Good prose vs. novelling

I am reading a book on self-editing by James Scott Bell and the very first sentence of the first chapter defined me perfectly:

You may be able to write wonderful sentences. The words may sing as they ping and pong off each other. But if that’s as far as it goes, you haven’t written fiction. You’ve written poetry…But if you’re going to write a novel, you have to know what goes into a successful, full-length narrative.

I am knee-deep in trying to figure out how to edit and revise the novel I drafted in November. So far I haven’t started the actual editing process, I am just reading on how to do it.

As I read this book (which is excellent so far, BTW), I am realizing my main fiction-writing flaw. I might be able to write a few sentences together that sound lovely and may even pique the reader’s interest. But as far as writing a good piece of full-length fiction, I really don’t know what I am doing!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natasha
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 23:15:50

    I’ve gotten involved in some other stuff and haven’t been reading/writing as much for the past couple of days. But I’m looking forward to reading the Bell book — after I’ve finished a couple of other things. I really need some plot help….


  2. darksculptures
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:43:01

    Kathan: I wouldn’t beat yourself up about novel writing. If you enjoy writing articles (you write well in this arena) and you enjoy writing short peices of fiction or even poetry than why stress over writing a full length novel (unless of course this is your absolute hearts desire.)

    I’m much the same way, but opposite, because I can write a novel, but not an article for magazines or ezines. I think you should evaluate your strengths and ask yourself if your happy doing what you do best. If the answer is yes, then why beat yourself up?


    • kathanink
      Jan 25, 2010 @ 16:48:20

      I really do want to be a published author of a real book. Besides, the online stuff doesn’t really make much to speak of, and one day I’ll probably have to go back to the grind if I don’t publish anything. I’d like to avoid that. I really want to keep writing “full time” and as weird as it sounds, I’d like to get published in order to keep doing that.

      Which makes it all sound like I only want to write a novel to make money, which isn’t all it. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child….sigh.


  3. dayner
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:08:05

    I’m the opposite, I can write a story all day long but writing wonderful sentences isn’t my strong point. I’m not poetic at all, there’s nothing pretty about my words. 😦
    I finished reading Self-Editing For Fiction Writers. I love it as well, it was what I needed. Now I can look at the ‘big picture’ without messing with every sentence and every word. When the story and plot are firm then I can edit sentences. I’ll post some about what I learned when I get a chance–or a quiet moment to think.


    • darksculptures
      Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:37:41

      Dayner: Id love to hear what you learned from this book. I have a big picture editing toolbox I developed, but I’m always looking for newer/better/faster/effective ways to edit.

      I’m with you on the poetry of the sentence. I can easily develop a fluent multilayered plot with little to no flaw, and once I’m inside my MC’s head it is easy to trace the steps of the plot development. But when I get to the sentence level revision, that is where my lack of experience shows. I guess it all takes practice, practice, practice.


    • kathanink
      Jan 25, 2010 @ 16:45:36

      Oh, you finished! Great! I am on Chapter 5 but reading a couple a day. It’s really good and I am finding some helpful things that I can already say I am pretty sure I need to work on in my revisions.


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