So you dutifully sit down to write every morning, but it just doesn’t seem to flow. You worry about word choice. You worry about whether you need this scene. And what to do about your main character who isn’t very likable?
Suddenly, your novel, the one thing you live for has become a chore.
How about warming up to your work by writing a letter instead? It could be a letter to yourself, someone you love, or a long-dead relative. And the best part about it is that you don’t have to mail it.
Use your letter as a way of getting rid of all those things floating around in your brain that distract you.
Use it as a way to muse about your novel.
Or take a leaf out of John Steinbeck’s notebook and use your letter as an “arguing ground” for the story of your novel, as well as all the fears, ambitions and preoccupations that might be interfering with your work.
When you have finished your letter, put it away, and write that next scene.
Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL is a compendium of advice honed from Maass’ 30 plus years as an agent. This book is designed to help the novelist at any stage of her career write a breakout novel, by which Maass means a novel that gets onto the bestseller lists.
Even though this is a book written by a successful agent, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a book written for writers by a writer. Organized into eleven chapters, nine of those chapters are solid advice on craft. And the advice is intelligent and thoughtful. In a random flip through the book, I discovered this gem about the psychology of story telling:
“When an author pitches a great story premise, almost always the first question that spring to my mind (and I will bet to yours, too) is this: Could that really happen? It is an odd question. Fiction is not life. And yet for some reason most readers, me included, need to feel that the story we are being presented has some basis in reality. Why? The answer to that question lies in part in the psychology of storytelling, or rather story receiving. A work of fiction grips our imaginations because we care, both about the characters in the tale and about ourselves. To put it another way, we are concerned about the outcome of the story because what is happening to the characters could happen to us.”
This book is full of such gems. The best endorsement I can give of it is that my copy bristles with post-it flags. If you are a writer, or even an aspiring one, buy this book. Five stars.