Writing how-to

Preparing a Novel for a Contest

Since the last blog I wrote, I’ve done binge eating, chewed off my fingernails, stayed up until 4 am to write, and taken naps the following day, fallen in love with a CD called Sun, listened to the Blues on Pandora, and been serenaded by Marvin Gaye. But hard work has paid off. I’ve written enough new text and killed off 9 narrators, eliminated 200 pages, and decided against chapters v. headers. I used to have 600 chapters, which is insane.

I believe this plot and characters are really well written. The essence of the plot, especially, has NEVER been done before, which is a feather in my cap. I’m writing a medical related novel, for which I did and continue to perform extensive research, as medical technology changes all the time. Plus just last night I read a newsletter online by the judges of this contest who listed 10 “no-no’s” in turning off judges. One was introducing more than 5 characters in the first chapter. Having had a professor encourage me to use 10 narrators kind of makes me wonder what he was thinking. The judge went on to name famous books where the writers used up to 35 characters, and though the books were notable, the character numbers were overwhelming to readers. Another tip was to use a family tree as a prologue, but since I’ve gone down to one narrator from 10, I don’t find it necessary. I also had to go from present tense to past tense, which is hard on the eyes, and intense, lol. No one told me to do that, it just felt better. While I’m an experienced, published writer, how I got there was by writing from the gut. Does emotion replace skill? No, but it certainly helps. Passion and generosity must exist in writing fiction. If you don’t like your topic or lead character and can look past one’s faults, you might as well pack it in, and shut up. And since one person is describing not only plot, but also other characters, I’ve had to increase descriptions and the amount of dialogue instead of relying on a character’s thoughts. When I entered a chap from this book as a short story, and won Honorable Mention, my main fault was not having enough dialogue.

In other research about writing novels, Prologues in the eyes of lit agents are considered bad form. They believe that either it’s “leftover” material you found no room for in the plot, or extraneous material not needed at all. Early on, I ditched my prologue.

This is great fun prepping a contest entry for a novel. Really. I’m learning so much about how to write chapter synopses, create chapter outlines, and decide on a title. I have had the same title for five years, but now, I’m not so sure I like it anymore. Not that the title will make or break a book, because having just returned from a graphic designers’ site where she has created over 100 book cover designs, she admits that her designs often have absolutely nothing to do with the story!

Well, I need to escape to “The Walking Dead”, then return to writing.


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