I received an email from a friend of an old friend. He wants to become a writer and sent me a summary of his ideas and a lot of history related to the basis of a high-concept fantasy novel. It sounded really interesting and I sent him this response, which I think contains some good information for any new writer interested in improving their craft.
(My email response)
Your novel sounds interesting, and very complicated, as well as high-concept. I think the big danger here is to try and tell the reader too much too soon in a novel like you're suggesting. The first impulse is to do what you just did, tell a lot of history right up front. The paragraphs you wrote are cool and appropriate for the type of message you wrote, but what you really need to do now is figure out who will be the main character. You need a main character. Who is he? Or she. You have an idea, but the character is the critical part. You'll have to sell the character to make the reader believe in the fairly hard to believe storyline you're suggesting. I'm not saying it's bad, because it's not. But pulling of what you suggested, making the audience suspend their disbelief can be accomplished if the reader believes the main character is a real person. That's the trick.
I know just what you mean about trying to become a skilled writer. It's taken years for me to get published. So far, two novels have been sold and nine short stories. I still have so much to learn. It's not easy. It's harder now than it ever was before. The freedom of being a novice and just plowing ahead is great.
So, you must be a dedicated student of the craft if you want to become a skilled writer. Ideas are cheap and everyone and their dog wants to write a book. 1 in 100,000 novels that are completed and submitted are published. Think about that for a moment. If you're serious about this idea of writing your novel, check out my website, www.paulgenesse.com, and go to: Writers Resources. Download the free Writers' Symposium Ezines and read the articles, which are targeted toward beginners.
Get some books on writing. Study them. I suggest many on my site. Get them at the library or buy them.
However, the most important thing to do is . . . write. There is no substitute. Write a lot. It's going to be terrible prose, but you have to start somewhere. Writing is a journey and the more you write, the better you'll probably get. At some point you'll need a writers’ group and/or skilled amateurs to help you critique your work and improve it.
Honestly, I would not recommend going into a writing, but if you are a writer, you will write. Because you must.
Learn all you can. Then get writing. Plan. Figure out a main character and put him or her into a tough situation. Then learn even more. Revise it. Revise it again. Rewrite the whole thing. Scrap it. Write it again. Repeat this process for several years. Yes, years.
If you have the drive, it'll happen. You'll finish the book. Then the hard part begins, selling it. Or you cold self-publish. Not a good way to go if you want to be taken seriously, but if you just want to get it out to friends and family, it'll work.
I hope that helps. Now write something cool and send me the first page.
Paul Genesse, Author and Editor
Author of The Golden Cord
Book One of the Iron Dragon Series
(Five Star Books, April 2008)
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Editor of the Writer's Symposium Ezine