I’m approaching the end of my new manuscript and I’m really excited. This book has been a collaborative effort – I’ve realised that you don’t have to write solo. My mentor’s contribution has been immense and I’m kind of hoping she’ll continue to work with me as my writing grows. I don’t think the manuscript will be ready until February but I can taste the final sentence. It’s not far off.
Which is the reason I haven’t blogged for the last two weeks. My apologies. It also explains why this week’s blog is short and sweet. My manuscript consumes me at the moment. Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a course at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival held by the energetic, witty and intelligent Lenny Bartulin – I was so impressed by him I raced out and bought one of his books. Infamy is the next book on my reading pile, behind Anna Dressed in Blood.
Here’s something I learned at the course – six questions you need to ask yourself when starting to write a novel. I can’t read my scrawling notes so I apologise if I am misquoting the source – I believes it’s Robert Mckee.
- Who are the characters?
- What do they want (desire – in its myriad forms – moves the story forward)?
- Why do they want it?
- How do they go about getting it?
- What stops them?
- What are the consequences?
Jonathan K Benton
There be good reviews, and there be bad, as the pirates would say. A critical review from someone who didn’t like your work is still a good review – carefully considered criticism can be extremely useful. I learn from some of the criticisms levelled at my own work. People must be allowed to have opinions, including whether they like, or dislike, a novel. The nasty reviews from people, who think abuse is some kind of intelligent criticism, are wasting everybody’s time. They reveal more about the reviewer’s character (or lack of) than the book itself.
I’m deep into my next book, using the five P’s to make sure my writing is improving, so it was a nice surprise to receive an email from my publisher advising me that an Amazon top 500 reviewer had read and reviewed A Wicked Kind of Dark (published by Odyssey Books 2013). Pop Bop has a way with words – I enjoyed reading the review for this reason alone. It was also nice to know that someone with such great command of the English language enjoyed reading my book.
So … A big thanks to Pop Bop and all those people who take the time to read and write carefully considered reviews. We authors appreciate it.
Jonathan K Benton
I was watching a documentary about Queen and realised that parallels can be drawn between a super group and a great book. Each member of Queen brought their own unique elements to the mix, that when combined, clicked to make extraordinary music.
A great book is a successful combination of elements too: Plot, Theme, Structure , Voice and Character. Think of these things as members of a super group. If you can successfully meld them into a novel, you’ll make ‘A Kind of Magic’ too.
Jonathan K Benton
I believe authors write because they have to. They cannot stop that fountain of words bubbling up inside them. Some writers might dream of fortune and glory, but these fantasies play second fiddle to a passionate desire to express themselves using the written word. Authors cannot not write.
Writing is a craft and authors need to grow their abilities. I’m a better author now than I was last year and I’ll be even stronger next year. I’m published, and my first book received great reviews in some big papers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There is. I’ve found a wonderful mentor and I’ll continue developing the craft.
My point is: practise undoubtedly makes perfect, no matter what stage of your writing career this blog finds you at.
This is by far the most important of the three P’s. Without it, your manuscript will likely never make it out of the dreaded slush pile. Perseverance isn’t just about repeating the same thing. Remember: it’s often your third or fourth manuscript that snags that illusive publishing contract. Persevere with practising – find a writers’ group and share ideas. Persevere with writing – try to finish the manuscript even if it feels like it’s going nowhere. Writing begets writing. Immerse yourself in your stories and never give up. It can take years – it can take a lifetime.
There are many levels to this one: Scheduling times to write throughout the week; planning what to write about during these times; fleshing out characters to make them real enough to drive the plot forward. I’ve said this before – I think it’s extremely useful to bounce ideas off another writer throughout the drafting process. I regret not having done it with my first book. I’ve found a new mentor and she’s brought a whole other dimension to my writing. Planning is all this, and so much more.
Don’t submit your novel until it’s ready. Don’t take shortcuts. Unpack those lazy sentences. Get the manuscript reviewed by an expert before you shop it around. Put it in a drawer for a month. Then read it again. You’ll be surprised how many improvements you’ll find. Patience will save you time in the long run.
Which brings us full circle. Passion. If you truly love creating stories: that in itself should fill most of the gap. Writers tend to be idealists. I am.
Jonathan K Benton