Why Writing a Novel is Like Baking a Cake - guest post by @thewritershouse


The follow is a guest post by Claire Pickering and Rebecca Richmond at The Writers' House UK and is posted here with permission.

Writing a novel is similar to baking a cake. If you miss out vital ingredients or add them to the mix in the wrong quantities or at the wrong time in the recipe you can achieve a very different result.

Below are our 14 basic ingredients to help you write a great novel that will transport your readers into the world you create in your book, taking them away from everyday hassles, dramas and problems:

1. The first thing you will need here is a great opening, with a dramatic event or something that leaves your audience wanting more. One that really catches the reader’s attention and preferably with an intrigue that instantly gets them wondering what has happened or what’s about to happen.

2. Believable characters but not necessarily realistic – and they need to come to life on the page. The reader also needs to be able to engage with them, either loving or loathing them. They should have plenty of depth and complexity.

3. An intriguing main character who isn’t too perfect, but is clearly the main character, with events viewed from their perspective, so the reader can share their thoughts, feelings and fears. Perhaps your main character has physical flaws or habits that would repel you – such as flatulence, belching, snoring, chewing toenails, nose-picking, excess body hair, leaving whiskers in the sink after shaving or the top off the toothpaste, leaving the seat up after going to the toilet, scratching ears then rolling and flicking the ball of wax, adjusting manhood. No wonder we can’t find the perfect man! And what about women, some of which may cross over to the opposite sex – again, excess body hair, bad teeth or breath, greasy or lank hair, big feet, acne, body odour …

4. Complex and contrasting interrelationships and any resulting clashes as they react together.

5. Conflict or a challenge for the hero/heroine to overcome, that may even be life-threatening.

6. A combination of action, dialogue, narrative, mood and pace.

7. Action or a climax. This part is normally fast-paced with lots of tension, conflict, incidents, dramas, emotionally charged conversations and perhaps changes in location.

8. Coincidences, which can make things happen; but they need to be believable. For example, two characters both happening to be in the supermarket at the same time. Or an estate agent who makes a mistake and books two people in for a house viewing at the same time. It is not essential that coincidences happen, but they tend to make the story move along and they do happen in real life.

9. Strong narrative voice using words and images, using realistic and relevant dialogue.

10. Twists and turns so that it’s not predictable. There is nothing worse than starting at beginning of book, knowing exactly what’s going to happen and being right. Quite often in a book you are able to work out who the person is going to end up with or what’s going to happen to a certain character, but it’s really thrilling if something happens in the middle and you start to doubt yourself.

11. Adversaries. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one character is good and the other is bad, but both have to have a different viewpoint or standpoint and both have to be striving for the same thing; for example, the same job or person. Or perhaps both are trying to escape from the same thing and yet only one can get out of the situation. For instance, who’s going to get the money in the end? Who is going to manage to flee to safety?

12. Exciting settings that may be unusual or exotic, but realistic.

13. A page-turner, with each chapter leaving the reader wanting more.

14. A satisfying conclusion, so that the reader is not left thinking: that’s ridiculous, there’s no way that could have happened. It has got to be believable. That is not to say that it has to be predictable. In some of Ben Elton’s books such as Chart Throb, whilst the endings are really surprising, they are totally believable in that it could have happened that way.

For a full, comprehensive guide to writing a novel, check out My Guide: How to Write a Novel.

About the Authors

Author of Forget Fibromyalgia: Putting the Pieces Together and My Guide: How to Write a Novel, Rebecca Richmond has enjoyed a highly successful career within global organisations, later going on to become a coach. Having triumphed over adversity and cancer, as a qualified coach, master practitioner of NLP, hypnosis and Time Line Therapy, she is ideally equipped to help you achieve the success you deserve.

A qualified proofreader and editor, Claire Pickering knows her subject and has an amazing attention to detail. Having worked in the publishing industry for many years, My Guide: How to Write a Novel is her first published work – unless you can count the hundreds of manuscripts she has worked on over the course of ten years, which are now in the general market …

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