Here’s the thing about novel writing. It’s a massive underaking. If you don’t know that, you must be new. It can be easy to get overwhelmed, or to lose faith. The reason, I think, that most people give up in the end is that they don’t know what it is about novel writing that they are drawn to. Any sort of good writing is not just someone writing for themselves, but neither is it just someone writing specifically for their audience.
It is a dream, shared with others who want the same thing. And, in novels, if you look carefully enough, you’ll find that the best (or most popular) authors have found their own dream and incorporated it into their novels. I have also found my own dream. I’m going to share a few of these dreams that I’ve noticed in the hopes that it’ll help you find your own and assist you on your writer’s journey. But note that it really takes a lot of reading to find your own dream, because it’s the reading that’s going to really show you what sort of dream you should be looking for.
One: As a woman, I get to choose. Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. There she goes about her favorite series again. However, this highlights exactly what I mean, because the trilogy is centered around three different individuals with three different conflicts, and yet the female leads always find their voice. They find their power. They find their happiness. I should mention also mention that the nontraditional romance of each novel almost certainly gives the female characters more power over themselves than if they’d allowed themselves to succumb to traditional romance narratives.
Two: There’s power in a fairy tale. Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer & Daughter of Smoke & Bone series.
I think the Strange the Dreamer series is a lot more whimsical than the DoSaB series, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read the latter. Still, I remember getting swept away in the magic of the narrative. It was reminiscent of late night stories of Rapunzel or Snow White. It wasn’t just a fairy tale, mind you; it was a legitimate narrative. But there was something in the whimsy that gave power to the words.
Three: Marked for Greatness. Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
She will never describe any of her main characters as “plain.” I don’t think she’d ever describe any of her villains as “hideous” either, which I suppose is good for her, except I recall an instance in her last book where they’re on a battlefield and her PoV character (male, mind you) takes a minute to note that a particular enemy person is handsome. Every single character is beautiful, and her main characters, her tragic heroes, are described as something almost out of a fairy tale themselves. The “savior,” though they can’t see themselves as something other than a failure. Take from that what you will.
Four: However dark it gets, the hero will prevail. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Things get pretty dark as the series go on. You only have to look at the title scenes of each of the eight movies to see what I mean, if you live under a rock and have either not read the books or not watched the movies. Each time the main characters face the bad guy (which, I think, 6 out of 7 times is Voldemort, though you also have Umbridge to add to the mix in Book 5), they always win. Usually through teamwork, light imagery, and some type of love.
Bonus. Five: Kindness is not weakness. My own writing.
There’s a lot of division in the world right now, and people seem to think more conflict is the way to mend the rifts. My characters are not always kind, especially not from the start, but kind behavior tends to be far more rewarding in the long run for them. I might write the “villain” so that they’re easier to understand, but I don’t excuse their behavior. That sort of writing always got on my nerves, and I do my very best to avoid it.
With a bit of luck, those five trends will give you some idea of what could be your own dream to carry on your writing. If you find it, you’ll probably also realize how passionate you are about writing that way. You might also hopefully recognize why you got farther with some novel ideas over others. It should help you figure out what’s missing in your other novel ideas that make it feel so lacking.
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What kinds of trends have you noticed in the works of the authors that you follow? Do you notice any pattern in the narrative or the writing style that draws you to specific authors?