I got to thinking recently that writing a novel is a lot like cooking, so I thought I’d create a little recipe for all those writers out there…
Preparation time: Varies, from months to years.
Serves: Potentially millions (if you’re lucky)
- One working computer, word processor, or large notepad and pen
- One committed writer
- *optional but highly recommended: truckloads of beverages and snacks
- One main plot
- A handful of sub-plots
- One to a few main characters
- Several minor characters
- At least one setting, add more to taste
- One large cup of emotion
- A splash of humour
- A teaspoon of mystery (or more depending on genre of the recipe, er… novel)
- One or two cups of cold-pressed extra virgin (or not) organic dialogue
- One or two goals
- One heaped tablespoon of motivation
- Two cups of conflict
- One cup of resolution mixed with a happy ending (depending on genre)
- A sprinkling of hooks and cliffhangers
- *optional but highly recommended: a twist of sexual tension and a dollop of romance
1. Prepare by opening a new word document or a new page on your notepad, and give it a title, eg: ‘Best Novel Ever’, or ‘I’ll Think Of A Title Later’.
2. Write the opening sentence, or the last sentence, or any words you can think of so you can officially say, “I’ve started writing my novel.”
3. Consume beverages and snacks.
4. Introduce one main character, a goal, and splash in some conflict (save the rest for later).
5. Sprinkle a hook or cliffhanger at the end of chapter one to entice further devouring of the story.
6. Add some of the other characters and sub-plots, and stir in some emotion and mystery.
7. Consume more beverages and snacks.
8. Splash in some humour and keep drizzling in the organic dialogue throughout the whole baking/writing process.
9. Combine the motivation with some more of the conflict for a spicy mixture.
10. If adding the optional ingredient of sexual tension, squeeze a little in now.
11. Continue stirring the plot and the sub-plots together so they combine well, making sure to keep topping up the emotion.
12. Consume beverages and snacks.
13. Add in the remaining conflict, sexual tension, mystery, and hooks.
14. Finish by placing the cup of resolution and happy endings on top, and decorate with a dollop of romance.
15. Bake in a closed drawer or backed-up file on your computer, and leave completely alone for at least a couple of weeks, or more if you’ve forgotten to attend to necessary tasks such as showering, cleaning, feeding the family and pets, seeing real live people, checking the mail…etc.
16. Open the file and give it a taste test. Read through it and make any obvious changes and improvements, adding more of the ingredients as needed.
17. For best results, get a trusted friend to taste test it too.
18. Make further improvements.
19. Bake it for a little longer if necessary.
20. Pull bits of it apart and throw them out. But just in case, wrap them up and store them safely away for future reference.
21. Remove the excess words and overused ingredients.
22. Repeat steps 11 and 13.
23. Add extra sweetness to the dollop of romance if required.
24. Decorate and plate-up the finished piece with all the pizazz you can find.
25. Hand it over to a professional, who’ll probably get you to start over at step 20 again.
26. Repeat steps until it tastes just right, or a deadline forces you to serve it up.
27. Consume beverages and snacks to reward yourself for all the hard work.
28. Attend to the necessary tasks that you’ve once again neglected.
29. Smile politely at people who say, “The novel was great, I read it in one day. Hurry up and write the next one!”
30. Begin at step 1 all over again.
*Note: Results may vary between people. Recipe not suitable for freezing.
Thanks for reading! And remember, all comments left on blog posts during May will go into the draw for some tasty prizes! Click on the ‘mouthwatering may’ tag below to see all may blog posts, or click on the category on the right side menu. Also, make sure you subscribe to the blog to be eligible 😉
Today I thought I’d share one of my own Mouthwatering Moments with you! This scene is from THE JANUARY WISH, and unfortunately it is not published, but I hope it will be one day.
‘You never got to eat any Death by Chocolate,’ Mark said, a smile oozing from the corner of his mouth. ‘There’s still an hour and a half left of your birthday, how about we try and catch Café Lagoon before they close, and grab something to take-away?’
Sylvia’s smile grew wider. ‘As Grace told me today, ‘every birthday is a gift worth celebrating’, so I think it’s my duty to make the most of it.’
‘Especially at your age,’ Mark said, spicing his words with sarcasm.
Sylvia twisted her lips to one side and gave him an evil glare. ‘Watch what you say, mister, or –’
‘Or…I’ll thump you with my walking stick.’
Mark snorted. ‘In that case, I better think before I speak.’ It felt good to muck around with Sylvia, especially after the stress of tonight. ‘Anyway, in all seriousness, I think Grace is one wise girl.’
‘She sure is,’ Sylvia replied, accepting Mark’s offer of his outstretched hand.
At ten minutes to eleven they pulled up outside Café Lagoon, and Mark jumped out, before ducking his head back in the car. ‘What can I get the birthday girl?’
‘I’ll have a hot chocolate,’ Sylvia replied.
‘And to eat?’
‘Um… surprise me.’
Mark smiled and rushed inside. A staff member was wiping down tables and the last of the customers were filtering out. He paid for his order and then got back in the car, placing the cardboard tray containing the hot drinks on Sylvia’s lap, and the paper bag containing her ‘surprise’ between the two front seats.
‘Let me guess…a dandelion chai for you?’ Sylvia asked.
She tried to peer into the paper bag but he stopped her. ‘Uh-uh, wait till we get to the lookout. It’s a surprise, remember?’
My favourite meal: It’s hard to choose one favourite meal, but a meal I cook often that I love is lamb cutlets with sauteed bok choy and mushrooms, drizzled with toasted pine nuts and mustard dressing. The combination of flavours is beautiful.
My favourite treat: Guylian Belgian chocolate seashells (but I usually only have them a couple of times a year – birthday and Christmas!)
My favourite drink: A frothy soy hot chocolate 🙂
As well as this blog, I have a website you can visit here. And remember to leave a comment below and subscribe to the blog to be in the running for the Mouthwatering May prize draw at the end of the month! (You can see the prizes and rules here.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. That is how Jane Austen started her book, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and made it into the top 100 best first lines from novels according to the American Book Review.
A knockout first sentence can immediately draw a reader in, and helps set the tone of the story, so I think it’s important to create the best first line possible. Having said that, a good first line means nothing if the rest of the book is terrible! So of course the second sentence, and the third, and right up till the end all matters too.
When I’m in a bookstore choosing a book, not only do I go by cover design, author name, and the blurb on the book jacket, I always read the first sentence, and often the whole first page to see if it grabs my interest. If a writer can come up with the goods on the first page I know they’re more likely to keep me interested throughout the whole book.
As a reader, how important is the first sentence to you? As a writer, how easy or difficult do you find it to come up with a winner of a first line?
I love writing first sentences. I usually write them first before working out a detailed plot, because I find if I just let the words flow it’s easier to get a feel for the story idea and the protagonist.
Here are a few of my first sentences from completed stories, short stories, and works in progress…
Some first sentences are short:
Birthdays suck. (The Big Four-O, short story)
And some first sentences are long:
For most people, the worst time to get an attack of the hiccups would be at the dentist just as the drill is approaching your mouth, or on a date, just as he leans in for The Kiss, but for me, the unfortunate diaphragmatic spasm came when Channel Four news crossed to my live broadcast at the Sydney Travel Show. (February or Forever, work-in-progress)
And others are somewhere in between:
Damn you Barbie! You and your size four figure, all over tan, and legs to the moon! (The Life Makeover Club)
Dr. Sylvia Greene had never done anything like this before in her life. (The January Wish)
‘Oops’ is not the word you ever want to hear from your hairdresser; scissors in one hand, a large section of hair in the other. (Untitled, work-in-progress)
And here are some great first sentences I’ve found from other authors:
If a road could look welcoming, then Summer Street had both arms out and the kettle boiling. (Past Secrets, Cathy Kelly)
Under normal circumstances, Faith and I should not be home when my mother calls and invites us to come see her brand-new coffin. (Keeping Faith, Jodi Picoult)
What would you do if you thought you were about to die? (Heaven Can Wait, Cally Taylor)
Of all the crap, crap, crappy nights I’ve ever had in the whole of my crap life. (Remember Me, Sophie Kinsella)
Why not comment and share a favourite first sentence or two, or maybe you’d like to share the first sentence of one of your novels, or a work-in-progress? I’d love to hear some more 🙂
Many authors advise writing only one manuscript at a time, so you can completely immerse yourself in the world you’ve created and the lives of the characters. This ‘Manuscript Monogamy’ makes sense, however in reality while writing a manuscript you may be editing another, and planning a future story simultaneously.
But what about writing more than one manuscript at a time? Not writing one while planning another, but actually writing scenes in one story, and then writing scenes in another story? In other words, being an Adulterous Author (gasp!).
Are you guilty of this? And if so, is it really a sin, or is it possible that two different stories can be written simultaneously and still have a convincing plot and strong characters? Who knows, but I think it depends on the writer. If you’re the sort of writer who’s able to switch your mind easily from one story to another and stay true to the characters, then I say go for it – go ahead and cheat on manuscript number one with manuscript number two, and even (heaven forbid) manuscript number three! Just don’t tell your characters 😉
But, if the thought of this horrifies you and you think being the monogamous type is the right way to go, then repeat after me; “I (insert name here), promise to love, honour, and obey my current manuscript, till ‘the end’ do us part.” Sure, you can jot down some simple ideas for other stories as they arise, but be warned; one thing may lead to another and you could find yourself in a compromising position at third base when you only intended to go to first. Try explaining that to the revenge-driven gun-wielding action hero you created in manuscript number one.
Anyway, what do you think? What works for you? I personally am filled to the brim with ideas I want to pursue, so it would be detrimental to my family and friends, and possibly anyone within a five kilometre radius of my house, if I didn’t at least do some work on these other ideas while writing my current manuscript. I would quite likely explode if I didn’t. Having said that, I try to work mainly on one manuscript, but allow myself to write scenes in another when the inspiration strikes. Inspiration is such a random and beautiful thing, and like the Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston movie, sometimes it’s good to ‘Just Go With It’.