Archive - 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction RSS Feed

Masterful Verbs and Adjectives Part 2

Last week we looked at some of the creative usages of nouns, verbs, and adjectives by my favorite author Patricia A. McKillip. Masterful writing isn’t just about big-picture stuff, such as crafting strong scenes or riveting action. It drills down to the individual words, for these sole bits are the building blocks of our sentences, paragraphs, worlds.

As I mentioned, simple five-cent words can pack powerful punches and be much more effective than using a pouch full of five-dollar words, but there is something to be said for a common word used in a perhaps unusual way or context. That word snags us, adding dimension, color, and new perspective. It gives us pause, sparks our imagination, enriches the meaning of a sentence.

This week I’m going to share with you a few more passages from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Robert Hansen. This novel, which is written to feel like a biography (and is practically one, since it’s a dramatization of the facts of James’s life), reveals a masterful use of words and phrasing, particularly in the verbs Hansen chooses.

Take a look at these passages and note these nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Consider how many writers would have opted for the dull, obvious words. But Hansen took time to come up with other, potent choices, and this elevates the writing from common to stellar. Continue Reading…

The Essential Ingredient in Your Novel’s Concept

I want to talk about concept a bit today.

I believe a lot of novels fail at the concept stage.

I talk at length about this on my blog Live Write Thrive as well as in many of my books in The Writer’s Toolbox Series.

This is truth: if you have a weak concept for your novel, you shouldn’t waste time writing it.

Now, it’s possible to tweak the concept you have—and I detail many ways you can do that in my book—and come up with a killer concept.

But it’s crucial you take a look at your concept and make sure it will hold up. Continue Reading…

How You Can Avoid Making Structural Mistakes in Your Novel

I’ve spent more than three decades writing novels. And at first I had no clue what I was doing.

Like many people, I think it would be a cinch to write a novel. I read voraciously, so why wouldn’t I just intuitively know how to construct a novel?

This is what a whole lot of people think. But perhaps you know the truth by now: writing a terrific novel is complex, like building a house. You have to have the “big picture” in mind the while time you are plotting and writing. And that’s like spinning a dozen plates at one time.

It’s doable, but it does take practice.

So after spending three decades dropping a lot of plates, I spent a ton of time tearing the novel-writing process apart. During those years I attended plenty of writing conferences and retreats and workshops. I read lots of books on the craft, and when the Internet became part of daily life, I started reading blog posts and listening to podcasts and doing all I could to get novel construction under my belt. Continue Reading…

Page 1 of 1912345»10...Last »