How to Write the Perfect Novel

Is there a secret to the perfect novel? Do you want to know what it is? Are you willing to do ANYTHING to make you novel ‘perfect’? Are you willing to… write it?

So many would-be writers out there always say, “I have this idea for a novel,” and then never get around to writing it. It languishes in their minds. Or they start writing, and never finish. Or they finish, then they lock it away, never to be seen again. Or they write it, and spend the rest of their lives tweaking it, never allowing it to reach other readers.

Are these unpublished, unseen novels ‘perfect’?

I can’t answer that.

Because there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ novel.

Every writer is different. Every book should differ (I know a lot are copies of the same plot, which is what I’m against). Every reader is different. Different readers will like different things. There is no such thing as a book that will appeal to absolutely everyone, and therefore be ‘perfect’. Even Harry Potter, with its universal themes and universal appeal, has its haters.

But why are you listening to me?

I haven’t published anything.

I haven’t sold anything.

What is the perfect novel, anyway? Is it a Stephen King thriller? A Neil Gaiman fantasy? A Jodi Picoult drama? Even among those highly successful, critically acclaimed authors, some of their novels are better than the rest.

I don’t know what makes a novel perfect.

I simply write what I want to read and hope I can find like-minded people to enjoy my stories.

Don’t ever take advice from someone who’s unpublished. Their advice clearly hasn’t worked for them.

That being said, I’m an unpublished author, and I’m giving these two very good bits of advice. I’m going to repeat the first one again.

1) Don’t ever take advice from someone who’s unpublished.

2) If you want someone’s advice on the process of writing, go and visit Holly Lisle. She’s a successful published author of over 33 novels, and runs online writing courses. She helps with plotting, how to think sideways, and revising, among others.

I’m not going to give you advice on world building and fantasy cultures and creatures, creating a language or new world geography. Because your novel isn’t my novel. And my novel isn’t published.

Anything I say about writing a novel comes from my own experience of writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’m completely self-taught, in that the school writing courses I took only ever reinforced the lessons I’d instinctively picked up through reading, reading, and more reading.

Don’t come here looking for short cuts or quick how-tos. Every writer is different. I could offer you advice on how I came up with my different cultures, and sure, maybe some people would find that helpful, but some of you won’t. And I can’t promise you that it will make your story better.

Only YOU can make YOUR story better.

I’ll try never to tell anyone how to write. I’ll try only to tell people what I’ve done on my own journey. Because every writer works in a different way.

I can’t give advice because I’m not really sure myself how I do it. I just write.

That’s the only bit of advice you’ll get from me. Just write. Just do it. Otherwise you’ll never finish what you’ve started.

I don’t write to a formula. I write from instinct. No one has been able to teach me, and now that I’m nearing publishing my own novels, I’ve come to realise that they are different from standard novels. Hopefully my audience will be looking for what I’m offering. A story that doesn’t follow traditional plots with traditional heroes and traditional problems.

And if we all wrote to a formula, we’d never have any really great novels anymore, would we?

2 thoughts on “How to Write the Perfect Novel

  1. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been discussing some similar thoughts on my own blog recently, and one thing I firmly agree with is: it’s okay to be different. More than that, it’s tremendous to be able to be different. The sameness of current literature is dull, and the pressure to be the same as a writer is stifling.

    I also firmly believe that nobody can tell you exactly how to write, and nobody should try. Some advice can be useful on the most basic of principles, but for the most part each writer has to find their own way. That’s the only way to produce truly distinctive, original work.

    I’m always looking for something really different to read, so I’ll be interested to hear more about your work!


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