The writing book I’ve been carrying around all summer

Its called Is Life Like This? A guide to writing your first novel in six months.  I have a fairly large library of writing books, but John Dufresne’s book lays out such a compelling method to beginning a new novel, that I have come to think of this guide as a friend.  I bring it along with me to ease into one of the hardest parts of writing a novel, the beginning.  This friend is there to make things clear when all you have are a few happy thoughts about what your next novel is about.  There is a lot of inspiration and support packed into this paperback, but there is also a sense of practicality, of the actual tools a writer needs to transform an idea into a novel.

There are so many things to think about when starting a book.  What are the character’s names?  Harry Potter, or Bella and Edward?  You are supposed to figure out the background and emotional arc for every one of your characters.   It gets overwhelming.  Is Life Like This, steps in to offer a plan.  I love a plan.  There are tasks to complete every week.  These exercises build your novel but are not the actual novel.  Instead, you are priming the pump for weeks 21-24, when you actually start the writing.

Before that moment, you will have spent time in Weeks 1 and 2 building characters by mining your own life for gems, hanging out in Week 5, getting a sense of where the book will take place, and beginning in Week 8 with figuring out general plot ideas.  Dufresne doesn’t believe in outlines, but values a general sense of preparedness paired with letting the story take you where it needs to.

Now that the summer is over, I’m about to get my characters on the stage and move them around.  If I run into trouble, I will be flipping through this book, and going forward.  My goal is to get to Weeks 25-26, where I will finally have a first draft to kick around.  Then the really hard stuff begins, the revision process.

– Janis


About writeinseattle

Two Seattle writers examining the writer's life.
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