Aug 6, 2012

I Am Beyond Brilliant: Will My Novel Write Itself?

So You’re the Greatest Genius Who Ever Lived and You Want to Write a Novel

Some people need tons of advice to write a novel and that’s OK, because they are not especially gifted.

But YOU are not “some people.” Your skull throbs achingly as the cranial dome threatens to come apart – you are literally bursting with ideas and creative vitality.

However, even a paragon like yourself must accept one simple truth: nobody’s going to write your book for you. OK? Now, if the key to a good novel is a good outline, it follows that a brilliant outline can only lead to a brilliant novel. 

I’ve devised a meta-plan to take you from the inception stage and into a career so world-shattering it’ll make the black hole at the center of the galaxy look like the one at the center of your kitchen sink – lesser beings than yourself call it “the drain.”

Shall we begin?

Phase 0 – inspiration

Ideas are infinite so inspiration is easy.
You don’t need to look for it. Write about a hotdog trying to stop a blind badger’s plans for world domination; set the story in a library. Everyone knows libraries are dusty old places filled with books and your hotdog can be a writer so he spends a lot of time in the library.

Research? This is the 21st century and facts are dead. Write what you know.  

Phase I – planning/outlining

You’re going to need some office supplies for this, like maybe a notepad and a couple of pencils, or index cards. In an emergency you can plot your novel on a toilet seat using a pocket knife, though I don’t think the pub owner would let you take the toilet seat home. Make sure to check with him/her.

Got your supplies already? Excellent. Let’s forge ahead. Planning a novel is really, really simple. No challenge to you, I’m sure.

In fact most outlines run something like this:
Character is in school.
Suddenly: Magic world.
Evil dies.
The End.

See? There’s nothing to it. The hard part is getting started!

Let’s plan our novel about the hotdog right now.
Character is in the library.
Suddenly: blind badger.
Evil dies.
The end.

That’s your three-act structure right there. Writers, you know, writers internalize this so they don’t have to worry about it anymore. All good stories come in three acts. Think I’m kidding? Here’s a quick analysis of some really great movies:

Die Hard
Character is in building.
Suddenly: terrorists.
Evil dies.
The End.

Character is at work. Also sleeping. I want a job like that.
Suddenly: horny space lizard.
Evil dies.
The End.

Star Wars – Episode IV
Character is in desert planet.
Suddenly: crazy old man + male dominatrix.
Evil explodes. County fair ribbons for everyone.
The End.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher version)
Character is in Stockholm, not speaking Swedish. In fact, nobody is.
Suddenly: pierced nipples.
Evil is a lousy driver. Dies.
The End.

Russian poster for Star Wars.
I don't remember that character being in the movie at all.

All these movies were box office hits. Play your cards right and your book can be one too. Yes, people will buy tickets to go and look at a book on a lectern! At least they will when they find out it’s your book. Everyone within a ten-mile radius of it will go insane from multiple orgasms. EVEN BABIES.

Phase II – writing

Write as fast as you can. Always. Screw grammar and spelling – damn books are already full of words and shit, what else do people want? Leprechauns? 

Screw logic if it gets in the way of a good story. Pound the reader with information and lots of it and do it real fast because you want to keep them turning the pages. Remember, nothing is so important as the thing that happens next. Don’t waste time thinking about now. No self-respecting reader goes back to page 27 to check whether the protagonist’s eyes were green or brown.

Style is for sissies. Writing prettily is for amateurs who read too many old books. Why the hell should you read anything that came out more than 2 years ago? “Moby Dick? Haven’t heard of him – does he do porn? What a stupid name. Vanity Fair? I don’t subscribe to magazines anymore, do all my reading online. Paradise Lost? Isn’t that like an English metal band or something? They suck.” – Listen, listen to the Voice of Reason.

The Voice of Reason.

Remember, everyone is stupid. Whenever your characters do or find something which is hard to explain, make sure you explain it right away. In painstaking detail. Let’s imagine your hotdog who is also a writer stumbles upon a first-edition Maupassant whose pages have been cut to conceal a Sumerian statuette, a nail file, a sun dial and a set of jaws from a great white. You’ll have to devote at least 500 pages to explaining how all those things got there, and how they could all fit inside a book. Otherwise, your stupid readers will think you’re a cretin, or worse, a genius.

Action is the most important thing of all. Lots of things must happen in your story. For example, your hotdog writer can go bad. By bad I mean stale, rotten, moldy, you know. I wasn’t insinuating anything about morality because he’s a hotdog. He doesn’t have any morals, which makes him very interesting to write about. Oh, and the fact that he’s a male hotdog when in fact he should be neutered. I mean neutron. Or neutral. Is that how you spell it? Nah, it can’t be.

Phase III – beta readers, critique partners, editors

Nobody needs them. Especially not you. You are physically incapable of delivering less-than-stellar work.

To suggest that you need feedback on your manuscript would make all the Greek gods weep and they’re like, statues, so that’s saying something.

Whoever asks for readers' opinions and constructive criticism ought to be taken behind the barn and sacrificed to the obsidian dragons of the abyss. Oh, I can hear them calling to me right now.

Phase IV – profit or suicide

Obviously, you will make a lot of money if you publish your book, because everyone will instantly recognize your talent and want to buy multiple copies of your wonderful novel so they can read it several times.

Nobel prize committees from the future will fight among themselves for the privilege of going back in time to award you ALL THE NOBEL PRIZES. From all the years to come. In fact they will cancel the Nobel awards ceremony FOREVER because, what’s the point?

Failing this, you can jump into a tank full of hungry eels.

Phase V – more profit, stalkers, violent death

Assuming you have a) garnered the world’s respect and admiration and made a bundle for yourself or b) survived the eels, you’ll want to write another book.

I suppose I can’t talk you out of it. But beware! As your popularity grows, so will
the number of your enemies. They are many, relentless and unforgiving. Some of those enemies may actually believe they love you. Once you’ve had a taste of global literary success, the unexpected glimmer of a camera lens shall carry a much wider range of meanings, especially if said camera is glimmering at you from inside a mysterious moving bush.

But you’ll be bathing in liquid gold, so you can afford the best protection in the universe.

Phase VI (Bonus) – getting to grips with reality

Actual writing blogs you can read where the advice on offer is, shall we say, more grounded:

Admittedly, it’s not a selection for demigods such as yourself but hey, even Hercules plowed the fields, and we’re talking about a guy who strangled two poisonous snakes before he could even walk. If he could go knee-deep in cow dung, so can you.

WARNING: Some of the information provided in this blog post may not be reliable. For instance, Liquid Gold is terrible for your skin. 

Also I do not recommend suicide as a career move. I tried it and am as obscure as ever, so there are no guarantees it'll work for you. 

Man, those eels were hungry.

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