Posts Tagged With: you can write a novel

Become a Pro Writer — One Hour at a Time!

The more you write, the better you get.  That should go without saying, but discouragement can dim our perceptions, so I’m coming right out and saying it:

Every hour you spend writing makes you a better writer.
I talk a lot about the learning curve of your first novel.  If you’re like most people, as you work your way through your first book, you’ll look back every so often and shudder at your earlier chapters.  It’s tempting to go back and try to polish your old writing up to your current level of proficiency.  Don’t do it!  Believe it or not, you can write a novel from beginning to end without stopping in the middle to go back and fix it.  In fact, I recommend you don’t stop.

Make notes instead.  Scrawl in the margins.  Use up a whole pad of yellow sticky notes if you must.  But don’t spend time “fixing” your old pages until you finish the entire book.  Why?  Because by the time you reach the end, you’ll be a better writer than you are now.  So save the “fixing” for later and do it all at once, rather than trying to constantly improve everything all the time.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s number-one bestselling book Outliers, he says that you need to spend 10,000 hours at something to become an expert.  You’d have to do something 20 hours a week for a decade to hit that.  But you know what?  That’s doable, even with a full time day job — if you want it badly enough.

One of his examples is the Beatles, who performed live more than 1,200 times before they made it big.  Bill Gates started programming when he was 13.  Was he a child prodigy — or did he just get an early start and put in massive effort before he became an expert?

Ten thousand hours — as a writer, that works out to a LOT of pages.  You won’t be an expert writer until after you’ve finished several books, so cut yourself some slack.  In the meantime, you can focus on learning the craft of writing.  Every day, you’re getting better.  Remember: you can write a novel — and you will — one hour at a time!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Bestseller: Robert Buettner

Ever wondered what it feels like to hear that hordes of people will buy your new book just because your name is on the cover?  Well, who hasn’t?  With a lot of hard work and perseverance, it can happen — and here’s the man to tell you about it.

Joining us on You Can Write A Novel is Robert Buettner, author of the bestselling Jason Wander series, as he kicks off a brand new series with his latest book, Overkill.  I met Robert Buettner a few years back when he came to my bookstore to sign some autographs.  But I had to break the bad news to him: we’d completely sold out of his debut novel.  I ordered more, and promptly sold out of those, too.  And I wasn’t alone.  His first book, Orphanage, was so insanely popular from the moment it was released that it went into its second printing in a mere 17 days.

Now, the unstoppable Robert Buettner gives us a glimpse behind the scenes, talking about starting a whole new book series from scratch, how ebooks are changing the landscape and what it’s like to read your own reviews.

Laurence MacNaughton:
For those who haven’t heard of Overkill yet, how would you describe it?

Robert Buettner: 
Overkill is a new, stand alone novel somewhere between Military Science Fiction and New Space Opera.

There’s this guy, and this girl, and this gigundous alien monster. And cool stuff happens. Seriously, the cover blurb’s about as descriptive as I dare to be, without spoiling things for some readers. Plot surprises, at least I hope they’re surprises, come early and often.

Though Overkill stands alone, it incorporates something old (it continues the “future history” that follows the decades-long mankind-vs-the-Slugs War. Jason Wander fought that one, rising from private to general, over the five books that began with the best selling-Quill Award nominee, Orphanage), something new (new worlds, new characters) something borrowed (from two 1940s A.E. Van Vogt short stories) and nothing blue.

Overkill begins a new series, with the second book, Undercurrents, to be released July 5, 2011. The new series is less rigorously “military science fiction” than the Jason Wander series was.

LM:  So the new series is military science fiction, too?

RB:  I would call it “Military Science Romantic Fantasy.”

LM:  Mili-what?

RB:  The Czech SF magazine Pevnost did a profile of me and the Jason Wander books in an all-military SF issue that also focused on [James Cameron’s movie] Avatar. Pevnost pronounced Avatar a new sub-genre, “Military Science Romantic Fantasy.”

LM:  Catchy.  So what are the elements of “MSRF?”

RB:  Ex-military/paramilitary protagonist, preferably a smart ass; military hardware and panache; strong, independent female characters; a prominent love story, and alien worlds and creatures; all unstifled by NASA-level rigor.

LM:  My personal favorite kind of book!  Come back next week for more with the inimitable Robert Buettner, who answers a few of your burning questions about what it’s like to write a bestselling book! 

Robert Buettner’s best-selling debut novel, Orphanage, 2004 Quill Award nominee for Best SF/Fantasy/Horror novel, was called the Post-9/11 generation’s Starship Troopers and has been adapted for film by Olatunde Osunsanmi (The Fourth Kind) for Davis Entertainment (Predator, I Robot, Eragon). Orphanage and other books in Robert’s Jason Wander series have been translated into Chinese, Czech, French, Russian, and Spanish.

In March, 2011 Baen books released Overkill, his sixth novel, and in July, 2011 his seventh, Undercurrents.  Find out more here:

Robert Buettner’s ‘blog:

Robert Buettner’s website:

Baen’s webscription page for Overkill:

Amazon’s Overkill page:

Amazon’s Undercurrents page:

Amazon’s Orphanage page:

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Nail Your Genre in 3 Easy Steps

Last week, I talked about how you can write a novel in any genre, as long as you know exactly what that genre is.  And believe me, you desperately need to define your book’s genre. As promised, here’s a nuts and bolts plan that shows you how to do it, in three outrageously simple steps:

1)  Pick a genre.  And by that, I mean walk into a major chain bookstore and wander the aisles until you find the section where your book belongs.  If it ain’t on a sign, bucko, it ain’t a genre!

2)  Find three recent, successful books in that genre that bear at least a passing similarity to yours.  Close enough that you could tell a complete stranger, “If you like this book, you might like mine!”

3)  Figure out the single most important thing that makes your story unique and fascinating.  You want to be able to say, “My book is like this one, except…” and then point out the key difference.  Example: “My book is like Robert B. Parker’s Spare Change, only the detective is a homeless man who can see the ghosts of the victims.”  Or whatever.

If it sounds like I’m coaching you on how to eventually approach a literary agent, then (BING!) check out your big brain.  I am.  You need to have this stuff figured out long before you send your manuscript to anyone.  (Bonus tip: you can start with the agents of the books you found in Step 2.  But not until you’re ready!)

Now, if you can’t find any successful books that are anything at all like yours — and I mean not even remotely — then I hate to say it, but you’re in trouble, my friend.  Rethink your concept and rework it until you can do the steps above.  Because if you can’t, then the marketing people at the publisher can’t.  And if they can’t, then your book is torpedoed.  Dead in the water.  Boom.

And nobody wants that. So get yourself to a bookstore, toots, and see what’s what!

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Last Chance: Meet a Literary Agent and Help a School

Just a quick reminder that on Sunday, literary agent extraordinaire Sara Megibow (of the much-esteemed Nelson Literary Agency) is leading a two-hour writing workshop open to any fiction writer.  And don’t think you don’t have what it takes.  If you can write a novel, then you can get it in front of a literary agent and get some feedback.

There’s a feel-good bonus, too.  100% of all proceeds go to benefit the Boulder Jewish Day School.  So it’ll help your writing, and it’s a good cause!

Get all the details here.  And have a great writing weekend!

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Want to Get Published? Know Your Genre!

You can write a novel in any genre you want, as long as you know what it is.  To me, a “genre” is anything that comes with a certain set of expectations.  If you tell me your story is a hard-boiled mystery, then I’ll know what to expect.  If you tell me it’s a time-travel romance, I know what to expect.  But if you tell me your story is so original that it defies all genres, I just scratch my head, because I have no idea what to expect.

With an editor, it’s a little more cut and dried. Genres have very specific definitions. Mystery is one thing, Fantasy is another. Tell an editor that your book doesn’t fit into a genre and you’re doomed.

For example, meet George.  George doesn’t have a genre.

EDITOR:  What genre is this?

GEORGE:  It’s not really in one particular genre, it’s set in ancient Egypt, and it’s got vampires, and there’s a time-traveling robot who falls in love with a detective from Brooklyn, and–

EDITOR:  PASS, thanks.  Now scram.

Don’t be George!  Pick a genre that the publisher can sink their teeth into.  By that, I mean “Science Fiction” is a genre.  “Cyberpunk” is not.  I love William Gibson as much as the next guy, but there isn’t an actual Cyberpunk section at Barnes and Noble, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by calling it that.

A friend of mine once had a manuscript catch the eye of the editor-in-chief of a major publisher.  He took it to the marketing meeting, it was discussed, and the consensus was that his book was too much of this genre and too much of that, and not enough to fit squarely into one or the other.  So they passed.  He went from hero to zero in the course of one meeting.  Ouch.

Don’t let that crash and burn happen to you.  If you want to get published, pick your genre carefully! How? Stay tuned, and I’ll walk you through it, step by step!

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I Want to Teach You How to Write a Novel

Over the last few years, I’ve met and interviewed a bunch of authors at different stages in their career, from the very beginning to the very top.  In one case, I had the privilege of hanging out with a debut author the same day he discovered he’d hit the New York Times bestseller list.  As a full time writer, I like to “talk shop” wherever and whenever I can, because I firmly believe that the keys to success in any field include meeting new people and learning new things. 

I love doing both.  But this year, I challenged myself to reach out beyond just the people I know to share the writing advice I’ve learned with an even wider audience.  And so this website came about.  I’ve put a lot of planning into what’s going to appear on this page.  Look, I even wrote a mission statement: provides common sense advice, tips and encouragement to all writers, from enthusiasts to experienced professionals, who want to write a novel.

That just about says it all.  Can I live up to that?  Can I come up with novel writing tips and insights that actually improve the lives of other writers?  We’ll find out.  I know I can’t do it alone, since no single human being has all of the answers to everything.  That’s why, coming up soon, you’ll see interviews with award-winning and best-selling authors, along with guest blogs telling tales from the publishing trenches, all with one goal: helping you learn to write a book.

This is your website as much as it is mine.  It’s all about how to become a writer and achieve your dream of writing a novel.  I’ve got a ton of writing tips, know-how and writing advice I’m just itching to tell you about, and this is the perfect platform for me to do that.  This website is about you, it’s for you, and if you follow along, it will show you proof that You Can Write a Novel!

Thanks for joining in!  What are your writing goals for 2011?  I want to hear them!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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