The Three Rules for Writing a Novel

From: Lin Wilder
Published: Thu Nov 03 2016

( "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." I love quotes like this one from Somerset Maugham. He describes perfectly the illogical, irrational craft of writing fiction.
Recently I was interviewed by a writing blogger and promoter. She asked three questions which intrigued me. First, what was my writing process, then how critical were the names of characters and the third, was I ‘panster’ or ‘planner’ type of writer?
• Process connotes a system in my view and I did not think I had one. For many years, I wrote only nonfiction: Articles, book chapters and a text book. All written about subjects like physiology, leadership, trends in critical care, each requiring rigid reliance on sources and precise terminology. Now that writing was clearly systematic: Detailed outlines and extensive research. But when about ten years ago, I switched to writing novels, my writing was wholly different. Uncomfortably so, because I had no outline to rely on. Although there was extensive research to be done for each of the novels, it was nothing like the process of writing my dissertation. Rather, almost entirely intuitive. But as I pondered these questions in the ‘author interview,’ I began to think about exactly how the story and its characters take on flesh and bones. In the past books and are currently beginning to take shape for the new one.
• Names are critical in my loose "system". Without a name which fits my image of the character, I cannot write about him or her. So, I don’t try. I wait until the name shows up. Sometimes there is a lot of waiting. The same with the title. The title is one of the very first steps in the evolution of my stories. They may change but generally only by adding a sub-title. In thinking about the fourth in my medical fiction series of novels, a new character has been in my head for more than a year. Morgan Gardner is eighteen years old, a dark-haired and gawky college freshman. She is an animal empath—she knows what they say to one another and can talk to them. Apparently, Morgan will be an important character in this next story I have yet to begin.
• Several years ago, a writer friend and I were talking. Rebecca had published her first novel and had three more planned. Two were completed manuscripts. When I asked when she would publish them, she replied that both required extensive reworking. She planned to redo her outline for each of the books. After a few seconds of silence, my friend smiled and said, "You are a pantster, aren’t you?" At my evident confusion about her meaning, she explained, "You don’t do outlines, you write from the seat of your pants."
The Fragrance Shed by a Violet, the sequel Do You Solemnly Swear? and the third in her series, A Price for Genius. The story of the return to faith, Finding the Narrow Road was an unplanned surprise. In her free time, Lin Wilder enjoys hiking, listening to beautiful music, gardening and last but certainly not least, reading. Lin is married to a former Marine and psychologist with 25 years of experience counseling ex- combat veterans. They reside in Nevada with their two dogs.

Lin Weeks Wilder has published dozens of articles, wrote a textbook, and has written four self-help books. Lin has written three medical thrillers situated in Houston, Texas where Lin worked for over 23 years. For More Information Visit
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