"Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whether or not someone else can teach you how to write a novel has been debated. The answer usually involves whether the question is asked by a teacher or a struggling, beginning writer. The teacher will say, yes, I can teach you the things you need to know: structure, characterization, plot, grammar, flow. But will you still be able to write a novel -- your own unique piece of long fiction -- knowing these building blocks?
Well, yes. The answer is: of course. You will come up with something if you stick with it long enough. Something: it may not be pretty. Whether it is what you first imagined it might be... well, it never is. And then there is the problem with readability. Will the novel you write read well, will readers be able to glean from your prose the feelings and ideas you intended? Will they enjoy themselves so much they read all the way to the end and wish it went on even longer?
That's a harder question to answer. No one knows what you will write until you write it (possibly not even the writer herself.) Everyone questions their worth while writing a long piece of fiction and get bogged down somewhere, go off track, lose focus. The pro will stick with it, worry the parts that aren't working, cut them out, send them packing. Get critiques, re-write. And re-write some more.
For writers working on their first novel, preferably with a first draft finished, here's a workshop I'm teaching with Hawaiian novelist Deborah Turrell Atkinson this summer in Jackson Hole. It will help you find the truths in your novel, the richness, the layers that refuse to reveal themselves. It's called "Truly Richly Deeply: Structure and Depth in the Novel." We will help you tap into your subconscious to visualize your characters, fix plot problems, and brainstorm issues. In one day we won't teach you how to write a novel, but we can help you on your journey to write a damn good one.
The workshop is June 27, 2012, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's scheduled for the day before the Jackson Hole Writers Conference starts so you can attend both. You don't need to though. For $125 you get a full-day workshop with a box lunch, then explore fabulous Jackson Hole in the summer.