How To Start Writing A Fiction Novel – By Stephanie Morrill | January 29, 2018 | Brainstorming, first draft, genre, writing skills, life writing
Stephanie Morrill is the creator and author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery novel The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite her love of bell hats and low-slung dresses, Stephanie would be a complete fool because she couldn’t dance the Charleston and looked terrible with short hair. She and her ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and her three children. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and sign up for a free book on her author website.
- 1 How To Start Writing A Fiction Novel
- 2 Tips In Writing A Literary Fiction Book
- 3 The Guide To Writing Fantasy And Science Fiction
How To Start Writing A Fiction Novel
The research is intimidating. Before writing Gone Girl of Astor Street, I thought she would never write a historical novel, as noted here in Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book.
Fiction Author Business School, Fiction Writing, Writing Tips, How To Write A Book, Author Mindset, Authorpreneur
I remember thinking that there was no way to know everything I needed to know to feel confident that she was doing a good job. How could I be expected to know what 1920s Chicago was like? How do you know details like what to serve at school lunch? Or what is taught in science class? Since I write YA and parents are still involved in the formation of my main characters, I thought I also needed to research and understand not only my character’s generation, but the previous generations!
Not only that, I know from talking to historical writer friends that there are book critics who seem to enjoy pointing out historical mistakes made by writers. If I tried to write a historical novel, I thought, it would be obvious that I wouldn’t be a real historical writer.
Have I convinced you to stop writing history? Here are some things I noticed that helped me overcome my fears and I hope that if you are feeling nervous, these can help you too:
1. I realized that I didn’t need to know everything from the moment I started. I learned to investigate gradually. More on that in a moment.
Tips In Writing A Literary Fiction Book
2. I tell stories, I don’t write textbooks. Yes, most historical fiction readers care about the story, but they care about the story more.
3. I do not claim to be a scholar. I am a novelist. Someone who knows more about my topic than I do will read my book. Maybe they’ll leave me a star on Amazon if they see an error, or maybe not. But on the front it says that it is a NOVEL. I did my best, but mistakes occurred.
4. In my opinion, what exactly makes someone a “real” chronicler? I’ve never been worried about someone thinking I’m not a contemporary YA author, so why does this bother me so much? I think this is just writing in a genre that is not your first love. Contemporary YA literature is what I wrote as a child, what I wrote in my early days as a published author, and what I have long identified with. It was more about me and my perception of myself.
(If you feel other barriers to writing historical fiction or historically inspired fiction, I’d love to engage with you about them in the comments section!)
Resources For Writers: Typical Lengths Of Fictional Works
Let’s go back to number one on that list and talk about the research process. I am often asked, “Should you do research before writing a book? Or when you wrote it? Or at the end?
I will have more posts in the future about research, but today we are only going to talk about the first stage of your research.
As I mentioned last week in my Story Spark to Story Blurb post, developing my ideas in one sentence and a few paragraphs usually requires minimal research. I need to know the time and place of my story, so I did some research to identify some plausible locations, but that’s it.
After writing my blurb, I like to write a chapter or two of my story so I can get a feel for the world of my story. To me, that’s the most effective way to think about the overall story. I used to think this was strange, but now I’ve talked to more and more writers who think the same way. There’s something about playing with your character’s head and heart that helps figure out where the story will go next. (Shan talked about this last Friday in her post Finding My Lead.)
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My current research goal is to know enough to write the chapters and put together a 2-3 page synopsis. The more you understand what you need to know, the less time you will waste researching things that never made it into the books.
For a while, you’ll feel like every question you answer will only raise more questions. I promise it’s normal.
In the first stage of the research, I tried to do as much research as possible online and through the library. I tend to be someone who likes to make impulse purchases at my library. Here’s a stack of books I bought at the beginning of my research for Within These Lines:
There are many books. But it’s important to remember that you usually don’t need to read the entire research book. In These Lines takes place entirely in 1942, with some flashbacks to 1941, so when I researched World War II and the evacuation and life at Manzanar, the only thing I focused on was 1942. (I found out, and you probably did too You’ll find out, I was so curious about what happened that I often read more than I really needed to just to find out what happened to certain people after the war).
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And I am always surprised by the information I can find on the Internet. In Gone Girl on Astor Street, I had a very important scene where Piper makes a long-distance call and she wanted to do it right. I was surprised to find video tutorials from the 1920s on how to make long distance calls. Who feels the need to upload it to the internet? I don’t know, but I’m very grateful!
Some questions you will be surprised to find the answer to just by searching on Google. For others, you have to go deeper. Next week we’ll talk about how to organize all your research!
Did you find this post helpful? Share with your friends! Share on PinterestShare on FacebookShare on TwitterWhen it comes to point of view (POV), most writers write in the first person (using the pronoun “I”) or the third person (using the pronouns “he,” “she,” or ” they” ). Here I will discuss the ins and outs of first person, including:
The first-person perspective is incredibly versatile, and its limited scope is both a blessing and a curse. As for advantages, it allows you…
The Guide To Writing Fantasy And Science Fiction
The audience has access to the protagonist’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Readers see the world through the character’s unique lens, as if listening to a story told by a close friend. In the case of likable characters, their emotions often guide the audience’s reactions. Their happiness is your happiness; His sadness is your sadness.
But first person can also generate empathy for a villain or antihero in a way that is harder to achieve in third person. As book critic Andrew Lim put it:
“By putting you in the villain’s shoes, the author creates ambivalence and twists our emotions, rather than allowing us to simply dismiss them in disgust.”
First person pronouns work best if you have a character with a strong voice and an interesting perspective on life. The writing style reflects the protagonist’s attitude and provides consistent characterization.
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Complete Guide to Writing Fiction in the Third Person The third person (he, she, hers) is one of the standard points of view when writing fiction.
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About Writing: Stephen King’s Writing Tips to Keep in MindYou don’t need a writing class or seminar any more than you need this book or any other book on writing — Stephen KingIn this guide, we explain how to write historical fiction in 10 steps . Breaking the process into parts, little tips to help you start your journey.
Get Started In Writing Historical Fiction — Emma Darwin
Writing historical fiction can be challenging, even for an experienced writer.
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