How to Write a Compelling Novel
by Rose Marie Dunphy, author of ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES
1. Write in Scenes. This satisfies Writing’s Cardinal Rule, which is, “Show. Don’t Tell.” Think of each chapter as a play composed of scenes. You are a spectator or eye witness of the scene. Then record the action, which is what happens; the dialogue, which is what each person says; description, what the people look like; location, where the scenes take place.
2. Like a journalist, you’re providing the 5 Ws, Who, What, Where When and How.
3. Write about something you know, something you’re familiar with. It comes across as more authentic. There isn’t much you can say about what you don’t know. You need to research what you don’t know and once you do that, you know it, so it’s still writing about what you know.
4. Write about something you love or hate. It has to be a strong emotion so your passion comes through.
5. Let the conflict of the book show its face early in the first two pages.
6. End each chapter with something that needs to be resolved. Unfinished business. The reader will want to turn the page and if he or she doesn’t have the time to continue reading, they’ll be itching to get to the book as soon as possible.
7. Write your first draft of each scene furiously, from your heart. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, great character development of anything else. Get you your story down.
8. Create characters with flaws as well as redeeming qualities. Make them human, not saints and devils.
9. Use strong verbs to describe the action and limit adjectives and adverbs. Your verbs should carry the story forward.
10. Use all your senses or as many as you can to write a scene. Think of the reader as a blind person next to you and you are taking them on a journey providing the world they can’t see.
11. Bridge your scenes or connect them with prepositional phrases so that they flow, for example, “in the meantime, whereas, on the other hand, not so for John.”
12. Try to have two or three parallel themes or stories going in your book. Orange Peels is about Marietta’s need to come to terms with her past but it’s also a love story between John and her.
13. Revise many times. Once you have all or a good deal of writing done, revise, revise, revise.
14. Choose an apt title, preferably unusual, so that it will pique the reader’s curiosity and an interesting cover design. It acts as the readers’ first impression, how they get introduced to your book.
15. You need ass glue. What this means is that you must sit in your chair and write even when you don’t feel like it or are stymied. You have to stay there, keep at it until you break through and make some ground.
16. Write every day, preferably at the same place and the same time of day. The routine will help you stay glued to your chair.
17. Read, read, read other authors. Copy how they describe a character, a location, an action. Write a scene using your favorite author’s style. It will come out differently because you are not copying his or her words but their style.
18. Read books about writing to learn and perfect the craft. There are tons out there. Some of the best are Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”, Ann LaMott, etc.
19. Join a writing group and bring in your writing for critique and input regularly. Others see what you don’t. Remember, they’re like your readers and will pick out things you’re not even aware of or they will confirm your personal intuitions that something isn’t quite right in the development of the story.
20. Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.
21. Promote your book every way you can.