Sorry to have been absent for a few days. I’ve been involved in negotiating a major new writing deal and it has occupied all of my blogging time. Hopefully things will settle down in a day or two (and I get the deal!), which will allow me to return to posting regularly.
I was talking the other day about the premise for my Templar Chronicles trilogy which was that modern Templar Knights were acting as a secret combat arm of the Vatican and were charged with defending mankind from supernatural threats and enemies. In the storyworld, there had been a reconciliation between the Knights and the Vatican during the Second World War, when it became apparent that Hitler had some infernal assistance in his quest for world domination.
More than one purist wrote to say that the idea that the Knights would ever cooperate with the Vatican was ridiculous – after all, it had been the Church that had declared them apostate, seized their property and possessions, and had their Grand Master burned at the stake. When the subject was raised during an interview, my response was that I was playing a game of What If and having the Templars put away their past grievances to face a threat of that magnitude did not stretch my notions of the Templars’ dedication to and faith in their ideals.
Well, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
This morning the BBC wrote about a document discovered in the Vatican Secret Archives that is a record of the heresy trials that led to the Order’s excommunication and disbandment by Pope Clement V in the 14th century. It seems that not only did the trial exonerate the Templars on the charge of heresy, but that Clement actually had to ask the Order for their pardon for what had been done to them.
And if this indeed happened, then the idea that the two groups might unit to face a greater threat in the future is not so outlandish after all.
Start with a strong premise and your book will find the legs it needs to stand on its own.
For all you aspiring writers out there (aspiring meaning unpublished) there was an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. With a $25,000 advance and publication through Penguin Books up for grabs, it is worth your time to give it a read.
(A second contest is also mentioned in the article, this one through Borders, Gather.com, and Court TV. It is restricted to mystery and suspense writers and has a $5,000 prize. )
November is just around the corner and with it NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.
Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo is an organized attempt to get as many people as possible to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel between November 1st and midnight, November 30th. In 2006 there were over 79,000 participants with more than 13,000 completing the challenge.
Obviously, unless you’re writing something for the youth market, 50,000 words isn’t enough to make your manuscript market ready. But if you can complete something of that length then there is no reason you can’t complete a longer project that does foot the bill.
I’m going to be competing in the challenge this year. Unlike most of the participants, however, I’ve no intention of writing willy-nilly in the hopes of making the goal. I’m going to bring my usual level of organization that I use for all of my commercial projects to the challenge. That will keep me focused and on track throughout. I’m also going to detail the steps I take leading up to NaNoWriMo here on this blog so that you, too, can take advantage of my tips and techniques, giving you the best chance possible for completing the challenge if you decide to give it a shot along with me.
My tips on how to write a novel will work just as well for a NaNoWriMo project as they will for a non-challenge one, so those who have been reading this blog shouldn’t take this as a reason to stop.
Sign ups for the challenge will open on October 1st and can be found here.
Tomorrow we’ll start to talk about building a roadmap for what you want to write.
Yesterday we talked a little about the need for a strong premise. As part of that discussion, I suggested that you try and write a single sentence summary of your storyline. Tell me what the book is about.
For many of you, that might have been much harder than it initially seemed. Don’t worry – I’m not letting you off that easily.
There are any number of books out there that tell you how to write a novel but one of the better ones I’ve found is James Bell’s Plot and Structure. In it, Bell talks about the L.O.C.K. system for plotting, which stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Killer Ending. Without knowing it, I’ve been setting up my novels in this fashion for years.
So, using Bell’s system to help generate our initial premise, try filling in the blanks:
My Lead (main character) is a _________________ whose Objective (goal) is to ____________ but he/she/it is Confronted by _____________ who opposes him/her/it because _________________.
If you can fill in the blanks, you should be able to then convert that to a one-sentence summary.
Writing a novel is easy. All you have to do is sit down at the computer and write.
Writing a good novel? Well, that’s a bit harder. And that’s what we’re going to focus on throughout the blog. I’ve been writing professionally for five years and I’ve published seven novels in five different countries. My work has appeared on the bestseller list and has generated enough income for me to do it full-time to support my family. Since other writers helped me as I started out, I’m going to do the same thing here for anyone inclined to listen.
A good novel starts with a good idea. What we call a premise. A premise is the basic, underlying story. In essence, what the book is about. It is the central idea that makes people want to read it. The premise for my Templar Chronicles series (Heretic, A Scream of Angels, and A Tear in the Sky) was that modern Templar Knights were acting as a secret combat squad for the Vatican and protecting mankind from the supernatural threats and enemies that surround us. The premise for my forthcoming novel The Book of Coming Sorrows started with a simple question – what if? What if the apostle John wrote another book after he wrote Revelation? What if that book brought about the cataclysmic events in Revelation when it was read aloud? What if that long lost manuscript was discovered suddenly in New York City?
You should be able to define the premise of your book in a single sentence.
Yes, I said one.
One sentence only.
If you can’t, you really don’t know what your book is about.
So, step one in writing a novel – come up with a premise. Make it interesting. Make it exciting. And make it a single sentence.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get writing!