Wednesday, February 24, 2016


People who are not writers (the kind who get paid for what they write), think writing is easy. After all, we all learned to write in grade school if not before, and, even if we never wrote a novel, we’ve written lots of other things. Letters to friends and relatives, and countless stories, or essays, for school projects.

But “real” writing is hard. Take a novel, for instance. First, you have to know what it will be about, such as the great white whale in MOBY DICK. Then you must put characters in it, and you must know those characters, and what they think about the subject of your novel. They must also know the other characters in the novel, and, preferably, have a different opinion than that of the others.

Your novel must be set somewhere, and you’ll have to describe it, so that your reader has a mental picture of the place, such as the Southern town in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Plus, if a character goes somewhere, you’ll have to describe the “somewhere” she goes, and, perhaps, how she gets there, such as Atlanta, and, perhaps a train.

Which brings us to time-setting. Is your book set in today’s world, the 21st century, or the past, or the future? Books, as you know can be “contemporary,” like GONE GIRL, or “historical,” like GONE WITH THE WIND, or set it some future time, as most science fiction novels are. And, as the author of this book, it’s your job to decide the answer to all those questions.

That’s just the beginning. In order to have a reader read your book, you have to provide a plot for your story. If you want a reader to finish reading your book, and say, “That was a fantastic story. I couldn’t stop reading.” you’ll have to write it in such a way that that’s what your typical reader will say.

In addition, you need to write characters who take part in your plot, and some of them might not agree with your main character about the plot’s worthiness. In fact, the most important thing you have to write is how and why your characters disagree. It’s called “conflict,” and every book worth reading has conflict in it. Even a romance novel, where the characters fall in love and end up together, must have a time in which the reader doubts that will ever happen.

“Okay,” you say, “I won’t write a romance novel. I’ll write a mystery where a sleuth will figure out who the guilty person is and bring him to justice.” Remember “conflict”? The stronger the conflict in your mystery, the more exciting your book will be. Can you write a book like that? Try writing out a plot where your sleuth stumbles upon a dead person and must figure out who killed him, and why. It’s hard.

But don’t let me stop you from trying. All of us writers were faced with those problems, and we managed to answer those questions so well that our books were published and we earned money as well as congratulations from friends and relatives. I’ve written, and had published, nineteen romance novels and now four mysteries. My greatest thrill is reading an Amazon review where the author says, “What a great story.” I hope you have moments like that, too. Just remember, it’s hard to do but you’ll be rewarded when you accomplish i

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