Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rules

Many people have said funny things about writing a novel. My favourites include:

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction. ~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938

Starting a novel is hard. Luckily, Nathan Bransford has tackled the topic here and once a blogger has written about something it magically becomes easier. Right?

OK, not so much. But it's still a good post.

I read through it with some trepidation. My current project started out as pure fun (inspired by a notebook, would you believe) and now I'm working on it seriously. I expected to fail every test but was pleasantly surprised.

  • The Main Plot Arc - Yes, I have one. Which is a relief. You may laugh but while my last book had one, you had to dig for it.
  • Obstacles of Increasing Intensity, With Ups and Downs - Further sigh of relief. My protagonist would hate me if he were real, but at least Nathan and I agree.
  • Protagonist - Yep. I have one and he wants stuff. Check.
  • Setting - FECK! I was doing so well! My setting is all over the place - it has kind of been tacked on as it was needed. Imagine a very modern and experimental stage production with a poor stagehand running around behind the actors tacking up green felt to denote a forest and blue wallpaper to denote a drawing room. Needs work.
  • Style and Voice - Has undergone one major change. Needs work.
  • The Climax - Hasn't happened yet, please check back.
I imagine it will take me some time and a few revisions before I'm fully happy with all of the above, but if one was happy enough with all of those, there wouldn't be too much left, would there?

And since I brought the subject up - anyone have any other good writing quotes they like?


  1. Ellen,

    Well, it sounds like you're well on your way to me. You can't know everything upfront; then writing the damn thing would be boring.

    I've always liked this one from Somerset Maugham : "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

    That probably doesn't help much, though ...

  2. Setting is something I constantly strive to weave in and make real. We all have our weak points! You go girl on the strong ones!

    Me, officially done writing and researching for the day--

  3. By the way, I love the new look... love hummingbirds!

  4. "to write is to live forever"
    "the man who wrote that is dead"
    Tina Fey and Steve Martin at the 2009 Oscar ceremony.

  5. hi, hope it's ok to contact you here. we would love to include your blog on our giveaway search engine: giveaway scout ( have a look and if interested, use our online form to add your blog ( ). thanks, josh

  6. Awesome writing quotes! I don't remember any off hand but a fellow blogger Laura Marcella over at Wavy Lines always has the best one's listed!!!

    I love your new look!! I'm not sure if I just haven't been around in awhile or if it's brand new but I definitely dig the new digs :) I did a recent change as well :)

  7. Love the new blog look! Very fitting.

    I love that first quote - so, so true. It is indeed like opening a vein!

  8. I love this one from James Joyce about writers:
    The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails."

  9. Hey there Ellen, was great that you popped along to I see you see. Glad that you liked it! and followed. great post by the way.

    Hope that your having a super Thursday

  10. Hi Serena, I found you through Jen - always like adding UK or Irish bloggers to my follow list! Jen is right, blogland is very friendly and supportive and wonderful, but it also very American so it's nice to connect with people closer to home :)

    Plus I have family in Angus, it's a lovely place.

  11. Try giving your setting a name and treating it as a character. Okay, it already has a name. But I like to think my setting is just like a character in that it has things to reveal, too. And you don't give them all away at the beginning. :-)


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