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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why It Takes A Village To Write A Novel

by James L. Rubart

When it comes to your novels, you’re probably in one of three camps:

1. You think you can write your story by yourself.

2. You realize writing a compelling novel takes a village, a country, the universe.

3. You need to be reminded of fact number two.

I fell completely into camp three during the writing of my latest manuscript. Whoops. 

In January I told my friend Susie the synopsis of the novel. After I was through, she frowned. Not a good sign.

“Uh, no. With that premise it won’t work in first person. You have to get his wife’s reaction. With your story set up, we have to see his change from her POV.”

Susie was right. (Hello rewrites.)

Later, I described a poignant scene where a woman has a significant change of heart, to my wife Darci. Again, furled brow. “No, she shouldn’t react like that. It would be more powerful to do it this way.”

Yep, right again.

Then, when the novel was nearing the finish line (along with my deadline) my friend Ted called to chat and I told him about the story. 

“I don’t think you should do the third act that way. It’s too much to try to take the reader there.”

Thought about it, talked to Darci about it. Once more, completely correct. 

My friend David said, “You need a better set of conflicting values for your protagonist.” True.

Kevin said, “I’m not feeling the tension, brother. Need to get that amped up.” True yet again.

Our Mind Set

I’m not saying the people you trust  to brainstorm with will be right 100 percent of the time. They won’t be. And ultimately it’s your story. But we must realize (or remind ourselves) that writing a novel is never, ever, a solo effort. Not even close. 

The reality is none of us are widely read enough to know when a twist in story has been overdone; when a character is too close to another character out there in fiction; when a premise has been done so often it’s now a worn out trope. 

Get input from those you trust before and during your first draft. Then again after you finish. Brainstorm your brains out. Brainstorm for your stories, but brainstorm for other people’s stories as well. It will help them immensely and also train your mind to be more creative.

Yes, I know all this great input from others before and during your writing process will make your acknowledgments section longer. 

Don’t sweat it. 

In my first novel my acknowledgements felt almost as long a second novel. No one has complained. Much.

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Why It Takes A Village To Write A Novel by James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Writing a novel is never, ever, a solo effort.~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Get input from those you trust.~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)


James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker and the co-host of the Novel Marketing podcast. During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com

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