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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Is Your Novel Veering Off Course?

I've nearly completed the first draft of my first fiction novel. Regular followers of my blog know that although this may be my first fictitious work, it is certainly by no means my first book.

Writing is a great hobby, but it takes a lot of time, devotion and good editing to produce a quality manuscript. When I first started writing my third book, I thought writing my previous two had taught me a lot of valuable information. And to an extent this was correct but there's a big difference between writing non fiction and fiction.

To write an outstanding fiction book that everyone wants to buy and read you must have an interesting plotline, great characters and structure with several smaller subplots.

The hardest part of writing that I've personally found is linking plotlines together to make an interesting read, without giving away too much too soon.

Now that I've nearly completed my book, I have thought of a easy trick to make sure my theme stays constant. It's very easy to lose track of what your book is supposed to be about when you've typed 40,000 words, and the word count is all you can think about. I talk to many writers who have started a book with one particular theme or message only to end it on a completely different tone. And I suppose that's the danger when you have 70,000 words or more to write. Keeping your message constant can sometimes be a very hard thing to do.

So before you start a writing session make sure you re-read the previous couple of pages. Try to sum up your book's message in one sentence. And keep on doing that even when you're sure your theme is strong, as you don't want to end up with your novel's message being a complete mystery.


  1. LK - in just the short time I've been writing it still amazes me how one can write a whole book. I applaud you in this.

    I hope someday I will have the words in me that will fill a book I can share with the world.

    Also, wanted to let you know I've included you as one of my nominees for this award on my site (

    Thank you for your writing and for sharing your expertise!

  2. Hi Pat,

    Thank you very much for commenting and thank you for making me a nominee. I am so happy you enjoy reading my blog!

    Writing is like eating an elephant. You just do a bit at a time. And if you continue to do that then one day you will have a book. Happy writing and good luck. I wish you all the best!

  3. The Devil's advocate in me just needs to ask this burning question: Who said a novel needs a message? I mean, you can analyze any story and find some theme or another, but that doesn't mean the author intentionally worked it in. It could just be that, subconsciously, that was on the author's mind and it worked its way into the story. Or perhaps it's just coincidence.

    (As human begins, we love to search for meaning, even when there is no meaning to be had.)

    For example, when I write, I'm simply telling a story I find interesting or entertaining. It just comes to me the way it comes to me, and I write it thus. If it happens to have some kind of message in it, well, that's for other people to interpret. It's unlikely that I consciously put it there.

    But, back to the topical question.

    A novel can veer off course. There are a few things about something veering off course I need to bring up here, because one of them isn't inherently bad.

    Now, veering off in the sense of suddenly having so many open subplots that the main plot has gone unresolved (or entirely forgotten) and there's no hope of untangling the mess to bring things to a close ... that's the bad one. When that happens, it's best to step back a few chapters, figure out what can be pruned, and prune it.

    The other type of veering off course involves outlines. If the story is going in a direction you did not plan for, I always say this: let it. The storytelling part of our brain, that little creative part? It can tell stories far better than any critical part of our brain, so you have no reason to stop it from doing so. If the story is evolving in a direction that is counter to what is outlined, I say toss the outline and see where the story ends up.

    Worse comes to worst, you toss it and start writing from where your critical brain thinks the story veered off. But I bet the storyteller was right the first time.

  4. Excellent point... I think a couple of my works in the past have suffered from this in the past. luckily im the only one who's read them :-P
    I'm in the brainstorming process with my latest project, but I can relate. I'd been getting to know my cast of characters before beginning writing, trying to fill all the gaps as to why they react to things the way they do. But as I'd worked on the multiple layers on my antagonist and developed characters other than my protagonist, I've found them a lot more interesting than her. Like I don't want to go back to writing her story. But I'm guessing the fact the inspirational playlist of my protagonist has more variety might have a little something to do with it.

  5. Hi Ryan,

    You raise several excellent points here. When I look back over my manuscript, I always seem to veer off just ever so slightly in most chapters. Like you say, your critical brain has one view while your creative brain has another. But as long as know I haven't veered off in a completely different direction, I know I'm still on the right line.


    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Good luck with your writing. I wish you all the best.