Novel writing 101

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Maybe twice in a row. Or even three times. Before concluding this example with a good old medium-sized sentence. Or maybe another short one. You are here: Home  Prose Writing 101. Writer's Digest University online Writing Classes, workshops webinars from Writer's Digest University. How-to Writing Advice 2nd Draft Writing Critique services for Beginners pros.

So mix. Vary the sentence lengths. This one is the most important piece of advice in the entire article. It lies at the very heart of writing prose that is a pleasure talks to read. The following example illustrates why varying sentence length is the key to writing interesting prose. Make them all a similar length and a passage soon becomes dull. The third sentence in this example is about as long as the first two. If i kept it going for too long, you would start to feel sleepy. So ill shake it up! Sometimes I will use long sentences that go on for a while, particularly sentences with lots of clauses separated by commas, like this one, or perhaps even some dashes or brackets if I feel like using them. (By the way, semi-colons can be a useful way of joining related sentences together to make a long one; they really are the most under-rated of all the punctuation marks.) And sometimes I will keep the sentences short.

novel writing 101

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A typical novel might consist of a dozen chapters at twenty five pages each. But making one ten pages long and the next forty would be better. Mix dialogue with narrative. Reading a page or two of dialogue can be a welcome break after a lengthy stretch of pure narrative. Equally, too much dialogue can be like reading a screenplay if it isnt broken up prose. If you have long chunks of one or the other, try to mix them more thoroughly. Vary the paragraph lengths. If every mom paragraph is more or less eight lines long, reading the book would soon become tedious. The same would be true if every paragraph were two lines long or twenty.

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Add Variety to your Prose variety is something you should aim for in novel writing in general, not just when putting words down on the page. For example novels need will a good mix of characters heroes and cowards, beauties and beasts, people you love and people you hate. They need a variety of scenes some short and others long, some action-packed and others built around dialogue, some with good outcomes for the protagonist and others which end in disaster. Novels need a range of moods sometimes light and sometimes tense, funny one minute and deadly serious the next. And so on and so forth. If fiction is peopled by characters who are all virtual clones of each other, and if each event is like a re-run of the previous event, and if the tone is all shadows and no light, or all light and no shadows, the fiction will. But you can draw up the most varied novel plan ever devised and still fail to bring it to life if your writing is dull. Back to writing prose moving from the big picture of prose to the finer details, here are some of the ways to achieve variety: Vary the chapter lengths.

If a sentence sounds weak, therefore or not quite right try rearranging it so that it starts and finishes more definitively. Rules, as i am always telling you, are meant to be broken, so dont feel the need to stick to these prose writing principles too religiously. Open any great novel at random and I bet you will find an example of what you shouldnt do on the very first page. Sometimes only the passive voice will. Sometimes a fancy word is preferable to a simple one. Sometimes too many adjectives or adverbs work. Writing is a personal thing we must all develop our own voice, our own style. And so the best advice i can give when it comes to writing with style is to learn the rules but always follow your instincts.

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novel writing 101

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Write this: That weekend, jane bought a bags brand new Porsche. Or better still: On Saturday morning, jane bought a brand new Porsche cayenne in midnight blue with all the extras. And preferring the concrete to the abstract doesnt just apply to material things. Look at these two sentences After his first kiss with Samantha, toby walked home feeling happier than hed ever felt in all his 13 years. After his first kiss with Samantha, toby couldnt keep the goofy grin off his face all the way home. When he came to the front gate, he jumped clean over it, didnt come close to tripping.

Happiness is an abstract concept and needs to be demonstrated (shown not told) with concrete details, like the wide grin and the gate-jumping. Prefer Simple words to fancy Ones take a look at the following pairs of words exclaimed, said precipitation, rain veracity, accuracy exhorted, encouraged perambulated, walked needless to say, good writing demands that you always choose the second type of word. Unnecessarily fancy words will impress no one. If you find yourself looking up a word in your thesaurus and then your dictionary in that order the word has no place in your prose. Rearrange sentences for Strength Instead of this: to get a better look at the garden, john moved to the window. Write this: John moved to the window to get a better look at the garden. The beginning and end of a sentence are its most important parts.

In prose, less is nearly always more. State Things In the positive instead of this: His ex-wife didnt make him feel welcome at her wedding. Write this: His ex-wife made him feel unwelcome at her wedding. Or better still: His ex-wife made him feel like a gatecrasher at her wedding. Instead of this: Mary didnt like frank.


Write this: Mary hated Frank. Again, its a small point, but I think you will agree that making a positive statement is much stronger. With all of these rules on prose writing, though, there will always be exceptions. In the second example above, perhaps a word like hate simply isnt part of Marys vocabulary perhaps shes too nice a person. And in the first example, you might consider using the first sentence for ironic purposes. You could write, his ex-wife didnt make him feel welcome at her wedding, and then go on to describe how she greets him with a loaded shotgun. Prefer the concrete to the Abstract This one really comes down to a matter of details. The more precise you can be with them, the stronger your prose will sound. So instead of this: That weekend, jane bought a new car.

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Johnny did really well in the examination. The italicized words are all known as qualifiers. Here are some more little Exceedingly somewhat Extremely quite They add nothing to a sentence, and effective prose writing demands that they should be cut. Avoid Unnecessary words Instead of this: The fact of the matter was that Brenda felt ill. Write this: Brenda felt ill. Instead of this: he crossed thank to the other side of the road. Write this: he crossed the road. This one is self-explanatory. The best kind of writing is always concise, meaning that if words can be cut from a sentence without altering its meaning, they must.

novel writing 101

Note that the second sentence had to be reworked. Mary phoned when i ate my lunch wouldnt have been quite right. You could have even scrapped the eating part altogether and written, mary phoned in the middle of lunch. If a sentence sounds weak and a direct translation from passive to active voice doesnt work, simply play around with summary the sentence until you get it right. Writing effectively often comes down to a simple tinkering with the words. Avoiding the passive voice is a small point, i know, but the active voice is simply much sharper, and therefore much better suited to stylish prose writing. Dont Use weak qualifiers, look at these sentences, she felt very happy to be home again. It was rather rude of him not to phone first.

or verb. Apple instead of juicy apple, laughed instead of laughed hysterically, only keep an adjective or an adverb when it is the only way to achieve the precise shade of meaning you want. Ignore everything else in Prose Writing 101 except for this rule and your writing will show an immediate and vast improvement. Avoid Writing Prose In the passive voice. Instead of this: The idea came to john as he was driving home from work. Write this: The idea came to john as he drove home from work. Instead of this: Mary phoned when I was eating my lunch. Write this: Mary phoned as i ate my lunch.

mark Twain, instead of strange this: he dived excitedly into the cool swimming pool. Write this: he dived into the swimming pool. Instead of this: She crossed the road quickly. Write this: She crossed the road. Or better still: She ran across the road. Note that I warn you against overusing adjectives and adverbs in your prose, not to avoid them altogether. Using too many will give your novels prose a purple tint. Using too few, or none at all, will make it clinical.

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Im not talking about the ability to produce poetic language here, or the kind of writing you have to read again and again to marvel at its beauty. That kind of writing is generally best reserved for poetry and the fanciest kind of literary fiction. Much more useful for the purposes of fiction is the ability to write with a clear, concise, and uncluttered style and with a confident voice. These key articles set out the fundamental principles (check them out now if you havent already). What I want to cover here is the nitty-gritty of strong prose, or nine specific ways to write like a pro. Some of these will be obvious to you; others may not. All of them make the difference between a novelist who is read and one who is not. Dont overuse Adjectives and Adverbs. As to the adjective, when in help doubt, strike it out.


novel writing 101
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Our workshop wi ll teach you the core fundamentals of fiction and how to write a book. Items 1 - 8. You will find pearls of writing wisdom in these pithy lists by masters of their craft.

3 Comment

  1. The chances are that you already have a talent for prose writing. Writing a novel probably wouldn t have occurred to you in the first place if you didn t have a way. Writing a book is more than setting aside time every day to write.

  2. From character and plot-conflict development to infusing a unique style and specia lized writing techniques, the steps to writing a novel-while not utterly. Frequently, it has been said that the easy part in writing the novel is getting th e reader s interest; the hard part, however, is in keeping. And so, the challenge.

  3. Th e vast majority don t see the light of day (a fancy expression meaning getting. How to Write a novel: 7 Tips everyone can Use. Put it above you r desk and use it to guide you, to jumpstart your writing each and every day.

  4. What if someone went through the biggest and best blogs on the int ernet, and pulled out the very best-of-the best tips for fiction writers? You guessed it: fiction writing. Novels are written every month and every year.

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