Writing Fiction & Poetry : Writing Techniques for Novels

W. Somerset Maugham, who in his day was a
huge best selling novelist and he’s still read today, he said that there are four simple
rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. And that remains
true. Everyone writes a novel differently. I have known someone who wrote an award winning
novel over a long weekend. Other people spend decades writing a single novel. Obviously
they’re not using the same process. But each writer has to find the process that works.
Some people work from outlines. They find it very useful. At the very least it can be
useful to outline what you’ve already done so you can keep track of it and you don’t
contradict it too much in the rest of the stuff you write. Some people find an outline
too confining. Some people just start at the beginning, they have a character and they
have a situation and they write until they find they’ve developed a problem and resolved
it. That works too, for different people. But you have to find your own process. Try
outlining, it may work for you. Don’t outline, don’t try, if you start outlining every word
of what’s going to happen then you’re writing the book. You can do that too. Try outlining
by scenes, or writing by scenes. Don’t think in terms of chapters. Don’t think of how many
pages you’ve gotten in. Did I write a scene today? A scene is a unified set of action
in a single place. Try to have more than one thing going on in each scene. And whatever
the two actions are they should be related. Keep going. If you wind up writing an awful
lot of crap, if you have write a thousand pages of, and most of it is crap, well you’ve
still got maybe two or three hundred pages of good story in there. Feel free to write
crap, give yourself permission, because that’s the way we revise. The real work is not in
the writing, it’s in the revising and finding the gems that are buried in that awful first

35 Replies to “Writing Fiction & Poetry : Writing Techniques for Novels

  1. Hills like white elephants….my favorite short of all time…I have written at least 2000 pages of crap….the beauty is that I have refined the story to make sense. 15 years of hit and miss…I am not looking for the money as much as just sharing a story that has floated around in my head for the majority of my life…Good stuff Santa….

  2. I think he meant it in the way that if you "outline" everything to the most minute details and dialogue, then you're really writing the book (novel) and not the outline.

  3. I fond my problem. Whenever i started writing i would think everything I was writing was terrible and was never going to be taken seriously. This guy really helped.

  4. You're "righting a book"? Wow, I can hardly wait to read it.

    Anyway, I could listen to this man all day long, even if he would ramble about what happened during his fishing trip. He is like a kind uncle, cheering up all family gatherings with his stories.

  5. I'm pretty sure the same can be said for Australia.
    Having watched it on a cooking show, what we call the garden variety pest, is the exact species used for French quezine, though I'm not sure about the slugs?

  6. I'm writing a wonderful POC (piece of crap) novel about a feral but beautiful shapeshifter and her charismatic hypnotist for the National Novel Writing Month challenge. 40,000 words done, 10,000 to go. Yes, lots of little gems in it, but overall it's crap, mostly because so far there's not enough graphic action (sex) and no one has died an ugly death. Well, except for the guy who was showing off to his wannabe girlfriend, jumped out of a tree and landed on the boulders, lol.

  7. He got sleigh that can go all over the world in just one night…… so isn't is easy to go find the nearest internet cafe?

  8. thank u so much! writing by scenes…never thought of that! and this comes from a true writer–if that messy desk is any indication! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I think his last comment was absolutely spot on. Writers and musicians are not paid to write but instead are paid to re-write.

  10. A great piece of advice I was given once was "don't let the editor in you dampen the artist in you". In other words, don't edit as you write. Write first, then go back and edit it – preferably sometime later on rather than immediately.

  11. The real work is not in writing it's in the revising and finding the gems that are buried in that awful first draft.

  12. Great tips! I'm trying to write a novel, and I don't have an outline and I don't really want one, but I love the idea of making an outline of the stuff that's all ready written! So I'm going to go back through my 50 pages and make one! Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. This guy is in comparison with the great creators of the finest literature. He is cool on many levels, intellectually and comparatively ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. This actually helps me a lot. I'll start writing and get to the point where I have to stop and say "What the hell am I even talking about anymore?" I look at the story and get so frustrated that the whole thing gets deleted.

    I suppose I should just keep going, and at the end of it all, go on a little excursion, and find the gems in the work like you said.

  15. Writing a novel takes a lot of passion and determination not to give up. You also need a strong plot idea and interesting characters to move the plot along.
    If you are running short or story ideas, a great inspirational website is creative – writing – help dot com

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