OK, this blog entry is a bit different. I thought I would share some of my experience of attempting to write a series of novels and short stories. I will probably write a few entries on this subject every-so-often with updates on my progress, but for now I’d like to share some of my experiences, resources I’ve found useful and some of the key things I’ve learnt along the way.
Books on Books
The first book I’d recommend is ‘Writing Fiction for Dummies‘ and the second is ‘On Writing‘ by Stephen King. I’m sure Mr King is probably offended by being included in the same sentence as a For Dummies book, but I’ve always found For Dummies to be very useful and this one is no exception. He’d probably also be offended by the fact that I haven’t actually read many of his books, but I figured if anyone knows how to sell a book, it’s him!
‘On Writing’ is a very interesting book with both a reflection on King’s early life, along with a collection of hints, tips and stories about how he works. Its probably easier to follow if you’re familiar with his other works, but still very interesting.
‘Writing Fiction for Dummies’ is a great collection of books on a variety of different subjects including creating, editing and polishing a story, as well as getting it published. There are some useful tips throughout and it uses recurring examples (including popular stories like Star Wars and Pride and Prejudice) to make it easier to follow.
Both of these books have lots of interesting stuff in them and are definitely worth a read!
The first useful tip I’ve picked up is to create a ‘storyline’ for your book. The storyline is defined in For Dummies as ’25 words or less that describe the main theme of the book in an interesting way’. I’ve found doing this is a great way to focus the mind on what the story is actually about.
So, for example, the storyline of my first book is “In the distant future, a young man finds himself at the heart of a conspiracy that could alter the balance of the power in the galaxy forever”, a line that encapsulates the fact that its a sci-fi story, set in the future and describes how the main character gets involved in the events and what’s at stake. Its also supposed to sound dramatic and interesting; part of the purpose of the storyline is to give other people a way to describe the story to their friends when they recommend it, so it has to make it sound exciting. (I realise that its 26 words, but that’s as short as I’ve managed to make it so far!)
The point is that this is something that you will have to produce at some point anyway, so you should do it anyway, but it is quite a helpful task to go through to focus your mind. As is the following…
As with the storyline, the synopsis is one of the things that you would be expected to submit to a publisher, but I’ve also found writing one to be a very helpful exercise.
The synopsis is (no more than) two pages describing how the story plays out. This doesn’t have to be massively interesting like the storyline, but instead should be succinct, describing the chain of events, sub-plots etc., but without too much detail.
I’m not going to include my whole synopsis here, but writing one for each novel in the series was an incredibly helpful exercise.
That’s it for now, but I do intend to share more insights as I continue to learn and work on my novel. These two tips may not sound like much, but they have been surprisingly helpful for me. And definitely check out the books!