How to Write a Novel

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How the hell am I going to follow up on a title like that?

Bare with me.

The thing is, there is no secret sauce. There is no magic, and there are no cheats. You write a novel by writing one, simple as that.

There is a fantastic book called The War of Art by Steven Pressman. Amongst other amazing nougats of wisdom he sprinkles liberally through this excellent book, the one he keeps returning too is that you sit down, and you do the work. Sit down, and do the work.

The difficulty with writing a novel comes not from any force that resides outside of yourself. It comes from inside. From you, and you alone. It’s your brain, stupid. That’s the only thing that can stop you.

You imagine writing a novel will be too hard. You imagine it will take too long and you’ll never manage it. You imagine it’s too complex. You’ll never be able to put an exciting plot together. You’ll never be able to make it believable. Your writing sucks. Once you improve your grasp of grammar, you’ll start. Once you get a few weeks off work, you’ll start. Once the kids are older, and you have more time, you’ll start. Once I know more words, I’ll start.

And you’re the only person who will say those things to yourself. You can bet your neighbor won’t say them – “Hey, Bob, you need to understand split infinitives more before you start writing that novel.” I’ll bet that never happened.

We are our own worst enemies. We get in the way of the productive things we want to do. And writing a novel is the same as anything else. We sabotage ourselves. We erect barriers. We tell ourselves we can’t do it.

And you know what? We tell ourselves in compelling ways. Aren’t we tricky?

What’s wrong with waiting until you have more time? What’s wrong with waiting until our grasp of dialogue is better? Surely it would be a waste of time to write 100,000 words when our plot has more holes than Spongebob Squarepants.

All sound like good reasons not to start, don’t they? Wrong, my friend. Absolutely wrong.

All just excuses. All just ways to convince yourself not to sit down and do the work.

Ok, I said there was no way to cheat, but if you really want a hack, here’s one. I guarantee if you do this every day for three, four months, you will have a novel.

Sit the hell down for thirty minutes a day, and write. It doesn’t matter if it sucks. It doesn’t matter if you write absolute drivel for thirty minutes. Just think of a story, any story. Then think of the scenes that make that story, and sit down and write one of the scenes.

Spill it out. Don’t go back and check your sentence structure. Don’t fix your spelling. Don’t make sure you have described everything perfectly. Don’t worry about your pacing. Just write.

Thirty minutes a day.

Do it at a set time, every day. You must make it a habit. And before you say it, I don’t believe you don’t have thirty minutes. I have two young kids who don’t sleep, work a demanding full-time job, and I find the time. Thirty minutes is there somewhere. Get up thirty minutes earlier if you have to – it won’t kill you. If you insist you don’t have thirty minutes to spare, email me your exact daytime schedule, and I’ll show you where you can write.

Just do the thirty minutes. Pretty sure it will turn into forty-five or an hour, once you get into the flow.

The mysterious flow. You’ve heard about it, and now you can get it too, with my secret hack. Same time, every day, sit down and do your writing.

The flow will come, and you will find yourself right in your scene. The outside world will melt away, and the sounds and the smells and the sights and the emotions will be those of your characters, and it will spill onto the page.

And before you know it, you’ll have five hundred, a thousand words, two thousand down.

And you know what? The achievement of writing those words every day stays with you for the whole day. Even if you do nothing else until bedtime but sit on the couch and eat pies, it doesn’t matter because you’ve already created something. From within your mind, your soul even, you’ve transported something that previously didn’t exist into the 3-D meat-suit world. That’s right, you are now a producer, a creator, a maker.

The transition from consumer to creator is a magical one. You’ll want to do it again. You’ll find the time. The draw will become stronger. You’ll get to know and love your characters. You’ll live and breathe your world. Your mind will be filled with plots and schemes and dialogue and joy and heartache as you realize who’s going to fall in love and who’s going to die.

All these wonderful things come from one simple thing. Just sitting down and writing your words, every day.

Worry about all the spelling and the grammar and the rest of it later. That’s what editing is for.

For now, just watch that word count grow, and relish the sense of achievement, of worth it gives you.

And you know what? If you find out your novel really sucks, then don’t worry about it. Write another one. Because that’s how you get better.

You think Carrie was the very first thing Stephen King wrote?

Just keep those words coming, one at a time, and don’t worry about the consequences.

That’s your job for the next few months, and that’s how you write a novel.

Oh yeah, and a little disclaimer. Note, I said this post was about how to write a novel, not how to write a good novel… If you crack that one, let me know.

Photo in this post by it’s me neosiam from Pexels
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New Review from Kiss at Midnight for After the Fall

Kiss at Midnight – Reviews written by sweet girls that would make sailors blush, have just published a review of After the Fall, book 2 in The Fall series.

I love how they have captured the ethos behind the books – the average Joe’s apocalypse and how the you and me’s of the world would survive, or not.

You can read the full text of the review below, or even better, follow this link to read it at Kisses at Midnight, and be sure to have a look around their blog when you’re done!

AFTER THE FALL

I love all things horror. The scarier something is, the more I’ll probably adore it, and horror books are no exception. So when Stephen Cross came to me with book two of The Fall Series, I jumped at it. It’s been forever since I’ve had a good zombie novel in my life and even longer since I reviewed book one, Surviving the Fall. So let’s chat about After the Fall

 

Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Genre: Horror

It’s been three months since the world went tits up, and eight groups of survivors are still alive…for now.

We begin with Jack, the widowed father who has been at a holiday park, fighting to keep his daughter Annie alive since England fell into the hands of the dead. Pub owner Mac and his wife Angie are still holed up in their building, scraping by with raids into the village, where the zombies are growing restless. Adam, Harriet, and Arthur are still on the run, always working to stay out of danger. Five more pockets of people are still clinging to the small pieces of safety that they’ve managed to savage.

Not always intersecting, each story highlights a different aspect of survival. There are intact families and single parents. Alongside soldiers, civilians try to adopt military standards to keep order. Some find safety within gates and walls, while others try to rest in tents and fields while constantly moving. While some people steal to eat, others just try not to get eaten. All of them, however, have one thing in common–the will to survive.

Because all the characters are varied and diverse, almost all readers will find someone to connect to. For me, that’s Jack. While I’m not a widowed father, a man, or British, I can relate to his protectiveness toward his daughter and the lengths he goes to keep her from harm. Maybe you’re strong-willed like Mac. Maybe your first move would be to find a secluded island or hole up at home with canned food. Maybe you’d kill for those cans, or maybe you wouldn’t live long enough to consider it.

Again, I was impressed with Cross’s work and the way he humanized the zombie apocalypse. I liked how, while there were a few military men around, most people didn’t know anything about surviving without grocery stores and electricity. I’m tired of everyone in apocalypse books knowing how to set snares and modify cars like a Mad Max ripoff. It’s just not realistic and I like realism with my zombies, as silly as that may sound.

I want the human struggle to find clean water, the hopelessness or having another safe place overrun, the fumbling of trying to work a gun when you’ve never shot one. To me, that’s what people would truly be like. Keep your super spy ninjas with their gated, solar house and doctorate in emergency medicine out of this. I want you to show me how the average Joe would stay alive, something Cross delivered.

If you love horror, zombies, stories that feel real, or just want to get pumped for Halloween, pick up After the Fall on Amazon now.

OUT NOW – The Fence Walker!

Ok, zombie fans. Book 3 of the Fall series, after a year and a half in the making, has been released today.

The Fence Walker 002.jpgOver 130000 words of flesh biting gruesomeness is ready for your blood thirsty consumption, so hurry up and shuffle over here to get your copy!

The Fence Walker brings together all the characters from the first two books in one heart thrashing finale on the Cornish coast – so if you’ve enjoyed the first two books, Surviving the Fall, and After the Fall, then you will love The Fence Walker.

Here’s the blurb…

The Fall happened so quickly. Within months billions are turned, and the undead roam the empty world hunting for flesh, their appetite never satiated, never appeased… 

A community of survivors seek refuge in a holiday park on the Cornish coast. A thousand souls are protected by the Fence, a ramshackle construction that keeps the world outside and all its horrors at bay. Jack walks the Fence daily, his job to maintain and repair the fragile barrier. As the days pass, he begins to discover weaknesses forming, but with the community straining under growing numbers and the complacency of apparent safety, his warnings go unheeded. 

The horde outside the Fence grows, and relations inside falter as new arrivals unsettle the balance. How long can the Fence stand before it breaks, and all hell rains through?

But what happens if you haven’t read the first two? You can find them here:

Surviving the Fall

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After the Fall

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Enjoy, zombie fans!

The Fence Walker

It’s been over nine months since I have posted anything on the blog – far too long for anyone who has done me the honour of visiting in the hope of finding out more about my writing! Here’s to more frequent posts in the future… The business of living a life, working full time and looking after children leave me just enough time to write, but without readers then that endeavour becomes pointless, and readers demand answers, and therefore blog posts need writing!

So, assuming you have arrived at my blog from a link in one of my books or through my Amazon Author page (given my google presence is zilch), I will assume that you like what I have written and are wondering if there is any more to come?

The answer is an emphatic yes, although you may have to wait a while. Following Surviving the Fall, its sequel After the Fall, will be the final part in the trilogy, The Fence Walker.

Bit of a risk this one, as I’m departing from the tried and tested formula of the first two books; instead of dealing with each character’s story within its own self contained novelette, The Fence Walker, being the grande finale, will be one big novel where all the characters come together, all the threads are tied and all issues resolved.

It’s going to be long. At current (25th July 2017), I have 60,000 words, but wouldn’t even say we are half way through. Some serious editing will be required when this is finished, so it may not be until late winter, or even early 2018 before The Fence Walker is ready for publication.

It you enjoyed Surviving the Fall and After the Fall, however, I hope that the wait will be worth it! I will try and put together a newsletter or some sort of link that interested parties can sign up to to get news on my current releases. You see, I like writing, but I hate marketing…

PS – to those of you who have left wonderful reviews for my books, thank you so very much. You’re the reason the books are still getting written.

Update on New Titles

It’s been a long time since the last, and well, only, blog post. And that first post was nothing to write home about. I doubt this one will be either, sorry folks! If you have taken the trouble to visit this blog, then I can only apologise and make a half hearted promise that I will try to increase the number of posts, and the quality. Continue reading “Update on New Titles”