Thursday, 29 April 2010

So How Do You Go About Writing a Novel?

When I was about fifteen I went on a particularly long holiday with my family, and decided that this was an opportune moment to get stuck in and begin writing a book. Having indulged in Sci-fi fantasy most of my life, from what I remember my story was of a generic nature with a protagonist from a shattered background looking for his place in life during a war. I wrote about fifty pages and then got decidely bored of all my characters and gave up. I've since started two others (neither getting past twenty pages of the first chapter), and have run into the same problem.

The deciding factor I always become hung up on is the story. I like to be original, but I keep finding myself lending elements from what I've seen and read, and the thought constantly playing in the back of my head is that the story will end up just being that second story that borrowed so heavily from another author. So my question is, how do you go about writing something completely original? Wells invisioned massive tripods higher than the tallest buildings of the time, piloted by the inhabitants of our closest neighbour planet, which he described in the most incredible detail; even the dimensions, the workings of their weapons was described on a believable and scientific level. Crichton explored the ethics of genetic engineering while taking us on a edge-of-your-seat ride through Jurassic Park. I remember an author, Michael Marshall Smith, and his novel "One of Us" amusing me with his protagonist's sentient wristwatch.
It's actually gotten to the point to which I thought I might be bugged as ideas I had ended up appearing elsewhere (see: Maria Carey Skeleton Car).

Perhaps I need to lock myself in a room for a day and write down the most obsurd things I can think of. Perhaps I need to take a notepad and pen to coffee time and jot down some of the insane ideas that are conjoured by my fellow Physicists. Maybe my inspiration is already in my mind, and it just needs to be found...

On that note, a friend of mine (who will actually be joining my group as of October this year) has written and published a Sci-Fi fantasy story. If it sounds like your cup of tea, please do buy a copy: it's certainly inspired me to have another crack. Fourth time lucky perhaps?

Osirus Ransandyne - The Final Paradise.


  1. Rory has got to be the man to ask about this sort of thing.

    I've seen plenty of interviews with writers and authors and they all seem to plan a plot and their characters backgrounds prior to putting pen to paper.

    You shouldn't fret too much though as I have plenty of friends who are aspiring authors/writers and none of them seem to be able to get a novel together (yet they all would really like to).

    The big issue with writing is exactly as you described; it is becoming bloody difficult to come up with anything original.

    The alternative is to use nostalgia to resurrect a dying genre. This is becoming very popular recently (eg Harry Potter for fantasy, Twilight for vampire stories). If you go for this, I'd suggest pirates. Pirates have once again become big in the cinema but no-one seems to have really bothered when it comes to literature.

  2. Well I don't think I'd ever be ambitious enough to come up with my own genre, but I'd certainly at least like to put my own slant on one.

    I've certainly had it on my mind the past few weeks, and I think I've found an interesting yet quite obvious place to draw my inspiration from. I've been reading a lot of Wells lately, and he's still one of my favourite authors, so I think I might have enoguh steam to at least set off on my journey :3

  3. Poirats? Der ain't no poirats ere!
    But no, really, I like pirates.
    One of the really old cliches when it comes to writing is to "write what you know." Wells' monsters may have been big and shiny and amazingly portrayed, but if he had no grasp of basic human nature, how could the novel have been so successful? You must be a student of the world and of the innermost workings of the mind to write successfully. This is something you're good at, T-Bird - you know people. You know that no real character is fully good or evil, that the hope of redemption exists equally for all. The power of Wells' novel was not just in his alien antagonist, but in the response of humanity to that peril. So perhaps take us, we with whom you are so familiar, and place us in your situation. We with our strengths and our weaknesses. And from here you can postulate - perhaps Christian, ever-ready with his knowledge of physics, suffers endlessly from a fear of not being good enough. Perhaps Phil goes home every night, tired of the gay jokes but unable to reply because his one true love remains forever out of reach. Perhaps I slowly go insane from mental stagnation, the way a caged bird pulls out its own feathers. Perhaps Iain is really a train pirate.
    Good luck. I'd love to read it. :-)