Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How To Write A Novel

Now you've gone and done it. After blabbing and threatening for years to finally sit down and put words to computer screen/paper/stone tablet/shaved cat someone has called your bluff and you have no choice but to finally write that novel.

But where to start? Luckily I am here to navigate you through the trials and tribulations more trials of getting your brain goo out of your head, into something approaching a publishable form, and then sharing it with the entire three people who have nothing better to do; all without needing a Pensieve.
  1. Here we come to the beginning of the checklist. This is the best place to begin, unless you're traveling backwards in time, in which case Look out for Hitler and Crystal Pepsi. To begin the novelization of your brain you must craft for yourself some kind of plot and a cast of characters to ram through said plot.

    If you don't have a plot, try running your well crafted characters through a few scenarios and see if anything jumps out at you.

    If you have a plot but characters so thin they couldn't stop alpha particles, congratulations you have a best selling airport novel on your hands.

    If you have neither plot nor characters but still think you can write a novel you must be a Reality Show star, which means you'll become a bestselling author without having a clue what a semi-colon is. We all hate you, not that you care much rolling around on your STD infested pile   of cash.                                
  2. You have your one eyed pirate with a heart of gold who just opened a burger stand in the middle of the apocalypse and a wise cracking dog with a spleen of silver who intends to guide him along the way. Now what?

    The second most arduous and maddening task of writing, the actual extracting part. You're going to want to carve out entire months for the task of pounding the boards. Declare your social, work, and physical life dead as you find yourself entering into a disturbing writing coma where only your eyes and fingers can move clicking slowly through 100,000 words.

    A soul crushing fear will come upon you that, if you ever dare leave your keyboard for a moment, the threads weaving through your mind will unravel the second you dare shift away from your growing tale. This is perfectly normal and is merely your bodies way of telling you that YOU SHALL NEVER MOVE UNTIL THAT THING IS DONE!

    Even if you finally snap and start hitting your keyboard with a sponge soaked in vinegar singing "I'm Henry the Eight I am!" keep going. I love reading about other people's madness.                         
  3. So you cleaned the vinegar out of your keys, got onto some really interesting drugs with a happy pair of bunny slippers for a mascot and somehow have a finished rough draft sitting forlornly on your harddrive. Walk away.

    Just walk away. Go back out into the sunshine. Remember what fresh air smells like. Cower when some strange two legged land beast tries to greet you. Become suspicious of this outside world and retire back to your safe den strewn with shredded newspaper and tea bags.

    This is the time to let your novel age. Like a good cheese, meat or casserole dish from, you suspect, the Carter era, your little novel needs some time to stew away in its own juices figuring out if it really wants to go through this soul crushing next steps and be embraced or ridiculed by the wide world.

    You, meanwhile, will begin to get giddy whenever anyone mentions your writing extravaganza and seriously question if that ever actually happened or if it was all a fevered dream. You may also being to wear a lobster on your head.                                                                                        
  4. It's been a couple months/years/decades/queeglegons, and you think it's finally time to unearth that manuscript and begin the first most arduous task of writing: editing. It's not just for term papers and people who sleep with the MLA format on their nightstand.

    Physicists have tried to study the exact time frame a book will go through first, second, thirtieth, infinite rough drafts but have been unable to reach any conclusions as the process is a mobius strip of adding things, finding something wrong with something else, patching in more, then looking for missing periods, commas, or where you typed "form" instead of "from" in the new sections.

    Plus authors have an annoying habit of dying just before they can collect any conclusive data.      
  5. Let's jump into that time machine of assumptions; now that you've run your manuscript past a copy-editor, a few friends, a beta reader, your eyeballs, a gamma reader, those same friends, your eyes again, a gamma particle, and your eyeballs for that final rinse you have finally decided you want to publish. Well, it's your funeral.

    I'd offer sage and thymely advice on how one goes about finding a publisher but short of sacrificing a copy editor to Ba'al I've got nothing, but I do know a bit about that whole self publishing stuff.

    So let's say you go that way, which means everyone will view you the same as the guy who wrote a Semen Cookbook and probably have decapitated rabbits in your sewing room.

    I've self published through Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. The first thing you should know is that every single avenue you take will demand a completely different formatting that you'll tear your beard out trying to comply with, oh and a golden fleece because it gets a bit cold in the server.

    Any luck I've had actually convincing people to read my shit has been on Amazon, that seems to have become the haven for fellow self publishers begging for a scrap of audience.                         
  6. All right, you picked a place to go about peddling your wares. You signed all the thousand page agreements, gave a stool sample, and promise to marry the Lady Amazon once you come back from war.  The first thing your "publisher" will need to know is the title of your novel.

    If you don't have a title, don't slip back into your vinegar phase. Try googling a few puns, work in some horrible cliche that has nothing to do with your story, or try to capitalize on another popular piece of work. "Like a Bat Out of Twilight" it is.

    Now that that's settled time to move onto box number two and, oh, it wants a description. PANIC! No no, you can do this, after all you were the one who created "All The Eggs Men."

    The synopsis should be brief but hilarious, eye catching but not ALL IN CAPS, a summary of the entire scope of your novel without giving away a single spoiler. This is when I suggest you try that Ba'al thing.
  7. You have an edited manuscript and a synopsis for "Skip To My Death," now there is simply one tiny piece of the puzzle missing; a cover.
    You can pay people to make you a cover, you can try to cobble one together yourself with a few random scraps of stock photo images or you can capture a leprechaun and make him get you a genie to do it.

    Either way it must be that eye catching thing again, fairly legible, and have absolutely nothing to do with the story within. That's an industry standard there. Also, if you can, try to find a way to work a few disembodied breasts and butts into it; got to go for some sex appeal to pull in the fact that 80% of the readers are women.

    In retrospect, maybe have your pirate in some fishnets.
  8. And now all you have to do is upload everything, hit submit and wait for those dollar menu royalties to come rolling in. What? You think I'm going to share with you secrets to market that thing. Ha!
There you have it, eight easy steps to create and publish your own novel. Granted, you'll come out the end despising your fellow men, a kitchen full of leprechaun carcasses, and a fear of the light that rivals the Morlocks, but you'll finally be searchable on Amazon.com and that makes it all worth it.

    1 comment:

    T. Z. Wallace said...

    I feel much more sane now. I put the vinegar back in the kitchen, where it belongs. I have started a list of possible names based on the words that Captcha gives me (making sure to add a colon in there somewhere).

    I think I am well on my way!