For those of you who are interested in writing a novel, I hope these
tips taken as an extract from my workshop book FROM PEN TO PUBLISHER
will inspire you to greater creativity and success.
Learning from the Experts
Every novel you read by a best selling author can show you the skills
needed to make your novel a page turning best seller. Analyse
a novel you found memorable from the genre you write in.
Most importantly choose a novel that has been recently published as
this will show what is currently required within today’s market.
Re-read the chosen novel to familiarise yourself with the plot and characters.
Then it is time to get down to studying it and learning the techniques
that can be your breakthrough into publication.
that whilst you are studying the plot, characterisation and format this
is to analyse for your own work and not an outright duplicate of that
novel. Originality is always the key to your success as a new
writer and will make your novel stand out from the rest.
If this sounds like a great deal of hard work, no one said becoming
published was easy. This ground work can save you months if not
years of making common errors that stop a writer becoming published.
If there is a recipe for success this advice will help you find it.
1. By reading your favourite novels and authors you get to know
what is required within the genre. But reading is not enough.
You must analyse with the precision of a forensic scientist.
2. Then start to go through it breaking it down. List the
characters, their strengths, weaknesses and any quirks in their personalities.
Note how one was the foil for another. How the good are portrayed
differently from the bad, and that no character is either wholly good
or wholly bad.
3. Write down how the characters interacted with each other.
What caused the feuding / hate / romance / friendship / traumas / tension
and conflict. This
tells you a lot about your own needs in portraying characters.
4a. Note the way a character is introduced both by description
and something of their personality. You never give your reader
a wodge of information about a person you introduce. The picture
is built up slowly so that the reader remembers what they look
like and their personality.
b. What words were used to describe the personality or motivation
of the character. These are also important so that the reader
will instantly sum up an important point of the character and relate
to them. e.g. A stubborn tilt to an otherwise weak chin.
Icy glitter of contempt in eyes which have never shown love. Pompous
set of prim lips. Fastidious brushing down of clothes over
a pot belly. Mannerisms reveal a lot about a character.
c. Characters evolve within a novel. Note how your chosen novel
has achieved this.
5. Having analysed the characters, start to break down the chapters.
Do a précis of each consisting of a few sentences, highlighting the
main points which either bring out a dramatic point, reveal something
important about a character or their motivation.
6. What hooks have been put in to foreshadow future drama to come?
Hooks keep the reader wanting to know what comes next and turning the
By now you have started to build up a picture how the novel was plotted.
This is invaluable to help you in plotting your own novel.
7. Read each scene. See how space is given to setting up the scene
visually in the reader’s mind in the descriptions used to bring alive
the surroundings and landscape of a scene.
8. What is the conflict sustained or being built in each scene?
9. How is it propelling the plot forward?
10. Every scene must either reveal something important about a character
or advance the plot.
11. Be aware of the way dialogue is used to reveal character and
forward plot. A novel is at least one quarter dialogue. Do you
have problems with using dialogue to its best advantage - more of this
is dealt with in my online workshop.
Show don’t tell. See how a scene of dialogue is acted out by the
characters. How do they move whilst speaking, their mannerisms
revealing the state of their emotion.
13. The best novels engage the reader’s emotions. This means you
must get firmly into your character’s head whilst in their viewpoint.
We must know how they react to witnessing a loved one dying or triumphing
over an adversary. You must make the reader FEEL this emotion.
14. See how viewpoint is used to bring out the most dramatic emphasis
of a scene. A scene should be firmly in one or two peoples viewpoint.
See where the author chose to change viewpoint and why. Getting
viewpoint right is vital. More of this is dealt with if you join
my online workshop.
Viewpoint changes are most dramatic and necessary to reveal a character’s
hidden thoughts or suppressed reaction. They need to be done skilfully
or the scene can become disjointed and lose its pace.
To understand, this study a scene and note how the author by the first
words of a paragraph puts the reader into another character’s head.
15. Different genres use different ways of building conflict and suspense.
Some novels work better if you know that a character is in danger from
a protagonist, only when in the protagonists viewpoint. Some plots
are stronger if events are shown through one person’s eyes and viewpoint.
With most plots the suspense builds more dramatically if at first the
reader is kept in ignorance of a darker side of a character and these
traits are gradually revealed as the story progresses.
16. Peaks and troughs are needed to build tension. After
every dynamic, dramatic scene the reader needs a page or two at a slower
pace. Otherwise you could be in danger of giving your novel a
melodramatic or hysterical tension in the story instead of good drama.
17. Good novels give you variations. Make your characters
travel. Give them different actions and backgrounds for each scene.
Show them at work, at play, show different aspects of their lives and
Weather is important to put more drama into a scene and heighten scenes
in a more memorable way. Weather shows us the seasons and passing
of time. Vary scenes to be set in rain, sun, thunderstorms and
snow and realise how the weather changes the mood of a scene.
19. Note how each setting and description are varied from scene
20. Avoid clichés and stereotypes.
21. Give your characters flaws.
22. Be realistic and do not make characters superhuman.
The main hero or heroine should be brave and feisty but if they have
been kidnapped and escaped, just fought a battle, saved a baby from
a fire, they would also get an emotional reaction from the danger they
have faced. This is what makes them human.
23. The Loveday series has been described as having characters that
transcend time. This is important for modern day readers to empathise
with historical characters and understand their motivation.
24. Motivation of characters keeps the plot plausible. This
is where so many unpublished writers fall down and will be dealt with
in my online workshop.
Learn how to make your writing more dramatic and how to engage your
reader’s empathy and make them keep turning the pages by joining my
online workshop for writers. Exercises and advice will be
given and your questions honestly answered. We will analyse a
novel using the Loveday books as an example to put into practice all
the tips above. I use my own work to explain building tension, characterisation,
plotting, motivation, using viewpoint to its best advantage, simply
because I would not presume to know why another author chose to create
each scene the way they did for the purposes of teaching another.
me to enrol for workshops or become a fan of the Loveday family