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MAMI'S BLOG

Writing with Pen
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CREATIVE WRITTING SERIES                 22/10/22


EP 2:  HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL?           

So, you have a story burning at the back of your mind that wants to come out. You are one of those who daydreams a lot and you want to share some of that internal play that only you have been privy to. But you don’t know how to go about it or where to start. Well, I am here to guide you on what to do to make that dream a reality.

This is a podcast on creative writing series, part two: How to write a Novel.

These are 12 steps for you to take in order to move your story out from a series of muddled up thoughts in your mind, to a written novel that people will read and enjoy.

  1. Read a lot of books: Both from the genre you like and the one you are not really interested in. It is worth knowing and understanding the different types of genre and writing styles that are out there. Observe things like: The styles, the language, the structure, character behavior and how everything relate to each other to make the story work. You might even find a new thing that you like. Reading opens your mind and makes it mailable to you. Meaning, you can be able to control your thoughts and direct it to where you want it to go. It teaches you new and more sophisticated words and phrases. It also gives you ideas. As you are reading one book, your mind automatically makes up new stories and corrections to that one and that is how you start to form your own story.

  2. Come up with a story idea: The fact that you wanted to write a novel in the first place meant that you already have a story in you that wants to come out. That is good. Start working on that story. Give it a good thought. The more you think about it, the more you will start to come up with Characters, scenery, structure, etc. Get a book and dedicate it to your ideas. Jot down everything you come up with, even those ones you think are stupid and irrelevant. Those may be the ones that save your story. Do not stop at just one-story idea. Think of more and jot them down. As you are writing one story, more new story ideas might occur to you. Well, jot them down and save them for later. You are a writer now.

  3.  Start writing: Don’t bother yourself about starting from an official beginning. Start from where you are, that is from where the story is in your head right now. I mean, you don’t have to start from the official beginning, start from what you are thinking right now. You can rearrange it later. In fact, it is always better to start a story from a place of action, chaos, or drama. That way, you can grab your audience attention immediately and pique their curiosity to make them read more just to find out what happens next. Think about all the books and movies that you love. How did they all start? That is right. For example, In Kain Agary’s Yellow Yellow, from the first page, her mother came home from the farm, with her feet covered in leaked crude oil from the refinery, indicating there was a disaster and it was immediately followed by protesters demanding the leader of the village to do something. That is a dramatic beginning to a story that would make you want to find out more.

  4. Research: As you write, do research on the topic you choose. This is so you can be able to paint a clearer picture for you reader. You cannot explain what you yourself don’t understand. Even if you are writing on what is already familiar to you, it is always better to find out more about that thing so, you can explain it more clearly and eloquently to others. You can do field research, that is when you go out to the places you want to reference to and maybe take pictures of them, to help you in setting up your scenery. You can ask questions, sit with old people, and hear tales from them, the internet is a great tool for research, and you can find anything on google and Bing. Your local library is another good source of information. Be careful, however to only research what you need and to not get lost in the research process. What I mean is, for one thing, you only need a little of the information for your book, most of the research you do, you may not even use. So, don’t spend too much time on it and secondly, when you are using the internet, there is the danger of getting distracted by social media and so on. So, do your research every day, before you write and give your self a time limit, like say 20 minutes a day and no more. Also, stick to only doing the research. Even if you see an alert come in from social media, ignore it until you are done with the writing for that day.

  5. Identify your major characters and setting: You need to decide who your characters are, especially the ones that the story is heavily dependent on. They are the ones that will carry the story and they are the ones you should pay more attention to. Usually, there is a protagonist and an antagonist to every story. They are the two opposing forces of good and bad that must clash, leading to a resolution by the end of that story. It doesn’t matter what the genre or setting is, there is always a conflict that must be resolved by the players, and that is the story. Now, these players may be people, animals, things, government, and institutions or even ideas or trauma that our main character suffered at some point that he needs to resolve because it is affecting every aspect of their lives.

The reader needs to identify with the characters and feel sympathetic to them, even if they don’t root for them to win, they still must understand why that character did what he or she did and what drives them. You need to take your reader on the journey of your characters struggle, growth and victory or failure, whether that character represents the force of good or bad. It doesn’t matter, unless if your reader makes a connection with them, they will quickly loose interest in your story. For example, in the first chapter of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, you meet Okonkwo, an arrogant, bully who despite been the village wrestling champion, had some questionable behavior regarding his temper tantrums and how he treats people that he deems less fortunate or physically strong than him, and that include his wives and children. But by the third chapter, you will understand the trauma of his upbringing and the consequences it had on his adult life.

  1. Motivation/Mind set: You need to keep yourself motivated and push your self to keep writing. No one is going to do it for you. You may start strong and confident but as you write, there would be days when you won’t feel like writing or you just don’t feel the story at all, and that is when most people give up. Sometimes its self-doubt. You know that little voice that keeps whispering to you that your story is stupid and that no one will like it, and maybe they will even laugh at you? That is just you, getting cold feet because you took on this mammoth task and its scary. Yes, writing is incredibly hard. It is tasking both on your mind, time, and self-confidence. And there is very little encouragement out there as we live in a satellite and internet era in which less and less people read books. However, you shouldn’t let any of that get to you. Write because you have something to say. Write because you love to write and not because of what people think or how much you are going to make. Write for the craft itself.  When I wrote my first book – The thin Line, I was reluctant to show it people because I was worried that they would take one look at it and then laugh at me because of how stupid it was. Well, when I finally got the courage to release it, it turns out that the fear was just in my head and people loved it. No matter what you write, be it good or bad, there is always some one that will hate it, but, at the same time, there will always be those that will appreciate it. You owe those people. Write, because of them. The stories that you read and enjoyed were also written by people with similar fears as you. If they had succumbed to their fears, you wouldn’t have had access to their stories. So, write.

 

  1. Tools and equipment: You need Something to write on and a place to write in. If you can afford it, get a computer or a laptop to write with. It makes the process so much easier. But if you cannot afford it, then get a notebook and a pen and write away. When you are done, you can take your work to a business center and get them to type it for you. These days, most people have cell phones which they text a lot and browse the internet with and make all kinds of comments on social media posts, usually on things that doesn’t even concern them. If you can do all that typing on your mobile phone, then you might as well write your story on that phone. A good twenty minutes of typing will move your story forward. Just download Microsoft word on your phone and type as much as you can and then save it. It will add up over time. You also need a place to do your writing in. The most preferable is a comfortable chair and a desk. However, if you don’t have one, you can sit on your bed or on the floor and write away. You can even go to the library or a café, anywhere you can find a chair and a desk. However, writing on the floor can be tasking on your back and neck over time. So, keep that in mind.

  2. Set A daily writing time: Set a time just for writing every day and protect that time with your life. it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. 20 minutes a day is a good start and over time, you can find ways to increase it. You could write in the morning, after you are done with your chores and your brain is still fresh, or in the afternoon when everyone is busy or even at night of you go to work during the day. What is important is that you put something down every day, no matter how little. Consistency is key. If you cannot find time during the day, then wake up 30 minutes earlier and write when everyone else is sleeping. Not writing everyday leads to procrastination and then a writer’s block.

  3. OUTLINE: One way to avoid a writer’s block is to have an outline or a blueprint of your story that will guide you and remind you of what your story is about and where you intend it to go, every time you forget. This out line is just a few pages, 2 or 3 at most, containing names of the major characters, scenes, and plot points, and it is usually written before you even start writing your story. Some people don’t write outlines and they prefer to just write away, and that is ok. Do what works for you. However, I recommend you jot down your outline before you start and refer to it from time to time.

  4. Editing: This is also another area where people differ. Some suggest that you write away and ignore all mistakes until you finish your first draft, then you go over it and make corrections. I however correct my work as I go. Seeing all those mistakes just drives me crazy and I must correct them before I move on. One good thing about Microsoft word is that it highlights all your mistakes and grammatical errors and even offer suggestions, making it easy to make all the necessary corrections as you write. You can also download apps like Grammarly that does the same thing, but better. Doing all those corrections as you write not only makes your first draft readable, but it helps you see what your story looks like to readers, and you will be able to re-arrange and re-adjust the story as you go. By the time you submit it to your official editor, you would have been completely satisfied with the story and there wouldn’t be need for any major changes. However, do what works for you. But be warned, before you give any one your manuscript to work on, make sure you register it with the Copyright Commission. This is to protect your work from plagiarism.

  5. Get feedback: After getting your manuscript copy write, give a few friends and colleagues to read it and give you honest feed back on how they perceive your work. That feedback is important as it gives you an insight on how your readers will react to your work and if you need to make changes before publishing and releasing it to the public. It is also a great way to get reviews for your book. Be careful who you give your work to read, though, because some people criticize just to make you feel bad and discourage you from writing. You already know who those people are in your life, there fore avoid them. Give only those you know will tell you both what is good and bad about the story. Criticism itself is not bad but constructive Criticism is what you need.

  6. Publishing: Finally, it’s time to publish your book. Research the different publishers in your area and find out which one is best for you. One way is to go to your local library or book shop and look at the books there. Check for the publisher’s info and see which one is more convenient for you. We live in an interconnected world now there fore if you see a work that you really liked, then just contact the publisher on phone and email and work with them, even if they are on the other side of the world. But as with everything else, be careful, there are a lot of scammers out there and they are ready and willing to take advantage of vulnerable writers. Do your homework thoroughly before committing your work and money to anyone.

 

In conclusion, writing a novel is a journey of 1000 miles that you need to take one step at a time. It takes hard work, patience, commitment and continues self-motivation to be able to start a project and stick to it to the very end. If you make it, however, the reward is out of this world. I hope you learnt a thing or two from this podcast. If you do, then what are you waiting for? Get up and start writing your story.

 

Thank you for reading and have a great day!