Monday, February 28, 2011

Max Barry's Fifteen Ways to Write a Novel

Another great read for those of you hacking away at first drafts, third drafts, second novels, or eight novels: Max Barry's Fifteen Ways to Write a Novel.

The funny thing is, as I read through this list, I recognize each and every one of you . Honest to God, by the time I finish reading your manuscript, I know exactly how you wrote it - or at least how you wrote the first draft.

For instance:

The Jigsaw
What: You start writing the scenes (or pieces of scenes) that interest you the most, and don’t worry about connecting them until later.
Why: You capture the initial energy of ideas. You can avoid becoming derailed by detail. You make sure your novel revolves around your big ideas.
Why Not: It can be difficult to figure out how to connect the scenes after the fact. You need to rewrite heavily in order to incorporate ideas you had later for earlier sections. Your characters can be shakier because you wrote scenes for them before you knew the journey they’d make to get there.

Some of my most successful writers are Jigsaw-ers. I know you because I'll tear through pages and pages of brilliance, only to get stopped short on some transition scene that makes no damn sense. You're the ones who have half your pages marked "great!" "perfect imagery!" or "wow!" and the other half marked with "Why would this character do this?" "Why did this happen?" "???" 

You're a handful Mr. and Ms. Jigsaw, but you sure do produce some excellent work. 

You each have your own little quirks, of course. The Word Target, if I wanted to, I could figure out your target number, because, oh, perhaps every 1,000 words or so you're just throwing some words at me. Edit! The Coffee Shop - did you know that caffeine jitters infuse your pages with the scent of java and the speed of a runaway cheetah chasing another cheetah chasing a jet plane? It's true! The Headphones - check out page 238. Those are Paul Simon lyrics. Yup, really. 

You're all a blast to work with, and I love the challenge of figuring out revision plans that work with each and every one of your styles. But I'd like to use Mr. Barry's post as a challenge for all of my clients out there working on revisions, and even to future clients working on first drafts. 

Revise and self-edit to the point that I cannot tell which category you fit into, because your manuscript is so seamless, well paced, and trimmed that the hallmarks of method are erased by smooth execution. Just another aspect of the craft to perfect!

1 comment:


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