Lizzy Asks: How To Write A Novel?

Lizzy of Lizzy’s Weekly Blogs wrote me an email yesterday asking if I would share some advice on “how to write a short story or a novel.”

Stock Photo.
Stock Photo.

I said I would give it a shot. What are some things I’ve learned in the five years I have been doing this?

As I so far write only novels, here is my brainstorm on that complicated, yet also very simple, question. For starters, I have 10 suggestions (not offered in any particular order):

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The Widower

Yesterday, I was having what I had thought was an innocuous FaceTime with my father. There was our usual current discussion of the weather in his northeast Pennsylvania, and any snow – including what is up at our house in the Catskills. There was also the required exchange about what the new U.S. president is up to. And there was other chitchat.

As I thought we were about to sign off, abruptly he veered without warning into again reviewing my mother’s cancer and death in October 2015. Through hard personal experience, I’ve learned a lot about widowers since then. “The widower” is a particularly difficult area in our culture.

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“What are we to do with all of you?”

Another week. Oh, and I admit, I forgot! That game was last night!

I’ve had lots else on my mind. We also had a cousin pass through here on his way back to the U.S. We went out to dinner with him on Saturday.

Pre-dinner, we had chatted about my latest manuscript. As we did, I thought on Monday I’d share a final peek into it.

But I was unable to decide on any single part that could be seen as “representative” overall. So after some thought I decided I’d put up some “rapid” shorts sort of like a film promo – to provide the flavor of the tale. They aren’t in any particular order – except for the last one. (If you click on any of the pages below, it will expand for easier reading.) Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Day Of Rest

I read none of my Conventions manuscript yesterday beyond glimpsing its cover on Instagram and here in my post about it. I’m taking a few days away from the late 1700s to clear my head before I delve into correcting it from the beginning. I think this is probably the first time in months I have gone a 24 hour period (and counting) not writing or reading any of it.

Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.
Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.

As part of my “day of rest,” I found myself in a sudden Messenger chat with a friend. She lives in Bristol and was my wife’s friend before she became mine as well. (I have deleted names used.) She is the opening message…

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Thoughts For This Sunday

I was away for a few days. I’d driven down to stay with my (increasingly frail) in-laws in London while my wife is in Portugal. My main task was to help with dog walking:

Naturally, I transported my vital technology to set myself up to write there when I could.

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Speaking Of “Suh-talk-ett”

Being English, my wife takes pride in correctly pronouncing place names from around where I grew up:

Excerpt from "Frontiers." Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Frontiers.” Click to expand.

Long Island, New York is that fish-profile-resembling island that extends east from New York City. My parents lived in New York City and on Long Island all of their lives until moving to Pennsylvania in 2011. I was born in the city and raised on the island.

Screen capture of Wikipedia.
Screen capture of Wikipedia.

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The All-Consuming “Monster”

On Friday, Kate Colby wrote a thoughtful post on “writing through your fear” – including on a writer needing to face down worries about receiving poor reviews. I liked it so much I left her this comment:

Great post, Kate. So well put โ€“ especially on the fear of poor reviews issue.

Iโ€™m sure no author likes a 1 star Amazon review. After all, who wants to read someone saying youโ€™ve written junk? Itโ€™s human to fear scathing criticism.

When I write, I always remind myself that EVERY author produces books that earn them some negative reactions. Even J.K. Rowling gets poor reviews. It is impossible to write and expect to achieve universal applause, and if thatโ€™s a writerโ€™s yardstick for success I would suggest that person find another line of work. ๐Ÿ™‚

And she liked that comment! It earned a positive review!๐Ÿ˜‚

All kidding aside, it’s a remarkable coincidence Kate wrote that as I am almost finished with my single biggest novel-writing effort yet. To use the clichรฉ, my “moment of truth” is fast approaching. Eventually someone other than myself has to read the entire book.

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A Chilly English Winter Morning

I was writing yesterday late morning when I noticed no heat was on and the house had started to feel cool. Venturing downstairs from my office, I discovered the boiler was out. Next I saw gas workers outside.

National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]
National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]

There was a gas problem on the high street and National Grid had turned up with what seemed like a dozen vehicles. They’d had to shut off service to quite a few houses. Water from a burst pipe up the road earlier somehow got into the main gas pipe.

“Uh, not good,” one of the workers told me.

“So this is the water company’s fault,” I laughed.

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Daily Mail Decides To “Ask The Americans”

The Mail has been out researching Americans’ opinions about their lives here in Britain. Get ready. Let’s have some Friday fun:

Screen capture of the Daily Mail.
Screen capture of the Daily Mail.

I’ll address my fellow Americans’ points in order. Here we go. To start:

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Around The Thanksgiving Table

Last I read, there are an estimated 250,000 (non-military) Americans living here in the United Kingdom, about 100,000 of whom are in London. There have always been Americans here, though. What has changed in recent decades, obviously, is the new immediacy of media – especially, now, social media.

Probably due to all that is now seen at a distance of the holiday in the U.S., Thanksgiving has been evolving into a bit of “a thing” here in the last few years. As an American it’s flattering that this day that’s so quintessentially “ours” and no one is really “pushing” at others abroad to observe (unlike, say, the NFL) is nodded to in various ways. Some British supermarkets even do Thanksgiving displays.

“Black Friday” sales have weirdly also appeared. That although there is no actual Thanksgiving holiday today. It’s hilarious:

Screen capture of the Argos web site.
Screen capture of the Argos web site.

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