Michille: Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 52


Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group

One of my favorite blogs did an ongoing bit last year called “Write Your Novel In A Year.” It ended with Week 52: Keep the Momentum Going. The goal for the last week is to work on ideas and strategies for your next book. And then the blogger says, take a break, immerse yourself in someone else’s stories, and do imagination exercises. The last ‘pin it, quote it, belief it’ of the year was “I oscillate between thinking I’m crazy and thinking I’m not crazy enough” (Joyce Carol Oates). Yep, been there.

Week 49 looks at publishing options. Since I’m not there yet, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to that. Week 48, however, was about Elements You Need In Chapter One To Hook Your Reader. The blogger said, “The first line is your last chance to grab the reader.” I am interested in that (see my last blog post). “The world on the first page” is a great way to frame the intro. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it struck me. And the 5 Quick Hacks (a staple in every post) were great:

  1. Rewrite your opening line at least 10 times in 10 different ways. Experiment.
  2. Cut the first two paragraphs from your opening chapter – and see if it doesn’t read better.
  3. Describe your character in twenty words or less. Try to distill the essence of him or her into the first two pages.
  4. Lists as many of the senses you use in the first few pages of your novel on a separate piece of paper. Group them by smell, taste, etc. Have you used enough? Too many?
  5. Cut the last two paragraphs of your chapter – could it be used to open Chapter Two?

There were other good weeks, like 46 with 3 Lessons on Theme, Character, and Plot. How about week 45: How to Find a Top Literary Agent? His pick was Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group (that’s his pic above – he looks like a young Benedict Cumberbatch without the squinty eyes). When did I get so old that top literary agents are infants? He looks like he’s my daughter’s age. Age bias aside, Mark gives some good advice in the post. Although he looks young, he started early and has some impressive credentials – his bio says his “focus on publishing began at Emerson College, where he was a founding member of the Publishing Club, later its President, overseeing its first publication and establishing the Wilde Press.” Make that great advice.

Week 42 is another topic we’ve all struggled with. Are there really 12 easy ways to find a title for your novel? He gives 12. I’d be interested to know if anyone tries his method and ends up with a good title. But the pin it, quote it, believe it is a humdinger.

‘That’s a fair gloopy title. Who ever heard of a clockwork orange?’ — Anthony Burgess


5 thoughts on “Michille: Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 52

  1. This blog/topic looked like a really good year of posting. I dropped in on it from time to time, because all the information seemed so useful, but I wasn’t organized enough to follow it regularly—and some of the techniques didn’t exactly fit my wheelhouse. Still, everything seemed worthwhile. Did you follow it all year, Michille? And did you finish a book?

    • I did not finish a book using his “Write Your Novel In a Year” bit. But I already have 2 written and 2 half finished. I liked a lot of his stuff, though. Just as we found with all the craft we learned in the McDaniel Romance Writing program and everything we’ve all learned from conferences, workshops, and other resources, some of it resonated and made things happen in my writing and some of it, as you said, didn’t fit my wheelhouse.

  2. Sounds interesting! Re: the clockwork orange. I have to say that title has always intrigued me, but the book’s reputation has kept me from reading it. I don’t think I’m very interested in how young angry men deal with a dystopic society. I understand that the book and the movie was very influential on David Bowie, so I’ve been stumbling across references to Burgess’ book several times a week for the past year. I may have to break down and read it. If nothing else, it might produce an allergic reaction that makes good fiction in response.

    (-: I was thinking about doing a post about the first chapter next Saturday. I’m reading some short stories, and the first one really got me thinking about how to do the first scenes right for the reader. I think your blogger put the first chapter business in the right place, though: this sort of thing should be analyzed at the beginning of the end of the process, not at the discovery level. Things can change so much in the writing of a book, and one never quite knows what exactly must be foreshadowed or emphasized in chapter one.

    However, as a mission statement, maybe those things are fine to think about and include at the beginning of the discovery process (if one has strong thoughts on the matter). I think we have to realize that those darlings may have to be murdered at some point, though.

    • I’m interested in your first chapter post. That is such an important part of the story. If there is a good first chapter, I’m all in and rarely throw the book against the wall (although I have). I’d love to hear about attempts at titles using the 12-steps (sorry, 12 easy ways).

      • (-: I have sucked at titles ever since second-grade and the SRA reading cards where sometimes they asked you to choose a title for the “story”. Maybe I should take a look. I’ve heard, though, that in a lot of cases the publishers will change the title anyway, so it’s never been particularly important to me (except as a mission statement for myself — my titles are usually some trigger word or words for the story).

        Self-publishing, of course, means it’s up to the judgement of the author and however many friends s/he can rope into brainstorming titles . . . .

        (-: I think I’ll give the first chapter post a try, then. I could finish up early and sleep in tomorrow!

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