My bible for the next month, No Plot, No Problem!, says it’s OK to spend a week — and only a week — preparing to write my 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The first suggested step is to create a list of what I think makes for a great novel (with the idea that one should write what one loves to read, a theory I’ve long subscribed to).
I had trouble coming up with a list of my desired novel elements purely from scratch. So first I listed favorite novels.
Novels I Wish I Had Written (a partial list)
- High Fidelity
- Fight Club
- Motherless Brooklyn
- Infinite Jest
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
- the Thursday Next mysteries
- All the King’s Men
- Get Shorty
- anything by Raymond Chandler
From this list, I created a second list of elements that occur multiple times in the first list.
What (To Me) Makes a Good Novel
- first-person narration
- a mystery or puzzle
- magical elements
- ambiguous ending
- potential end of the world
- a confused protagonist
- multiple, confusing storylines
- subtle humor
- cynical worldview
It shouldn’t be surprising that the novel on which I’ve worked most has almost all of these elements. It is surprising, now, to note that there are currently no guns in it. I’ll need to rectify that.
But for now, the important thing is that I know now to include each of these items in my NaNoWriMo 2005 novel.