Keyboard novel

It's only an appendix to a richly practical and inspiring book, but it certainly got my attention. I'm referring to Jeff VanderMeer's BookLife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer. What does novelist and nonfiction author VanderMeer have to say in the appendix he named "How to Write a Novel in Two Months"?

After laboring on my first novel for a couple of long years (not counting the year-long journal I kept a few years previously that I mined heavily, nor the notes gathered over years in my writer's notebook that I was now able to use, and certainly not counting the very long time to sell the book), I wondered if it would be possible to write a novel more efficiently. The word efficiently initially makes me think, Uh-oh, how creative can efficiency be? Yet there are no physical laws saying quick (or at least quicker) writing can't also be creative.

VanderMeer divides the ideas in this enticing appendix into the two categories of Support and Writing-Related. In this post I'll discuss the latter category. Though VanderMeer's quickie novel, the one that led to this batch of tips, was one of a series of novels tied-in to Predator, the suggestions are actually much more widely applicable:

How to Write a Novel Fast

1. Make sure you know what kind of novel you're writing. Some, such as "a multi-generational saga about a powerful crime family," can't be written in two months. Come up with a sort of mission statement, a precise sentence that tells you which way you're headed.

2. Keep your style relatively transparent, rather than heavily layered (i.e., literary).

3. Base at least some of your main characters on people you know and like, but haven't spent a lot of time with. That is, someone you know a little, whose details you can fill in.

4. Create tension by cutting scenes in half.

5. Leave rough what should be rough anyway. His example is setting a battle scene at night in a confusing old temple complex.

6. Watch out for exotic settings. Find a parallel in your own surroundings that you can get away with without having to do a lot of research.

BookLife contains a lot more, and I've written elsewhere about some of that.

Copyright (c) by Susan K. Perry

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