My Experiences of Writing a Novel (Part 2)

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Previously, I published the first part of this post about my personal experience of writing a novel. You can check it out here. I was writing about the importance of planning every chapter, difficulties with creating realistic characters and dialogues, and so on. Still, there are a lot of tips and hints that I’d like to share (I guess I could write a book about them), and which could be useful for other amateur writers.

1. Names matter a lot, and are difficult to create

I never thought that coming up with a name for a secondary character could be difficult (yep, and I’m not even talking about the main protagonist). As the number of secondary characters increases, the complications of naming them increases proportionally. Why is it so difficult? Well, I believe that names can tell a part of a character’s story.

Let me give you a small example. When you run into a name like Bernardine Blanche, what associations do you get? I’m sure it’s definitely not a laundress or a cowgirl; you rather imagine a sophisticated, well-mannered young lady, don’t you? The same works for male names: a guy named Jack Carter would make a much better character of an action story than Gyles Fountainborough.

So, that’s why I had a hard time with names: they must suit the characters and their psychological traits.

2. Action scenes should be written differently

Additionally, sentences describing these scenes should be brief. An action scene is a totally different pace of storytelling; to do it right, you must change the vocabulary you use, the sentence structure, and the tone of your writing. Take a look at the following two excerpts: both of them describe the same situation, but the pace and sentence structure is different.

- John did not have time to think about Charlie, because the gang members were advancing; they were shooting in all directions, and retreating–John found himself behind some warehouse. He covered himself behind a stack of wooden boxes and some huge bobbins of hemp rope; after taking a short breath, John stuck his arm out, and without even aiming, made several shots in the direction in which his enemies were standing.

- John forgot about Charlie–the gang members were advancing, firing indiscriminately. He flashed to a warehouse, bullets whistling around. In a blink of an eye, John reached a pile of boxes and ducked behind them, breathing heavily. He stuck his arm out and fired randomly, hoping to hold the gang back.

3. All tasty details come late

The most vivid, interesting, and important details will pop up in your head closer to the middle (or even at the end) of your novel. Particularly, this is one of the reasons why the initial idea often changes. It’s up to you whether to use these details–and possibly rewrite solid chunks of your story–or ignore them.

4. Inspiration is overestimated

It is important, because it kind of fuels you up, makes you more excited about your novel. But if you rely solely on inspiration, you’ll be writing one novel for fifty years, because it’s not always there. So, 80% of time you just sit down, take your laptop, and make yourself type letters.

5. Writing a novel is not hard

Not harder than doing anything else. In the beginning, you might feel overwhelmed by your grandiose task, but after you begin writing, it’s not so scary.

Good luck!


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