20 Rules for Writing a Novel Pt. 2

20 Rules for Writing a Novel Pt. 2


Thanks to bensound.com for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: From Craig Cook via the interwebs: I have a work with two equal weight protagonists, I don’t want one over the other as more central. Whichever I start with will be given emphasis to my readers. But they’re already out of their “normal world” before they team up. So, what to do? Place a part where they’ve already met as the opener, and do some flashbacks for their entry into the adventure? Each has their own section where they’re the first person POV.

AARON: I love this question. First of all, I love that you’re doing multi-person first-person POV. I’ve done that in a couple of my novels, but it’s still pretty non-traditional. Some places won’t like it. The key is to make it clear that they’re different people (maybe title each chapter with their name). Here’s the thing, you should have a compelling reason for multi-person first-person point of view. Their narration styles should be different. They shouldn’t sound like one another. Secondly, it really doesn’t matter who you start with. If you alternate chapters, readers will get it. I don’t think they will give either more “weight” or “importance” unless you write in such a way that they should. You’re still in control, here. I’d say start where you need to start. Too many flashbacks can be distracting. Trust the reader. They’re bright. They’ll get it. .

POPS: I echo Aaron’s comments. Using more than one first person pov is done sometimes, but not recommended for those trying to break into publishing. The key is to make it clear to the reader which POV you’re in. Follow Aaron’s suggestions and you should be fine.

MJ: I agree with Aaron. I don’t necessarily think just because you start with one the audience won’t later accept the second as just as important. In my opinion, flashbacks to their entry into this new world is less dramatic and would take away from the story.

Firsts in Fiction

20 “Rules” For Writing Novels


Last week we looked at our first ten “rules” for writing a novel. Again, these are more “guidelines” than rules, but they’re all practical advice for aspiring and experienced writers. This week, we look at at the next ten. Enjoy!


  • Characters must have a reason for being in the story.
    • How do they move the plot forward? How do they sharpen or challenge your protagonist? They’re either complicating the story or helping to resolve it. Otherwise, they’re taking up space.
    • If they don’t move the story forward, fire them!
    • If they don’t reveal the character of the protagonist or antagonist, fire them.
    • If they aren’t part of the problem or part of the solution, send them packin’.



  • Learn dialog, then learn it again.
    • Check out our previous casts on dialog. Check out the swanky new search function on the sidebar of Aaron’s website, aarongansky.com
    • Remember to keep it simple. Less is more. Dialog should hold back as much as it says.
    • Practice writing and cutting. Then do some more cutting.
    • Read, read, read, read.


  • Love words, really, really love words.
    • Love the RIGHT words. Don’t reach for words just to look smart.
    • Love the way words work together and compliment each other. Think like a poet. In fact, read more poetry!
    • Details should be sprinkled with a light but deliberate touch.


  • Analyze everything you read.
    • The good, the bad, the ugly: Learn from them all. Read like a writer; not just like a reader
    • Tell someone what you learned from reading a particular novel.



  • Learn the craft. Once you think you’ve learned it all—retire—you’re done.
    • Of course, I don’t think you’ll ever learn it all. There’s always a new way to do things.
    • Read craft books often.
    • Listen to Firsts in Fiction podcast and Writing Excuses


  • Always ask, “What if?”
    • Writers’ imaginations are always on the clock. They don’t get a day off. Live deliberately and observantly and never cease to ponder.



  • Always ask, “What is it like?”
    • See above. Experience as much as you can so you can report on it in your novels.
    • Live deliberately, as Thoreau said. Live with all five senses. Take note of the world around you. Practice putting it into language.


  • Learn the principles of point of view and never, ever forget it.
    • A good, deep POV can be super rewarding for both writer and reader. Sticking in the POV can be challenging. The more you know it, the more you can utilize it to meet your needs.



  • Know thy formatting.
    • Manuscript format: 12 pt. Font, Times New Roman (or similar), double spaced, one inch margins. Indent, bro. Also, remember punctuation.



  • Never be satisfied
    • Strive to be great. Once you are, get better. F. Scott Fitzgerald made changes on The Great Gatsby all the way until it went to print.

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