A novel is like stringing a necklace, each moment, a pearl

I’ve been reading a lot about the art of writing. Everyone has a list of things you should do, things you shouldn’t. And then of course they go ahead and tell you to ignore half of the rules, depending on the moment. Well, heck yeah, that’s the whole point of fiction, it is a string of moments, and each moment is a pearl, a universe in itself, and each has its own rules. Sometimes you’re stringing a plain pearl–describing a setting or a character’s reflections. Sometimes you pick up the black pearl of depression and  tragedy, sometimes the red pearl of lust. When you’ve strung them all you have a piece of jewelry for the mind.

Now and then I second-guess what I am doing as I edit my novel. Tonight I was thinking, does this scene adhere to the rule of “every sentence forwards the plot”? Hell no, the one I just finished did not, but it set a mood. A novel is more than a plot, it should transfer the user into another place in his or her head where I, the author, can unlock emotions. I need access to the reader’s empathy and to do that, there has to be more than plot. So, there goes that rule.

If I were going to give advice, which I strive to avoid, I’d just say this: make every moment count, like Steinbeck. I love his short novels, where there is lots going on and uncanny visuals.

About H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.
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