The Elements Of Writing A Novel

As writers, it’s critical to understand the basic elements of writing, as well as how they are related.

1.  Plot

There are many definitions of plot, but plot is essentially the story, or the events that make up what the book is about. Plot is defined by the conflict of the story – either internal (emotions, such as which love interest to pick, for example) or external, (a shadowy man is following your detective down a dark alley,) and the best plots are both original and interesting.

2.  Character Development

Bringing the characters to life in your reader’s mind is always essential. Descriptions can range from short sketches to deep, wordy, highly detailed biographies of each character. You can find different types of character development wherever you look; however, some types of genres require a certain type of character development.  Do your research and do right by your characters!

3.  Writing Style

Writing style is, of course, how the novel is written. Your novel’s style should always be appropriate for the genre or story. An appropriate style adds to the texture of the novel; an inappropriate style does just the opposite. Literary fiction tends to lean toward complex sentences with original language. Thrillers tend to use shorter, more efficient sentences, especially as the pace quickens in the novel. (Of course, basic writing rules always apply!)

4.  Length

The length of your novel should be appropriate to the genre and be appropriate to the story.

In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says his general rule of thumb is to cut 10%. According to what I’ve heard about Hemingway, his advice was to take the first fifty pages of your novel and cut them down to five pages. Sometimes when writing, less is more. (Ignore the use of the cliché, but it’s appropriate here.)

In most books on writing that I’ve read, this final aspect is often overlooked, though I don’t know why. Length is critically important in novels. How many times, for instance, have you read a novel that seems to go “on and on?” Books that are too long are the sign of laziness by the writer and also imply an arrogance of sorts, one that essentially says to the reader, “I’m the author here and I know what I’m doing, and if you don’t like it, then that says more about you than me, and we both know which one of us is smarter.”

Being efficient is difficult and often time-consuming. It’s a lot harder to capture a character’s personality fully in one, original paragraph, than it is to take a page to do so. But efficiency is one of the characteristics of quality writing. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is a much stronger opening than taking a paragraph or two to say exactly the same thing.

Writing Craft

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