Max Barry’s 15 Ways to Write a Novel

Yes, this is yet another post with writing advice from Max Barry. Before this week, I’d never heard of him, and now I’ve written three blog postings to share his words of writing wisdom.

There are as many ways to write as there are writers, so your success as a writer depends on finding your way to write, the one that works best for you. There’s the quota approach espoused by NaNoWriMo, the pantser plan (or lack thereof), the retreat routine and many more.

I found this list of 15 ways to write a novel by Barry inspiring. Is there any one single method that will work for me? Unlikely, and perhaps not for you either. But whether or not these ways will work for you, they’ll get you thinking about what will get you to the last page.

For my part, I’m thinking one approach is to spend 15 weeks writing a novel, spending a week at a time using each of these 15 methods. If nothing else, it’ll help me figure out which one(s) work(s) best for me.

Kill Your Abominations

If you’ve read much about the craft of writing, you’ve surely heard the phrase “kill your darlings,” variously attributed to William Faulkner, Stephen King and even Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

But author Max Barry has much better advice: kill your bad ideas, those abominations you never should have given birth to in the first place. If you’re blocked, if your writing isn’t flowing, if it feels like hard work, it’s probably because you’re writing a crappy idea that you should immediately throw out.

Read Barry’s excellent advice here: It’s not me, it’s you

How to Write a Great Science Fiction Novel in 7 Easy Steps

That title misleads in so many ways:

  • As if any “how to” can guide you to write anything that’s “great.” You either have it in you, or you don’t.
  • As if following seven easy steps can lead you to writing a novel, regardless of whether it’s great, or science fiction, or both (or neither).
  • That any steps that might guide you to write a novel would really be “easy.”
  • That following said steps, if they indeed helped you write a science fiction novel, would make your novel great.
  • That you really have to follow seven steps to write a novel. (You only need three: “1. Write. 2. Keep writing until you’re done. 3. Stop writing.”)

Having said all that, these 7 easy steps from Max Barry are awesome, because they strip away the fear, the insecurity, the sheer crushing weight that the prospect of writing a novel inspires. Steps 1, 2 and 3 are all about the basic tools you’ll need, the all-important step 4 is about JUST DOING IT—with the excellent sub-steps 4(a) and 4(b) helping you to get through it. Skip the remaining steps until you need them.

You’re still here? Go read the steps, and then go write!