Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Write the Perfect Novel

How can anyone write the perfect novel when writers and readers are both imperfect, fallible human beings, having subjective opinions?  As Abraham Lincoln says, “You can fool (please) some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t fool (please) all the people all the time.”  However, I think there is somewhat of an answer – if an author gives their full passion and writes the real story hidden in their hearts, not the one they think will please their peers, then they will have written the perfect novel – for them. 

I’ve read many novels over the years that I could tell instantly were written in the ‘market formula’ and designed for a specific target, and hitting all the high points in order to make a financial investment.  The writing community calls these ‘commercialized’ novels.  While they have a plot, and hit the sensationalized points of a story, they too often miss the ‘heart’ of the story, lacking depth of character or true intimacy.  There’s nothing wrong writing this way, this is how many writers earn a paycheck, but I personally think it robs not only the reader of a great story, but the writer of the pride of truly sharing the true gifts given to them. 

It doesn’t take much intelligence or skill to write sensationalism.   Just about anything these days are open for discussion, no matter how objective, subjective, offensive, or taboo they may be.  Pushing the boundaries is often what sells the best.  The more rude, crude and plain out hateful, controversial and offensive someone can write - the more sales they make.  But, what have such writers really done?  They’ve prostituted their gift for a price.  They have their reward.  It’s not only what is written on the page that makes the story, but it must be combined with the heart and purpose behind it.  If there is no heart or purpose, it’s just meaningless words – vanity; a chasing after the wind. 

As you sit at your keyboard, notepad or typewriter today and the story begins to flow, ask yourself how much of you are you putting into this story?  Is this story the best you can offer?  Are you making yourself vulnerable to your gift?  Are you writing the story in your heart, or are you editing for commercial sake?  Does this story make you happy, or are you concerned if it will make someone else happy?  If your novel isn’t perfect for you – it won’t be perfect for anyone else.  It’s your name on it, not theirs. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray


  1. "The more rude, crude and plain out hateful, controversial and offensive someone can write - the more sales they make."

    What did you have in mind, specifically? Most big best-selling fiction is the opposite of this: generic, unprovocative, mediocre and so middle of the road it can be read by the most reactionary Christian fundamentalist without offence.

    Controversial books are a tough sell, whether they are fact or fiction. If they weren't, they wouldn't be controversial. If someone has to put their reputation and finances on the line, stating unpopular opinions, how can that possibly be "prostituting" their art?

    Commercial writing is market driven and the last thing the market wants is something that is going to alienate people. Stephenie Myer and Nora Roberts are highly commercial authors, and the only way they offend is by parading mediocrity so breathtaking it would put you to sleep.

  2. Thanks for this post! It was really interesting to read as a reader and not an author, it's strange to think that not all authors inject their own personalities in their books which is a shame :(