Let’s travel back in the past a bit. Many of us participated in make-believe as children. We’d come up with an opinion then act out our fantasy, often turning it as we went along. Maybe we were the only hero or heroine or maybe we hired one or more others to be on our play stage with us. We might have sprung out stating, “Let’s pretend that… ” then took it from there. Perhaps what we recommended was agreed to by everyone who had a say in our mini-production. Maybe one or more play members decided to twist their role or the plot a bit. “You’re a teacher from our school,” you might have said to one, and he may have replied with, “No! I’m a pirate.” You may have then said, “There aren’t any pirates in this play.” He may have replied, “Then I’m not a part of it.” Either the story went on as discussed, without a pirate, or you came up with a way to inculcate one.
In make-believe, we may start with one “truth” in mind then alter it to suit our story. The layout is flexible. That’s fine when you’re enjoying that game. It’s not fine when you’re penning a novel. Details and story matter in fiction. Some new writers don’t understand this. The need to keep close eyes of details and structure density is yours, as the writer. Your readers will want this from you. They want to submit faith in some measure when they read fiction, but they still want the story and details to be reliable, relevant, and sensible. And they want you, as the writer, to meet this obligation to them so something written on the page doesn’t launch them out of the movie playing in their minds as they read.
Being an editor for over ten years, I’ve seen a lot of good writing and writing that needs development, especially since new writers tend to be around me. It’s an enormous desire to assist them to become better at the craft of writing and to create books they’re proud of. But I do come across problems like the one being discussed in this article. For example, a friend had her protagonist living on the East Coast. The narrator did something that led to her imprisonment. The writer had her lead jailed on the West Coast, for no reason other than that’s what came to mind. First, that’s not how the judicial system works. Second, the writer had the protagonist’s family, friends, and lawyer visit her frequently in prison. That’s a very long way to travel, and costly. You can see why that’s unrealistic and unreasonable for the story: It differs real life in a way that doesn’t work, even in fiction. But this is the kind of “oopsie” that happens fairly often for new writers. The Devil is certainly in the details.
As a new writer, you may feel the glow of your fingers flying over the keys as the story pours forth from your vision. That’s a great feeling. But you need to develop a method that works for you and that you stick with so you can handle the details. Somewhere, somehow, you need to track dates, days, and times of the day so you keep this even. You need to track the estimated time that passes in each scene. It would serve you to create a play-list. This is particularly essential if your first book is one with a sequence or will be a series. And this also helps you to be harmonious with the spelling of your characters’ names. It can immediately become tiresome to keep scrolling through your manuscript to verify or check something that you could readily find on a different document.
Repeating that the Devil is in the parts, you may (or should) have to do something many budding writers miss to do or don’t think to do: Explore. For instance, if your fiction takes place in a village or city you’ve never been to–or even if you have been there or lived there–you still need to get some aspects right or you’ll have readers growling at you. This analysis also helps you build settings so your readers can visualize themselves in them, and your research notes help you stay logical about the details. What else in the novel you’re writing would serve from the research.?
Go ahead and get your outline written, but when you sit down to read through it, loudly, for that first of many revisions, look at the write up not as the writer but as a reader. Pay attention to what’s going on in your mind’s eye. Is more research needed? Is what you have your characters saying and doing realistic, logical, and believable? Is the timing associated with each scene and the story as a wholly practical, relevant, and credible? Did you accidentally change the “facts” anywhere in the story in a way that makes the reader balk, or that defies basic physics or time progression unacceptably? Did you mistakenly alter the personality of any of your characters without creating a valid reason for this to happen? What else needs your attention?
Yes, there are many things you as the writer must pay attention to if you want your readers to be happy with your novel and you as its author. Whether you like it or not, writing a good novel involves managing the details and getting them right, rather than just making up whatever you feel like writing as you go. Don’t give readers a reason to call you a dull writer. It may seem as though other authors, including or particularly best-selling authors, sit at their computers and just make stuff up. Yes and no. They make stuff up, but they base it on real data they’ve researched and real-life conflicts. This is part of how they draw us in and keep us enchanted until the last word, and sometimes even after we complete the book. You can be this kind of writer as well. You just have to do what it takes.
I wish you the best with your manuscript.