Ever Wanted to Write Your Own Great American Novel?

It is the great American dream - to write your own novel and see it in print. Better than that, to see it listed on the New York Bestseller List!

It is estimated that one in 1,000 manuscripts written will get published.  And of those, a minuscule number will hit the best seller list.

But that's no reason not to try.  If that story lives within you, as it did within me since I was 7 years old, it absolutely must find its way out of the darkness and into the light.

My best advice - with persistence and hard work, you can beat the odds!

Here's how you do it.  Step One:  Begin.

Yup, simple as that ... make a appointment with yourself, plant yourself down into a chair, and just begin.

That may sound trite, and perhaps a little simplistic, but whoever writes a story without just beginning?

Writers have an innate instinct about the stories that live inside them.  At this point, don't even worry if it would sound good to an editor.  Just get a notepad, or clear your desk before the computer, and BEGIN.

But you say, I have no formal training; I've not attended any creative writing courses.  Let me assure you, your voice is still there.  It just needs a little coaxing and encouragement to come out. That's why I say ... just BEGIN.

When Jane Austen was a young woman, her head was filled with stories that begged to be penned, expressions that lived deep within that demanded they be shared.

So it is with most writers. With little or no formal training, Jane Austen wrote the great classics of Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma.  Though her life only lasted 42 years before her voice was silenced, the point is ... at some point, she made the decision to sit down and BEGIN.

Nowadays one needs to perhaps learn more than Miss Austen did in her century. The mechanics of writing a story have evolved tremendously since even several decades ago. To write a sell-able story, a great deal of study, reading and research are expected.

You must learn everything from how to Plot, to how to build interesting and consistent Characters, how to maintain proper Point-Of-View for each of your characters, and describe Settings that will draw your reader right into the page.

How Can You Learn to Write?

There is an endless supply of books, websites, and seminars available to teach all aspects of writing.  Enough that your brain will become frazzled selecting just one or two or three to study.

If you intend to write fiction, decide first what aspect of fiction writing you would like to learn more about. Wanting to learn how to develop and structure a scene for a short story?  Learn to develop impressionable characters for a long story such as a novelette or novel? Or how to write believable dialogue?

First, chart out in order of importance to you the subjects you most want to learn about. Then purchase a good book dedicated to just that subject.  Study it thoroughly (I scribble notes in the margins - my study books could never be re-sold!), and then apply what you are learning to what you are writing.

I might add this note of caution ... don't buy a book or a CD or a course on writing just because it is on sale, or because you know it is something you will eventually need to know. Instead, be selective - you have already decided what should come first and therefore is most important to your learning process now.  Stick to your list.

As you study your new book, don't skim or hurry through. Take time to study it thoroughly. Then apply what you have just learned to what you have begun to write. By so doing, the habit and practice will become ingrained.

Second, read other people's work.  Read the work of contemporary novelists, read the classics, read books within your genre of interest, but also expand it.  And not just read, but study their work.

What do you particularly like about the way they have written their story?  Notice their opening pages, how they hooked you the reader and pulled right you in. Or not!

Were their characters memorable?  Did you sympathize with the plight of the hero or another in particular? Or come to vehemently despise the villain?  Note how the author accomplished building that feeling in you.

Did the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter make you want to read on?  Can you apply that same method at the end of the chapters you are now writing?

Thirdly, and crucial to your development as a writer - network with other writers.  This advice is similar to #2 above, which is sharing in the mindset of other writers, listening to how they accomplished what they have.

Join a writer's or critique group.  Do a Google search and see what is available in your area. (If you can't attend one personally, there are always online groups.)  Even if all you do when you attend is listen, you're still networking.

And then, if you can, attend a writer's conference or two each year. The instruction and encouragement you receive while there from other writers will prove to be invaluable to your confidence and development.

Admittedly, taking this route to writing your novel -  writing every day, reading others' works when you can, and studying and applying the various different practices of effective writing - may take you longer to turn out your novel. Because each new step you learn could very well call for a whole new critique with edits of your story.

But the more you fill your mind with what works and what doesn't, the closer you will come to finishing your Great American Novel.  And submitting it for publication.

So ... today, why not plant yourself in a chair, be determined to have fun - and just BEGIN!

Here is wishing you hours full of learning and productive writing!

Susie Schade-Brewer

Email:  Susie@Rural-Woman.com

@ruralgals - follow me on Twitter