Open for debate


Paula’s Post #83

Yesterday, in her post ‘Deja Vu all over Again‘, my colleague Silk kicked off our 5writer week by revealing the outcome of our ‘mini-retreat’ held last week in Vancouver. Truthfully, up until last week, we 5writers had been, well, floundering. We knew we’d lost our focus. We knew we’d lost our enthusiasm. Most of us missed the heady excitement and break neck pace of our original 5writers challenge: the challenge of each of our 5writers concocting and finishing a complete novel in just 5 months.

Still, we cannot ignore the fact that our lives have changed.

For most of us, they’ve become a lot more complicated, whether by the addition of new homes, new children, new grandchildren or other new challenges to our families and careers. But if you read Silk’s post of yesterday, you’ll know that we were dissatisfied. We needed some way to recapture the excitement of our original challenge, without a mere 5 months deadline hanging over our heads

We think we’ve found it. To quote Silk’s framing of the challenge:

As a group, we have just embraced an ambitious common goal to write and self-publish five new books.


We all agreed to that? Write and publish?

Where to begin?

Well, that’s where the debate begins, and we did plenty of that in our two day, closed door sessions in Vancouver last week. Sometimes, it can just make you plain crazy, when you try to decipher what comes first: the chicken or the egg. Because not only will we need to know everything about writing a novel that will sell (while staying true to our artistic selves), we’ll also need to know so much about the mysterious world of indie and online publishing.

But thanks to the power of five, I think we’ll be up to the challenge. But again I ask: where to begin?

Thanks to Silk’s voracious appetite for researching this topic, I now know far more about self-publishing than I can possibly absorb at this time. For me, call it chicken or egg (I don’t care a whit), I need to start with the book idea. Only when I know what book I’m writing will I be able to focus on how and where to get it out there to an audience.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, if we learned anything in our original challenge, it is that writing a novel is harder than it first appears. Sure, you can get from beginning to the magical moment when you your fingers dance across the keyboard and, with a smile on your face you type: ‘the end’, but then what?

None of us viewed our 5months novels as brilliant, ready to publish manuscripts. So, what went wrong? What did we pinpoint as our common downfall?

I can say it on one word:


Yes, structure. Most of us were done in by a lack of solid understanding of engineering and architecture, two essential, must-master skills for budding novelists.

So, this time, like kids sitting on the floor playing with a Meccano set – you all remember those, don’t you? – we’re going to start the process not with construction, but with ‘deconstruction’.

Just like the title on the Meccano box says: we’re going to start with ‘parts and how to use them’. Each of us will figuratively rip a bestselling novel apart, and then examine the bits and pieces of the type of book we want to write. We’ll study each of those bits and pieces, having regard to the end product we wish to write, until we have a solid understanding of what made those novels ‘tick’. We’re not all picking the same novel. Instead, we’ll each pick a novel that appeals to us in one way or another. For most of us, that may be because the novel we wish to deconstruct model the genre and style of novel we’d like to write.

Deconstruction so we can begin Construction.

Each of us has a favourite writer. A novelist we admire. I wouldn’t say we want to go so far as to emulate that author, but we do want to pull back the curtain on these wizards of words, and find the secret of their success.

So, like the question posed at the start of a debate match:

Resolved: You can’t construct a good novel until you deconstruct a good novel.

I place that question on the table, open for debate.

I’ve already started my research, I suspect I’m going to weigh in and join the ‘affirmative’ team. But if you’d like to take a deeper look at the question, I recommend you start with an excellent blog I stumbled upon when I started to delve into this topic: The Better Novel Project.

Christine’s blog is all about deconstructing best selling novels as the key to learning to write one yourself. I think it’s a brilliant idea, hopefully, you do too.

But that is, of course, open for debate.

Where do you weigh in?

3 thoughts on “Open for debate

  1. Deconstruction of a favorite novel sounds like a good technique for understanding the fundamentals that go into building a good story. Have you read Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering? It focuses on the important structural elements of all good stories. It can be a difficult read for those of us who started as “pantsers,” but he stresses that it’s possible to both “pants” and “plan.”

  2. Pingback: Conflicted… again. | 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months

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