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Submitted on
January 17, 2009
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1. Don’t Find Time, Make It. Too many authors think that they will “find” the time to write sometime today or this week or next month. But think about it: when was the last time you said, “Hey, look! I just found a twenty fifth hour in my jacket pocket!” You know how many hours there are in a day, so stop fooling yourself. If you’re going to have time to write, you need to make time to write. Whether you set aside the same hour every day or use those few minutes you have between classes, make sure you’re devoting that time entirely to your writing, not sharing it with your favourite reality tv show. Writing during commercial breaks cuts your time by at least two thirds—imagine what more you could have written had you been able to focus your time and energy.

2. Have A Backup Plan. In this age of technology, the traditional pen and paper routine has been flung quite far out the window. It is rare that anyone will write a novel by hand when it can be done much faster via computer. This age of technology however brings with it a lack of security. I cannot express to you how many times I have lost documents, even novels, due to hardware and software failures that required the computer be reformatted. Sometimes documents can be saved, sometimes they can’t. So, one thing you should absolutely invest in is a small USB thumb drive, which should cost you no more than $25 at your local electronics store. You can either backup your novel to the thumb drive regularly or be extra cautious and open your document always straight from it, so that your most up-to-date version is on the thumb drive rather than your computer. The benefit is two-fold: not only will you have a backup of your novel, but you will also be able to bring it with you to other locations and computers. Perhaps you have a spare at school during which you can write. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pick up right where you left off at home? And a thumb drive is so small it will fit in your purse, your pocket, even your sock or cleavage if that’s your thing.

3. Keep A Writing Journal. It never fails that inspiration strikes at the worst possible moment: at work, on the bus, standing in line at the grocery store, or in bed in the middle of the night. Where ever you may be, it is always far away from your trusty laptop (or whatever apparatus you may use). Invest in a pocket or purse sized notebook that can follow you pretty much anywhere. Don’t forget to pack a small pen or pencil too. When a thought hits you, whether it is a story idea or other profound thought, jot it down. Even if it doesn’t pertain to your novel at the moment, you may find that it inspires you later, especially during those nasty bouts of writer’s block. Your writing journal will also be helpful for any other mediums in which you write. If you having a bad inspiration day with your novel, hop on over to that poem or short story you were working on. Giving yourself a break can’t hurt when you’re not making progress anyway. Use your new journal to help you find inspiration for something else this time. By the way, this tip does not work when inspiration strikes in the shower. For that you’ll have to put the words to that tune you were singing.

4. Get A Clue. You may not have planned every detail of your entire story, but you should at least have a clue where you’re going with it. Not everyone is good at writing and abiding by a story outline, but having an outline, even an unwritten one, is extremely important. It’s important to know both where you are beginning as well as where you hope to end up. You also want to know the major story points, such as when you want to introduce each character, the story’s main action points, and other major developments throughout. A good basis for developing your outline, whether written or unwritten, is to consider the traditional plot sequence: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The exposition is essentially your introduction of the main characters and the conflicts they will be experiencing. The rising action is the development of story points towards the climax, which is the main action sequence, the part where all your conflicts meet at the highest point of tension. The falling action is the dying down of suspense and deals with the climax’s aftermath. Finally, the resolution ties up any loose ends that remain. Of course, not all story’s follow this model perfectly (i.e. some novels have two or more climaxes), but if you at least know the major details of these essential plot elements you should find it is much easier to write your novel beginning to end without getting stuck on “What next?”  

5. Write, Don’t Edit. One of the main reasons why aspiring novel writers fail is because they get bored. By constantly re-reading and editing what you’ve written, you will begin to feel like you’re making very little progress. You’ll also find that what you’ve written thus far is never complete or quite “good enough.” When it comes to editing, you are your own worst critic. The best chance you have for finishing what your novel is to get it all down on paper, beginning to end. When you make that time to write, just write. Worry about fine tuning and proofreading later. You’ll find yourself making tremendous progress and you’ll probably feel a greater amount of satisfaction in what you are writing as well.  

6. Develop Your Story Gradually. Imagine a two hundred page novel where nothing happens until the last fifty pages—how likely are you to get through the first one hundred and fifty? Usually, the climax of a novel occurs around the three quarter mark, but that doesn’t mean everything should happen all at once. You need to take steps to get there. The climax is the culmination of all of the rising action and sets the scene for all the falling action. Without all three elements your story will be incomplete and dreary. Your characters’ desires, motives, and goals need to be firmly established, the risks and potential consequences of the action assessed, and the tension properly developed. To maintain your reader’s interest, you need to continuously remind them of why they’re reading your story, not constantly make them wonder why they should bother.

7. Know Your Characters. Most readers would agree that a story is only as good as the characters they involve. Writers know this and so they tend to think outside the box to create the most unique character twists and developments. What many writers forget however is to pay attention to the intricate details that make their primary and secondary characters unique. For example, each character will likely have a different style of speech depending on their background, but often even dialogue is written in the writer’s own tone of voice. If you are a very sarcastic person, you may find all of your characters magically coming up with witty sarcastic remarks, even though in reality not everyone talks like that. It is also very easy to forget to keep track of your characters’ physical details. How many times have you watched a movie only to find the actor’s cast is suddenly on the other arm? This can easily happen with novel writing too. For example, you may write in chapter three “the inn keeper gazed back with steely gray eyes” but by chapter ten you’ve forgotten. Were his eyes green, brown, or blue? You could guess or you could go sifting through your story to find the reference. Even better would be a handy reference of those details, don’t you think? The best thing you can do is to keep track of those details using either a word processor or a spreadsheet. As you make such references, just type the detail next to the character’s name (e.g. Inn keeper: gray eyes) so you can easily refer back to it later.

8. Read. A Lot. You may occasionally feel like the creative juices are flowing but your output is lacklustre. This is not writer’s block because the story itself is not stuck; rather, it is a lack of creative know-how as it pertains to writing well. The best way to learn to write well is to read what others have written. I never used to believe this theory myself until I joined DeviantArt and started to study literature in university. My own writing in both poetry and prose has improved immensely as a result of my diversified reading of both mediums. One fear writers have about reading to inspire their writing is the involuntary plagiarism of another’s writing. This argument may seem valid until you consider that little if anything is original today. Most songs are remixes, most movies are remakes. Your novel, whether or not you read something similar prior to writing it, will still resemble that same piece of writing. The key is to read what others have written so you can not only see what they did right, but also what they did wrong. Did you think they could have developed their characters more? Then that’s what you can do better. Did their story lack action? Write more action into yours. You’ll find that you benefit most from this tip if you’re reading in the same genre as you’re writing, but reading in general will improve your writing ten-fold.

9. Find A Brainstorming Buddy. The bane of every writer’s existence is writer’s block. You want to write but you just can’t seem to find the inspiration. You’re bound to encounter some writer’s block, so find someone with whom you can brainstorm: a friend, a sibling, your spouse, an acquaintance. You don’t have to be extremely close to this person, the main criteria is that they are a good listener. Let them in on enough background of your story so that they can understand where you stand then use them as a sounding board. They may not end up saying a single word, but just sounding out your ideas to a receptive ear may help you resolve your own problems. My boyfriend has and continues to be a great help in this way, listening attentively and challenging my ideas until I have to write something just to redeem myself. A brainstorming buddy is an essential component of your writing resources and an excellent investment.

10. Let Go. If you’re like most writers, you probably think too much. You may doubt your talent, question your place in the industry, wonder if your novel is original enough, and spend too much time predicting if it will ever get published. The best advice I can give you is to just let go of all those fears. Whether or not your novel is a success is out of your hands until it is completed. You need to write it before it can fail, unless of course you fail to write it all together and then that is entirely your fault. So please, let it go! Just write—it’s what you do.
I've transferred my deviation to this new account. This one previously received a DD, so I guess I'm giving that up, but that's ok because it has the same merit, with or without the label! :)
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Vision - The vision of the piece is spelled out clearly in the title, this being ten tips for novelists. As I read through this, it was well focused on that aspect and covered a good range of aspects on the subject.

Originality - For this, I did notice a number of tips that have been circulated in a number of other places before now. In particular Read. A Lot and Know Your Characters. However, at the same time, speaking from my own experience, there are several that caught me by surprise.

Write, Don't Edit was the one that stood out most because it is a lesser known idea for novel writing, one which I only recently picked up through NaNoWriMo. Let Go is another in this vein and is one that I do not see mentioned very often, especially the ending bits of advice.

Technique - As someone who has a history reading self-help books and articles, although thankfully not too many of them, this piece does what I've found to be the most successful in terms of these works. It combines truth with some wit and examples and pointers, while at the same time not telling you that you must do X and Y.

By giving guidelines instead of orders, the reader feels more inclined to listen and learn, if not spread the word around. In some ways it's a type of Tangential Learning, which is self-education by exposure to something the reader likes. The only time I saw when this could be overlooked is during the eighth tip, Read. A Lot. Some examples here within a genre or two can help provide a starting point for those who read this.

Impact - It's a bit tough to judge emotional impact for this, but it did make me think about some of what was said as I read this. While advice is a general thing, some parts like Let Go and Don't Find Time Make It stood out most for me.

As before since the piece doesn't directly state that the reader must do X or Y with these ten examples, they're likely more inclined to look into them or try them. The latter one that I listed being one that I'm in the process of putting to use, made tougher by my gaming hobby but that's just part of it.

Devious Rating - 4 out of 5 stars. This was a fun read and a nice collection of advice. A sequel would be fun to see.
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1234miwi4321 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013   Digital Artist
This helped me soooooo much! I am am an EXTREAMLY young writer, and I have been having trouble writing books. But the tips in this, especially the last tip, helped me so much. Thank you for writing this :meow: ;) :) :3
ATrue Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013
You're welcome. Thanks for reading!
pixiepot Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2013  Student General Artist
This has been featured here! Have a great day! :love:
obako-chan97 Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Student

ATrue Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012
Thank you for reading and for liking it so much! :)
obako-chan97 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Student
This will be seriously helpful
And youre welcome
Briablade Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Student Artist
Amazing, thank you for the tips.
My only problem is i don't have anyone i can bounce ideas off of. My family just doesn't care about my dream of becoming an author. Do know anybody who's a good listener i could email or chat with on DevianART?
ATrue Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
I know a lot of people on deviantART that are good listeners and easy to talk to, but it would be a bad idea for me to name names on their behalf. A good place to start would be the lit chatrooms though. You can make friends there more naturally. You could also send a message to a group, such as #LITplease, which I used to run. There are a lot of friendly people there and perhaps one of them would be happy to chat with you. #LITplease has a chat room too. Hope this helps!
Briablade Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Student Artist
Lucy-Merriman Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2012  Student General Artist
This is great! I'm working on a...novel or novella thing; whatever it is, it's longer than my typical writing, although I still like writing short stories. But I kinda crashed at point #4. I had a plan of what would happen, but then I realized there was a logical gap, so now I have to re-think my outline. I've puzzled out parts of it, but it's a little tricky.
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