
  • Premarital sex leads to bliss
You will see that premises are clearly not universal truths; they must be true in the novel, though.

Not everyone agrees with the need for a premise, and I am in no position to argue one way or another about it.

However, having said that, if you think of a premise as the answer to the question "what if...?" or a statement as to what happens to the characters as a result of the core conflict in the story. If you can do that, then I think you will agree that the notion of a premise has its uses. This is especially so, actually, when you consider that knowing the premise helps the writer choose what to include in a novel, as well as what to omit.

My novel shall have a premise.