My Experiences of Writing a Novel (Part 1)

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Hi everyone!

sign for novelistRecently, I have been feeling super excited. I am finishing my novel—I just need to edit some final chapters, and that’s it—and it feels almost like becoming a father! It took me about nine months to get this close to the end, and it deepens the comparison (well, if I had no other things to do besides writing, I would finish it in three or four months, perhaps).

Anyways, this is the first time I wrote an actual novel, so the experience was invaluable and somewhat intriguing to me. In this post, I would like to share some of my observations regarding the process of novel writing. Here is the first portion.

1. An initial idea can change dramatically.

I won’t disclose the details of the novel (I’m superstitious). I’ll just say that it was planned as a noir detective story taking place in present days, but then it somehow turned into a cyberpunk thriller, with AI, malicious corporations, and other canonic attributes of the genre. At some point, I realized that for the ideas I wanted to express, a dark cybernetic background suited better than our everyday reality.

2. Creating humanlike characters is super difficult.

By humanlike I mean characters who act, think, and look like regular people. If you want your character to be a regular person, not Superman, prepare for all kinds of difficulties. One of the most complicated things was to provide my characters with adequate motivation for actions. In real life, no one acts like: “Hey Joe, you gotta help me handle this super dangerous task!” “Okay Billy, I’m in!” Joe needs a reason—and a significant one—to risk his life for Billy. This rule also works in other, more mundane situations.

3. Dialogues are hell.

At least for me. First, I discovered that my characters communicate by throwing huge monologues at each other—monologues, oversaturated with ideas I wanted to develop and express in the novel. When editing, I shrunk the dialogues, hoping to make them sound more realistic, but this effort resulted in tiny replicas that even Hemingway would find too short. And it’s not to mention all the tortures with adverbs, indirect speech, and attempts to diversify the constant “he said” or “she said.”

4. A chapter plan is a lifebuoy.

When I started to write, I had no specific ideas for each of the chapters. I thought, “Okay, I’ll just write, and something will come out.” Nope, it doesn’t work this way. Prior to writing a chapter’s draft, think about what the key idea or event for the chapter will be. Develop a short plan, or outline. This is the easiest way to avoid writer’s block.

5. Sexual scenes are hell (worse than dialogues, yep).

Totally opposite to what I believed before I tried to describe one myself. Trust me, you cannot describe sex well from your first attempt. Neither can you from the tenth. If you don’t want this kind of scene to sound like pornography, you’ve got to work real hard on them, rewriting them hundreds of times. Oh yes, and make them shorter—less chances that you screw up (no pun intended) … or simply avoid them.

Alright, let’s take a short break. I still have a lot to share about writing novels, so stay updated!


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