How To Write A Novel

Hi there, people with novels in them! That’s not a very healthy way to live, going about the gaff with novels stuck in you. Having a novel in you can lead to choking, stomach ulcers, weird bulges where there shouldn’t be bulges and seriously inappropriate manifesto-trumpeting at social gatherings. Out, damn novel!

Because I’m such a benevolent wacko, I’ve drawn up an easy, step-by-step plan to help you achieve your writing goals and squeeze that hefty tome out and onto a hard drive somewhere. My patented* literary blueprint is free of charge (remember! Benevolent!) and comes with my personal guarantee** that your strict adherence will produce a magnificent work better than the novels of Joyce, Tolkien and EL James all rolled into one resplendent eyesore. Ready? Let’s ride!

Lisa’s Guide to Writing A Novel

1. Turn on computer, open media player, choose instrumental playlist, turn off internet.

2. Remember email you need to send. Turn internet back on.

3. Faff about on Twitter for half an hour.

4. Come to. Turn off internet again.

5. Write twelve words.

6. Open Solitaire.

7. Play eight games of Solitaire.

8. X out of Solitaire.

9. Get a mad rush of blood to the head. Have seven hundred words tumble out in one great big heap.

10. Stop in the middle of a sentence.

11. Go back to your media player. Get powerful notion about a song you want to listen to. Play it.

12. Play another. Sway along a bit whilst looking out the window.

13. Have a cup of tea.

14. Lean back in your chair and stare agape at the ceiling.

15. Work out the end of the sentence you stopped on.

16. Proceed on that stop/start, rush/crawl, Solitaire/iTunes basis until you’ve done ninety thousand words.

17. Congratulations! Here’s a massive cheque.

So this is a roundabout way of saying that the first draft of Novel 2 – which has two different titles, neither of which I like – is complete. Realised. Whole. Donezo. Finitorama. Kashputnik.

Apologies. I’m still in thesaurus mode. I’m stalled, scratching my ceann, at some point between Roget’s, the Oxford and Urban Dictionary, with a whole bunch of new words sewn and clamped together to suit whatever sounded right in my head as I was typing. It’s Frankensteinian, in the sense that the words I cobbled together IN AN AFFRONT TO GOD HIMSELF may yet turn on me and make me look a right wallybrain. The manuscript is full of sentences like ‘She thought he was very sexacious, as in, he was audacious in a kind of sexy way, befitting of his flirtagonal race’ and ‘”Back with you, fiendy-breeches!” screamed the priest, though he had a terrible dose of religifear that he didn’t want to show his ditherboots parishionerettes.’

I’ll probably kill them all off in the second draft. I’m capricious like that.

Actually, wouldn’t The Parishionerettes be a great name for a doo-wop band . . ?

ANYWAY. Manuscript completed. I read back over what I’ve written and think, ‘How did that happen?’ Not only have all the words come, but there are far too many of them. I know that I need to put aside the document for a little while, just to let the ideas settle for the next pass, and so I determine to do all the things I’ve been neglecting to do since I started the novel. Wash windows. Call my mother. Read books. Play video games.

Time can be a right oul’ wagon, though. When I’m writing I fetishise the very idea of it, and yet now that I have a bit – not much, just enough to let Novel 2 spread out a little in my head – I haven’t a notion how best to utilise it. Everything kind of . . . stagnates, and then the anxiety hits. What was I supposed to do? There must have been something. Should have made a list. Plans form and dribble back out of my head in split-seconds. I start getting that weird, fluttering sickness in my stomach. I wander around the house, looking perplexed and tearing scraps out of my sleeves. I sit down. I stand up again. I furrow and relax and furrow again. I drum my nails on things and then bite them right back. I grapple with one big loose end before I dive into Draft 2 to grapple with many small loose ends.

I don’t want to add such a state to the end of my Novel Writing Programme. It’s a bit of a downer, and wholly unnecessary. But I sure would appreciate a 17-or-however-many-step course that promises to assuage it and let me concentrate instead on playing through Final Fantasy VIII again, as nature intended. There might be such a scheme out there, prepped and proven. You'd never know.

*not patented

**not guaranteed

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