Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to write a Novel

I started to write this, then put it on hold because I wanted to spend more time sharing Jan's amazing workshop. So sorry it took me so long to get back to it. :-) I'm learning to balance life and writing with the kids home from summer and family visiting.... Is it time for school to start yet? ;-)

So let's go back in time to the awesome Iowa SCBWI Conference......


One of the best parts about the conference was hearing from Jan Blazanin, a published author and former teacher. She was GOOD!!! AND, even better, I walked away with concrete ideas and tools to work with.

Here are my top tips from Jan, in no particular order:

  1. You want BIG problems. The bigger, the better. And the problem needs to get worse as the charcter looks for the solution.
  2. Better have a hook! This will tell what your story is about, where it fits in the current market, and what's fresh about it. Your protagonist and conflict need to be stated first. And your story needs to be unique.
  3. You need to know what it is that your Protagonist wants more then anything else in the world. This needs to be something that he will take risks for.
  4. Know your character, inside and out. Interview him. What does he look like? Go shopping with them. Who are his friends? What does he eat? What is his hygiene? You also need to know your secondary characters, though not as in depth.
  5. The first 5 pages are the most important. In this time you need to introduce the protagonist, let the audience get to know her (but in the moment, like you just met someone, not in a 20 pages of history sort of way), show what traits set her apart, identify the time and place of the sotry, set the tone, and introduce the catalyst. Whew.
  6. Introduce characters gradually. It is easy to confuse your reader. Be kind.
  7. The end should be brisk and answer the reader's questions. It does NOT have to tie it up nicely with a bow. She says "Be brisk, be brief, and be gone."
  8. When brainstorming, there is no right or wrong way to come up with a story. Some come up with a character, and build a story. Some come up with a plot or conflict, and then find a character who fits.
Jan was a fabulous teacher. Make sure you know what your book is about, who your characters are, and where you are going.

Happy Writing!



  1. Lots of great info here, Debby. I hope to write a novel, or at least a children's book or two, someday.

  2. I'm so sorry I had to miss this conference. Thank you for sharing. I really wanted to know what I'd missed!