How to Write a Great Novel

wsj Wow, the Wall Street Journal has been popping off some good stuff lately!  You might be interested in reading How to Write a Great Novel in today’s issue. I was impressed by how many of the authors who shared their writing secrets seem to have everything (or a lot of it) planned out before starting to write — flow charts, diagrams, copious notes. (Yup, just like me for NaNoWriMo — two pages of scribbled notes and a blank mind.) And that some tack up pictures, phrases, character sketches around their work areas to ground and/or inspire them.

Lots of different styles, ideas — some possibly useful, some not. “Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you’ll get a plot.” That from Margaret Atwood, who was, I hope, being facetious.  She also said she starts with a notion of how the story will go “which usually turns out to be wrong.”   I liked Michael Ondaatje: “I don’t understand this whole concept of writer’s block… If I get stuck, I work on another scene.”

The online version of the article is better than the print; it includes more writers. I’ll end with this from Colum McCann: “The hardest moment often comes at the end of the project, when he’s emotionally spent and terrified that he’ll never be able to write another novel, he says. At such moments, he reminds himself of Samuel Beckett’s advice: ‘No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'”

Any thoughts? Now it’s time for me to hit the NaNo challenge so I can try to fail better. 🙂

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