May 28, 2005

How to write a novel

I came across what seems to be a pretty cool "How to" site today. The Snowflake Method is another approach to bashing out those tomes we all want to be known for. While the analogy to a snowflake is new, the underlying ideas really aren't. For instance (off the top of my head) I can think of two other sites which talk about the same thing in pretty similar terms. Holly Lisle's website has a similar approach as well as a ton of how to articles on the writing life. Another site, very similar to the snowflake, uses something called the Jungian Novel Writing approach. The Jungian approach, and even Holly's site to a certain degree, are much more long-winded about giving you the information available from the Snowflake Method's site. Based on that alone, I'd recommend you check it out.

If you're too tired to click any links, let me sum up what these sites talk about. There's no secret formula for writing a novel. Oh, you'll have lots of people try and sell you on a formula for novels, but that has nothing to do with the actual work of getting the sucker on paper. Those snake oil salespeople are talking about the structure you should use: "put hero A through these paces and then put Heroine B through these paces and make sure a baby is born at the end". Even if that did work, I would surmise that the writing would get pretty stale and damn boring after a while. What the sites I mention above are talking about is basically how to chop up the work of writing a novel into itty bitty, digestible pieces and then approaching each piece on its own. They put it into different contexts (i.e. snowflake, Jungian, etc.) but in the end, it's all the same in my eyes. Of course, that's never stopped me from fooling myself into thinking I've stumbled across the next sliced white bread and applying the principles to something I'm working on. After all, organizing things isn't really writing, but it can sure seem like it with enough beer and lack of sleep.

A colleague recently said that what these kinds of approaches are best for are stalled novels. You know, when you find yourself on page 300 and you still have no idea what your book is about. Getting your ducks in a row, no matter how you do it, seems a pretty logical way of figuring out what you're doing and whether or not you want to stop it or continue on. Whatever your reasons or current state, if you try these approaches I wish you the best of luck.

And if by some whim of fate, they actually help you, drop me a line and let me know. If I'm still on page 350 and on my way to the store to buy more index cards, I'll try to curse softly so I won't interrupt the signing of your movie deal.

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