I have been preparing to write a novel for some time now – making character webs, scribbling notes here and there. I even have a 20 page chunk finished. I wrote that over a year ago.
Really, things are going nowhere fast. Then yesterday I was at Target and came across the book Ready, Set, Novel by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit. All three authors work for National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, so I figured they would have some good advice.
The book takes the form of a workbook, with sections on idea generating, character building, establishing plot etc. The tone is a little tongue-in-cheek, I suppose, and at first I felt a bit silly writing in it (since I have taken countless classes on how to construct and write stories – shouldn’t I know how to by now?) but I have accomplished more since I got the book than in the past couple of years. Maybe it is some sort of left-over conditioning from high school, but the fact that there are exercises and blank pages and instructions makes me feel like I have to fill them in. As if it is an assignment. It is amazing.
Besides that, some of the activities are very helpful and are things I would never have thought to do, like writing scenes from a character’s childhood – things that happened before the beginning of the novel. They won’t even be included, but just having thought through them makes me feel so much better acquainted with my characters. Another interesting exercise was putting your characters in crazy situations together that have nothing to do with the plot (like hypothetically trapping them in an elevator together). It forces one to think about their mannerisms and personalities as a whole – not just how they will react to the events in your plot, but how they would react to other strange or dramatic occurrences in their lives.
To top it off, the end of the book includes coloring pages of famous authors in case you just get frustrated and need a break. I don’t know that there has ever been a 21 year old that enjoyed coloring books more than I do. I would recommend it to anyone who aspires to write a novel but feels stuck. $17 well spent.