The perfect novel (for me)

2005_participant_med.gifMy 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
  • death/murder
  • romance
  • sex
  • magical elements
  • guns
  • ambiguous ending
  • potential end of the world
  • lying/cheating/conning
  • a confused protagonist
  • multiple, confusing storylines
  • misdirection
  • 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.

3 replies on “The perfect novel (for me)”

  1. Hey Cindy, great alternative strategy for getting your novel worked out…Can random readers see what the participants are working on, or is it all held to the people who are actually doing it? Can’t wait to hear about this one.

  2. Hi Kathie!

    It’s interesting to me that so many people assume that the novels in progress are posted online. To me, that would be like broadcasting a live tour of a working hot dog factory.

    On the contrary, neither participants nor the general public can see anyone else’s novel in progress — unless a participant posts drafts someplace (like a blog or other website). No one sends in a manuscript until the very end, and that’s only to have an official word count made. The NaNoWriMo site doesn’t have the capacity to host all those drafts anyway.

    What every participant can do is post a word count, so others can see their progress in terms of quantity. (Remember that quality isn’t the point — we’re each creating very, very shitty first drafts that we can revise later.) So if I keep my word count up to date, the whole world can monitor my progress on the NaNoWriMo site.

    Here on MBM, I don’t plan to post any part of my new novel-to-be. Instead, I’ll write about my progress toward the 50,000 word goal (or lack of progress as the case may be), and I’ll detail my joys and sorrows in writing fiction — even/especially truly crappy fiction. I did a similar thing for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, so it’ll be interesting to compare my struggle then with my struggles today. I like to think I’ve learned a lot about writing and about myself in the intervening years; now we’ll get to see if I’m right.

  3. Thanks Cindy…I didn’t know at all how this worked. Thanks for taking the time to outline it here…I think I want to sign up and if I get a ton of revisions from my agent, I can drop out…Thanks again.

Comments are closed.