The Writing Life
Writing the Novel
By Robert Donaldson
This post will deal primarily with writing the novel. The novel offers many advantages to the beginning writer as well as to the seasoned pro. The novel allows time and space for the development of point of view, setting, plot and dialogue – the four elements of the novel. The novel also allows time for the development of character, which is often the driving force behind the story’s plot.
A novel is prose that is a work of fiction. This prose is generally quite long and is often quite complex with various characters, conflicts, settings and many unexpected twists and turns. Great novels rely on the element of conflict and surprise. The more conflicts and surprises included, the more interesting the novel.
It is generally accepted that a novel must be at least 50,000 words long. This makes for a more interest literary work the will keep the reader interested in what is happening in your story.
Novels can generally be divided into three categories: Genre fiction, Literary fiction and Mainstream fiction.
Genre fiction: This is the most popular type of fiction. It can be further divided into genres such as thriller, romance, horror, science fiction and mystery. Each genre must conform to certain conventions that distinguish it from other categories. However, as is often the case, a story might contain elements from several different genres, making for a more involved and interesting work. Genre fiction is more commercial in purpose and is often written to gain a following of loyal fans. Novels such as the horror story, Carrie by Stephen King and the western novel Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey fit into the classification of genre fiction.
Literary fiction: This category of fiction is generally viewed as “critically acclaimed” and is considered to have “merit. Novels in this category have usually won an award of some sort and usually enjoy considerable commercial success. These novels usually display the author’s skills in grammar, plotting character development often have a universal theme that brings into focus the highs or lows of human nature. Classics such as Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye are considered both literary works that enjoy a following generation after generation because they speak directly to the human condition.
Mainstream fiction: This category of novel is considered, loosely, to be any type of fiction that sells well. Fans of one genre might read mostly novels in that particular genre such as horror or romance. Mainstream fiction, however, appeals to a wider audience of readers who find it quite interesting and often consider them to be fascinating works of art. Novels by horror writers like Stephen King enjoy huge popularity because his books are read by readers who are not particularly drawn to the horror genre but cannot resist his literary style, character development and the settings in his stories.
If you decide to write a novel that fits a particular category or genre, make it a practice to read as many novels in that particular genre that you can, becoming familiar with that genre’s rules and conventions. If, on the other hand, you want to write a novel that is both literary and mainstream, then you should immerse yourself in both classic and popular literature, polish your skills in grammar, develop your own unique style and literary voice and read as many different types of novels as you can. Always remember that the best way to learn to write is to read and to practice writing. Make writing a part of your daily life by trying you hand at writing something every day.
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