Updated: Dec 31, 2019
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W. Somerset Maugham
Writers have quirky habits. Some write so many words a day or at certain times of the day. Some write standing up, some write sitting in a recliner. Actually, that's me. I write sitting in a recliner. Since I started writing my first book while I was recovering from knee surgery, I could only sit in my recliner to write. Now that's where I write the best.
I often have music playing and wear headphones to block out my kids and husband. Anything from classic rock to Dean Martin to seventies, eighties, Metallica, and every other genre of music. If I'm not listening to music I have my TV on. For me the noise keeps me focused. I tend to get distracted in silence. I'm sure I need counseling or medication for an undetermined problem.
I've had people tell me I'm doing it wrong. You can't write with distraction. Music and TV are not a distraction. My kids, they are a distraction.
When I write I don't use an outline. Okay, I write a sort of like an outline thingy. I write down all my characters names with a short description about each. I write down who the killer is, why they are killing, and what is their end game. I figure out who my victims are and why. I don't write what I want each chapter to cover. I don't come up with any structure or work out any of my scenes. Basically I get an idea and I start writing. Sometimes I get stuck sometimes I end up with something I hadn't planned on.
I don't necessarily call these rules. All though some die hard know-it-alls, like to think they are. The rules I'm thinking of are the ones that can't be changed like grammar, sentence flow and structure. Head hopping, if you don't know what this is, you probably do it. I did until it was pointed out to me. It's easy to do, but the solution is also just as easy. More on that later.
Another rule you can't break, the story arc. Your book should follow a specific flow or arc. Nigel Watts Writing a Novel and Getting Published explains this arc and the parts of it.
The eight points of story arc are: (According to Nigel Watts)
Mr. Watts explains each of these points in detail. I am not going to do that here. I only want to explain that your fiction story should follow a certain path. Each point on this arc will move your story forward.
If you don't like using an outline, use a story arc in instead. It will help keep you on track. I use it, and I am sometimes surprised how my story develops.
The point here, there are many grammar rules and structure rules that you can't change or veer from. But there are some that can be broken to fit your style of writing.
When you’ve completed your 1st draft, you should set it aside, and read. Read other books in the genre you write and see how the stories flow. See how different authors transition from scene to scene. Get craft books that will help with structure and grammar. Get books on editing. You are going to have to do several rounds of editing before you ever even think of sending your manuscript to an agent or editor. (Get a list of craft books that I have found helpful here.)
If you don't already have one, start thinking of a website name. Buy it. If you are going to blog (more later) think of what you want to blog about. There is a great post by Jane Friedman on starting a blog. I highly suggest you read that before you go any further in this process.
Just don't send your book to anyone. Don't ask your husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, or your dog to read it. Don't show it to anyone. The reason, its probably a piece of crap. Okay, that sounded harsh. But it's true. See after you come back and read it, you'll see all the mistakes. Grammar and everything else. Hopefully during that time you stepped away from the 1st draft, you read some of those craft books I mentioned; and you learned what you did wrong and you are now ready to fix it.
Trust me on this. My husband will no longer read my books until they have come back from the editor and the beta readers. He would have divorced me, but I would've made him take the kids, so not going to happen.
Listen, you may actually be a rocket scientist, that doesn't equate to being a writer. Not that I am any good, hear me out. You have the bones to something great. But that's all it is, a book of bones. You are now going to have to learn these rules, apply them, and put muscle and meat on those bones.
When you've done as much as you can do on your own, you will need an editor to tell you what you did wrong and fix it. But that's a good problem. It's a bad problem when the editor says, I can't help you because this book needs so much more work. But don't give up. Just fix it.
Read, read, read, then write, write, write. And don't give up or get discouraged. Now GO WRITE.
I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories.
If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.