Observation Fantasy

Characteristics of a novel:
how much between adult and child,
between fantasy and reality...

Writing the Novel

Working Arrangements

You have to have or make time to write a novel, early morning or late at night. It is best if done in regular and short bursts. New material should be written when feeling fresh with revision at other times. Writing is private and personal, to be shown only when edited. This may be because you have to let out your inner even subterranean thoughts. it is best to work in a separate, quiet, defined room.

Writing, typing or word processing create their own effects, Writing with a pen creates the greatest flow and spontaneity (to be typed perhaps by an outsider), typing begins to regulate and word processing creates dense reworked texts.


Either there should be careful pre-planning (especially with a whodunnit) or let the story create its own parameters of action as it is written. A combination of planning and inspiration. A notebook is useful for passing thoughts and to detail the life history of characters.

Notes of characters include their names, appearance, maybe religion, politics (or at least attitudes), background, family relations, fears, hopes motives, reactions. Consistency of character (or relevant inconsistencies) is important: these rightly limit the possible developments of a story.

Timespan of the book: day, week, year, years. The way time passes will be a matter of style.

There should be some notion of the length of book and number of chapters (short, long). This may only be known towards the end, but one can set out with some notion of length.


Use settings known, experienced, or well researched for conviction. A visual description of the setting should exist at relevant points along the way. It may be a matter of style how detailed and necessary, or diversionary, such a setting description has to be. Make anonymous any small village or community well known and possibly combine some places together so that the author gains total control and knowledge over the locality.


The theme is the binding of the novel through the subject that connects all the plot actions together. A story of... loneliness, self-discovery, revenge, love, sex, betrayal. It sets what is important and what isn't, therefore what should be in the plot and what is to be excluded or kept to a minimum.


A novel must begin with some kind of predicament or conflict which goes on to be developed towards some sense of resolution, usually with a climax and solution affecting the future lives of the characters. The plot should be fictional, but it can be semi-autobigraphical/ biographical/ experience based, involving a view of life, a new angle on some everyday problem or a sense of challenge. The reader is being asked, 'What would you do?' or, 'Would you like to be in this position?'

As writing takes place, one situation leads to another. Action should grow naturally, allowing it to develop at its pace and not contrived by demands for action; some sense of the unexpected and climax makes a good book, however. Narrative should be direct and immediate, and cannot work unless in full tandem with the characters available.


Central to any novel is the characters. It is artistically necessary to invent new people, so that they are fully known by the author. However, fictional characters can be based on ourselves or individuals we know or a combining of various people. Something of the imagination must be added, The author then sets up their actions and opens out the inner thoughts of the central character/s, their evil natures or good natures, The best characters may refuse to do what you want.


The four possibilities are: 1st person, 3rd person several viewpoints, 3rd person one viewpoint, distant narrator. There is past tense and present tense for each.

1st person gives selfknowledge and psychological depth with the realism of someone describing and examining themselves. But it limits all action to the presence of the person or reports given to the person. Also, in the past tense, speech dialogue is a problem because it looks like the narrator has an unbelieveably detailed memory. Present tense can give a very close contact with the action.

3rd person several viewpoints is where the author plays God and gets into the inner minds of any of the characters. This can seem unrealistic, it is also jarring changing viewpoint mid stream, especially in the present tense. Character empathy! sympathy is difficult because of changing from one to the other. Good discipline restricts the number of people whose inner thoughts can be revealed,

3rd person one viewpoint is reliable and allows empathy but suffers (if less rigidly than 1st person) in that s/he ought to be in the action. However, unlike the first person, a narrator writing in the third person is better able to present speech dialogue.

The distant narrator allows a stand off approach, using a marginal character to the story. Such a narrator somehow has to have got the news of what happened and speculate on the inner mind of the character. This is almost only pest tense unless the narrator is a snoop.

Therefore narrating, and the nature of the story, is very much linked with characters in mind.


Real conversations between people are a jumble of interruptions and half finished points: patchy, overlapping, unlistened to. Novel dialogue cannot be like that. It has to be crisp, lean and clear, with only hints of normal interruptions and approximated meanings. Dialogue, even of a bore, should be interesting. Dialogue must not look like the characters are reading. Simple narrative and taut conversation build suspense. Speech, with care, can tell the story, but this must not go against the economy rule or remind readers of the plot when the characters know what they are doing. Also what people say conceals the truth as much as reveals it, and the novelist can use this device.

"S/he said," is used a lot and isn't that noticed: rather, it can be a nuisance searching for alternatives and they will stan out when read on the page. If it is clear who is speaking, avoid the 's/he said' note, otherwise use it as appropriate.

Every line of new speech begins with a new paragraph. Don't use quotation marks for inner thoughts which yet may begin with a capital letter like speech does.

The First chapter

This can begin with a central character just before his/ her predicament which forms the early thrust of the book. In such a case back influences may be brought in by flashback, perhaps in later chapters. On the other hand early chapters may be the build up to the predicament. This may take some working out. Early on, long detailed explanations and bringing in a long list of characters should be avoided. Too much should not be given away at the end of the first chapter as the book as a whole must be allowed to develop. Almost certainly the first chapter will need to be reworked either as writing confidence grows or because of the later demands of the characters and plot.

Each author finds his/her own style, but it takes practice and change. One should not Imitate another author. Style must be such as to minimise the presence of the author. Passages that are too literary and flowery may look overbearing. Too many adjectives in a row may not work. Generalising adjectives anyway (like lovely, nice) should be removed: adjectives should be specific. Long words should be replaced by short words. Humour should only be natural and unforced.


This is how the whole novel looks, It should show gradual growth, be stable, have moments of peaks, change and lightness. The novel should be well focussed without too many distractions into side plots which lead nowhere. Selection of what to include and cut out is necessary and the whole should be economic.

Obvious attributes of characters should be mentioned first and never left out - obvious points as later surprises don't work.

It should be balanced between varieties of mood, Good timing is important: the ground should be prepared for heightened moods either in lead up chapters or paragraphs (using suspense).

The passing of time is important: many paragraphs or chapters may cover a short period of time while others miss or race through time. Such unevenness must be seen as normal by the reader or avoided.

Personal views should not be explicit, because the central matter is the story with its own integrity

The ending must answer all points and round off the story neatly, the predicaments of the characters solved. Perhaps the ending should also include a sense of hope in its resolution.

Improvement and Reworking

A first novel may be a bad one anyway. In any case, plenty of practice and reworking text is required in the first and every attempt. A lot of deleting takes place too. Expanding text takes place to add clarity and information that Is useful for further explanation. New brigdging paragraphs may be necessary. The author must make sure that the timings of events are correct and that nothing factually contradicts other information or events, Facts from the real world must be correct. Chapters should end in logical places usually with some sense of suspense. Punctuation must be correct, with the correct arrangement of inverted commas, commas, semicolons, colons, etc.


Along with writing straight off, reworking and improvement comes creativity. Writing takes a lot of solid effort and discipline. But there are moments when something comes, when there is a flow of energy, when a problem can be solved: then is the time to go to the pen, the typewriter or screen and write some more fresh or newly reworked material. Creative bursts can leave new problems but they can be worked over later. They are worth having.


Novels go beyond the superficialities of living and expose some kind of truth. This can be risky to an author in the real world because a novel is all about the mixed motives of the human character. Sex should be true and honest in description, in its intentions and carrying out, meaningful to the theme and characters. Respectability is bunk; taboos and barriers can be broken in the novel because it deals at a level of myth, fear and revelation, and is supposed to get inside the inner distorted and true intentions and minds of the characters.

The Title

This may be the first consideration or the last. The title will come from the theme, It can come from a main character or characters or a significant place. Existing titles do not carry copyright.

Publishers and Agents

Some people use an agent, but is difficult to obtain for first time writers. Some publishers prefer a summary than the text, though sample chapters can be sent.

A whole novel should be sent using one side of A4 pages, neatly typed or word processed in double spacing and a wide enough left margin, uniformly black print, pages numbered, a title given and more than one place for name and address, with pages unltkely to come adrift. There needs to be a covering letter, perhaps enclosing stamps for return, sent by recorded delivery.

It may be three months before anything is heard and only after then should contact be made to check progress. Authors must be restrained and reliable.

Agents and publishers can be discovered from the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. Agents will do the work, seeking out publishers. Publishers will make all the decisions on jackets, print runs etc. and may even suggest alterations to the text.

Some pay for publishing in co-operative agreements but publishers should pay costs if a book is good enough. Don't over-alter a text once it is in the process of proof reading.

Payment to authors is small and late. It is vital to be in other work except for the few that become famous. On making a contract, the copyright of the novel should stay with the author. The contract is printed by the publisher or agent.