Wednesday, August 12, 2009


There are many methods to starting your novel. Tons and tons of ways to begin--and some may be better than mine. But this one has worked for me. And since, I'm assuming, you're a teen writer as well, you can use this process to get yourself started... just like I did. So, without further ado, let's start the steps!

Step 1: The idea.

Every book started with an idea. All of them. Some ideas are good, and, well, some of them aren't that good. But since I'm guessing your idea is absolutely brilliant, you don't have anything to worry about. What do you do to start step 1? Take your idea and write it out in one sentence.

After being rejected from battleschool, a fifteen year old boy becomes the reluctant apprentice of a ranger-Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Things NOT to do in your one sentence summery.
1. Don't use names. It's better to say "a fifteen year old boy" than to say "William."
2. Don't let it stretch longer than twenty words. Fifteen is ideal. The shorter, the better.
3. Leave out extraneous plot details. We don't need to know if Will is allergic to garlic or if his Dad was a knight before he was born... Unless that's your idea. Only mention your biggest plot driving conflict.

This one sentence summary is called a sales pitch (or elevator pitch). On Randy Ingermanson's site ( you can find the process he's developed--the snowflake method--to further develop your sentence into a paragraph, your paragraph into a page, and so on and so forth until you have an outline.

Step 2: Learn your Craft, decide your Point Of View (POV), and pick a Tense.

Now, this step is where the most work is done. Learning your craft involves studying the language you intend to write your novel in. Grammar and punctuation fall under this one, as well as many other aspects of writing. The best advice I can give you? Read books. Read how-to books. Analyze your favorite books. There are tons of books I could recommend on the topic of writing, and maybe I will in a future e-zine.

Right about now, you might be asking "What? There's more than ONE point of view?" and here's the simple answer: yes! There are many point of views (called POV from now on because my fingers are getting tired) and all of them have their pros and cons. Here are three of the more popular POV's out there.

Omniscient: By its definition, omniscient means having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight. Thank you Webster! This is like having God as the narrator. The author can hop from one person's head to the next every other paragraph. Which, at least for me, is very annoying. Cornelia Funke uses this POV in Inkheart. A disadvantage of using omniscient is that it makes your characters less intimate for your reader, as you are popping from one person's head to the next.

First Person: This POV reads very much like a diary. "I walked to the door and I tripped across the slippery tile floor" is an example of it. Stephanie Meyer uses this POV in Twilight. But there is a disadvantage. Where first person might work great in a romance novel, it wouldn't be the best/easiest choice for a suspense novel, as it is fairly intimate and hard to use.

Third Person: This POV is the most commonly used of them all. And it's easy to see why. Written in Third Person, the above sentence would read "Bryan walked to the door and he tripped across the slippery tile floor." You can use the word "he" or your POV character's name for your pronouns. A book that uses this POV is Christopher Paolini's Eragon. As for disadvantages... when used properly, there really aren't many! That's why it's used so often.

After you decide what POV you're going to use, pick a tense. There are only two tenses: past tense and present tense. Here's the difference: I walk to the door (present tense), I walked to the door (past tense). Easy, right? After you've learned enough about the craft of writing and have decided your POV and tense, you're ready for step three.

Step 3: Write your book!

This step can be the most fun. You finally get to write your book! Yay! So you're writing along, lost in a white heat of inspiration, and then you hit a lull (otherwise known as writer's block). What do you do? Keep writing. Zip through that first draft and don't worry about how it looks. Unless you haven't taken the time to master the second step, you shouldn't start re-writing your chapters until that first draft is done. No first draft is perfect. And, unless you're a prodigy, your first--and maybe even second, third, and fourth--draft is going to suck, deal with it. Perseverance is the only difference between you and a published author. The sooner you learn that, the better. And remember, the only thing you don't have to finish is a piece of pie. So keep at it! (Oh, and Donita K. Paul gets the credit for the pie advice. lol)

Check back soon for next month’s e-zine: Said-tags and Adverbs

E-zine copyright Christian Miles, 2009