By: Ratna Vira
Read the first Lesson 1 here: HOW to WRITE a BESTSELLER! A bestselling author reveals!
Then read Lesson 2: Part 2: HOW to WRITE a BESTSELLER!
Lesson 3: How to write a mind-blowing chartbuster: Begin with a BANG! Start your book with a powerful QUESTION!
And Lesson 4: How to write the FIRST Chapter of your BESTSELLER!
Small memories can create giant images in the mind. As a writer, recalling and conjuring situations and scenarios is what turns words into magic.
Good creative writing needs us to train our eye to be like a filmmaker, figuring out what we want the reader to see. As the writer, you must decide what to include when describing something. And face the bigger challenge, which is putting a scissor to extraneous details, learning to exclude.
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As a writer, you must give the reader what they need, not necessarily what they want, which is an important distinction. However, while you are guiding the reader, do not forget that your most important constituent for what you are attempting to write is your reader. Whether you are writing about you being lost, whether you have really quirky shoes, or anything else, you must not forget the reader is part of your writing. The reader, honestly, is the most crucial character for you, whether you are developing a novel, a personal essay, or a memoir.
Your next choice boils down to how you how to pick a subject for your writing. How do we know what we are going to write about?
In this column, I will shine a torch on taking life situations and using them for fiction. We are not looking to replicate real-life necessarily; we’re looking to make a story out of our experiences or those of people we have keenly observed. But be careful, for truth cuts both ways. Like James Baldwin, the great American author, said, truth is a double-edged sword that you’re going to cut yourself on it as well. Unless you are writing a true-life story or a factual report, get inspiration from reality, but do not feel the need to write as you remember the real-life situation. And the truth can be dangerous for people around you. Phillip Roth said that when a writer is born into a family, then the family is over. That is almost like the thing that will detonate the family.
Amy Bloom, another American writer, described this process well. She suggested that writers need to be careful in using their skills and craft. “I personally find people riveting, and their relationships, and the gap between what they say and how they feel, and the gap between how they feel and how they think, and the gap between what they show and what they hide,” she said. That gap she describes is crucial. It’s the gap between the river and its bank, between the footpath and the road. That gap and that transition is the space where writers live and thrive. In that “curb, that’s where I live as a writer.”
In the previous article in this series, I focussed on how you would write Chapter One. The idea was to start slowly building momentum and to pull the reader into your world. Let it build up so that the reader feels exhilarated and is on a joyride to the end of the chapter.
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Write a cool opening that pulls from Chapter One’s final words for your second chapter, but maybe it starts in a different place. Then put together a sequence of scenes that lead you to Chapter Three. Sometimes the first chapter is the easiest to write because of the excitement of beginning and the thrill of seeing your words on the page. However, this soon morphs into a moot question – where do I go from here?
Chapter Two may seem daunting, but writing it will put you on the path to becoming a committed writer. Chapter Two is the watershed. This is where the demands on you are greater, leading to a new realm where you can begin to separate yourself as a writer from those who like the idea of being a writer but may lack commitment and focus.
If you can write a second chapter that is every bit as engaging and powerful as your first chapter, I do not doubt that you will be able to finish your novel. And that is an achievement that many talk about, but few manage. Once you have completed Chapter Two, there is nothing to stop you from writing an entire novel.
Stay with the discipline. Write 500 words a day. And in a mere five days, you will have completed your second chapter, and you will be on your way to completing your first book. Remember to read everything you’ve written for this chapter each day before you begin your 500-word quota.
And finally, read and reread your work. And get others to read it. And re-write once you’ve read it. And then, you are genuinely on your way to being a writer.
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