3 Resources You Need to Write a Readable Novel

“Most people have no idea of the gigantic capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” —Anthony Robbins

by dave
by dave

We could drown in all the resources available to improve the writing of our novels. But we can develop three general resources that will make a big difference in the writing and readability of our books.

Resource 1: A General Writing Method from Start to End

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have many great writing methods to choose and study from. When I tried to incorporate several, I became overwhelmed. And sometimes confused.

I think it’s best to choose one method that fits your style and study that one method. I went with My Book Therapy’s take on the 3-Act Structure. You can find other great ones, such as Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

I joined the people at My Book Therapy online, attended one of their week-long workshops, and purchased their manuals. I sit in on their sessions at writers’ conferences. I feel like I’m getting a good grasp of the concepts.

Of course, I learn from many varied resources, but I have my foundation in one method.

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  • Find one general writing method that fits you and study it. click to tweet

Resource 2: Teachings from Writing Experts That Will Take You Deeper

by kumarnm
by kumarnm

Once you’ve chosen a foundation method, you’ll want to go deeper.

I learned the following concepts from My Book Therapy, but going deeper has helped me round out the concepts. These spoke to me the most.

• For the hook and the inciting incident: Hooked by Les Edgerton
• For techniques and strategies: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
• For elements characters must possess: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
• For methods to get inside main characters: Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson (See my Deep Point of View post.)

You can find many more recommended resources if you join writers groups.

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  • Once you’re comfortable with the elements of writing, go deeper. click to tweet

Resource 3: Your Arsenal of Quick References

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The reference sources below have been recommended repeatedly in various venues. I use them for most of my questions. Besides a click-away dictionary and thesaurus, I also have lists I’ve found online. For example, long lists of alternate words for the act of walking, pulling, etc. Lists of clichés to avoid or re-mold.

The Chicago Manual of Style put out by The University of Chicago Press. Used by many editors. I got the online version.
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty.
Polishing the “Pugs” by Kathy Ide. Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling.
Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer “When you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word.”
The Positive Traits Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi.
The Negative Traits Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and David King.

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  • Build an arsenal of online or paper copy references to keep at your fingertips. click to tweet

What are the writing resources you go back to time and again?

4 Crucial Elements That Make Your Audience Talk Up Your Creative Work

“The public as a whole is composed of various groups, whose cry to us writers is: ‘Comfort me.’ ‘Amuse me.’ ‘Touch me.’ ‘Make me dream.’ ‘Make me laugh.’ ‘Make me shudder.’ ‘Make me weep.’ ‘Make me think.’” —Guy de Maupassant

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We work on a painting, presentation, novel, song, dance, play, or Bible lecture and hope our audiences will talk it up.

Our works will stay in the minds of our audiences if we recognize audiences need intangibles to imbed artistic works in their memories.

People will enjoy our works long after they’ve put down the books, turned off the iPods or left the galleries, conference rooms, or theaters if our works evoke:

  • Images
  • Emotions
  • Stories
  • Ah-Has

Why Evoke Images?

Kyle Buchanan and Dean Roller say in their e-book, How to Memorize Bible Verses, “Your memory doesn’t like rote learning and repetition, it likes to see things.”

id-100135344.jpgPeople want to visualize as they experience. Even paintings evoke images other than those on canvas. When I saw a painting of a field of sunflowers, the image of the sunflower patch I passed on my way home from work everyday in the summers came to mind.

Songs evoke images through lyrics and what went on in our lives when the songs were popular. Recently I attended My Book Therapy’s Deep Thinkers Retreat. Susan May Warren invited us to listen to parts of songs and note what images and emotions they aroused. The exercise showed the importance of creating images for our readers.

People like to recall the rich images creative works deposit in their memory banks.

Why Evoke Emotions?

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At the Deep Thinkers Retreat, we learned techniques to evoke readers’ emotional responses to our characters. To make our novels memorable, we had to draw our readers into the characters’ lives. Recalling our own past emotions in similar situations helped us show our characters’ emotional reactions.

During the retreat breaks and meals, the latest episode of Downton Abbey dominated conversations. A character had died. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought, by the angry and mournful emotions voiced, some beloved actor had passed. Viewers cared.

A presenter wants his audience to care about his call to action. In the book, Resonate, Nancy Durate advocates emotional appeal in presentations along with ethical and logical appeals. She says, “Involving the audience emotionally helps them form a relationship with you and your message.”

People look for reasons to care enough to talk up creative works.

Why Evoke Stories?

 mp900405206.jpgWhen I look at a painting or a photo in a gallery, I see a snapshot. I want to know what happened and what happens next. What’s the story behind the photo of the ballerina? Was she jilted earlier? Is she planning revenge? Was she cut from the ballet? Will she give up her dream and return to her husband and five children?

Song rhythms and lyrics arouse new and past stories. Novels do the same. When I read a novel, my mind scurries ahead to finish the story with what I know so far. I’m delighted when the novel surprises me with a gotcha or replaces my expectations with something far more interesting.

People discuss creative works whose interesting scraps or snapshots turn on their live-in storytellers to fill in the gaps.

Why Evoke Ah-has?

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Most people love to glean a new truth from a poignant play, a hilarious book, or a country song’s title. It’s like opening door number three and our hearts leap at the sight of the prize. Readers of mysteries delight in the sudden realization of who dunnit.

We enjoy a new insight to share at lunch. To guide our lives.

People talk up creative works that turn on their light bulbs.

What did you imagine when you first saw the picture of the ballerina?