Yesterday I nailed paragraphs one and two of chapter four of my novel by tidying up and inviting camels. It was the climax to days of hard work on my book about lovers whose marriage just keeps on going and going. I kept reading from the beginning of the book to pace myself and find the most exciting direction to take.
Here’s how I proceeded:

  • For the umpteenth time I tidied up, tossing out all the unnecessary or awkward words in the way.
  • It’s so important to grab my reader’s interest in the contents and characters at this point.
  • What is the crux of it all? Who are they? Can they really do this? Where are they heading?
  • In this chapter they write to each other for four months before making a public splash out of the most private event in their lives.
    I knew I had it right when I noticed:
  • The first paragraph is only 40 words long but sums up everything that happens in the letters.
  • It exaggerates a little to make it light, subtly humorous and satirical.
  • With a nod to pyramid-style journalism, it gives answers to ‘who, what, when, where and why’.
  • Paragraph two, made up of 162 words to fill in the heroine’s personality, came easily. I was on a roll from paragraph one.
  • It not only gives details about what makes Eve unique. It also relates her to the clichés of ‘almighty housewife’, ‘feminine mystique’ and ‘stay-at-home mom.’
  • What really thrills me is that, when I read it over, I found I had unintentionally written three sentences that bring camels to mind without using the word. I wonder how many readers will pick up on that?
  • I’m sure you are familiar with them. There’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, a quarrel over a trifle. Then the warning not to love money too much, because it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. Thirdly I used the word ‘hump’ for an obstacle (and you know who has one on his back.)
  • And did I say something about pyramid-style journalism?
  • Creative writing takes on a life of its own. This is why the Lady of Shalott has to be a recluse. I’ll be able to repeat the motif later in my book to add to its strength and unity.

Tip: If you can make your story universal it will be well loved and read. You will have crossed over the bar between ordinary prose and literature.