2 or more hearty characters, preferably one with a problem in need of solving (you can proceed with 1 character, but with two there is possibility)
Peppering of quirks
1 major plot
½ dozen, more or less, sub plots
Multiple dashes of conflict
Heavy sprinkling of tension
Senses on the pages in equal parts:
Just enough narrative
Adequate setting – too much and your readers get bored, not enough and your readers get lost
Not required, but helpful:
1 good chair
Belief in self
Support of family and friends (note: some friends may abandon you during the writing of a novel because you’re “no fun anymore and all you ever do is write”)
One ream of paper or 2-dozen blank moleskins (or journals of preference)
Time (scheduled, measured, managed, and respected)
Daily word limit
A room of your own
On a large blank canvas combine the essential ingredients, stir with equal parts vigor, passion, blood, sweat, and tears, in unquantifiable measurements. Note: The time required to complete is unique to the writer. The approach in which the writer mixes and stirs with vigor is unique to the writer. How the story unfolds on the page is unique to the writer. There is no class or how to book that auto-magically makes the words appear on the page. Only the writer sitting at his or her desk, hour after hour, day after day, until the story is complete, makes this happen. After mixing, place printed pages in a shoebox and store in a dark place for days, in some cases weeks, in rare cases, hours. When ready proceed to the next step.
Only proceed with this step when your head is clear, the heart is pure, the objectivity is solid. This phase will require the strength of Hercules, a heart of stone, a swift hand with a blade (or the delete key) to cut and chop, remove the backstory, the excess, the pretty little words that have nothing whatsoever to do with moving the story, the adverbs, the that’s, the passive verbs, and all the shite that sounded really good when you wrote it the first time, but makes no sense when you read it aloud. CHOP IT. CAUTION: This first attempt — often referred to as a draft — may often require a new blank canvas. In rare cases, a bottle of wine is required to face this fact. DON’T CRY. Keep calm and write on.
The above measurements are not exact and merely a suggestion based on personal experience, loss of friends, numerous bottles of wine, several blank canvases, a new chair, two computers, endless journals for notes, software, unnecessary funds spent on writing books with jacket descriptions which lured and promised me candy and a book in a month if I forked over $18.95.
At the end of your journey — perhaps 100,000 words give or take — you’ll have a story as unique as you are, one only you could write. You’ll walk around the place where you live in awe of yourself. You’ll be amazed. You will be. You’ll shout to the moon. Tears of joy will run down your pale cheeks. You’ll dance a jig. You’ll tell the check out clerk at Safeway, your hairdresser/barber, your great aunt Tootie, even you best friend from second grade, Elvira, about the book. Some will smile, some will say, “WOW,” some will wonder if you’ve lost your mind and remind you of the missed episodes of Dancing with the Stars. Some will even go so far as to ask, why.
You might even wonder the same thing. After all, those lost hours spent in front of the computer will not bring you instant fame and fortune (that might require a few more books and a heavy sprinkling of Tinker Bell’s fairy dust). Something in you will know there is no answer that will satisfy the person asking the question. How do you explain the sublime, the surreal, and the burning passion to create from inside of yourself? Personally, I shrug. If pressed, I say, because it was the only way to quiet the voices in my head. Of course, they run for the hills when I say that, but I don’t mind. I mean, I don’t ask them why they watch reality television when they could be writing. Fair is fair.
How did you feel when you’ve accomplished something big <insert your own description for big>?