I would advise you to write just one chapter. Try to get the format right; then edit it and get the spelling right and grammar. You will find mistakes on the edit and find some sentences just need re-writing. When you are happy with that chapter and think it looks professional, get a program like PrimoPDF (Google for it it freeware) and turn your one chapter into an EBook. There is an EBook option on PrimoPDF. Then download a good EBook reader like Adobe Digital Editions from here and read your chapter with that. Then you get some idea of what a finished chapter looks like. If you write one chapter and do it well, you can write a whole book. I would advise being positive, no one knows it all to begin with, but you never succeed unless you make a start.
I'd really be interested to know where you got this particular plan from.
I'm no published author but I've been taking some writing classes from published authors and have been reading a lot of books on writing. Nobody every came close to this idea. Everything I've found emphasizes the overall plan and the need to create the total structure very early in the writing. the detailed work you describe is always advised to be after the basic writing is done.
The idea in that is that there is no point in spending a lot of time on the fine details of one chapter when you might easily have to throw it all away after you have been writing other chapters and discover you need a different start.
So, yes, I'd really like to know where you got the idea for this suggestion because it's so VERY different from anything else I've seen so far.
The advice I have given is for first time writers. I have edited manuscripts and then I send the writer one chapter of mine and they say "it looks so professional." That is a good start, making it look professional and then you can see more clearly what the problems are. I write comedy and so punctuation is very important. My work is being edited by an American English professor who doesn't like so many semi colons. They are essential to comedy writing however and so she is getting used to them. The best advice doesn't come in creative writing classes where people tend to learn standard procedures and ideas and that stifles creativity and leads to boring pulp fiction.
If you have an idea for a novel, it needs a beginning, middle and an ending. Try writing the beginning, perhaps just 3 or 4,000 words and format it. Then read it back as an Ebook. You will be surprised what you find! I read my novel back like that for the final edit and had it open in Word too because it helped me find mistakes. It will still need to go through the full editorial process but I have less chance of a rejection letter although all writers expect those!
I'll get back to writing. I have 30 minutes to complete 1,000 words! :)
“Anyway, you have a computer so all you need to become a writer is imagination and a lot of determination”.
I do agree with this, with great respect to mike.
Just write, when you are done; examine a thousand times, get other people to look at it, scrutinise it.
If you want to write do it! If it is not any good, you will know!
Once you are happy with your worldly deliberation, Get it ‘THOROUGHLY’ checked out ! Sorry, but made the point!
And please do NOT rely on spell check for your tool. Do get a proof reader of some standing, as Mike said.
When you are done, get someone you do NOT know to read it!
At the end of the day remember this…
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Also…The determination; never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must, inevitably come.
If you could read JK Rowling’s original manuscripts you would just go for it!!
Take a peep at this...
Well, It is Christmas!!
That is a interesting post Cugar and I agree determination is vital. I use a spell checker, I even have one for this in my browser to help with keyboard dyslexia. I even type words backwards! A Christmas carol modernised would be interesting; I have liked Dickens since i was at school. I think you have to make a name for yourself and impress publishers if you want to be read. The LinkedIn aspiring writer's group has a short story competition every month and the short stories from this year are being compiled into an EBook that will go on sale early next year. I have even considered serialising one novel in a blog on Wordpress. I am building up a collection of blogs and a following is growing slowly. I guest blog for a professor who teaches English which keeps me sharp and she is American and so edits my English punctuation; especially semi colons! I'm waiting to hear from J. K. Rowling's publisher; Penguin, but it hard to even get them to accept a synopsis. It is easier if you have contact with other writers and pick up ideas. Jake West: The Keeper of the Stones isn't a best seller; but people are raving about it and it's selling. The author is very happy and being invited to give talks at colleges. It is about enjoying what you do; if you make some money that's a bonus.
I started this discussion because I thought it may help aspiring writers on this forum and the more we share ideas and information the better; I think.
You offer great words of encouragement and there is considerable value in that. May we all try to be positive and encouraging.
That said, writing is STILL a craft and it can be learned; which is a lot of where the persistence is needed. While I certainly agree that nothing can take the place of persistence, you do no service to anyone in suggesting that persistence alone is all that is needed. And platitudes like "...the world is full of educated derelicts," which is patently false, do nothing positive. There are many derelicts in the world but only a small fraction are educated. While education is no perfect defense against dereliction, it's a very good one.
If you look through the writings of countless successful authors on the topic of writing itself, you will discover a near universal consensus on the essential value of learning the craft of writing. There is a lot to it and a few simple lists of five or ten quick suggestions is of little or no value.
Encouragement helps motivate people to write but false encouragement leads to almost certain failure--that in many cases was preventable. Failure destroys motivation very effectively. If you are going to give advice, give advice that has proven to be consistently successful.
I urge you, and anyone who really wants to write, to take seriously the advice of generations of successful writers. Go READ that advice and read successful writing too.
If you want to know how to write, READ GOOD WRITING! STUDY GOOD WRITING.
Get all the help you can to understand why good writing works and how the author did it.
That's called Education. It need not be formal, but learning about what you are doing is also indispensable.
I wish you the best of success.
Up to this point, I think our discussion is far too abstract for any beginning author to understand what we are debating. So, I offer you all the outline of a fiction writing class I am currently taking from Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York City. The teacher for this course is Chip Christianson. I am including his text for ONLY the introduction as it would be unfair to him and Gotham to copy more than this.
My objective is to give you, and especially the beginners, a clearer picture of what writers need to know and why.
Perhaps we can discuss some of this in greater detail and/or hear from other working authors on their versions of the details.
#1 10/19-10/26 Introduction
#2 10/26-11/2 Character
#3 11/2-11/9 Plot
#4 11/9-11/16 Point of View
#5 11/16-11/23 Description
#6 11/23-11/30 Dialogue
#7 11/30-12/7 Setting / Pacing
#8 12/7-12/14 Voice
#9 12/14-12/21 Theme / Revision
#10 12/21-12/28 The Business
INTRODUCTION TO FICTION
Fiction is perhaps best described as a lie that is true.
Fictional stories are by definition a “lie” because they do not report things that actually happened in real life, at least not with perfect accuracy. Some, if not all, of the story will have sprung from the imagination and storytelling talent of the writer. If you are simply reporting events as they really happened, with photographic exactitude, then you are in the realm of nonfiction. Nonfiction is a wonderful storytelling form in its own right, now more than ever. But it’s not fiction. The fiction writer is obligated to lie.
Yet fictional stories are “true” because they reflect things as they really are in real life. Most fictional stories portray a world that seems so realistic the reader is tricked into believing that world exists. Even if a story deals with an alternate or fantastical reality, it will work better if the reader is enticed into believing this is how things are. Fiction leads the reader, like Alice through the looking-glass, into a land that is both real and not real at the same time.
Going deeper, the best fictions are “true” because they manage to crystallize a truth about the way the way we live. Some say this makes fiction “truer” than reality. This is what Flannery O’Connor meant when she said the aim of fiction is “to reveal as much of the mystery of existence as possible.” If this sounds like too ambitious a goal, relax. We all know a thing or two about “truth,” and anyone is welcome to try their hand at fiction.
The real challenge of fiction is this: these “true lies” are composed of nothing but the 26 letters of the alphabet. (Okay, we’ll also allow you to throw in some punctuation.) It all depends on how you manipulate the words, sentences, emotions, thoughts, plots, and people that emanate from those letters. And if you do it well enough, you will, as Joseph Conrad said, “hold the magic wand giving that command over laughter and tears.” You will tell a great story.
Forms of Fiction
Fiction comes in three basic forms—novels, novellas, and short stories. The difference, on the surface, is a matter of length; that and the fact that the titles of novels and novellas usually appear in italics, whereas the titles of short stories usually appear in “quotation marks.” But the difference goes deeper, just as does the difference between symphonies and songs.
Novels and Novellas
The key to a novel is wide scope. Typically novels contain many characters, incidents, settings, moods, and everything else. A novel is really an entire world. If you’re writing a novel, you need enough stuff to sustain reader interest (not to mention your own) through hundreds of pages.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is about a minister who transports his wife and four daughters to the African Congo on a mission to save the souls of the natives. The story spans 30 years and two continents, exploring numerous characters in great depth while also wrestling with a forest of social, political, and personal themes. This novel has the epic scope of such predecessors as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
Not all novels need be quite so epic.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger stays glued to Holden Caulfield, a mixed-up teenager, as he spends several days wandering aimlessly around New York City. That’s the whole story. Holden wandering around the city. What makes this work worthy of novel status (and length) is the intricate world of this boy’s mind.
Novels usually run 150-300 pages in published form. But on occasion they run as long as 1,000 pages. For those counting, you usually need at least 80,000 words, which is 320 double spaced pages in a 12 point font, to qualify as a novel.
A shorter version of the novel is the novella. Some of the finer works of literature are novellas, such as Carson McCullers’s The Ballad of the Sad Café and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, but now they are fairly rare. That’s mostly because publishers aren’t quite sure how to sell them.
The key to a short story is focus. Short stories usually stay focused on one or more of the following:
* A single character
* A single incident
* A single time
* A single place
* A single mood
“Night Women” by Edwidge Danticat covers a fragment of time one night as a prostitute in Haiti puts her young son to sleep on one side of her hut while preparing for a caller to come, who she will entertain on the other side of the hut.
“Rock Springs” by Richard Ford tells of a Earl, a car thief who is traveling cross country to Florida with his child and girlfriend, Edna, in search of a brighter life. The story covers a single day when car trouble forces the trio to stop in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a layover that puts Earl and Edna’s dreams to the test.
The brevity of short fiction actually gives the writer lots of leeway to experiment. Literary stunts that may grow tiring in a novel might turn out very effective in short form.
“The Telephone” by Dorothy Parker consists entirely of the thoughts of a woman waiting expectantly for a certain man to give her a call. It’s very similar to a Shakespearean soliloquy, only it’s hysterically funny. “The Babysitter” by Robert Coover jumps quickly back and forth between the thoughts and actions of a whole series of characters on a single night while a babysitter is minding two kids. The effect is like reading an ever-changing kaleidoscope.
Short stories usually run 10-25 pages when published in a book or magazine. But short stories can run as short as one or two pages (these being known as “flash fiction”) or as long as 50 pages.
If you’re counting as you write, a short story usually doesn’t go beyond 15,000 words, which is 60 pages double-spaced in a 12 point font. Many magazines impose a limit of 10,000 words on submissions. (For the purposes of this class, you’re better off coming in under 3,750 words, which is 15 pages double-spaced with 12 font, or we’ll all grow dizzy from reading too many words.)
Short fiction was once a popular art form, appearing regularly in most mainstream magazines. Those days are gone. Nowadays short fiction is read chiefly by those seriously interested in fiction. On the bright side, there is no shortage of new short stories if you know where to hunt for them.
Only a handful of mainstream magazines still publish short fiction (such as The New Yorker, Harpers, and The Atlantic). But hundreds of literary magazines can be found—both in print and online—that serve to keep the contemporary short story alive and obtainable. Indeed, most short stories (even those by famous authors) begin their life in a magazine. You will see a listing of some of the better literary magazine on the Resources pages of this class.
Short stories can also be found in anthologies (books that collect the short stories of numerous writers) and collections (books that collect short stories by a single author). Sometimes related short stories by a single author are collected in a book, forming a cross between short and long fiction. For example, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is composed of short stories, all of which are about four Chinese immigrant families that know each other.
NOTE: Gotham Writers’ Workshop has produced an anthology of short stories by some of the best writers in the business. These are great stories to read, and they have been chosen to demonstrate diverse approaches to all the elements of fiction craft. You may wish to investigate this book, which is entitled Fiction Gallery.
If you’re just starting out as a fiction writer, short stories are the best entry point. It’s not that short stories are easier to write than novels and novellas; in fact, some say their extreme economy makes them more difficult to execute well. But when writing a short story, you’ll spend less time drafting and revising the piece, and this will give you a chance to get the hang of the whole process. After all, when you first learn to sail, it’s better to travel across a small bay than to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. Your short story can serve as a warm-up to a novel. Or if you find your short story really needs to expand, you can always take it into a longer form. You may even start accumulating short stories that could work together in a collection. For this purposes of this class, it’s recommended that you work in the short fiction form.
Literary and Genre Fiction
Fiction can be further divided into what are known as “literary fiction” and “genre fiction.”
Genre fiction encompasses the popular genres of mystery, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, horror, western, and romance. These are popular types of writing with mass audiences who crave their tales of wisecracking detectives or ghoulish creatures or happily-ever-afters. Partly as a result of its mass appeal, genre writing doesn’t engender the highest of regard from the literary establishment. Indeed, some of the work in these fields is formulaic and poorly written. Like cotton candy, such stories dissolve instantly after being consumed. Then again, some great writing is done under the cover of genre fiction, including works by such excellent authors as Raymond Chandler, John Le Carre, Ray Bradbury, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen King, and Larry McMurtry. What was Jane Austen writing? Romance novels!
Literary fiction is a little harder to define. The term refers to stories that are less concerned with being commercial and more concerned with aspiring toward “art.” A story enters the hallowed halls of Art by having such credentials as dimensional character, artistry with language, and thematic purpose. Most of the writers considered truly “great” write literary fiction, including such luminaries as Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, Anton Chekhov, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Leo Tolstoy, and Virginia Woolf. And, yes, the literary folks can also lay claim to Jane Austen!
Commercial fiction is something of an amalgamation of literary and genre fiction. These stories have the wide popular appeal of genre fiction while dealing with characters and situations that fall more into the realm of literary fiction. This category would include such works as The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (which inspired that commercial fiction sub-genre—chick-lit). Commercial fiction, which nowadays only includes novels, is above all...accessible.
Without casting judgment, let’s just say there are great works in all these fields, and a far larger number of less than great works in all of them. No one segment of the literary world has cornered the market on either good or bad writing.
This course will focus on so-called “literary fiction.” If your work, however, veers in the direction of genre or commercial fiction, you won’t be in alien territory. The elements of fiction craft apply to all types of fiction.
Entertainment and Meaning
As far as the reader is concerned, when fiction is good it’s good for one of two reasons, usually both. The story is entertaining, in the sense that there is an irresistible urge to keep turning pages. And the story has an undercurrent of meaning that keeps it lingering in the reader’s mind long after that last page has been turned.
Readers of genre and commercial fiction often place a greater emphasis on entertainment than meaning, and the reverse is often true for readers of literary fiction. The best fiction, however, (in any field) is infused with both entertainment value and depth of meaning. If you think back on the stories you have loved most, chances are you will find both these qualities there. You may not match the caliber of these stories right away with your own work, if ever, but it may be helpful to know the true goal of a story well told.
As a source of inspiration, let’s look at how two superlative works of literary fiction have managed to pull off the feat of combining pleasure and depth.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:
Pip, a simple boy from the English countryside, is sent to make his fortune in London by an unknown benefactor. Right from the terrifying opening in a graveyard at dusk, the story employs all the elements of great storytelling, from chilling scenes of suspense to moments of laugh-aloud hilarity to an elusive romance you can’t help crossing your fingers for. Along the way, Pip encounters a parade of unforgettable characters, such as the escaped convict Magwich, the circumlocutory lawyer Jaggers, and Miss Havisham, a woman so ruined by being left at the alter she refuses to remove her wedding dress. Following Pip on his journey to adulthood, we learn how dangerous and deceptive is the path of ambition, in a way that might make us a little wiser as to where we step in life.
“Nobody’s Business” by Jhumpa Lahiri:
Paul, a hapless grad student in Boston, is obsessed with Sang, the gorgeous Indian woman renting a room in his house, who in turn is obsessed with her callous Egyptian boyfriend. Things get even trickier when Paul gets a call from a woman claiming to be involved with the Egyptian, and he isn’t sure if he should tell Sang or not. It’s a merry-go-round of romantic suspense, and there’s no telling where it will stop. We see how most everyone is overwhelmed with a desire for love that makes us all alternately noble and desperate.
Though such stories as these reach the loftiest literary heights, they are also immensely satisfying to read. As Henry James, that most of literary of literary writers, confessed, “Nothing, of course, will ever take the place of the good old fashion of ‘liking’ a work of art or not liking it.”
Before you can write much of anything, you need an idea. A starting point. This may take the form of a wisp in your mind, a glimmer in your eye, or a raging fire in your heart. And this initial idea may be literally anything.
John Fowles was inspired to write The French Lieutenant’s Woman by an image that haunted him—a mysterious woman standing on the end of a quay gazing at the sea. He had no idea who the woman was or why she was gazing at the sea but he knew he had to find out. A story began to emerge. An image, a title, a sentence, a character—anything can serve as a story’s starting point.
Here are some of the leading ways writers get story ideas:
Spin a story out of something in your own life.
This is probably the most common method. On the Road springs from Jack Kerouac’s exuberant travels with a beatnik pal. “People Like That Are The Only People Here” springs from Lorrie Moore’s ordeal with her very sick baby son. “The Things They Carried” springs from Tim O’Brien’s experiences in the Vietnam War.
(If you’re getting the idea that the worst experiences often make for the best stories, you would be right. But there is no rule that literary fiction cannot be humorous, even when dealing when the more challenging aspects of life. Some of the best literary writers manage to mix laughter with their illumination.)
It’s fine to use a person, place or anything from your own life as the basis for a story. But don’t set it down just the way it happened. If you want your story to be really true—to have the maximum amount of both entertainment and meaning—you will need to lie some. Ask yourself how you can best distort reality into a fascinating story.
The childhood of Harper Lee had many elements that found their way into her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. She grew up in a town in Alabama similar to the town in the story, Maycomb. Her father was a good-hearted lawyer, like Atticus Finch. She befriended an eccentric boy who visited town one summer, like Dill. (In fact that eccentric boy was Truman Capote.) But most of the major events of the novel spring from Lee’s imagination. For example, during the time of Lee’s youth, in a neighboring town, nine black man were tried and convicted for raping two women. Lee fictionalized this event by having Atticus Finch defend a single black man on a rape charge, which caused much of the town to turn against Atticus and his family. This made for a much better story. Lee blended things real and imaginary into an unforgettable tale of what happened one summer in a town that never was, but is really...everywhere.
Writers are often advised to “write what they know.” You don’t, however, have to take this advice too literally. Your imagination is free to wander outside the boundaries of your own life or knowledge in a quest to find whatever you want to write about, or what you want to know.
Spin a story out of something you have seen or heard about.
Katherine Anne Porter was inspired to write “The Flowering Judas” when she looked through a window and saw a female friend of hers sitting with a fat man whom she knew was a Mexican revolutionary. Porter could see the man was frightening the woman, and the story sprang from this notion.
Let’s say you’re in a bar or restaurant and you observe a couple talking. There is obviously a lot of tension between them. You may or may not be able to hear what they’re saying. Even if you do, it may not tell you what the nature of the tension is. They may be discussing the scenery or what they are drinking. This gets you thinking about a story composed solely of an encounter in a bar between a couple who are not able to say what’s really tormenting them, which is essentially what happens in Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.”
Spin a story from the news or history.
Joyce Carol Oates was inspired to write “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” after reading about a serial killer in a magazine article. E. L. Doctorow was inspired to write Ragtime by a potpourri of historical events happening in America in the early 20th century.
Let’s say you read a newspaper account of a small town that every year has an election to see who will be the chairman of the Butter-Churning Festival. At first you think there is something nice about this old custom. But then you get thinking that sometimes these old customs can be dangerous—people blindly following a tradition with no real understanding of its purpose. So you follow your imagination and come up with a story about a town that holds a lottery every year in which the “winner” is stoned to death, which is essentially what happens in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
Spin a story out of an existing story.
Just steal a plot and do something new with it. Shakespeare stole just about all of his plots from earlier sources. For example King Lear, his play about a king who divided up his kingdom among three daughters was taken from a mixture of folklore and history that had been circulating for centuries. Where did Jane Smiley get the idea from A Thousand Acres, her novel about an elderly man who divides up his farm among his three daughters? She stole it from King Lear.
Let’s say you’re reading your young child the story of The Three Little Pigs. You’re drawn to the idea of these three friends having totally different outlooks on how they go about doing things, like building a house. And you find it interesting how each of these three outlooks will hold up against a hostile enemy, like a wolf, invading the territory. This is essentially what happens in... Well, actually this story hasn’t been written yet. Take it.
Spin a story from pure imagination.
Who knows what prompted Franz Kafka to begin his novella The Metamorphosis with this outlandish premise:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from a troubled dream he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.
Who cares? It’s a terrific story.
Writing fiction is all about playing the game of “what if?” What if a man awoke to find himself a giant insect? What if a couple sitting in a bar were trying to climb over a hill in their relationship? What if a town held a deadly lottery each year?
You may come up with a story idea that is totally unique, like The Metamorphosis. But don’t bang your head against the desk trying to come up with something-never-seen-before. Zillions of stories have been written over the years and it’s fairly safe to assume that every fundamental story idea has already been done and done again. What makes a story valuable, and even distinctive, is not just the story idea but the execution of it. How the story is told.
Think of it this way. There are only 12 musical notes on the scale. And look at how much variation in music has emerged over the years from only those 12 notes!
In fact, if there is enough skill in the storytelling, really any idea can be turned into a good story. Anton Chekhov once claimed he could write an interesting story on any idea, even if someone told him to write about an ashtray. What would you do with that idea?
Becoming a Writer
More than most people realize, good writing comes down to craftsmanship. Brilliant ideas and blazing talent will help, of course. But they count for very little if you don’t have some knowledge of writing craft. And even if you lack brilliant ideas and blazing talent, you can create a stunning work if you craft it well enough.
This class will mostly focus on the elements of craft. You will learn the time-tested principles that go into good storytelling and you will put them into practice. The elements of craft are easy enough to pick up (though you can spend a lifetime mastering them). And, of course, you don’t have to follow these principles blindly, like the children following the Pied Piper of Hamlin toward the sea. You are always welcome to “break the rules”—indeed most good writers break a few—but you can break them much more effectively if you break them for a reason. This means you should know them first. Even Jackson Pollack learned how to paint realistically before he began revolutionizing art with spattered paint.
In addition to listening to your teacher, there are two other excellent ways to develop your craft. Write and Read.
A writer gets better through practice. No matter where you are now, your writing will grow stronger and more sophisticated through doing it over and over. If you’re serious about learning to write, you need to set aside serious time for writing. It’s best if you can set aside
weekly or daily blocks of “writing time.” Make a schedule and stick to it as best you can.
It’s fine if you don’t always accomplish a lot during your writing time but, if nothing else, you will be giving yourself the time and space and discipline to get things written.
Also bear in mind that writing is not just done while at the keyboard or while holding a pen. A writer can do much of his work by letting ideas percolate, even while doing such things as taking a walk, shopping in the grocery store, riding the train, feeding the baby (well, maybe). One of the very best times to get ideas is while you’re drifting off to sleep at night. As you go about your daily life, find times to open your mind to the project you’re working on. You’ll be surprised at when and how ideas will come to you.
For this reason, most writers always have a notebook handy. Ideas come and go very quickly and you don’t want the promising ones to slip away. When you get ideas, jot them down. You may not know what to do them with at first and you certainly won’t use them all, but it’s good to have a collection of fragments upon which to draw. Something is better than nothing.
Though we’ll discuss the revision process later, know that your task with a first draft is just to get your ideas down. Let it flow without editing or worrying too much. The first draft isn’t supposed to be good. But it needs to get written. Then you go back and revise.
Writers also need to make it their business to read. You will learn a great deal about craft by studying the works of other writers—old, new, good, bad. Especially the good. You should certainly read in the type of writing you most want to write, but you can also benefit from reading the best of other types of writing. You can never anticipate from where you will pick up some ideas or insight or inspiration.
Read with a writer’s eye. As you learn about the elements of craft, begin to see how they are used in the works you read. What are writers doing well? What are they doing poorly? How have they solved some of the problems that you are encountering? And as you read, remember that the work of writers you admire didn’t fall from the sky perfectly formed. They were created from a process very similar to the one you will be going through.
As Ernest Hemingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
Thanks for that lengthy contribution. You mentioned Franz Kafka and Anton Chekhov both writers I have been compared to. I'm not that familiar with either but have read some Chekhov. His story about the lottery is well known and it perhaps inspired my recent short story about winning the lottery. It was a comedy and it wasn't set in one place. You don't always have to double type space manuscripts these days. The word processor can change single spacing to double spacing easily anyway. Many manuscripts have to be single spaced and in ebook format because that is popular now. There is one format you missed and it is like a novella in that it's around 30,000 words and that is for the Amazon Kindle and in demand now. We have to try to keep up with the times! I think novels will sell better when we have a better ebook reader. The Kindle isn't very good in my opinion and expensive in the UK. It is quite easy to get a ebook published now; but getting sales isn't so easy. There are formats you should stick to so your novel is readable. I prefer people to write differently though and explore new ideas. We don't need more pulp fiction. J.K. Rowling did something differently and she struck a chord with young people. My friend, M. J. Webb appears to have struck a chord with Jake West: The Keeper of the Stones; in a young adult market. We have done a lot of marketing though including a Fan Page on Facebook, a website, videos and a eye catching book cover done by A. J. Hateley. It cost about £500 to publish that book through Authorhouse and there was virtually no editorial services. It is hard to edit your own work and I checked it for mistakes in the first draft and gave a lot of advice. The first few chapters changed out of all recognition. My own novel went around the world and i got opinions from as far away as Australia and Texas but I still re-wrote it based upon one comment; that it was too long at 180,000 words. I don't usually write short stories, but did three this year, one for a competition and it didn't win! I did one for charity and that is on a world tour for children with cancer and I'm waiting to hear if the BBC accepts the short story for radio. I guest blog for a English professor in California who does read Kafka. I hope more people will contribute to this discussion, particularly people who have never tried to write and think they could.