It's hard to know for sure when you've reached the end of a novel, insofar as you can take it, by which I mean you're sending it to your agent.
You're battle weary. You can't see the wood for the trees. It's the forty-fifth draft.
The story makes sense. But your worry may now be that the story makes too much sense at the expense of mystery. So you'll want to go back to a few key moments to make them accurate and translucent - shimmering - to create more space for the reader.
I like to perform these last checks while reading Raymond Carver on loop during the last week or so before I hit send.
He was the master when it came to making space for the reader.
"I forget who passed along a copy of Babel’s Collected Stories to me, but I do remember coming across a line from one of his greatest stories. I copied it into the little notebook I carried around with me everywhere in those days. The narrator, speaking about Maupassant and the...
A Member's Story.
Adam Langley spent his youth reading books such as the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate and wondering why so many people wanted to go to Hogwarts when they had the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters as an option. Adam has been published on several websites including SyFyWire and Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men.
He has attempted to write a fantasy novel five times. Then he found The Novelry and his fantasy became a reality. He took The Classic Course, one of our novel writing courses, and wrote his novel using The Ninety Day Novel course.
The Blue Disks of Michaelmas is his first finished novel. It's 89,950 words long.
Here's Adam on the reality of writing his fantasy novel with a day job.
I think all writers, especially writers of science fiction and fantasy, like to plan. We like our extended universes. We like giving our characters more room to move and grow and do stuff that is interesting. The problem arises when we spend more time...
If a novel is one person's moral journey towards acceptance of their place in the universe, then the plot is contrived to give them a gift or gifts to help them on their way to which he or she is particularly ill-suited.
Nail those - the human flaw and the perfectly unsuitable circumstances - and you've got the essential irony that powers a novel.
A disaster story brings these into sharp dramatic relief. As one of my writers pointed out this week, the hero of the Jaws movie is afraid of water.
But there's more - it's not the flaw that's so important in the grand scheme of a disaster story, so much as the hero or heroine's gift.
The narrative path as outlined in The Five F's of story at The Novelry, finds its immaculately opposite form in a disaster story. The negative image. Perhaps that's not surprising, for is a novel is propelled by what the main character wants, in a disaster story it's all about what they don't want to happen.
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Every novel presents such new challenges, it seems one has never written a novel before. An irksome and bewildering amnesia. Yet again, your judgement and taste exceed your abilities and you're the duffer who won't repeat old ways any which way. But there is hope.
"I think it’s true that with each new book, you make new mistakes... .You start off with different possible tonalities and the right one only gradually comes into play.... As you get older, you understand time, you understand fictional time better, how to move in time, how to move through time in fiction.... Updike, in his later work, he got very good, and canny and clever about time. So we do learn some new tricks." Julian Barnes.
So, it may take longer, this new novel of yours, than the last. Let it.
I write, probably like you do, because life is a lonely path, but paradoxically we are all differently and diversely the same. Our most common, most tragic flaw as a species is perhaps...
The Telegraph 10th June 2019.
"Marshwood Manor in the Vale of Marshwood, close to Bridport and Dorset’s Jurassic coast, is the venue for a series of writing retreats. A week-long novel-writing course includes an inspirational mix of morning lessons, one-to-one sessions and after-dinner readings, plus plenty of free time for personal reflection and composition. Guests are allocated their own private rooms in shared cottages, situated in the 13 acres of garden and woodland which surround the house. "
"It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads." Oliver Sacks.
In Musicophilia, Sacks tells some very moving stories about those with terrifyingly profound amnesia, or Alzheimer's disease, for whom music can "restore them to themselves". He claimed that music may be our best medicine.
I've often wondered about the connection between music and writing. Many of my writers use music, as do I, to enter the right mood for a piece of prose.
Oliver Sacks described as "amusic", those who do not seem to understand or feel music at all in his book Musicophilia. He considered with pity the case of Vladimir Nabokov, who famously said he experienced music merely as "an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"; and he wondered about how little music is mentioned in Henry James's work.
If there's an order of merit, many writers would accord first place...
Get cracking! The Novelry is a hive of activity designed to support, encourage and cheer writers writing.
Up with a coffee at early light, creating your world, at play before real life kicks in! You're creating something that will last, and speak for you and your lifetime in one hour a day. Whatever stage you're at - whether you've got no idea for your novel or you've got a first draft sitting in a drawer - you'll have a manuscript in your hands in ninety days time.
Our one hour a day method for writing the first draft of your novel is not a gimmick or a sop to busy people as I explain in the video with this blog post above.
You need to do 23 times more back-of-mind cogitation than you do writing when you embark upon the hard work of formulating a novel at first draft.
The time between writing session is vital and will allow you to go to the page to write with refreshed and renewed purpose.
If you don't fly off and write yourself...
Each and every character in a story has a single purpose for the storyteller - and that is their role or agency vis a vis the moral development of the protagonist, hero or heroine, the subject of your novel. They either assist or hinder.
There are filler characters, the door holders, and bag carriers, the petrol pump attendants, and these too may have something to add, but you need to concern yourself with the team first and foremost. Some 3-15 players.
Wherever you are in your novel, you should be looking at the crucible - the hell Sartre might have dubbed it or heaven - that is the nexus of relationships. What people want from your main player and what he or she wants from them. The relationships - the push and pull of their reciprocal wants and needs - will range from highly negative and reversing (antagonist) to assistance, affection, love and self-sacrifice (the friend or lover).
So you'll be playing these out in your story through conflict and clarification - questions posed...