Tag Archives: writing a great novel

Simple Rules to Writing a Great Novel

Writing_A_Great_Novel

For the past 32 weeks, we’ve been discussing Guthrie’s 32 Rules to Writing A Great Novel.  Here is a handy-dandy list of all the articles and links to them, all in one place.

This is a great time to review, especially if you are editing your manuscript.

Please let me know which one you found the most helpful, or if you think this guy is just off his rocker. 🙂

Enjoy!

And Happy Editing!

01- Writing is Subjective – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1yw

02- Oblique Dialog – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1An

03- Whatsa Strong Verb? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1AK

04- Easy on the Adjectives – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1B8

05- Two for One is not always a good thing – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Bc

06- The shorter the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cd

07- Once is enough, Thank you very much. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ci

08- Show, Don’t Tell – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cl

09- Just the facts, Ma’am – The important facts – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cp

10- Don’t be cute – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Eg

11- Sound like a writer, without SOUNDING like a writer – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

12- Who’s talking now? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

13- Yep. Your Write. Ya gotta change it. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ff

14- Stop “saying” things – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fk

15- They’re not psychic – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fq

16- Come late, leave early – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H0

17- Don’t dump on me! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H2

18- Goals, anyone? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HL

19- Don’t sleep with him/her – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HP

20- Go ahead, torture ’em! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HR

21- The stinkier the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HT

22- The long and short of it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1IP

23- Stop being all proper – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ke

24- Stop feeling! And no thinking! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kp

25- Don’t repeat the tense – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kt

26- Cut your weakest player – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ky

27- Plant Vegetables, not information – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KD

28- Keep it to yourself, Jerk! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KG

29- No happy shruggers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KK

30- Pronouns. Tricky little suckers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KM

31- Shoot him later – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KO

32- Forget about it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KQ

Advertisements

Pronouns. Tricky Little Suckers — Rule #30 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #30

30: Pronouns are big trouble for such little words. The most useful piece of information I ever encountered on the little blighters was this: pronouns refer to the nearest matching noun backwards. For example: John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it. Well, that’s good news for Paul. If you travel backwards from ‘it’, you’ll see that John has stabbed Paul with the sheath! Observing this rule leads to much clearer writing.

Wow… This is a rule I’ve never heard before.  Yes, I’ve corrected manuscripts where they’ve made an error like this, and I’ve had similar errors corrected in my own work… but counting backwards lie that… I never even thought of this trick.

This is great advice!  Many times I’ve written something and wondered if it was confusing.  This like trick may help a lot!

Try this in your own manuscript and see if it catches any errors.

Jennifer___Eaton

Plant vegetables, not information — Rule #27 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #27

27: Don’t plant information. How is Donald, your son? I’m quite sure Donald’s father doesn’t need reminding who Donald is. Their relationship is mentioned purely to provide the reader with information.

Ha!  If you’ve ever had a beta read done by me, you know I’m a viper when it comes to info-dumps.  But I usually tag them when they are paragraphs long.

What Guthrie mentions here is a little more subtle, but it should jump out at you as unrealistic dialog.

Anywhere where you are dropping information in an unnatural way is bad.  Also be careful, because you can insert information in a completely logical thought, but then end up going off on a tangent of info-dumping and lose your reader.

Do you have any funny examples of this?

Jennifer___Eaton

Cut it out with those full sentances! — Rule #23 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #23

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

Time for all the English teachers to cringe! But it’s true, right?  Do we speak in sentences?  Well, sometimes.  But there should be a good mix of full sentences and fragments.  Heck, even an incomplete thought here and there will help make the dialog seem more real.

And if you are not sure if it sounds real or not, read it out loud.  Even better… have someone else read it to you.  If it sounds weird with a voice attached, then you need a little re-write.

Jennifer___Eaton

Make it Stink. Ain’t nothing wrong with smelly stuff — Rule #21 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #21

21: Use all five senses in your descriptions. Smell and touch are too often neglected.

Wave that banner high and don’t forget about it.  So many times I have been stuck, needing that little extra “umph” in a scene.  Adding that little bit of extra sensory perception into a scene is awesome for really engaging your reader.

For instance, the smell of popcorn when you enter a movie theater.  The fragrance of roses dancing on the breeze.  The gritty surface biting into her flesh.

I don’t think there’s a better method of really engaging your reader than NAILING the sensory perceptions.

Do you have a favorite sensory perception?  How about a great example ina book your reading?

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Torture Your Protagonist Rule #20 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #20

20: Torture your protagonist. It’s not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down.

I just love this one.  Honestly, I fought this for a while in one of my novels.  I just loved that poor little MC so much.  My beta partner screamed at me to torture him, but I couldn’t.

Of course, now I have grown.  If he has to get across the street, he will have to weave in and out of umpteen explosions as the alien bear down on him, only to get to the other side to be caught in a tractor beam, and while he is immobilized, his girlfriend gets beaten up by an alien…. Okay, that’s not a real plotline of one of my books (yet-Tee hee) but you get the picture.

Easy is boring.  Never make it easy.  This goes back into adding conflict. Each time you sit down think: “How am I going to torture him/her today?”

And then don’t be all nice and wuss out.  LET HIM/HER HAVE IT!  They will forgive you after they get their happy ending.

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Don’t sleep with him/her? Rule #19 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #19

19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed. Unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.

Umm…. What?

I’m staring at this, and trying to think about novels that were good, where there was a little bedroom time, but no jealous lover.

I have to admit… there are a lot… and they are fine. A sexual triangle just is not the main conflict of the story.

Sometimes the strong relationship between two characters makes the overall conflict (not necessarily a jealous partner) a deeper conflict, because the characters really care about each other.

Maybe Allen Guthrie has never read a romance novel? Maybe he just doesn’t like to read bedroom scenes?

What’s your take on this?

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Goals and Obstacles in every scene – Rule #18 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #18

18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

I have talked about this with almost every beta partner I ever had.  Why?  Because my first few beta partners spoke to me about this, and when I started listening, things started coming together for me.

This is where we start having to ax out “Little Darlings” – those scenes where two characters have a nice conversation, but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Make sure every scene has conflict, and if it doesn’t chop it out.  If it is important to you, you can always post it as an “extra” on your website.  [Smile]

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Don’t Dump on Me! Rule #17 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #17

17: When writing a novel, start with your characters in action. Fill in any necessary backstory as you go along.

Everyone PLeeeeeese read that again.

Yes, I am an admitted action junkie, but I’m not asking you to explode something on your first page (although I have been guilty of doing this)

Buuuuuttt…  Your character should be doing SOMETHING when the story starts out… and even at the start of a chapter.  You need to grab your reader right from the first line.  That’s hard to do when nothing is happening, right?

Make it fast, make it clear, and grab your reader.  Make them want to read on.  You only have a page to make an impression.  Make it a good one.

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Rule #1 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

One of the on-line writing groups I belong to has devoted several chat sessions to the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie. Unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to participate in any of the discussion thus far, but I did take the opportunity to read the article—and I’m so glad I did.

For the next several weeks, I’m going to dissect this article/essay and really think over each section.  Since I remember things better when I write them down, I figured I might as well post them up here as a series and discussion topic.  This way we can all chat, and maybe learn from each other as well.

I can’t stress strongly enough that writing is subjective. We all strive for different goals. Consequently, we all need our own set of rules—and some of us don’t need rules at all! Personally, I like rules. If nothing else, it’s fun breaking them.  [Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie]

So let’s chat about number one, which defines that wacky word I’ve never heard of before…

1: Avoid pleonasms. A pleonasm is a word or phrase that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter. Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits (I actually just know that he’s the killer can be trimmed to I know he’s the killer), and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant [Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie]

Now, I KNOW I don’t use “more or less” or “in any shape or form” because they would both set off my cliché alarm.  I have caught myself using “just” once in a while… but I’m not sure about the other two.  I’m going to go run a search on my nearly completed manuscript FIRE IN THE WOODS for these words.  You go take a look at yours, and let’s meet back here.

swish skid mark

Okay… Here’s the scoop.

There are 203 cases of “just” in my novel.  Probably too many for 270 pages, don’t you think?  It seems that most of them are in dialog, but let’s take a look at a few that aren’t:

Staying in the house was just too much to ask. This was the story of a lifetime. I just couldn’t let it slip by without getting something on film.

Okay, taken out of context the two “justs” next to each other scream at me. The second one will definitely go.  Now the first one… does the sentence sound fine without it?  Yes, of course it does, but I think the “just” in this case, is part of the teenage voice in the novel.  For now, I think the first one will stay—but knowing me it will start annoying me now, and get deleted eventually.

Here’s a “that” instance…

You promised that you wouldn’t let anything happen to me

Each switch up to “You promised you wouldn’t let anything happen to me”

swish skid mark

Here are my total counts:

Original appearances of “Just” = 203 (85% in dialog)

# After search/edit = 114 (mostly dialog)

swish skid mark

Original appearances of “Actually” = 22 (only 5 outside dialog)

# After search/edit = 21 (only 4 outside dialog)

swish skid mark

Original appearances of “That” = 448 (Yikes!)

# after search/edit = 395 – most in dialog, but only 63 could be removed without messing up the sentence. I will look at this again in the final read-through.

How’d you do?  What other words have you come across that can be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence?

JenniFer_EatonF