Saturday, July 1, 2017

Your characters will help write your novel if you shut up and let them

The greatest Novel Secret is this: your characters will help you write the novel if you simply learn to stay out of their way. A secret draft is a perfect place to overwrite, the place to be too romantic, too cute because you can always fix it later. However, you do not need to do it alone.

Characters help you plot and write the book. If you let them!
I almost cried the day a person on Facebook said, “I am getting ready to start writing my novel. I have almost all of my characters created. Now, I just need to find a plot for them.” 
Extensive outlining and planning the characters before you write is almost a textbook example of how to ruin your novel. I wish I was capable of getting across how important this is. Write your novel and leave planning to the accountants and the folks who plan air schedules.

Let your characters write your plot.
How characters behave toward one another is exactly what creates the plot. To create the characters before you begin writing the book is like trying to put two dozen round pegs in two dozen square holes. It’s not going to work at all.

The secret to writing good fiction is to allow the characters to interact with one another to help you create the plot. Writing your novel is so much easier when you can ask the characters what they are doing today and then write it down.

Now, I need to plead my case.

  1. Please don’t create characters before you start the book (except your protagonist). 
  2. Please don’t create an extensive outline before you start the book. 
  3. Please go with the flow and let the characters help you write the book. 
I want you to have an enjoyable trek through writing your first novel and I’ve done it six times. (Sorry, I got emotional there, but I really do care.)

There is no wrong way to write a secret draft, so feel free to let it all hang out. You're at the beginning of the long road between first thought and finished product. Almost all writing begins with terrible first efforts, but you have to start somewhere. Just write with the characters help.

For now, just write like the wind. Thinking "it's only a secret draft" makes it easier to keep going. It’s a raw and unfinished product, which eventually needs work. The secret draft is like a first love, vivid and passionate. Enjoy the pleasure and delight which comes with the invention, by writing the secret draft without editing yourself. The editing, revision, and rewriting come later. 

A secret draft is an efficient way to find out where the story is going. Once your first secret draft is done, you have the entire story in front of you. It will make sense or it will not, in which case, you change things. With a finished secret draft, you know where the story has been, and where it is going. It lets you see the entire story from beginning to end. 

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews