Novelists – more thoughts

Beginner novelists might be seen as unwanted competition, but most of us writers can’t help encouraging newcomers. I hope you enjoyed my previous post A Beginner’s Guide to  Writing Novels. Here are some more thoughts you may find helpful.

Novelists may need to give their main character a sidekick

  1. The main character can discuss his thoughts and feelings with the sidekick. This reduces the amount of inner dialogue, which readers often dislike.
  2. Nobody’s perfect. Your hero is bound to have faults. The sidekick can compensate. Dr Watson was more approachable than Sherlock Holmes.
  3. Nobody can be in two places at once. The sidekick can do things while the hero is busy with something else.

Novelists need villains!

As nobody’s perfect, so too nobody’s 100% evil except pantomime villains. Give yours some positive features. Consider showing how they became bad. Make them interes

Novelists need to structure their work

Here are some simple ideas before you try anything too sophisticated. Most of these and more are in Structuring Your Novel by K M Weiland. I now realise that some of my books take too long to get going. Try to establish the main characters and plot themes in the first quarter of the book. The last quarter needs to move towards the conclusion without any new subplots or distractions. Of course, a few obstacles can occur on the way. At each quarter-point, including halfway, there needs to be a plot twist or a change of direction.

Novelists should arrive late and leave early

One reason for some of my books being slow-starters is that I sometimes give too much backstory at the beginning. Try bringing it in gradually on a need to know basis. The novel should end when the main theme or plot arc is done. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. Let the readers work it out themselves. It may be worth a final chapter or epilogue where the characters reflect on what has happened, but keep it short. Once the villain is dead or the treasure found or the couple reunited, readers tend to lose interest.

 Plan your surprises

Surprises – shocks even – are good, but don’t annoy the reader by keeping something back unnecessarily. Don’t wait until the second half to mention the main character is married or an ex-convict or that he/she has an amazing ability. The best surprises are when the readers think they should have seen it coming. Try not to let the surprises seem contrived.

What about me?

Do I follow my own advice? I have found writing to be a learning experience. I hope you will see how my later novels are better than the earlier ones. What do you think? Compare Highwaypersons Book I, Debts and Duties, with Book IV, Blood in the Heather and look out for my next series.

These tips are not cast iron rules. Lots of successful novelists break them. They probably do so intentionally. Think about them!

And good luck!

The cover of this novelist's first attempt, Highwaypersons, Debts and Duties

this novelist’s first attempt, Highwaypersons, Debts and Duties

The cover of the fourth of this novelists books in the Highwaypersons series , Blood in the Heather.

the fourth of this novelist’s books in the Highwaypersons series , Blood in the Heather.