book reviews / writers tips / writing

11 Tips You Don’t Want to Miss about Writing a Novel

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Lawrence Block’s (publisher of over thirty books and winner of such prestigious awards as the Edgar Allan Poe award) Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print provides a step-by-step guide to taking a nascent idea to fully-fleshed novel. It’s packed with ideas (including a bibliography of his recommended books for writers), but I’ll list eleven ideas he stressed–the ones that made a difference in my writing. Add a comment and tell me if you agree:

  • There’s no such thing as a formula
  • Some novelists outline briefly, some in great detail… (Block has a funny story which I could so relate to)
  • If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room and wait for the feeling to pass (His book has a light sense of humor writers will appreciate)
  • The best seller list abounds with the work of writers whom no one would want to call polished stylists
  • Novels…are time and again written with no original central idea to be found (Sigh with relief and then read his book for more detail on that provocative thought)
  • Isn’t it harder to write a novel? No. Novels aren’t harder. They’re longer
  • I want to (write). What do I do first? what you do first is read (How many times have I read that? Here, yet another successful writer proclaims reading to be the cornerstone of writing).

  • (To find ideas on what to write) Pay attention. The little atoms of fact and attitude which can link up into the molecules of an idea are all over the damn place.
  • Writing the novel is an ongoing organic process, and we carry the book with us wherever we go.
  • When an idea comes along, make sure you don’t forget it.
  • The reason the reader care what happens next is because of the author’s skill at characterization.

For more writing tips, check out Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers and Gotham Writer’s Writing Tips from the Masters.

To purchase Lawrence Block’s great book from Amazon, click Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print.

To have these tips delivered to your email, click here.

More writing tips:

15 Tips Picked Up From Twitter

Stephen King’s Ten Commandments of Writing

13 Ways and 3 Books to Build Blockbuster Plots

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor of technology in education, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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32 thoughts on “11 Tips You Don’t Want to Miss about Writing a Novel

  1. I think the 1st tip sums it up. I don’t think of writing as any kind of task, job, or anything else going along that line of thinking. I think of it as a passion and an obsession. And that’s what keeps me writing the next word.😉


  2. Just took 2 Advil before I opened my computer – does that count?
    Following the comments thread here: I think folks might have missed the word “original” before the “central idea” statement that Block made. Block is not original in that observation. It is often said that there are no original story ideas, they are all repackaged, and how the repackaging is crafted is what determines the quality of a story. Fresh and original tends to refer to the arrangement of parts, not to the core concept. Just my take on what’s been said here.
    For myself, characters drive my books. I carry my stories everywhere, (at least in my head) often several stories at at time. I read all the time, a bit slowly, but I’m always with a bookmark if not my nose in a book.
    Just added another title to my “get soon” list. Booksellers everywhere should put you on their payroll, Jacqui. Authors should send you bouquets. Thank you for this review.


  3. Love the humor and I can relate to many of Blocks’s tips. I don’t agree that there is no such thing as a formula, but I do agree with throwing the formula out the window, probably what he meant.


  4. Thanks Jacqui and to Lawrence Block’s tips .. I wish I could be a chip off the old block and incorporate them all. Taking an aspirin or three sounds like a good idea too. I like Curious to the Max’s comment (Kierkegaard) about living life forwards but life is understood backwards. Makes sense to me ..


  5. The idea that a novel has to have a central idea strikes me as insane. Does your life have a central idea? Life always has a blend of thematic threads–if yours doesn’t, you’re not looking hard enough. In developing a novel the work is to narrow the distractions–but not so much that the work becomes obvious or didactic.


  6. ‘Novels…are time and again written with no original central idea to be found (Sigh with relief and then read his book for more detail on that provocative thought)’

    I don’t know about you, but without a central idea/s I would have no motivation to write anything. Which does not mean I am writing a concealed polemic.


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