I have been a fan of Dan Brown for a decade or more. I love the descriptions in Da Vinci Code, I love his ability to keep me turning the pages in Angels and Demons. So when I went to a conference in York a couple of years ago, (all aspiring writers), I was shocked at how disparaging people were about him as an author (although none of them had sold millions of copies of their books). It struck me then that writing styles are intensely personal. What one reader loves another one will hate.
I was struggling to find my voice at this time and really didn't know what I was doing. When I got back from a truly great weekend, I realised I needed to understand the anatomy of a novel. Just at that point an email advert dropped into my Facebook stream advertising a masterclass with Dan Brown.
I signed up, paid my £90 and logged onto the most brilliant set of online webinars and workbooks. Now, I am not saying this these are the best; there are loads out there to choose from. Some are cheaper, others more expensive but my point is that it hit me at the right time in a voice I could relate to and respect. As far as I was concerned I was going to learn from one of my favourite authors.
He taught me how to structure my novel in a way that would keep readers engaged and turning the page.
He shared tools and mechanisms that would build suspense, tension and give pace to my story lines.
He explained the value of research; characters, place, timelines and writing heroes and villains.
The most valuable lesson I learned was about point of view. When I looked at what I had written I suddenly understood the level of confusion and disorganisation in my writing.
I diligently went through the workbooks and watched the webinars (some more than once) and I learned so much. I approached my manuscript with a renewed sense of confidence.
Dan Brown got me to the end of my story.
So the sort of person that sits down to write a novel is someone eager to learn and produce something that others will want to read, (there are some authors who write for themselves, not their readers).
Will my novel be a best seller? I have no idea! But I do know that I am proud of it and that subsequent stories will be better because every time I learn something new about writing, it makes it's way into my process.
If you are reading this, you may well be the sort of person that sits down to write a novel. You are curious enough to look at what others have to say about it and remember the Chinese proverb; when you are ready to learn a teacher appears.