LTN007 – Turn Your Favorite Authors Into Mentors

LTN007 – Turn Your Favorite Authors Into Mentors

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In this podcast I demonstrate how you can learn the craft of writing a novel by learning the techniques of your favorite authors.


Years ago, when I was first starting out in my quest to become a novelist, I came across a quote that hit a responsive chord in me. Sir Walter Scott, Scottish novelist and poet, said of the famously popular British poet, Lord Byron—

Byron hits the mark where I don’t even pretend to fledge my arrow. – Sir Walter Scott

That’s the way I felt as a writer. I had my favorite authors and I knew my writing wasn’t as good as their’s, and I wondered if it ever would be.

Then, it hit me: If I wanted to write like the authors that I admired so much, it made sense to learn why their writing moved me. How did they do it? I set out to learn the tools of the trade, the storytelling techniques my favorite authors used.

When it comes to writing novels, there are no end of books on how to do it. The problem with all of them is inherent in the very approach of writing a book about how to write novels. They all use a one-size-fits all approach, when what is needed is personal one-on-one instruction. So then, here’s what I propose to you. Instead of reading a generic book on how to write a novel, why not become an apprentice to your favorite authors? Why not turn your favorite authors into mentors?

How do you do that?

You stock your personal toolbox with the same tools your favorite authors use while understanding how and when they use those tools.

How do you find these tools? You have to change the way you read a novel. You have to read a novel like an apprentice —

  1. Read the novel for enjoyment, but with careful attention to your reaction as a reader. Mark sections for their ability to spark emotions with you. (I use post it notes.)
  2. Then, read the novel a second (and third, and fourth) time, asking yourself, “Okay, now how did the author do that?”

An example that I use whenever I teach how to write first chapters from Stephen King’s novel, The Stand

Techniques King used in this opening:

In Media Res  – Latin for “into the middle of things.” It usually describes a narrative that begins, not at the beginning of a story, but somewhere in the middle — usually at some crucial point in the action.

Verisimilitude – Stephen King is the king of verisimilitude (the appearance of being real, creating and sustaining that all important story bubble.) For more see episode LTN003 – Creating and Maintaining the All-Important Story Bubble

The KEY is the use of significant detail, detail that is selected specifically to create a mood.

Point of View – You see things through the eyes of Sally who is lying on a bed looking up at her husband.

Start collecting techniques that are effective for all novels, and especially those that key to your genre (romance, suspense, creating a fantasy world).


Let’s take this approach one step farther . . . you should also do this for the novels that are bestsellers in your genre. From a marketing standpoint, these novels are tapping the emotions of the same readers you are targeting. If you understand why they’re on the bestseller list, you’re one step closer to joining them.

If you have a moment, scroll down and post a comment letting me know what novelists you have become an apprentice to. I’d love to hear who has inspired you.

And if you haven’t already –


Authors Make That
Turn Off Readers and Lose Publishers

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