How To Write Better Novels- A Lecture Transcript
Craig note- We spent time in a YouTube and in a lecture or two talking about the process of writing novels, writing in general, and self-confidence. (Enjoy!)
Hello, it’s Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin, and we’re back! We hope you’re having a happy day wherever you’re watching this video from.
We had a couple of days off from our regular gig in the salt mines, so we thought we would address a recent Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin mailbag question that came in to us.
It dealt with novels and the novel writing process and how someone could become a novelist. That came in mostly because of the publication of our second book. But, of course, our novel does not help you write your novel.
So, we’re here to offer some encouragement and advice for those of you who are looking to join those successful folks around the world who reached that bucket-list dream of writing a novel. Hopefully help those of you who take that next all important step of publication.
Years ago, we read a great quote that said something to the effect of the worst published novel is better than the best unpublished novel.
No matter what you put out there it will be better than 99% of the people in the world who dream about writing novels.
Now, are you going to be at the top of the 1% of those who do publish and write novels?
I don’t know. Stranger things have happened especially with Amazon and even Amazon self-publishing but dare to dream and reach out in 2018 to accomplish your goal. That’s the first step all of the rest you really don’t control.
If people loved my second novel that’s great (now eight eBooks). A quick a back story our first novel was quick. There are some bobbles in the publication. We were excited to reach that dream.
People loved it.
People hated it.
It didn’t change our life. We made a few bucks, but we have yet to receive them from Amazon because we haven’t hit that threshold. Which is an amazing thing! Let me talk about that in another lecture.
But, we reached our dream.
The second time we made a full effort to really extend ourselves and put the full force of our writing abilities, editing abilities, and our ideas into practice. And, that novel was well received. If you read both books, you’ll see what we’re talking about.
On Word Counts
The first thing I think people struggle with is the length. “Can I write 50,000 to 75,000 words?”
The answer “Yes.”
But, we don’t see it as 50,000 words. We see it as blocks of 2,000 words as a block of 500 words as a block of 200 words as a paragraph a sentence a word or even a single letter. All of those steps get you to your final word count goal whatever it is that you set that out to be.
We’re less concerned with word count instead focusing on the quality of the words that go into it. Our style is not big on adverbs we make every effort to crush our crutch words, and, yes, that does sink our word count. This is especially early after we write our first draft.
It is a painful thing to watch your work slide under whatever word count you had hoping that you would reach going in. But, the idea is that we kick out lesser words and lesser words connected to weaker ideas.
We put in better words and stronger ideas and the sum total of daily rewriting our first draft eventually produces a stronger more quality work. That’s key.
Anyone can write 50,000 words the key is “Can you write 50,000 good words?”
[Words] that somebody is willing to keep turning the pages and going to the next chapter and hopefully reviewing and retweeting and pushing your work out there.
That is key if you really want any success on a (professional) writing level. It’s also key in blog writing. You have to write things that people are interested in and interested in sharing. Otherwise, it’s you writing to yourself.
On Developing Plot
We talk about plot. And, we do believe it’s conflict. And, anybody that you talk to or read will tell you you’ve got to put some characters in that fight and do something. And then they resolve.
And, there’s this idea of a three-act kind of thing. And, some people think it’s an eight-step process. In Japan, Japanese writers surprisingly there’s a four act kind of writing process that people aspire to adhere to. (I live in Japan.)
And, if that works for you, great.
Generally, we try to pivot to some sort of resolution about two-thirds of the way in. We also try to do that within each chapter. There’s some sort of introduction, a problem, and a resolution.
Even within each chapter we do this mostly because it makes rewriting very easy. If you take a story and you’re locked into a certain path, it’s really difficult to undo if you find that, that path is wrong.
If you go chapter by chapter and it’s more self-contained you have an opportunity to backtrack, rewrite, and go into another direction without erasing hundreds of pages.
Is that the style that works for you?
I don’t know.
But, it’s been in a very effective style for me. And, I do go back and forth between the “we” pronoun and the “I” pronoun. Apologies for that. But, it is true.
On Creating Characters
I try to make imperfect characters. I don’t want anybody that everybody loves, and I don’t need a character that everybody hates. That’s not my idea you can read any number of websites and YouTube videos like this one that will tell you the same thing.
I tend to lean on characters that have something physically wrong with them in both books major characters have had things like: eye problems or hearing problems.
The new book a character is missing several fingers and has a bad leg. I think it adds an element of realism. I try to make my characters move I try to make those dialogues mean something.
I also like third characters. Whether it’s a staff member, a waiter, a brother, or a sister…
Another family member in the scene…
Another lover that comes into the scene…
I think it builds tension. I talked in the blog post about table tennis kind of storytelling.
Where you do something…
They do something.
You do something.
They do something.
It’s great for 10 pages. For 180 pages, it gets boring. But, if you bring in that other character(s) to bounce an idea off; to give them something to do; it allows you to more effectively control the pace.
We talked in the blog post about not being so ex machina in your conflict resolution(s). “I love you. You love me. Let’s end happy.”
That’s a story that’s been done ad nauseam over the years and not something that we were particularly interested in producing. We wanted to do something no pun intended novel and unique in our writing.
The final thing that we’ll talk about here is self-confidence. Our first novel was loved by a lot of people. Our first novel was also hated by a lot of people. Some of those people made it no secret that they hated our novel in a very public way. And, we took that to heart.
If you love writing and you put your soul into a work, I don’t care who you are on some level whether you admit that to the public; whether you admit that to yourself; or not whether you’re sitting in bed late at night, it does affect you. And, it did and does bother us.
But, we put that [criticism] into a productive cause, and our second novel we went full force into shutting those people down with our best full second effort. And, we achieved that goal.
On Writing Goals
The goal is not to become rich or famous. If that’s your goal for novel-writing, please don’t write novels.
Could you become rich and famous?
Are you going to become rich and famous by writing $0.99, 180 page eBooks for Amazon?
But, are you going to hold your head high when you see your name on that cover on Amazon Kindle?
When people you know, know that you have accomplished something that they will never do.
That is what we hold on to and when we write a book and we walk away from it we don’t care what anybody says, because we have achieved our maximum writing potential.
Finally, we encourage you to seek out people who have been successful in writing. We try to create a writing community of people that we can lean on and depend for encouragement.
And, we encourage you to contact us with your dreams. That’s it and have a great, great day.
Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin