Just days before I completed penning down the plot for my novel, one of my friends happened to bring this question in our chitchat:
What’s the most important thing that you must keep in mind when writing a novel?
The question was tricky because writing a novel isn’t an easy thing to do. Sure, a lot of people do it. Yet there are only a few whose names you continue to remember and recommend. The answer to the question my friend asked lies in understanding why we happen to recommend only a few names. I could have easily said what I have read in numerous blog posts. But I dissent from the thoughts shared in most of such posts. Here’s why…
Writing—any kind of writing, fiction or nonfiction—is like weaving. You have a lot of threads that you wish to connect into a meaningful, purposed way. If anything, you also need to get the correct color combination and create a pleasant pattern. A novel tells a story that contains a central plot and more than one (interdependent or independent) sub-plots. So long as you connect the colorful sub-plots to the central plot to create a pleasant pattern, you have my commitment despite how long a story you weave (read tell).
Then is it all about the story?
Yes, the story is one of the most important things that you should have to tell or share. But a novel isn’t only about the story. You may have the best story to tell. But if you don’t tell it the way people would like to listen to, then, sorry, you will lose your audience. I read a novel to relive the story I read. Based on the way it is described in the novel, I recreate it in my mind. And, I like to see the perfect picture.
So, it should be about how well you describe things. Right?
No. If it were only about descriptions, then academic and literary essays would tell you well-researched stories way better than novels would. Then, why would anyone even peep into the world of fiction? A description can only get you so far. Here’s another key for you: the description of gargoyles in Far from the Madding Crowd builds the story.
Well, then, it is about the content. After all, content is the king.
Yes, content trumps (pun not intended) everything else. Let me break this to you:
The most important thing to keep in mind when writing a novel is to find your voice.
Remember, it is your story. You choose to share it the way you speak. Be natural. Break this story to me in a way that, first, you intrigue me into a conversation, and then, hold on to my helplessness (in a good way) until you help me conclude it.
It is that simple; it is that difficult.