We’re starting a new year, which arrives with a flurry of resolutions, hopes, and dreams about a new start. Nu? What have you done to make your novel “new” lately? If you haven’t, perhaps you’d like to. Because our word for the long narrative comes from the Latin “novellus,” meaning, of course, “new.”
A novel that does nothing new is last year’s news. While it’s truer than ever that “there is nothing new under the sun,” it’s your job to make your novel feel new. These strategies might get you started.
Link the setting and atmosphere to the dilemma, and any location or conflict becomes original.
Dig deep. As Don Maass frequently reminds, the first nine twists you generate will most likely lack the punch of the ones you brainstorm following that.
Whore with a heart of gold? Quarterback who wants to make it big so he can save his family? Whores and quarterbacks—why not. Stereotypical ones? Uh, uh. Make one major change, be it status, dreams, occupation, even gender. Shake things up.
Sentence structure is important and it’s not necessarily instinctive and English teachers aren’t the only ones who loathe run-ons and so you should get out of the rut. Vary. Change patterns. Transcend habits, even if that requires conscious, concerted effort.
Roses are red. Skies are blue. Tears equal sad. Spring equals happy. Roses come in a rainbow of colors, as do skies. And character tears can make readers quite sad—for the wrong reason. Can’t find anything new for your scene? Turn it upside down. Probe its core. That’s where the imagery you need is hiding.
If readers have expected a set scene for a couple hundred pages, don’t rob them of that pleasure. Still, satisfaction blends the predictable with the startling. One perfect detail will get the job done. Again, the secret is discarding the first dozen or so possibilities. The great ones come from thinking long and hard enough.
Tip: Resolve to find ways to make your novel “new” in this new year.
Have a happy one.