Writing A Full Length Novel


So, you’re thinking of being a writer. You want to get that awesome first time novel all typed up and printed off, then you start looking for an agent…or a publisher, depending on preference…

And that’s where all the trials and tribulations begin in earnest!

Not to mention the fact that agents/publishers are looking for certain standards, starting with the manuscript itself, thinking of just printing it off any old paper? Oh, no, not possible, premium paper is the requirement here, something that doesn’t show the words from the page below!! Then, there is the spacing, making sure you set the next paragraph in by five spaces!

Oh, it all starts off with this bubbling excitement, starting that first line, paragraph, finishing that first chapter, watching the word count go up and up! And that’s another issue, somewhere there is an actual formula for calculating the word count in books, a bit of advice I received was to take three books of your own written in the same gene as your own work and then find the average word count.

For example, a novel could be 90,000 words, and a typical short story 1,000-3,000 or fewer (flash fiction for instance) If you write a thousand words a day, you could complete a 90,000 words novel in three months. You will then have time to revise etc. but you could write a novel in a year (unless you’re me, of course, I take a lot longer)

But, what we’re talking about here is a typical novel at 90,000 words, fantasy for example is often a lot more than that, say between 125,000 and 140,000, and science fiction can be a lot more words than that! Peter F Hamilton books could easily have a second job as doorstops! 🙂

BUT, there is also a problem with a novel being too long! Of course, there are exception, as I’ve mention above. Certain genres may be longer than 100,000 words, but for some if you’re novel is 700 pages or longer, this could mean, even if the novel is terrific, it’s either going to need some heavy cutting suggestions or a hard sell to the economic watchdogs at the publishing house.

Try eliminating adjectives and adverbs, which can make a story stronger, and also shorter…

And, of course, as I mention earlier in this blog, there is the line spacing requirement, which is always double spaced, even drafts for you own examination. Indicating a passage of time or change of location in fiction skip four lines instead of two, this is called  “line space”. There is no need for an ornament in the blank space unless it falls at the very beginning or very end of a page.

Margins are also an issue here, one inch on all four sides is fine. Apparently, you shouldn’t justify your type, that is, have the right margin aligned as in printed text. All that does is shout amateur. It will also make some of your lines look funny, with too much space between some words.

Pages must be numbered, starting with first page of actual text, not title page or other front matter. Where to put the number? Some sources recommend the top centre or lower right. A suggestion…if your word processor permits putting the number at the bottom centre you might consider doing that as its less intrusive to the reader, you want undivided attention given to words in the manuscript, so put numbers in a less obtrusive place.

Don’t use large or fancy type for your title. It says, amateur, yet again. Use the same type as for your manuscript. For a book length manuscript, you may put approximate number of words in the upper tight hand or lower right hand corner. Don’t say 76,432, even if you’ve run a computer word count. A rounded number, 76,000, will do. Put your name, address, phone, and fax, and e-mail address of you have one, in the lower left hand corner of the title page. And agent will usually cover this with a sticker that has the agency name and address before it goes to the publisher.

Never bind pages of fiction or nonfiction. Editor read manuscripts one page at a time. They may take a group of pages to read on the train or at home. They may want to pass pages onto someone else in the publishing house to see of they agree it’s a wow of a book. Always transmit the loose pages in a box in which the manuscripts fits snugly. If it’s not snug, but spaces in that will keep the pages from moving around. Never use plastic peanuts (or other fillers I presume) as they will generate ill will at the receiving end. Use bubble wrap if you can’t find foam board or clean cardboard. Make sure the box is sturdy. (an explosion of paper at the post office springs to mind!)

Apparently, all us aspiring writers must write what we want to write, not what is fashionable, and also to read what else is being published and understand what the publishing industry is looking for and why…the most successful authors are those who are exceptionally clued up about what is happening within the publishing industry and gear their work to those demands. And, obviously, a writer must read themselves…

Example…go into bookstores, concentrate on the top10 or top20 lists, and recent publications, look at all paperback special categories such as crime, best-sellers, popular or twentieth century fiction, read blurbs to see what the books are about, and what sort of people might be tempted to read them, make notes on which publishers are most often represented and which authors have several titles displayed. Also research internet bookstore, such as Amazon, which have reviews of books, so you can see what other readers think of them. Some authors write comments, too.

Also utilize libraries, read all you can of popular authors and the other, similar books their publishers do. Consult specialist lists such as The Guardian annual list of the top hundred ‘fast-sellers’.

Look at publishers catalogues and websites to see the range of books they publish. Read the weekly magazine The Bookseller, available in most libraries, which has comprehensive review columns. If you don’t have internet access at home them most libraries now provide this. You might even visit the London Book Fair (other events are available, I’m sure) held each year in March, where publishers have display stands and you may have a chance to talk with their staff.

Read and read and read and read and read. Read analytically, to see how the successful authors do it (and where they fail…shock, horror, gasp…but no, really, check this out)

Read books and articles about the craft of writing. Go to talks by writers. There are numerous day, weekend and longer courses for writers. You may wish to join a class or buy a writer’s magazine.

Look at how authors:

* use words

* use sentences and paragraphs

* introduce characters

* convey information about characters

* tell you what the conflict is, or the mystery

* describe the setting, time, place, and technical details such a forensic or legal procedures

* include factual details they have researched

* use dialogue

* use description

* make characters vivid and memorable

* create tension

* use humour

* vary the pace

* make the most of important scenes

* arouse interest at the start

* maintain interest

* resolve conflicts or puzzles

* tie up loose ends

* finish satisfactorily

Also practise, practise, practise…every piece of writing is something you can learn from. Learn from rejection, it isn’t failure, you just didn’t get the big prize, go on and do better next time!

These are a few things from the books I’ve read and have picked up over the past ten years I’ve been taking writing more seriously than just a hobby and decided I’d really like to get published.

Books referenced are The Beginners Guide To Writing a Novel by Marina Oliver, Solutions for Novelists by Sol Stein and The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published by Evan Marshall.

Without these I would have never know how to set up my manuscript properly or how to approach an agent/publisher as the creative writing course I went on wasn’t very good, none of this was even mentioned! There was mainly a concentration on monologues, poetry and how well popular fiction sells, nothing regarding fantasy, those of us poor souls who love that stuff where merely tolerated, and the course was more a place for those who take it every year, or as a way to pass the time, or a course they thought would be easy and alleviate boredom from everyday life!

Sadly, I didn’t finish this course, I left after 6weeks, the only thing I got was that the teacher looked at my early work and claimed I could and should get it published…but he had no understanding of fantasy writing, he even suggested that if my work was set in a certain timeline my characters should speak French!! When they were in a completely made up world where their language was their own, they had their own history and fables, myths and cultures all their own!!

I’ve despaired over this, until I decided to just go and get some books on the subject of writing and publishing and just do it myself. Yes, it’s been hard and I’ve felt isolated, but since I joined twitter and I’ve found a couple of like minded folk, unfortunately they live to far away or in other countries, so we won’t be having a cup of tea and biscuits and chat away about books and how our own works going from the comfort of each other’s houses, but at least we can talk or rather tweet away to our heart’s content.

Hope some of this stuff helps, or you go get at least one of these books, if you wish to become a writer, have decided to write a novel you wish to get published, or just want a bit more advice.

Thanks for reading. Comments are always appreciated. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s