Blood is the life-force of the human body. Likewise, characters are the life-force of a fiction novel. Slapping together one dimensional puppets and dropping them into your story is not what you want to do.
Your job is to create multifaceted, interesting characters. Know their strengths, their weaknesses, their flaws. You have to know everything about them, down to what kind of underwear they prefer, otherwise, they won’t be believable to your readers.
Character sketches are good exercises for flushing out your characters’ wants, motives, their physical attributes, habits, etc.
A good book that has great character sketch exercises is: THE WEEKEND NOVELIST by Robert J. Ray.
The job of any good novelist is to make the reader feel that he or she is experiencing the character’s environment through the character’s perspective. In order to do this, the author needs to be on point about descriptively writing the character’s surrounding through the character’s five senses. The reader needs to hear, feel, taste, touch and smell what the character does.
Two good references for sharpening this skill are: WORD PAINTING by Rebecca McClanahan and LIVING COLOR: A WRITER PAINTS HER WORLD by Natalie Goldberg.
Conflict drives any story. Conflict between the characters, internal conflict within the characters, conflict between the characters and the environment, all move the story along. Without some kind of conflict, there really isn’t a story. There is a process, a formula if you will, for writing a good story. One of the best books I’ve ever read on this process is Robert McKee’s, STORY. His live workshops are phenomenal. Visit his site at: www.mckeestory.com
There are as many ways to edit a book as there are individuals. Some people write the entire book then edit their draft one, draft two and so on until the final draft is satisfying to them. Others edit each chapter as they go along.
Whichever editing process you choose, a great book to help with this task is: SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: HOW TO EDIT YOURSELF INTO PRINT by Renni Browne and Dave King.
If you dream of getting a book published, one option is self-publishing. You can pay a company to publish your novel, but in my opinion, you can save this money and do it yourself. Hands down, the most knowledgeable self-publishing guru is, Dan Poynter. Pick up a copy of his book: DAN POYNTER’S SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL. Visit his website at: http://www.danpoynter.com. Dan has everything you need to know about self-publishing as well as a task calendar to keep you on track for your scheduled publishing date.
When your novel is complete, please, please please, get it professionally edited. Having friends and family to read the novel is great for story continuity, but if you’re interested in self-publishing, having a professional edit is imperative. Chandra Sparks Taylor owns a wonderful editorial service. I highly recommend her. Her website is: http://www.cstedits.com/
One last tip, don’t pay a company to copyright your book. Do this yourself through the Library of Congress’ U.S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov
The Writer’s Journey
The writer’s road can be a lonely one. Hours alone in front of your computer with only the people in your head to keep you company can be hard for a people person. Some books that inspired me are:
• THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron
• BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott
• AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN by Anthony Robbins
Other good references:
• THE WRITER’S PARTNER FOR FICTION, TELEVISION AND SCREEN by Martin Roth
• THE MACMILLAN VISUAL DICTIONARY
• THE SYNONYM FINDER by J. I. Rodale
• FLIP DICTIONARY by Barbara Ann Kipfer
• WRITING FICTION: A GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT by Janet Burroway
• WRITING DOWN THE BONES: FREEING THE WRITER WITHIN by Natalie Goldberg
Read! Read! Read! Learn how to write good, ‘story’. Learn the craft. Write what you love to read. If it’s the ‘in’ thing, great. If it’s not, stay true to your passion. Learn how to market outside of the box.