Tips on Writing That First Novel – and All That Follow (Part 1)

Recently, I was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of my local writers’ group—The San Antonio Writers Guild—and they asked me to speak about the process of writing a novel, how I choose the plots for my novels, and what skills I needed to learn before starting that first novel. The focus of the talk was planned not only for first time novelists but also for those struggling with their works in progress (WIP).

Since I have now published four novels and contributed short stories to four anthologies, I suppose they considered me, if not an expert, then surely an “experienced” author. I was flattered that they asked me to speak. I accepted and really enjoyed the experience of talking about my writing journey and how I’ve grown as a writer.

Being interviewed as an author is a fairly new experience for me. Even with me posting a blog since 2012 and publishing my first novel in 2015, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around people being interested in my work as an author. However, my confidence continues to build each time one of my books achieves another five-star review on Amazon.

Over these next three weeks, I’d like to share aspects of my talk about my journey from an aspiring writer to a published author with now four books on my author page at several publishing sites.

This is the first posting of three on the subject.

I began the talk by stating that there were several criteria or skills a writer should have before starting a novel because writing a novel is no easy task. As an analogy to my running experience, if a short story is a 5K race (3.1 miles), then a novel is a full marathon (26.2 miles).

In my humble opinion, there are six pillars of successful novel writing. These are 1) having confidence to express your innermost thoughts, 2) a familiarity with the subject matter of your plot, 3) researching your subject matter well, 4) consider attending seminars and classes to become a better writer, 5) seek the support and guidance of other writers, and finally, 6) become a habitual writer by writing often.

Today, I will address those first two and write about the other four in two more weekly installments.

CONFIDENCE: We all have thoughts and opinions to share that we are knowledgeable about. We can even be called experts in those certain things. First, having the confidence to share that knowledge is a huge initial step. It’s confidence-building to lay out that familiar knowledge logically or entertainingly on paper or screen for publication.

SUBJECT MATTER FAMILIARITY: I write murder mysteries and thrillers, not so much because I live that kind of life (certainly not!!), but because that’s what I’ve read for enjoyment most of my life and those are the kinds of plots I relate to the most. I’ve always been a “what if” kind of guy and have taken life experiences and thought about ways to twist them into something sinister for a better story in my mind. No one reads boring stuff, but to take a bit of fact and weave that one piece of truth into an entertaining plot is interesting and something I strived for.

More about my writing advice and those other four pillars of writing that bestseller next week, and the week after that.

One Last Comment: The above is just the first part of my 45-minute talk to my local writers’ club. Fortunately, the talk was over Zoom and attendees were asked to mute their microphones until the Q&A session that was to follow.

When the Q&A time arrived, someone in the audience asked exactly what I knew they would. “So, you said you write about what you know, and you’ve just published a book about a serial killer.” The person paused for a long moment before asking, “Should we be worried about you or what?”

After a good laugh, I confirmed that everyone was safe, including my wife. She learned long ago that my devious mind only showed itself on paper or the computer screen and never in real life.

I have been a fan of the TV series Criminal Minds for years and in the recent past have become a fan of the Netflix series Dexter. I decided that I wanted to write about a troubled mind, but to present the subject in such a manner that the reader would be both outraged and sympathetic to the character at the same time. I decided that a book about a troubled, tormented individual should elicit an equally conflicted response from my readers.

I think I succeeded since two of my beta-readers told me they cried at the end, and I just noticed that I got my first five-star rating on Amazon for my recently published The Serial Chemist novel.

If you want to read about my novel involving a sinister plot for an investigational drug study that I mentioned earlier, pick up a copy of my international thriller Lethal Medicine HERE.

If you want to read about a serial killer that will break your heart in the process, pick up a copy of my novel The Serial Chemist HERE.

Both are available on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Nobel, Kobo, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and can be ordered from your local library.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, A Murder Mystery Novel, A Mystery Novel, A New Novel By James J. Murray, A New Psychological Thriller Release, A New Thriller Novel, A Thriller Novel, A Writer's Psyche, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Acids with Systemic Toxicity, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Chemical Poisons, Designer Drug Deaths, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Developing Writing Skills, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Fiction Writing - A Believable Lie, Fictional Character Development, Ideas for Murder Scenes, James J. Murray's LETHAL MEDICINE Novel, James J. Murray's THE SERIAL CHEMIST, Lethal Medicine Thriller Novel, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Mystery Novel, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Thriller To Download, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, The Science of Murder, The Serial Chemist, The Serial Chemist - A Psychological Thriller Novel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tips on Writing That First Novel – and All That Follow (Part 1)

  1. This is an excellent primer for a book club I’m meeting with next week. Thanks for sharing you thoughts!

  2. Super! Good luck on your presentation.

  3. Eric K says:

    James, thanks for blogging. I like how you have taken your years of industry experience and utilized that in your writing. Similar to you, I have some industry experience and it has given me a huge boost in the Confidence and SME points you mentioned. I have completed my first draft of a book and found it very fun to write about what I know.

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