T Nation

Writing a Novel


This is something that I have actually wanted to do for sometime and I really have the motivation now. I believe I have a very good story and I was fishing for any tips, tricks or advice some of you may have.

What I am most concerned with is my grammar and syntax. It's been some time since I have been in school and I think I am just rusty. I am also reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel". So far it's had some good information.

This is just one of those things I feel I have to do. I seem to get a great new twist or idea everyday and I think I'll go crazy if I don't get it written.


I'm not a novelist, but I am a writer...what did you want advice on? What tips and tricks are you alluding to?


Check out NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every year, they have a month long writing spree where people write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The 'textbook' for the whole deal is "No Plot? No Problem!" Available on amazon.com, or through nanowrimo.org.


Really anything actually. I've never taken on a task that requires as much commitment as I expect this to. Do you have any reccomendations on books for grammar and syntax? Know any really good forums for writers or have tips to help when making revisions? I don't really know what to expect. Lot's of hard work I'm sure.


The novel is a tough art form and I suggest, if you're truly serious about writing, that you take a creative writing class first to test the waters.


There's a million books like that as far as grammar and syntax are concerned. I don't want to recommend any because I've never read any of them, but they're probably pretty standard.

Ironically enough, read a lot, and your novel will be better. That's how I learned to form sentences correctly...just read. Not newspapers, either- read fiction, poetry, and everything in between. You'll pick up phrases and words that you can use, plus, if you find people that have a similar voice as you, it's always a good thing.

Be prepared to write, then read it again, then change shit, then read it again, then change more shit, then read it again, then change more shit, then read it again, then change more shit, then read it again, and then think it's alright, so you'll give it to sombody to proof read, and then they'll tell you it doesn't make any sense to them, so you've got to go back and change it again, but you can't fucking see straight now and you're tired of reading the same goddamn thing over and over, so you start drinking.

At least that's how it goes for me.


This is the best, most accessible grammar book I've seen:

Also check out Stephen King's On Writing and Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz. The Koontz book is out of print so it might be hard to find, but it contains the best tip I've ever seen for aspiring novelists. Publishers, as a rule, do not accept simultaneous submissions, ie they won't even look at a manuscript if it's currently submitted somewhere else.

HOWEVER . . . you can do what's called a "simultaneous query". Send in the first couple chapters and an outline, and ask them to contact you if they'd like to see the full manuscript. That way instead of waiting a year or two between submissions for each publisher to work through the slushpile until they get to your novel you can send it to all of them at once.


Also, "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott is pretty entertaining, and gives you an idea about the writing world and how to break into it.


Pick up copies of "The Chicago Manual of Style" and "Elements of Style". That's all you need. There are five thousand "How to write a novel" books out there and 4,998 of them suck. It's amusing that 95% of them are written by people who have never had a novel published.

I would suggest not worrying about grammar and syntax. That usually leads to procrastination and writer's block.

Just write, read great authors, and write some more.


Here's another good page of writing/publishing resources from Hugo award winner Robert J. Sawyer: