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Novelist  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotCreativity, curiosity, self-motivation and perseverance are the hallmarks of a good novelist. They have to express ideas clearly and logically, and they should live to write. Novelists conceive and write material for publication or presentation and do research for the factual content in their work.

dotBeing a novelist is a lot of hard work. First, they must build an outline for the story. Then the characters must be developed. What does the character like? What do they eat? What do they hate? Then the story is fleshed out, page by page, chapter by chapter. Several revisions later, the writer has a make-believe story anywhere from 150 to over 1,000 pages long.

dotNovel writers work mostly from their homes. Sonia Craddock, author of several successful children's novels, says she spends a lot of time hanging around on the couch when she's thinking things out. During the writing stage, she spends about four to five hours a day in front of a keyboard, typing away, staring at the screen for a while, then typing away some more.

dotNovelists also have to be part salesperson. When they've finished writing a book, they must convince a publisher to take a look at it. If the book is good enough, or if it needs minor changes, the publisher will buy the rights to publish it.

dotAccording to the Romance Writers of America, romance novels make up 53 percent of all mass market paperback books sold in the U.S. More than 41 million Americans read them.

dotOnce a novel is published and distributed to stores, the novelist starts to receive royalties. That means they get a percentage of the profits from every copy sold (usually around 10 percent). A novelist's income depends on how many books they are able to produce and, of course, how popular their work is with publishers and readers.

dotIn addition to the print medium, many budding novelists are using the Internet as a way to get their work published, hassle-free. Novelist Douglas Cooper published his book, Delirium, on the Internet months before the paper version hit bookstores. By publishing on the web, Cooper was able to get feedback from readers and make changes before a publishing company and booksellers got their hands on it.

dotIf you're interested in a life of writing, you should start now. Many published authors say it's always a good idea to write a lot, if it's what you want to do for a living. Start to write things down, such as your thoughts, events, conversations, stories or whatever is in your head. Keeping a journal will help you develop your own voice and, as Michael Turner puts it, will provide a "landscape" into which you can venture for characters and ideas. Keeping a portfolio of work is also a good idea.

At a Glance

Write material for publication and research factual content

  • The Internet is offering publishing opportunities to budding novelists
  • Most novelists work at home
  • Some novelists have a post-secondary education or have taken some creative writing courses