Tuesday, January 5, 2010

FLAME – Week One – Day Two

Yesterday, one of my co-workers (and loyal follower), Mike, asked me: “How do you write a novel?”

Great question.

You have to start with idea. (Well duhhh!) It can be a character, a climactic scene, a setting, a brilliant first sentence, anything that stirs your imagination. Somebody once told me that a great story idea can should be able to be summarized in one sentence:

THE LOST SYMBOL: Robert Langdon among the Masons.

I, ALEX CROSS: Tracking the murderer of a relative, Alex Cross discovers a wild Washington scene with explosive secrets.

UNDER THE DOME: When a Maine town is trapped by an invisible force field, a sanctimonious and hypocritical politician takes over.

Some writers start with a brief outline and then begin to write, while others write out a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis before starting the first chapter. Some writers start with just a gripping first sentence and plunge on from there, not knowing where they are going but looking forward to the ride none the less. The there is John Irving, who wrote The World According to Garp and the screenplay for The Cider House Rules. He writes a novel from the back to the front; he knows the end of the story before he writes the first sentence. He starts with the last sentence first, even the last several paragraphs.


Another good piece of advice I got was everything in a novel must serve the plot. You are to think of the story arc as a backbone, and all the elements of the story hang off the backbone like ribs. If the plot of the book is about Bob trying to get back with his girlfriend, and you introduce Bob’s cousin Phil who is have trouble with his insurance company, and you have this elaborate side-story about Phil and his wrangling with All State that is funny and interesting, but does not serve the main plot line—trash it.

Lastly it takes time and devotion. You should write every day, even if it is only for half an hour. Writing a novel is like building a house, you do it brick by brick, word by word. And after all that hard work and dedication, you have a novel. Will anybody want to read it? Well that is a different matter entirely.

Anyhoo, that’s enough about that. Today I completed a rough draft of the chapter by chapter outline for FLAME, and now I have a roadmap of where to go as I write. I rewrote Chapter One just a little and I got started on the first paragraph of Chapter Two. And tomorrow I will introduce you guys to Alvin.

Continuing on my write of passage,
James Baron

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