The secret recipe for writing a prize-winning novel?

I’m a third of the way through reading Jaclyn Moriarty’s “I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes”; a delightful, whimsical novel. I can honestly say that so far, I have not the faintest idea where it’s going or how it’s going to end – I’m just going along for the ride, and a charming one it is! Anyway, Fancy, one of the characters in this book, is an erotica writer and this following little gem really caught my eye and I thought it’d be fun to share it with you.

Quote: ‘Having read several prize-winning novels, Fancy was confident that she now knew the recipe:

1. Write a simple narrative.
2. Make a long list.
3. Scatter the contents of your list throughout your narrative.

So, for example, in the prize-winning novel that Fancy had just read, the author had done the following:

1. He wrote a simple narrative in which two people fell in love, then the man left the woman, and the woman cried.
2. He made a long list of leaves.
3. He scattered the story with his leaves.

So, ‘Tears fell from her eyes’ had become:

‘Tears the shape of sugar maple leaves fell (like so many blackjack oak leaves falling on an autumn day) from her eyes.’

Voila! A richly-textured (prize-winning) novel all about love and leaves.’ Unquote.

I thought, just for fun, I’d have a go myself. Here’s my attempts, completely off the top of my head and, I assure you, definitely not to be taken seriously!

Narrative 1: Man and woman piloting an aircraft, about to crash into the sea, finally admit they love each other.
List 1: insects
Excerpt 1: ‘Wistful tears the shape of tiny larvae shone (like the dew-kissed carapaces of beetles) in her eyes.’ 

(Author’s note: Just couldn’t bring myself to use what first popped into my head, which was ‘tears the shape of maggots’… Eeeeeuuuuwwwww!)

Narrative 2: Man meets woman. He completely misunderstands her. Conflict. Resolution. The end.
List 2: tart fruit
Excerpt 2: ‘His lemon-sour tone spoiled her delight in the spring morning, rather like biting into a sweet Pacific Rose apple and tasting instead, an unripe Granny Smith.’

Oh, good grief  (I’m holding my head in my hand and moaning piteously, here). Gaaahhhh! Not likely to win me any awards, right? But a fun little exercise all the same. Time to stop procrastinating and get back to some real writing. And (to the doubtless abject relief of my critique partner who’ll have to read my current WIP) I think I’ll just stick to my pantser method, rather than trying anything fancy.

:-) Maree

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One Response to “The secret recipe for writing a prize-winning novel?”

  1. Rowena says:

    Am reading that book too! I loved the part you quoted, it really made me laugh. I kind of cheated and know where the book is heading, but I won’t ruin the surprise.
    Rowena