Skip to content

How to Write a Novel by Melanie Sumner

Writing Tips from a Twelve Point Five-Year-Old Author

Writing Tips

Introducing My Editor Again

In my last post, you learned that when you are looking for editors, to help pick the right one, read the books they edited. Here is what author, Melanie Sumner said about the manuscript content editor I chose.”

“When Andrea took possession of the manuscript, I discovered an editor whose ebullient enthusiasm was matched with the relentless determination of a pro. We edited line by line in a correspondence so demanding and delightful that I saved it all. p. 289.”

Andrea said wonderful things about Melanie’s book as well, resulting in my purchase.

Hilarious Plot

I expected a different format for How to Write a Novel.

You know how most authors give tips about writing, then give several random samples. Melanie Sumner turns the table and fits the tips into the thirty-day novel. These tips filter through the brain of the twelve-point-five-year-old author, Aristotle Thibodeau, Aris for short. Aris gets extra help from Mrs. Chu, her librarian.

Her mother, Diane, an English professor at the nearby university, is the unfortunate primary target of Aristotle’s plot, which is to find Diane, not Aris, a husband. “Since I’ve already picked my husband out, I don’t have to bother with dating, but Diane hops on and off Match.com. p. 29.”

Unfortunately, Aris met with some romantic difficulties also. “… I will now have to share with you, dear reader, the sad news that my fiancé, Billy Starr III, moved to Boston last summer after his mother, a professor at KCC, was fired for staging a pro-abortion demonstration. p. 19.” You can imagine how that long-distance romance turned out.

Poor Diane, can’t do much right. She hired a nanny to help with Aris and her rambunctious eight-year-old, Max, who can’t stay out of trouble. Aris calls herself the co-parent, but they all rely on Penn, the nanny.

All Great Literature Starts with a Flood

“Water was overflowing the bathroom sink and had started running into the hall. Max was in the middle of it all, ankle-deep, buck naked, a blow-dryer in his hand. “Turn it off!” I yelled. “Max! Turn it off right now!” “I can’t! The handle came off!” “No, the dryer! You’re going to be electrocuted, you idiot!” “Help!” he cried, clenching the dryer with both fists. “Somebody! Please! Help me! p. 26-27.” …

Max shot me a death glare, then covered his genitals with his hands and said quietly, “Mom, this may not be the right time to tell you this.” “Tell me.” “I can’t. You’ll get mad. It will be too much on your plate.” “Max, tell me why the bathroom is flooding!” “It’s not that,” he said as the puddle grew around our feet. “It’s something else.” He took a deep breath. “Aris dropped the F-bomb. p. 28.”

Penn, of course, helps, but in an offhand, subtle sort of way. He gets the job done where everyone else bungled for pages.

“When Diane told Max to bring her a screwdriver, and he showed up with a wrench, I realized that we’d have to call Penn. p. 28.”

Subplots Abound

Penn was the only father Max ever knew and is the romantic target Aris picked out for Diane. Unfortunately, Penn has problems committing, so Aris had thirty days of work to do to get them together by the end of her novel.

Here is a list of several of the subplots (I think)

  • The book-writing exercise,
  • Aristotle’s long-distance relationship with fiancé, Billy Starr III,
  • Aristotle’s relationship with Anders who asked Billy for her when he left,
  • Aristotle’s ghost father and their eight-year recovery from his death,
  • The grandparents in all their weirdness,
  • Middle school drama.

I wasn’t sure how to classify this novel. I think it’s okay for youth and most appropriate for adults, but you tell me.

Tips

I identified with how Aris thought through all the advice she read about writing a novel.

“PROLOGUE I’m skipping the prologue because I don’t know anyone who reads prologues except my mother. Hi, Merm! p. 4”

“There must be something disturbing in your story,” she (Mrs. Chu) said. “Some parts should be painful to write. Sometimes you’ll feel like you are bleeding the words onto the page.” “Right,” I said, but I was worried. The author of Write a Novel in Thirty Days! had not mentioned blood. p. 18.”

“Write a Novel in Thirty Days! says that your book must have a conflict. Something has to happen that changes the world the characters inhabit. Since nothing happens in Kanuga, I was afraid this might be a problem, but when I thought about all the library books Ms. Chu has loaned me, and all the yarns I hear at church, I realized that great literature often begins with a flood. p. 23.” (Excerpts of the flood are in the paragraphs above.)

Of course, Melanie/Aris included more tips than this, but you need an incentive to read the book, right?

Descriptions

I struggle writing descriptions, so I highlighted tons of Melanie’s. You will have to read the book to find them. However, this one tops my list.

“Question #1, Where does this scene take place? I was stumped. Everything takes place in my head. I have no idea what my head looks like. p. 17.”

Duh! That’s my problem! I live in my head, which has a lot more flexibility with setting than reality. (unless you run into a rock sticking out of the street while you’re thinking or reading Facebook to get closer to reality). Aris, Diane and I would make awful police officers. Investigators never look impressive when their faces are scratched from forehead to chin, not gashed.

Five Star Rating

About the Author

How to Write a Novel

“Melanie Sumner, a recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, is the author of The Ghost of Milagro Creek, The School of Beauty and Charm, and Polite Society. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and Seventeen. Previous awards include the New Mexico Book Award, the Maria Thomas Fiction Award for Peace Corps volunteers, and the regional pick for Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. Sumner graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her MFA from Boston University. Currently, she lives in Georgia and teaches at Kennesaw State University. www.melanie-sumner.com p. 291.”

Related Posts

https://tchistorygal.net/2018/03/29/wired-story-lisa-cron-makes-story-irresistible/

https://tchistorygal.net/2018/05/30/jake-lucid-dreamer-david-naiman/

3 replies »

  1. Wow, Marsha. I think there’s a lot packed into that book. It took me a few reads to figure (or try to) it out. It’s made me a little curious to read it.

    Like

Translate

Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

Personal Links

Verified Services

View Full Profile →

#StoryChat Y2

Writer’s Quote Wednesdays

How to Link to a Challenge

8 Benefits of Photo Challenges

8 benefits of Challenges

For the Love of Challenges

Teacher Resources

Click to Get Early Childhood Teaching Resources
SS Logo
Sunday Stills Logo

Becky B’s Squares April – Bright

Cee’s Black & White Challenge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge

Featured Blogger Award

Free Download

Use Canva to Create Social Media

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 16,498 other followers

Categories

Blogs I Follow

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 159,478 hits
nbsmithblog...random digressions and musings

Haiku...short and sweet (or not so sweet)

Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Michaelsfishbowl

Looking at a Saturday crossword puzzle world with a Monday crossword puzzle mind

snapshotsincursive

Interesting stories about everyday moments.

eklastic

Refugees welcome - Flüchtlinge willkommen I am teaching German to refugees. Ich unterrichte geflüchtete Menschen in der deutschen Sprache. I am writing this blog in English and German because my friends speak English and German. Ich schreibe auf Deutsch und Englisch, weil meine Freunde Deutsch und Englisch sprechen.

Tish Farrell

Writer on the Edge

The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Life...one big adventure

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Travel with Intent

A photographer's view of the world - words and images to inspire your travels and your dreams

And Anyways...

Author, Baker, Sunrise Chaser

Thistles and Kiwis

A blog about life in Wellington, New Zealand

From Pyrenees to Pennines

We went to France ..... and then we came back.

Lins Doodles

Illustration Friday challenge, artwork, mixed media, drawings, photo challenges

Stupidity Hole

Uninformed writings from an arrogant Sydneysider

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Nuggets of Gold

Helping you to find the gold nuggets amidst the dirt, sand and pebbles of life!

My Camera & I

This blog is my creative outlet where I can share my photos, my travels, my random thoughts and a bit of myself.

Kamerapromenader

En fotoblogg

Deb's World

Midlife, fun and adventure

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

Read. Write. Love. 💕💕💕

Gary A Wilson Stories

10 Minute Adventures, Fiction and Coffee Breaks

Travels with Ali

My site is all about my travels around the world and in Australia, plus daily life photos!

THE SPECTACLED BEAN

Tales, Thoughts + Tribulations of a Free Spirit in Suburbia

Take It Easy

Retired, not expired: words from the after(work)life. And music. Lots of music!

Zimmerbitch

age is just a (biggish) number

luna's on line

Writing and Stuff by Chris Hall - Storyteller and Accidental Blogger

%d bloggers like this: