Tips for Writing a Novel
Write the story that you most want to read. Which, yeah, for the majority of us, means a story about a giraffe and a fireman who are best friends, and the fireman hangs out in a tree so that he can be eye-level with the giraffe, and then one day the zoo catches on fire, and the giraffe and the firemen are looking at each other, like, “Oh no!,” and the fireman is thinking, How do I get down out of this tree to fight the fire?, and then he looks at the giraffe’s long neck, and the giraffe looks at him, and they both grin, like, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?,” and then the rest of the book is a choose-your-own-adventure story.
Nothing kicks ass more than when a character in your novel says the title of your novel. You don’t want your readers to miss this amazing moment, so make sure to set it up such that it’s really obvious that your character is about to say something important. I haven’t read “Hamlet,” but I would bet that Shakespeare probably wrote something like, “Mrs. Globe sighed and pushed her spectacles up her nose. ‘Welllllllll,’ she began, very slowly. Then she paused to wrap a scarf carefully around her neck, shook her head ruefully, and, in an important voice, declared, ‘I guess that’s why they named the puppy Hamlet.’ ”
In order to finish your novel in a timely manner, you should set a goal of writing a thousand words per day. But these can’t just be any random words you think of, typed up in a list. I learned that the hard way.
Always write in the third person. The third person is Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. Every novel must be from his perspective. Even if you want to write a book about baseball or something, you still need to find a way to involve Cain, even if it’s just, like, “One day Cain went to the library and checked out an amazing book about baseball. This is what he read.” And then, after that, just put your whole novel. And, at the end, have Cain close your book and smile, really satisfied, because that will signal to your readers that it was a good read. But don’t have him burst into tears of amazement, because most readers will think, Now, this is just a bridge too far.
If your novel has a lot of dialogue, your readers will probably get tired of reading “he said” and “she said” over and over. The best way to avoid this is to replace every instance of “said” with “screamed.” It will make for a much louder novel, but, look, there’s nothing we can do about it at this point.
In scary movies, suspenseful music is important for setting a scary mood. But scary books don’t have music, so writers are at a disadvantage. To combat this, good novelists know to always write a mariachi band into the story and have it follow your main character everywhere. That way, when a scary part is coming, you can get that jump-scare you were going for by writing “And that’s when the mariachi band began playing a very suspenseful song.”
Readers will often make a snap judgment about whether or not to read your book based on the first sentence. That’s a lot of pressure on the first sentence, which is why my novels always begin with the sentence “Oh no, something went wrong at the book printers’, and the first sentence of this book was erased—ah, well, here comes the rest of the novel, I guess.” That way, the reader can’t know whether the first sentence would have been good or not, so they’re just forced to read the whole book!
Many novelists assume that those numbers at the bottom of the pages are a way for the book publisher to show off how high they can count. But that’s not true—those numbers are purely decorative.
Here’s one final trick that every novelist should know: write a character who has a beloved dog. Then have that character say things to the dog, like, “I sure hope you never die, Champ!” and “I honestly don’t know what I’d do if you died, Champ!” and “I know it’s a terrible thunderstorm out there, but go fetch me a stick from the creek, Champ!” So far, so good, but here’s the trick: the book ends, and the dog’s still alive, and at first the reader is, like, “What the hell?,” but then, later, they’re like “I guess I have a lot to learn about writing,” and then, still later, they’re, like, “Wait, that book was supposed to be teaching me how to make gnocchi.”