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QUESTION: For a senior project, I've decided to write a fictional novel. I feel very passionately about helping people and entertaining them, and I've had far too many people believe in the idea that I could create a novel.

I want to write a book about some of the more heavy topics in this world - such as depression, rape, adoption, physical abuse, cancer, etc. - because I went through one of them myself, and I know of others who have gone through similar situations. I want to be able to incoporate those topics in a personable way that can be relatable to teens my age as well as adults, and to do so with some humor to lighten the mood.

My problem is that I don't know where to start or of a way to get all my thoughts organized coherently. Do you have any suggestions for methods of how I could get to work and stay organized and focused? I would appreciate it greatly.

ANSWER: Hello Melissa:

Thank you for writing.

You have a lot of potential subjects here, and while that is good in a way, in another way it is not. The first thing lyou need to do is decide what to write about. If you have gone through one of the situations you described, I would suggest you write about that one.

On the other hand, if you feel you have something to say about all those subjects, you will need to find a single, unifying premise they will all fit under, such as:

1. How people react to different stressful situations.
2. What are the top issues in (country) today and why?
3. What is being done to help people victimized by those issues?

Just about any such premise will work for a novel, but will no doubt require considerable research on your part. What all do you know about these subjects, or even about one of them? Enough to impress your teacher? Work on this until you can put your premise in one sentence.

Once you have decided on a unifying premise, you will need to define  your purpose is writing this novel. If it is to enlighten and entertain, you will need to decide how best to achieve these goals in terms of your characters and what they think and do. I would also suggest that you consider writing a non-fiction work.

I must warn you, it often takes years to write a full-length novel (approximately 80-100,000 words). Unless you have a required length to write to, I would advise you to lower your expectations a bit, and set your sights on perhaps a novella or even a long story. It might be helpful to talk to your teacher about this.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high scores over 1900+ questions.

And good luck with your project!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: My previously stated idea is only one of the potential topics I could write about, albeit without deep consideration. The bottom line is that I want to write something lifelike and perhaps verisimilitudic, but I'm lenient to other fictional genres.

There is no required length, and I have about ten months to work on it. Once I decide what I'm writing about, I'll become a temporary workaholic and write like mad.

This brings me to two questions, if I may be so bold:

How would you define realistic fiction?

Generally, what are the things a writer must have prepared before they begin the writing process of a novel?

I will consider what you have said. Thank you. :)

Hello Melissa:

Here is a definition of "realistic" fiction:"

Generally, a writer should have a story in mind, a premise to work from, an outline and a detailed synopsis.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high scores over 1900 questions.

Thank you for writing.

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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