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The Writer's Cafe

Write the Story You Want to Tell

John Brains "Writing A Novel": The book broke a complicate task into alot of idiot steps, so that the job didn't seem overwhelming. Make an outline of no more than four pages: When finished, you should not only know who'd done it, you'll know where, how and why. Draw up a list of characters.

You know that old platitude: write what you know. Well, it's not a bad idea. You can use what you know - computers, mahjongg, Harlem, or parakeets - either as the core of the novel or as a background. And write what you care about.

Another suggestion: write for yourself. You don't have to go to a writers conference, or take a fiction workshop. Learn to write for yourself, not for a teacher, a critic, and editor or even that amorphous, intimidating "mass", the "audience". Never allow yourself to worry: what will my mother think. The minute you write to please someone, or not to offend someone, or to take big bucks, or to be taken seriously, you're gazing outward, inward, and you're doomed to lose sight of what is unique and true in you.

So then, what does it take to be a novelist? Well, a gift for writing. A willingness to sit alone in a room one or three or ten years, telling a story. Then you must be able to become your toughest critic. Ask yourself the blunt questions: what is there about this protagonist that would make someone else besides me, the creator, care about his or her fate? What propels the novel, what will drive the reader to turn the page?

Don't be afraid of what they say. Write! Don 't write the story you think they want to listen to. Write the story you want to tell.

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