The Genesis of A Novel Isn’t That Important

“Whenever I begin a novel,” he said, “the beginning never stays at the beginning. It ends up in the middle, or near the end. It never stays put where I started.”

That is an interesting quote from Philip Graham’s latest post on writing a novel and how to approach it. It’s eye opening to me because I have always assumed novels sprang mostly fully formed into the minds of their authors. In thinking about that though, it seems silly in the same way that thinking fully formed software solutions spring into the minds of software architects. What instead most likely happens is that you begin writing a novel and realize along the way that this feature needed to be added before, or this character needed to be fleshed out or one of any number of other things. Or maybe you see the end of a piece of the plot so you write that and then return to the beginning.

This concept of creating pieces of a novel and then tying them all together is intriguing to me. I think it’s why my writing instructor used to say to not worry about the plot and instead develop characters. The plot may be drastically different from what you originally conceived but if you have strong characters, the reader will still be interested.

This also ties into my previous post on writing a lot, regardless of quality. The more I write, the more ideas I have for writing not only on blogs but in fiction as well. When you develop characters, you begin to see how they might fit into their world, what issues they might have, what stories they might have to tell. If you just wait for a plot or story to develop in your consciousness, I don’t think you’ll write very many stories.

The idea of pieces of the novel communicating with each other over time is fascinating, an almost iterative approach to writing a story. As characters develop, their stories will start to reveal themselves to the author which leads to the plot of the novel developing around the characters instead of the other way around. The stories I have always been most interested in are ones that have interesting characters. I become attached to the character and thus the story takes on meaning through their eyes. It only makes sense that a novel would be written around the characters, allowing the plot to develop naturally as the characters become deeper and more involved with each other.

Create interesting characters and you will create interesting stories.

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