How do you Write a Novel?

PaperTownsI’ve been wondering about this since I read Paper Towns by John Green.

I know a lot of people will say, “Well, you have an idea, then you build a setting and characters and a plot that follows that idea.”

Some will say “brainstorm” or “outline”, followed by “drafts” and “editing”. There will be lots of reading involved. And re-reading. And re-re-reading. And re-writing. And yeah, that comes later.

But what about the inception of the idea? How does it grow and modify itself into something that others will critically acclaim as a “good book”?

What’s interesting with Paper Towns is that it was written during Brotherhood 2.0. And I wonder, if I find watch Brotherhood 2.0 over again…will I find hints to John’s mindset as he wrote?

You know, besides the obvious videos where he says, “How to write a novel” and then proceeds to sit in a chair in his pyjamas, typing on a laptop for 5 seconds.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of much. I know he goes to Florida to check locations and mentions Whitman, but that’s a little too far along in the process.

And then I remember that near the end of 2007, Hank (at least, I think it’s Hank) says something along the lines of:

“I knew you as my brother as a kid, John. You grew up and I didn’t know you as an adult. And now I do.”

(Once I find the actually video, the above is subject to change.)

I’d like to think that this realization is what John was inspired by.

Paper Towns focuses on what we imagine people and things to be versus what they actually are. Q and his friends spend the whole book imagining who Margo is, why she left, what she’s doing, if she’s alive.

And (while I don’t presume to understand the vlogbrothers, as I can only imagine them the way only I can) it’s obvious that John and Hank learned more about who each other was (ooo…bad sentence structure) versus who they thought they were, based on what they knew as children.

Fellow nerdfighter Ravenclawsam recently wrote a post about being a writer and it got me thinking. While yes, we need the confidence to call ourselves writers, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re good at it. I myself didn’t call myself a writer until other people did—and it wasn’t really until a long time after.

But what makes a good writer?

I’d like to think that what makes a person a good writer is that they convey their meaning in the written word properly. (“Properly” having a debatable definition). A good writer can do the opposite of what a paper town is: instead of making something on paper a reality, make reality into nothing but paper.

And I believe that’s what John’s done in Paper Towns: he took what was reality for him at the time, and turned it into something paper. 

It just turns out reality was about turning paper into reality.

Wow. It just got really meta.

“We don’t suffer from a shortage of metaphors, is what I mean. But you have to be careful which metaphor you choose, because it matters.” – John Green, Paper Towns


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