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Friday, May 2, 2014

How to Write a Novel

An Early Draft of Moby Dick Began, "Call. Me. Ishmael."
First of all, you'll need to start with a word.  I usually start off with "the" or "it," but opinions vary.  Some beginning writers say, "Wouldn't it be better to start off with two words?"  No, one is better.  Then if the first word works out, you can always put a second one after it.

After you've put in a few words, pretty soon you're going to discover you need some punctuation and stuff.  Obviously you'll need a period sooner or later, but don't rush it.  I can't tell you how many good novels were spoiled because the writer rushed his periods.  Did you know an early draft of Moby Dick began, "Call.  Me.  Ishmael"?  Well, it didn't, I was making that up, but it goes to show the trouble you can get yourself into with too many periods too soon.

So before I get to the period, I usually throw in a comma or two.  So when do you put in a comma?  A good rule of thumb is to put one anytime there's a pause.  Like, if you get up to go to the bathroom or answer the telephone, put in a comma.

After a while you've written your first whole sentence!  Congratulations.  Just a few dozen thousand more of those, and your novel will be ready for the agent.  Now's a good time to pause and indulge in a little self-doubt.  What are you doing writing a novel, anyways?  Who do you think you're fooling?  Wait a minute, shouldn't that be whom do you think you're fooling?  Crap.  A real novelist would know something like that.

Stand in front of the mirror and take off your shirt.  Jeez, you've really let yourself go, haven't you?  Oh, well.  Pretty soon you'll be dead and you and your sorry excuse for a novel will be mercifully forgotten.  Hooray.  You're being cremated, so you won't even have a gravestone.  Utter, complete oblivion.  So much the better.

Good job on the self-doubt!  Now get back to work and type another word.

Repeat this process until done.

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