More often, we start our novels from a small spark and keep it growing. Sometimes, it gets clumsy and the end product would be something totally different from what we expected. It is not wrong, but maybe, if you try properly outlining the novel, it would be of great help to not just finish the novel but finish on time because you know what you’re writing. I did this clumsy mistake of starting at a point and not knowing the travel of the story with my first novel, but with my second WIP, I have improved a lot on this.
So, let’s outline – the silver line of the cloud! Let’s do it.
One best way to outline is using the snowflake method. I have covered it in methods of writing! Check out!
Or use the Freytag’s Pyramid – jot down the one-liners that would cover under each part of it.
Even if you’re a panster – if you work on outlining, it would help you overcome the writer’s block. Trust me! It works. Anyhow, the outlines are just as flexible as ever, to alter according to the flow.
Things to ponder and write down first:
Write down the important characters
Pen the important scenes that you want to cover – there are times that we have a scene in mind than the actual story plots. So put them down.
Chapters – divide them into chapters, and divide the meat accordingly. Figure out ‘what’ you’ll cover ‘where’ this will avoid any spill at all
Also, tunnel them. Divide your sheets and pen down the different tunnels or paths you have in mind and let the story choose the road to travel to complete the maze
Doing this will help you find loopholes, blunder mistakes, research requirements, and there are thin chances to discover a new plot or a sequel plot.
A person who outlines their novel will be curious and interested, this would make them write faster and publish sooner than usual or planned. You can use mind mapping or sticky note mapping.
Software like Scrivener helps a lot in outlining, you can also do the same in an excel sheet or a word document at ease.
I have outlined my next novel and it is coming up really well! And am so thrilled about it as it falls under dual timeline and is a different take and leaps beyond my capacity.
Quickly open an excel sheet and start outlining! See ya!
Narrative – an important factor that can either take your novel to an all new level or just move it to trash. For literary is such an ocean where all stories are already taken, the one best way to make your novel interesting is the choice of narrative. So, let’s sneak peak at the choices you have w.r.t narratives.
I will start with my favorite form – Nonlinear Narrative, best used for thrillers. It gives a nice platform for you to change the patterns of the events to make your novel a very interesting one than chronological. It gives more space to add twists and turns that can make your novel an unputdownable. It is almost a time travel for the readers, and so, authors can very well choose this sort of narration.
Linear narrative – As simple as a line from the start to end without any change from A to Z, which might not really impress the readers if the story is simple and breezy. If your story has a good tension throughout and interesting factors, linear might suit it best.
First person narrative – Usually, the protagonist or someone else who is a part of the story narrates it to the reader from their point of view. So the reader would be an observer of the interactions happening between the story teller and others.
Third person narrative – An omnipresent character will read out the story from a third person point of view, which can typically be an easy way to cover more details of what each character feels like unlike the first person narrative.
Unreliable narrator – This is an interesting one. You can never rely on the narrator, where things are not trustworthy. A character’s narration that is not reliable makes it fascinating!
Interactive narrative – This is an interesting type of narration where the reader and writer would interact. The story will be dynamic, and will have personalized engagement. Social dialogues will be used throughout to engage the reader. There are different patterns to it to choose from.
Multiple Ending – While the whole story is in the author’s control, the ending is according to the reader. You give branching paths from a story, and let the reader to choose the one that they like. It is important to ensure all the endings suit the best and are equally good.
Open ending – You handle the whole story and never give a closure, more like life. It never ends until you die, and every story that started ends in a small cliff that re-directs to another.
“I have written a good book, many of my friends who read told it is great, the Amazon score touched top 20 in a week, and Goodreads review states 4.0 to 4.5-star rating. Still my book has not reached many, it is not selling well, I don’t know why,” heard this somewhere? Yes! It was your mind talking to your heart or vice versa. Rather, it can also be said to a very close friend who is more like an alter ego.
Before you go through what good marketing is, first understand what marketing scam is.
There is one good method of marketing that out beats all other ways, the one that never costs you a penny, the one that is so traditional and works from day one that the literary world started mushrooming books – well what is it? – Word of Mouth
Yes! There is nothing like a book recommended by a person to another. So, what it takes for one to recommend a book? – Simple, a good book. So the solution – write a good book!
Ok! I see ‘hehhh?’ Smiley there. Fine!
My personal experience with marketing – I kept writing. Better writing. Day by day, it was improving, not that it was just felt by me but all others too. From writing simple love stories to harsh realities, to short poems, and ranting tales, where it started off to convince my conscience that I am a good writer, in turn, it did prove to my friends and acquaintances that I am improving big time. Whenever someone randomly pings asking when my book is scheduled to release, and they are eager to invest 200-250 INR + Shipping to read it, not that one can’t afford 250, it is just half the prize of a big pizza or a cold coffee at CCD. But, this counts, how many just buys a book for the sake of it? Until you’ve proved a point or an author whose name is well-known to the world? Especially, when your book is costlier than Sidney Sheldon or Dan Brown or Nora Roberts, so, here is the tip – keep writing! Keep your circle informed that you are improving with posts and short snippets from your WIP. Micro tales, terribly tiny tales – because none has the time to click open your blog post or rather they are on mobile with a 2G connection. None likes to scroll and read, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. Do your best!
Create elevator pitches and loglines from your novel and share it across. Kindle the interest and leave questions for your readers to ponder and get to fetch a copy of your book.
Is that all? Yes!
The best type of marketing is writing a good book, proving to the world that you are a good writer and investing money on your book will never make them regret. If you still think these are not the right ways to market – there are links available with 71 ways to market your book and 89+ book marketing ideas available. Google them! All the best
There are ways of publishing a novel, and one such proper method is traditional publishing where you approach a publisher with your synopsis and 2 chapters, and they get back to you in a few months, if they are interested. The gap between the writer and the publisher is huge, and hence, to bridge the gap – the literary agency entered the stream.
Usually, when you mail your manuscript to your publisher, it falls under more than a thousand manuscript piled up. If you go through a literary agent, they would validate your manuscript and land it to the editors of the publishers which surpass the first bar that the manuscript is worth publishing.
This literary agency is something that properly works in the US and other countries, whereas in India, recently, it is mushrooming with proper roots. The literary agents push your manuscript and you in turn pay them a small percentage of your royalty in general, which means, you need not pay any money upfront.
There are publishers who don’t take any submissions that are sent directly by writers at all, and demand only literary agents to approach, one such is harper Collins India. The website has the list of approved Literary agents through which there are fair chances that your novel would get published for sure.
In South Asia – http://www.writersside.com/ is the number one literary agent. The other well known literary agents are the red ink, Sherna Khambatta, purple folio, the book bakers, and there are a few emerging now.
How to approach a literary agent?
Edit your novel to perfection, get enough feedback from friends and editors before sending it across
Research well on the publishers who would publish the genre that your book fall under, and accordingly, approach the agent
Generic format: 12 point font, double space, decent font like times new roman or courier new
How to become a good literary agent?
You should know in and out of publishing a book, marketing it, distributing it, etc..
Have great contacts in the industry right from editors of the publishing industry to the publishers, book shops, distributors, aggregators, etc..
Know the current trends of the industry
Have good knowledge on the contract details between the author and the publisher
Have great passion about books
It is not easy to become a lit agent without enough knowledge about it. And, Authors, please bear in mind, do not pay upfront money!
As authors or writers, you are entitled to get thy crown called “Someone-who-knows-better-stuff” yes! You are looked upon for your knowledge and the difference you have created to distinguish yourself from the crowd. It takes enough knowledge on the subject, before you could get to the nitty-gritty of it. Of course, to publish a novel, you should have enough knowledge about things you are handling in the book. So, this post is about knowledge on the subject.
A good writer should know as near everything as possible. Naturally he will not. A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge – Hemingway
Start with what you know:
If you start on reading and acquiring knowledge, you might never start your novel. Start writing and let the flow guide you to chapters where you need to go out of your way to understand a concept to write. Don’t start your research with your high level concept.
This hit me hard when I started researching with the high concept of my novel – OMR (Old Mystery Road) that is based on astrology. I started reading books on astrology, and it led me nowhere. I now chucked the very idea of researching with the high concept, and started penning it down to get to the chapter where the research is actually required.
Try reaching out to people, either travel to places or talk to those who have travelled to places provided they are expressive enough. It just takes a small talk that would spark an idea. Most of my novel ideas are from my day to day life. My next novella ‘who is this?’ was fleshed out with a small incident that happened, though the storyline and what happened to me is entirely different. It is about the striking lines, I wanted more information and hence, I spoke to my friends and circulated a small questionnaire which came back with enticing answers that added the necessary meat for my novel. Go through my previous post on Journals that would help you to remember stuff
You will never know where the information would reside, so get to know the places you can reach out to. I had to write a technical post for one of my client, where Google didn’t answer enough. My post was not great, something sparked and I clicked Naukri to get the job descriptions of those who are working on that technology and I was able to finish the post wholeheartedly.
Google might not really answer, but other sites like even Youtube or Pinterest might answer.
Be an extrovert
I was a thorough Introvert, and I was proud that I was one. Never in my life had I thought, I would ever speak out or post a status on Facebook that would lead to a debate, but now I did. I started talking, reaching out to people, trying to put myself in different shoes. Being an introvert might not let you to talk to a stranger. If you want something – go get it.
Read different books when you are free, but read books that fall under your genre and that has similar storyline to yours when you are writing your novel. The best ever place to find this is at goodreads and the list. Ensure you spend more time on goodreads, I love spending my time surfing book out there, watching their covers, reading the blurb, fishing the availability of books, etc.. than to do anything else*
Meet people – Read them
Watch people and their body language, categorize people mentally. Find how what goes behind their behaviour – the culture, the environment, family, schooling, some terrible incidents that changed them. It can be just anything!
There is nothing like reaching out to people, read the details out of a book, watching movies or video clips based on the key interest. Backpack and get out of your comfort zone.
Journal – the long forgotten habit is it? But, do you know, it is pretty helpful when you aspire to become a writer? Yes! This is a late post because I kept looking for the right term for J and I didn’t fish any, I wanted to do B for Blogging but then Blurb stole the show. So here, I would be covering how Journal is helpful, which is blogging in this era.
Maintaining a Journal gives you a story to write
You can either choose a diary or any online free private diary, or as simple as that a word or excel sheet where you can pen down your thoughts. If you’re of a type who aims at writing a book a year, this should work fine. Keep penning down your daily lessons honestly in the journal, the way you were hurt, the way you hurt others, your lessons learn’t, something that you heard from a fellow passenger, etc… End of the year, when you go through it, you might end up with a high concept of a slice-of-life fiction story that you can happily pen down.
A Journal help you to become a better writer, nothing like practice, right? It puts you in the practice of typing every day. Eventually, it will help you to improve your standards of writing and typing speed as well.
This also helps you to reduce the baggage you carry, as soon as you pen down a rant – you are at peace, so why not? As writers, you are already of a type to feel things at the depths of it. So why leave a chance for anything unworthy to stress you?
Unlike stories that are person, blogging is a better way to reach out to people. You start sending vibes to people that you are better in expressing with words, and blogging gives you the necessary attention. You get to meet new fellow bloggers who would help you to hone your skills better with constructive criticism.
Blogging helps you build your audience
Those who like your posts would eventually subscribe to your blog and visit it often with your posts; eventually they turn your target audience who would already know that you’re a good writer even before your first published book.
There are good authors that I know who first started blogging their story initially and then published it as a novel which did well in the market, you can choose to publish a few chapters on your blog to increase the curiosity or to test the waters.
Blogging helps you to curate better feedback from different strata to know where you stand and what is expected from each strata of your target audience. It helps to you write much better or make changes.
You gain more influence and you get acquaintances that will eventually drop by from communities that might help you build a healthy network.
Hooking reader’s interest to keep reading – tough yet vital and a book with necessary hooks at the opening and peppered throughout is a sure shot winner.
Even if you write a novel with timelines or details that go past and future back to back swinging like a pendulum, at the back of your mind, you’ll know the entire story as a simple story. You might not really find a hook in the story as you are pretty involved in it, it takes a lot to discover the hook points, engage and communicate to the reader, pitch right and leave an impact.
BTW, the image was used to hook your attention.
Any reader would definitely start reading the book – start with a good attention seeking sentence or a scene that wants your reader to keep going.
End of a chapter is ideally the time for your reader to go for a coffee break, don’t let them do that. Lead more, giveaway a scene that would probably end in suspense and give the answer only in the next chapter. This will make your reader flip the page.
How to create a hook?
Start with a sentence that would prop a lot of questions in the mind of the user.
End a chapter with a scene that has elements left to discover in the next to understand the reactions of the consequences.
Add new tension when you’re about to exit a well-known predictable part of the story
If you don’t find an interesting scene, introduce a new character at the end of it.
Use time lapse and time lines to pendulum your reader back and forth, pepper hints throughout that are subtle but makes sense when referred back.
A reader should always chase something, with questions in mind. The whole story should be tied to a question that is as simple as a ‘why?’ with a journey worth it.
Use compelling narration as much to keep going, this helps in adding more elements and life to every character present in the story
Plot your novel, and plot your plot-twists as well, keep shuffling and place them in different orders, read and find the most intriguing part of it.
If someone went through a trauma which turned them into a different person and behave different at situations that remind them the trauma, the flow can be of either type:
Past trauma – different behaviour at a similar situation
Different behaviour throughout in a few scenes – Sudden leap that explodes the different behaviour – The actual trauma
In the above two types, the second has high chances of hooking the reader to the story giving a reason to keep reading than to leave a thin bookmark and move on to make coffee.
We don’t like grammar nazi’s, do we? Because, the English language is complicated beyond compare, it is evolving such than the grammar rules that were used years back are not used now, it changes, you can’t read a classic to improve your grammatical skills. We get offended when someone points out their grammar errors, ha! “Peter” we say to shoo them away. We beg the other friend from a different state not to kill our mother tongue for the sake of it, but take all the liberty to do that to this beautiful language that helps us to communicate with most parts of the world, helps globalization, shrinks our border, helps us grow, and what not? We get offended enough when someone corrects us, but, we abuse that beautiful language like no other.
We call ourselves “storytellers” and ditch the importance of grammar and sentence structure. Why is it so difficult to learn the semantics or at least, improve on a daily basis? Here are tips for newbie Indian authors who publishes books just for the sake of fame, but are ready to compromise on the quality of writing adding shame to the Indian literary community just because there is no stop or no filter to say “this crap should not get published”
The above is not to hurt anyone, but, hey! If the shoe fits.
Read, read, read and read!
No better teacher than reading. It is only through reading that you can ever improve yourself. Read wider, have a pact with your friend. Read a book a week or a month, note down what strikes your mind and try using it in your daily life. Improve a piece of writing after a year or so, scale your writing, weigh yourself against the changes in your language with every book.
When in doubt – you Google. Use quotations and google the phrase you are trying to use. The search result would help you in understanding if it’s the right usage.
Surrender yourself to a grammar nazi
I thoroughly strip away my ‘author’ tag and any pride factor (though nothing) and totally admit myself to my grammar gurus. Tip: Most of my grammar nazi friends are avid readers and writers.
Numerous sites offer free grammar tests for you to know where you stand, make utmost use of it. Follow a religious schedule and keep track of improvisation.
What’s your strength and weaknesses
Indeed, grammar is an ocean and you would already know your biggest weakness. Example: Prepositions are my weakness. I was very bad and after sheer practice, I have significantly improved. So analyze yourself and start preparing accordingly. You need not take the nouns, verbs, pronouns route all over again.
Ginger software and Grammarly are good tools that come in handy, however, they are based on algorithms and are not always right. It takes human intervention and improved knowledge to accept or reject a change that the tools suggest. So go back to point one – read!
Editor – manuscript’s soulmate
You give the best to your kids, don’t you? Yes! Ensure your manuscript reaches the right editor who loves reading, adores writing, breathes grammar, and just can’t stand an error in a work. Look for passionate editors, luckily, I know a handful. Ping me, if you’re looking for a good editor.
Readers – The boss
Though readers pay for your novel, they are your boss. Don’t let your pathetic book spoil their skills. What if someone picks up improper usage of a word or grammar in their real life and get’s sacked? Don’t ever do that to your readers. Ensure that only the best gets printed.
So, you want to become a writer? You don’t know how to plot them? – Here is Freytag’s pyramid. The ultimate pyramid that you would help you to plot better in order to write better. You can Wikipedia “Gustav Freytag” to know more about him.
Exposition: The start of the story where you just introduce the main characters, what they do, where the world setting is, etc. basically introducing the reader into the story line.
Inciting Incident: The first conflict that acts as a hook to take off the story from the initial introduction towards a promising change
Rising action: The game changer, building the excitement of the story totally that surprises the reader with interesting scenes, conflicts, changes, etc..
Climax: The intense part of the story. The top notch that needs more information to decipher.
Falling action: Events post climax, where things make better sense with the tensions created getting resolved one by one
Resolution: The main conflict of the story gets resolved
Dénouement: The last part of the story where all the remaining questions, the mysteries, are solved by the character or just narrated by the author as an epilogue.
To know how this can be used. Pick any book, and read it once – note down the exposition, rising action, falling action, climax, and Denouement. Repeat this with books that fall under the genre that you’re writing. Read the book for the second time to get the tactics of how the rising action was built, how the hints and various major details were peppered as minor details that makes much sense at a later part of the story.
Repeat this when writing a novel to ensure that your novel has no loopholes or pitfalls! Tighten your manuscript with good rising action and falling actions.