It is germane for me to manage reader expectations at this juncture. This is a blog that describes the process I follow when I write a novel. It is not a textbook designed to teach those who want to write novels: there are already far too many of them available (which just rehash existing theory).

Why Did I Begin?

I suppose I started this blog because of two disparate but related events. I read a poorly written blog (yet another claiming canon over creative writing) and read a series of traditionally published works, which were unedited and poorly written.

The wheel is continually being shaved to a finer point by those who think everyone wants to write a book and they have the definitive answer, which will guarantee overnight success. All of them are blatant attempts to cash in on a shift in publication trends. It has become so easy to self-publish that the market has been swamped by those — without the requisite tools — who are in it to make a fast buck. The Fagins have all climbed on the trend in an attempt to sell their dodgy wares to those charlatans because they, too, see it as easy money.

I suppose an indication of the shift is evident in the following anecdote.

Some years ago (post search engines), I ran a search on story arc. The engine returned a handful of documents claiming to be canons on story arc theory, all of which were differently worded exponents of the three-act structure and seven-point arc. This morning I ran a search on story structure and received 104 000 documents, none of which mentioned the three-act structure and seven-point arc. I didn’t read them, of course, but attempts to refine my search with three-act and seven-point returned nothing. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to surmise that the words have changed but — on this, I would bet a year’s royalties — the message is the same.

I would be the last to claim knowledge on how to teach prospective writers, actually leaning toward the theory that the skill of novel writing cannot be taught. It does not mean being able to create sentences or having a meaningful vocabulary: those are the tools Stephen King describes. Writing a novel — at least one a reader would enjoy — is a creative process. Creativity is something that — to a degree — is either there or it isn’t. However, an ability to write does not guarantee success, in the same way, an inability to write does not preclude it. I read a book by a well-known TV personality recently, which was badly written, badly edited (if at all) and a multimillion-copy bestselling book. The number of five-star reviews (55 000 on the day of writing) proves Stephen King’s point that readers don’t care about the quality of the writing, only about the story. As it happens, in my opinion, the story wasn’t good either. It was written in the style of a prepubescent, as well as having a naïve plot, although on a much larger scale. I would have been a little ashamed to submit it as English homework.

A Technical Approach To Novel Writing documents what I do. Readers can use my methods as they see fit. I don’t claim it is the definitive process. Stephen King would poo poo my methods because they fly in the face of his own guidance. However, I wouldn’t read too much into that, because he also totally ignores his own guidance. Like Stephen King, I don’t agree with much of what he writes in On Writing either.

So What Is this Blog

Basically, I will publish a series of blogs that outline the process I follow when writing a new book. The blogs will cover topics from my first thoughts until the final edit before publication. The blogs will include the following topics:

  • Plotting: Whether it is better to write off the cuff or plot a novel is an open debate. I use something of a mix between the two but find plotting at least a story arc speeds up the process immeasurably and makes the end product much better.
  • Writing: There are many different practices for the actual writing of a novel and none can be called better than the others. Each writer will have their preferred method, whether it be sitting in an office at a computer or using a pen and writing pad on the beach. In this blog, I will describe what my process is and how it helps me.
  • Editing: Editing a novel — as for any document — is a complex process. Gone are the days when publishers could be left with the headache of editing a novel. Most of the traditionally published books I read this year were not edited at all. If an author wants to guarantee the quality of their work, then they must take on the onus of editing. This section describes how I go about editing my novels.
I spent thirty-five years as an editor in the IT industry. Although technical documentation and creative writing differ immensely, the principles of editing remain the same. Writers without experience in editing should hire professional help for all aspects of the editing process. Even as a professional editor, I do recognise the need for help during the editing phase of my work and employ Holmes Editorial.

The length of the blogs I will post over the coming month will vary. The Plotting and Editing blogs will be much longer than the writing blog.

The following are the contents:

%d bloggers like this: