|Posted on July 30, 2011 at 11:33 AM|
Have you ever dreamed about writing a novel or need some inspiration on how to organize or complete your latest novel-in-progress? Well, you've come to the right place!
What a stroke of luck to have noted author and teacher Meredith Sue Willis agree to be my guest blogger! As you will discover, her post "Jump Start Your Novel" is filled with solid ideas and fresh perspective on how to tackle the complexities of novel writing.
Meredith teaches creative writing and is a masterful and prolific author who has written novels, short stories, and books about the craft of writing. Born and raised in West Virginia, she graduated from Barnard College Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude and took a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. She has won many prizes for her writing, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Oradell at Sea for adults and Billie of Fish House Lane for children are her most recent novels. Her new Appalachian short story collection is Out of the Mountains, and her latest book on writing is Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel.
Meredith will be taking questions for the next two days, and she has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with us. Don't miss this fabulous opportunity to ask questions about writing your novel!
~ Jump Start Your Novel ~
Meredith Sue Willis
The momentum that got you rolling on your novel is almost certainly going to die out before you finish. Inspiration alone can take you through the draft of a short story, but rarely a novel. When I run out of steam, my favorite approach is to let it rest a while, then come back a month or half a year later. I skim over what I’ve written (trying hard not to start improving the sentences), and try to see the novel as a whole. What scenes are missing? What did I forget about? What scenes might get me writing again?
I tend to think in scenes, especially when I’m coming back to a project, because often that’s where the energy is, in these mini-stories where people interact and talk– the dramatized if not necessarily dramatic parts.
One approach is to use what I call the Archipelago Method. This requires listing the five or seven most important scenes in the novel, including those you’ve written but especially those yet to come. The number is arbitrary, but the idea is to write first the parts that engage you most.
And what engages you is essential for restarting a stalled project. These important scenes, once drafted however roughly, stand in the ocean of your ideas like the islands of an archipelago. Once they’re drafted, you go back and start from the beginning, revising the “islands” and adding connective material and new scenes as well.
The Archipelago method focuses on the structure of your novel as a way of building momentum again, but taking the opposite tack works too.
Make a list of quotidian scenes: people eating or kissing. Have a character look at a refrigerator or pantry or other food storage place that belongs to another person. Have your main character take a shower or bath. The point here is to use the quotidian as a magnet to attract material from your sources.
Or, try something even smaller and more concrete. Describe an ordinary object that might appear in any novel. Use more detail than you ordinarily would, and emphasize the senses other than sight. Use the description to sink into your story almost meditatively and see what other ideas come to you. Draft quickly, trying to make the thing fit into your novel.
Give yourself these assignments or similar ones:
– Put a pair of shoes in your novel. How do they sound, smell, and feel?
– Put an apple in your novel.
– Put a bird in your novel– a pet, a ceramic bird, or a bird cooked for a festive meal.
It’s important to repeat that the aim here is not description for its own sake, but description as a way of priming the pump so ideas will bubble up. There’s no right or wrong, and if you go off on a tangent, enjoy the trip! You might find a subplot or a character or even (at last) your ending.
~ Visit Meredith Sue Willis's website at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com
Meredith Sue Willis
~ Read about and buy her books at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/commentary.html
~ Discover her wonderful page of resources for writers at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/resources.html
New Books: OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS: Appalachian Stories.