Writing fiction is not easy. I wouldn’t hesitate twice to say that it is one of the hardest things to do.
“You must engage the readers by immersing them into your world of effortless words. Your book must contain good-flowing, solidly built sections and chapters, each of which should have pages that build the story. The readers should be able to relate to things, places, characters, and descriptions you may have written.” The Internet is loaded with such suggestions. The takeaway, for me, is that writing about how to write fiction is easier than writing fiction.
I have now come to shut myself from such advice for I know how my readers feel about my writing. I belong to a non-native English speaking background and most of my readers are from this part of the world: complex and lengthy narration will lose the readers. I must use simple words to narrate a story. But that’s not all. Here are a few more points I consider when I begin tidying up the first drafts:
Find Your Voice
Listen to your voice as you read or write. This makes it easy for you to do an initial round of editing even as you are writing your initial draft. I know some people go about writing their first drafts as if they are vomiting their ideas over their documents. But I find this approach difficult to follow. Even as I speak, I continue to edit my sentences for comprehension and simplicity. It does slow down the writing (or talking), but only initially. Talk to your readers as if you were sitting before them.
As for your novel writing, you must also be clear about what you want your protagonist and antagonist to convey. Both of them should have a compelling story to tell, a logic to their acts, and a reason based on which they judge the right and the wrong in their lives. The way they will act will direct the flow of your story; the characters themselves will lead your story to the conclusion.
Script the Emotions
Positive emotions leave readers with a positive mindset. Depending on what story—or what side (perspective) of it—you wish to tell, you may choose to reserve the same feeling for the aftertaste of your novel: positive or negative. After all, not all stories might have a happy ending. A positive lasting impression, for example, might make your readers feel that you had things sorted for the protagonist toward the end of the novel.
For the most part of writing a novel, I wish my protagonist to face as many challenges as possible. The challenges for them must begin with the very first chapter and they must continue to slump further down into the spiral of increasingly difficult challenges until they realize there is no way they can turn back. That moment when they have left nothing to lose anymore is then the perfect time for me to introduce them to a miracle/event/person that helps them set things right again.
My current project is a fiction where each chapter ends on either a cliff or its resolution. Every chapter has acts that underpin a central emotion to tell their story. It is the ups and downs of emotions that I seek to deliver through the story.
Describe the Life and Times
Certainly, the novel revolves around the central character of the protagonist. But is it the only story that I wish to narrate? No. I wish to tell a lot of other, connected stories through the story of the central character. My protagonist holds the stories of multiple characters around them. The story of the protagonist is as much other’s story as his (his, in my novel). There are dedicated sections within my novel that describe the life and times of the other characters. I want that because this helps smooth the edges around my central character.
The most boring, the most time consuming, the most ignored, but perhaps the most important part of writing a novel is rewriting it. Every single sentence you write must have been written over and over again. Whatever I have written so far in the draft has been rewritten at least twice. And I will consider rewriting the required sections again before sending the final copy to the editors for further steps.
At times, I do not find anything wrong with sentences. But when I put those sentences together, I realize the amount of rework required to bring the intended meaning out. I wish to tell a compelling story compellingly, so I continue to rewrite the story until I get to a point where the story sounds, appears, and feels compelling enough.
Toward the end, whatever it might be—or, howsoever good or bad it might be—tell the readers that the story for the characters in your novel concludes like it the way it does by providing the perspective of the protagonist/antagonist. Tell the readers what the lead characters have to do with the ending. Tell the readers how the story has changed the reality for the lead characters and made them different. Tell them what changed from the time the story began to the time the story concluded. The readers might not like the approach. They may not even agree with you—that’s OK. But, they will certainly thank you for not leaving them hanging midair for the conclusion.
These are the five absolute must-haves for me. Tell me what are yours?