Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Alice Hoffman sez writing novels is a cinch!


This assemblage of tips from novelist Alice Hoffman purports to show you how to write a novel. To summarize:

1) Start with an image.

2) Write lists (random words mainly).

3) Recall a memory.

4) Write a first line.

5) Start writing the novel.

Ah, were it only that easy! It always amuses me when someone tries to boil down the process of writing a novel to a few simple steps, as if it were akin to home brewing or building a birdhouse. Usually you get a few laughably obvious points (“Write a first line”), tacked on to a couple of little tricks the writer has picked up over her career. Hoffman’s list could easily be sifted into one line: “Open your imagination to key images and memories, focusing on a set of important words that you will use to evoke them; then write your novel.”

More seriously, I find these tips a little too ethereal for my taste. Not all novels have the almost Gothic feel they suggest. I don’t recall having read an Alice Hoffman novel, but I get the feeling from their titles that they fit right into this approach.

My own pointers about writing a novel?

1) Start with anything you feel like. It probably won’t survive revision.

2) Make sure your protagonist has a job.

3) Don’t start writing till your character(s) have some depth in your mind. Otherwise they look and feel like zombies. (Does not apply to zombie novels.)

4) Use words that fit the material.

5) When you finish writing, start again. Repeat until the book matches your vision of what it ought to be.

Between Hoffman’s and my tips, you’re well on your way to writing a killer novel!

12 comments on “Alice Hoffman sez writing novels is a cinch!

  1. tpolen
    April 22, 2014

    Sure do wish it was that easy!

  2. Dylan Hearn
    April 22, 2014

    “Write lists of random words”

    If only I’d known…

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 22, 2014

      You could have twenty novels under your belt by now, like Hoffman…

  3. ericjbaker
    April 22, 2014

    My novel-writing tips:

    1. Wear comfortable undergarments
    2. Hire an infinite number of monkeys and give each a laptop
    3. Sift through their results and find the one that most closely approximates a brilliant work of fiction
    4. Hire a lawyer

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 22, 2014

      You might also need someone to clean up after all those monkeys…πŸ™ˆ

      • ericjbaker
        April 22, 2014

        I’m a job creator. All I need now is a Swiss bank account.

  4. Pingback: BLOGGING 101, Day Four: HI NEIGHBORS!! :D | N.E.E.K.

  5. P. C. Zick
    April 23, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Manuscript Doctor and commented:
    Some inspiration. . .

  6. 1WriteWay
    April 24, 2014

    I think #5 is the one tip no one wants to take … πŸ˜‰

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , , .
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