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The Birth of a novel

What causes a novel to come into being?

This is the only part of the process I cannot help you with.

It can be something you read on a crisp packet, a conversation in the street you overhear. Sometimes you start with a character, sometimes a line of dialogue, sometimes a concept or a place or an event. They all start differently. There is no right way to start them off.

Most of mine start off as odd questions.

Broken Eggshells started out as this thought: "Terrorist groups always target large populated areas to create terror. What if a terrorist group deliberately started targeting the most desolate areas of the world where no one lived at all?"

Pulling Power started like this: A French guy on his last day at the company I worked for was being a bit slow in moving his desk and my colleague Alex was getting annoyed. I was around the other side and mentioned I could speed Benoit up by reaching under the desk and randomly pulling out power plugs from the four-way adapter.

I said "It would be like playing Russian Roulette with power plugs." They laughed.

My mind suddenly grasped hold of that phrase... Russian Roulette with power plugs. People aren't electric so you couldn't play Russian Roulette with power plugs. Unless the plugs were for life support machines in a hospital. But why would anyone do that?

Nix Ex Machina started like this: After being referred to as 'The Duck Man' once too often (Through my association with the website), I decided to do another bizarre publicity stunt and thought about selling snow to the Eskimos. I reasoned that as long as I made people pay up front and didn't pay the delivery companies until it was delivered I wouldn't ever get stung.

No one would buy snow anyway, but if anyone was stupid enough to do it, at least I would be covered financially and legally. So it looked like it couldn't go wrong. I then put my imagination into top gear and asked myself... "What's the worst that could happen?"

The answer to that question was the plot to Nix Ex Machina.

The start... the initial creative seed. That's the only bit I cannot help with...

The rest of it? It's easy. Though, while you're in an upbeat frame of mind, you might want to take a peek at this rather scary looking diagram.

Before we start there is one golden rule and you ignore it at your peril... never attempt to start at the beginning of chapter one and simply write your entire novel from scratch. It will end up disjointed, shallow and lack any depth.

The novel should start as rough notes that you order and then expand slightly to be a detailed overview and then flesh out to become first rough draft etc. This process of building the novel layer by layer is the key to making it a successful piece of literature.