Human nature being what it is, someone somewhere is always searching for a shortcut. An easier, quicker, simpler way to complete a task or accomplish a goal. Never has it been more true than in our current quick-fix, immediate-gratification generation. Novel writing has not escaped this short-cut search.
Throughout my writing career, I’ve seen a whole dump-truck load of novel-writing programs that promised to trim down the learning curve and speed up the writing process from the first word on the first page, to book-on-the-bookstore-shelf.
The numbers of said programs have only accelerated with the emergence of the computer. (Hey, I can remember the conflab years ago of whether or not word processors and computers would destroy creativity. I am not making this up!) Granted, computers have certainly sped up our ability to get the words into manuscript form. But what about systems, secret formulas, super-tricks, magic keys, and universal computer novel-writing programs? Is there an absolute, ultimate, wondrous, magic secret of novel writing as suggested in the title?
First, let me digress. Writing a novel is an extremely complex undertaking. The number of variables is enormous. (Can you count the galaxies in the universe?) I am never surprised that there are secret formulas and super-tricks available out there to turn our heads and lure us into thinking there is a one-size-fits-all type of answer to the master the system. But is it a valid offer?
I’m always curious as to the type of novelist who is looking for such a plan, as opposed to those who couldn’t care less about such things.
I think (and please remember this is just a personal – very personal – opinion) those who are searching for a make-it-easier-for-me novel-writing system may be the ones who think it might be fun to whip out a novel in their spare time. In other words, it’s a lark to them.
Compare that to the novelist who has an almost gut-wrenching passion to write and cannot not write novels – no matter how complex the process; no matter how long the hours; no matter how difficult the task; no matter if rewards are never forthcoming. The latter might take a cursory glance at a one-size-fits-all type of answer to the master the system, but that’s about it. Such a novelist is, quite honestly, too busy churning out novel chapters to be bothered with such folderol. That novelist might think such a system would take all the fun out of the process.
Back to the Question
Now, back to our original question: is there an absolute, ultimate, wondrous, magic secret of novel writing?
Actually there’s a whole plethora of absolute, ultimate, wondrous, magic secrets of characterization. And another group of secrets for plotting. And another group for imaginative use of settings. Another group for how to use flashbacks wisely. Another group for how to intrigue and involve your reader. Another group for… well, I think you’re getting the picture.
I’ll take this a step further. Change the word secret or secrets to the word technique or techniques. The more the novelist writes – the more the novelist studies about writing – the more techniques he or she will learn, discover, and then use. Soon those techniques will become second nature.
The point is, there has never been – and will never be – one single secret system, but rather thousands (if not tens of thousands) of novel-writing techniques and strategies.
Recently I had a malware dysfunction on my computer. As my tech was in my office getting rid of it for me, we were discussing how time-consuming it would be to design such an invasive program. We both agreed that that same amount of time invested in a lucrative business project would have produced that individual a profitable income.
Bottom line: be careful what you search for as you journey along this road we call becoming a novelist.
I trust the teaching and instruction given in this blog post was helpful in your goal to be a novelist. For more in-depth writer’s workshops, check out the wide variety offered at the Be A Novelist Website.
Are you one of those budding novelists who makes a great start but you can’t seem to finish? Then this is for you! Be A Novelist, Six-Month, Finish-My-Novel Challenge! Six full months of guidance and instruction. Guaranteed to light a fire under your novel-writing attempts and to launch you into a pattern of consistent writing! Check it out here!