Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Recipe for Writing a Successful Novel

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Before I wrote my first manuscript, I picked up a book titled, "You Can Write a Novel" by James Smith. After I read it, I came to the conclusion WRITING a successful NOVEL would be a piece of the proverbial cake. I admit it, that assumption turned into my first of many mistakes relative to novel writing. Regardless, the major concept I picked up from the book is there exists a recipe for writing a successful novel. I likened writing a successful novel to cooking one of my favorite meals when I was a single guy - crock-pot stew. Maybe I should've called this article my recipe for a crock-pot novel?

The recipe for a crock-pot novel, like that of anything that's pleasing to the palate, contains various elements that must be incorporated in the correct doses, and even at the correct times, for the dish to please your readers' visual palate.

The recipe for our crock-pot novel includes these basic ingredients:


Let's take a quick look at each of these recipe components, shall we?

Theme is the message or meaning within your crock-pot novel. It's what you wish your readers to learn. Your message comes to life in the way your main characters overcome the conflict they face. In effect, it is the fundamental ingredient of your crock-pot novel recipe. Think of it as the beef stock, if you will.

Characterization is the most important part of your novel as it relates to your reader. Your reader must, without exception, care about at least one character and what happens to them. You should, therefore, create fleshed out characters with whom your readers can identify. This is the beef in your stew.

Plot is what moves the story forward. It fleshes out your storyline and gives it depth. It is that series of events that your characters must face and the obstacles they must overcome. It is what moves your story toward the final chapter in logical order. I relate it to those chopped ingredients in our stew; carrots, potatoes, onions and the like.

Conflict is what encourages a reader to continue to read your novel. Many aspiring authors envision conflict as the action that takes place in their stories, the explosions, the chases and the like. If truth be told, conflict is found in your characters' emotional responses to the action that takes place. Your conflict will rise and fall like the peaks of a mountain range until you reach the crescendo of your story. It's what holds your stew gravy together, the thickener, if you will.

Point of View, or POV, is who tells your story. It's the perspective of your story's narrator. This is where many aspiring authors fail in their novel writing endeavors. Without effective POV, a reader may become confused and their enjoyment of your work decreases. This is your recipe's spices.

Setting is the time and place where your characters exist. It comes to life by way of your characters' senses. It's the time it takes for your ingredients to turn into a meal.

Dialogue is the words your characters use. It offers your reader background information, highlights their personalities and advances your story. Consider dialogue as the heat that transforms your ingredients into a tasty meal.

Now, do other recipes for novel writing exist? Of course. Every cook/author has their own recipe, yet each will incorporate these basic ingredients. Should an author omit any of these basic ingredients, his crock-pot novel will lack something and won't taste as pleasing to the reader as the author had hoped.

Best of luck with your recipe and let me know how it turns out, will you?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel "Born to be Brothers"

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