Archive for November, 2008

My latest novel has been lounging on my computer for months. I have a thousand excuses for not finishing it: too busy with other endeavors, writer’s block, my lead character won’t budge, my cat needs food. Oh, yes, I have a ton of legitimate reasons for not finishing my third novel in my Amos Grant mystery series. I feel angry with myself. But then again, I don’t want my cat to starve. A dead cat in the house is bad for one’s muse.

So I feed the cat and start to thumb through The Easy Way To Write A Novel by Rob Parnell. It’s an e-book that caught my attention. (I like e-books because they are cheap and fast, much like some of the girls from my old neighborhood.) But Parnell’s book is more satisfying.

“If you are reasonably well educated, or even if not, everything you need to write an enduring novel-length piece of fiction is inside you. You already possess the talent and the necessary skills. All you have to do is access them.”

This is how Rob Parnell, founder of Easy Way To Write, begins his 179-page informative e-book you can find at Ebooks On Writing. Using psychology and motivational advice, Parnell walks you through his unique process. More Zen monk than strict writing teacher, he spends a good part of his book teaching you meditation and visualization techniques.

Some may find his holistic approach a bit strange. But treating the whole person, taking into account one’s mental and social factors as well as the physical act of writing, caught my attention. It differed from the hundreds of other writing books I have sitting on my bookshelves. It sparked my muse into a new way of writing novels. If I had read Parnell’s e-book before I struggled through my own six novels, I believe the entire process would have been less painful.

What Rob Parnell does is prepare you to write before he shows you how to write your novel in 30 days. (Maybe he should have named his book “The FAST Way To Write a Novel.”) In any case, I was intrigued by his system. I, especially, enjoyed his putting to rest some of the myths about writing a novel.

For instance, he points out that all art (writing included) is subjective. “There is absolutely no reason to believe that what you create is less a work of art than anything else,” he writes. “If you believe your book to be a work of art, then that’s exactly what it is. Period.”

You must have an “original idea” is another phrase you hear a lot about. But Parnell points out that what these know-it-alls really mean is that you should write something “significantly different.” There is no such thing as an original idea. I found this out when in 1973 I came out with my “original” magazine of memories, Yesterday’s Magazette. Unbeknownst to me, others were heaving this same “original” idea around the same exact time. But I still say I came out with it first. 🙂

Here’s another example: In 1970, I coined the “original” saying of “always expect the unexpected.” But the funny thing is that since that time I must have heard my same “original” expression repeated a million times or more. One more original idea I thought I had back in the late 70s was to write a column of “Oddball News” items, which I did for a few years. Now I see there is a very similar column called News Of The Weird which is now syndicated in hundreds of newspapers.

So believe me and Rob Parnell when we say “don’t waste your time” agonizing and trying to come up with some original idea for your book. Don’t even try. Just put a twist on an old idea.

Parnell recommends writing fast. “If you try to use your conscious logical side of your mind to write, you’ll take forever,” he states. “Let your fingers write or type automatically.” In other words, he advises, use your subconscious to write that great novel.

As much as I enjoyed the mindset and motivational techniques in the first half of Parnell’s book, I have to admit that Part Two about his “30 Day Formula” for writing a novel was equally entertaining and informative. Right off, he tells you that you need CHARACTERS before anything else. He says without interesting characters, there is simply no story.

He guides you through each day. He even designs a ten step plot template and explains how setting should best be viewed as another character to define. He then  goes on to list the ten fundamental mistakes that writers should avoid. Lastly, like a good coach, he is there to nudge and push you along and to motivate you. “You’re always closer to success than you think!”

I admit Rob Parnell’s e-book, The Easy Way to Write a Novel, got my motor running. In fact, I’ve decided to spend the rest  of the day working on my novel.  After all, it is National Novel Month. What better time to finish a novel. I feel really pumped! My mind is racing with ideas. My fingers are a twitter. I’m smokin’!

But first … I need to feed the cat.

*You can view some interesting novels by clicking here.


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