Table of Contents
- Part 1: Research and Plotting
- 1) Defining Adventure Fiction
- 2) The faraway world
- 3) Essential rules of worldbuilding
- 4) Plotting the story
- 5) Research: when, how, and how much?
- Part 2: Writing, Pace, and Characters
- 1) Creating the protagonist
- 2) Creating the cast of characters
- 3) Writing the Novel
- 4) Determining the right pace
- 5) Climaxes and Endings: most common errors
- Part 3: Editing and Publishing the Novel
- 1) Editing the manuscript
- 2) Fixing story errors
- 3) Fixing character and worldbuilding errors
- 4) The importance of a good cover
- 5) Publishing an Adventure Novel
Most stories are adventure stories. This stems from the fact that most stories – especially good stories – take the protagonist and the characters on a journey. Sometimes that journey is an inner one, especially in literary novels that focus on the studying of a character. Other times, the journey is purely an external one, where the protagonist leaves their own world to see and experience another one. In the latter case, an inner journey is also part of the process, leading to the protagonist discovering something new about themselves and changing in the process – or, he or she has what we like to call a character’s arc.
However, in this guide, our focus will be on writing Adventure Fiction specifically. Additionally, since it’s impossible not to discuss adventure as part of any fiction genre, we will also touch upon where and how adventure plays a part in other genres of fiction. As such, we hope this guide will be useful to most fiction writers, regardless of the genre they are writing in.
So, let’s begin.
Part 1: Research and Plotting
Adventure fiction, in its essence, requires a lot of plotting and research. Let’s take a look as to why.
The most common writing advice is to write what you know. And these days, that becomes even more important because a lot of attention falls on stereotyping in fiction (and media in general). But, if you are to always just write only what you know, then writers would not need a good amount of imagination. This is where research comes in. Just because you don’t know something, it doesn’t mean that you cannot learn.
Adventure means the protagonist goes to a new world (more about that later), and the plot together with the personality of the protagonist needs to provide an undisputed reason as to why the protagonist has to do this, where the call of adventure comes from, and why the protagonist has to answer that call. If the protagonist can solve the problem they have at hand without venturing into the new world, then your story fails at its basis. If your story was a house, then this would be its foundation. The plot then becomes the structural walls, and the rest of your story (events and characters) is what will fill the house itself and give it light and color. The call of adventure, however, needs to be clear and undisputed within the logic of the story and the world you are creating.
For that reason, in this section, we will begin with marking the defining elements of Adventure Fiction and move on to how to craft the plot.
1) Defining Adventure Fiction
If there are two words we can use to define adventure fiction, those would be: new and dangerous. New, because the protagonist is taken to a new world outside of their own familiar world, and dangerous because the protagonist’s journey is wracked with constant danger that is primarily used to move the plot forward.
Another two words to describe adventure fiction would be: physical action. And while an adventure might happen in a person’s mind while they’re sleeping, both the protagonist and the readers will only be aware of the physical action and events that are taking place, even if at the end of the adventure story, we learn it was all a dream. (Note: avoid the “it was all a dream” type of ending at all costs. More on that later.)
As such, adventure fiction is the genre that tells, primarily, the story of a protagonist who goes on a journey into a new world and undergoes a drastic change in the process. Adventure fiction depends on physical action and exploring an alien world. Often, the alien world is fraught with danger – causing the protagonist to think on their feet to solve their problems and get out of sticky situations, which brings us to the third word that describes adventure fiction: the sense of danger.
For example: Let’s say that we have a character, let’s call him Mark, who loves hiking. One day, while hiking, he discovers a world within the forest populated exclusively by small pixies. Now, if all the pixies are nice and treat him like an honored guest, he will probably have a cup of their finest strawberry mead and go on his way, and maybe several years down the road, he will think that he dreamed the whole thing.
But, what if the pixies are a divided folk? They don’t want to interact with humankind, so they’ve set up traps around their settlements. The first time Mark stumbles into them, he falls into a trap that threatens to kill his life. Fortunately, some Pixies disagree with murder, so they help and free Mark, who now has to find a way to either escape from the pixie settlement – or do his best to change their minds about humankind in general. Now that is more in line with an adventure.
2) The faraway world
There are several different ways of portraying – and building – the faraway, or foreign, world in an adventure novel. These ways lead to a few different types of worlds that are very common in adventure fiction. Let’s take a good look at them.
- The New World: The new world is an alien place. Usually the protagonist is transferred there via a portal or a device or (in the cases of space operas) a starship. This new world is completely alien to the protagonist, and the cast of characters he meets along the way serve as his informants – and the readers’ informants as well – introducing the protagonist to the world. More often than not, this world features magic, science advanced enough to be considered magic, and other creatures and beings that are far different from what the protagonist considers to be the norm. This type of world is best presented in The Chronicles of Narnia, where the protagonists fall into a closet-turned-portal to discover a different world on the other side.
- The Side World: Instead of traveling to a new world, the protagonist travels within secret places of their world, places that were previously unknown to them. Similar to the new world, the side world is a wondrous place that features things that we don’t see in our everyday life, from magic to science, creatures and animals, and often, whole societies that function differently than our own. Best portrayed, of course, in the Harry Potter series, where Harry, by virtue of discovering his true heritage, is plunged into the hidden magical world that exists alongside our own.
- The Lost World: This type of world is quite specific, and often gets confused with the Side World, since both exist in secret alongside our own world. But while the side world is hidden, no one suspects its existence. The lost world, however, brings to mind places like the lost island of Atlantis, Lemuria (perceived as a lost continent or a land bridge that used to connect India and Madagascar), Avalon (a lost island found in Arthurian, Cornish and Welsh legends), Agartha (a legendary kingdom said to be located inside the core of the Earth), and even Eden (the legendary paradise and the birthplace of Adam and Eve). The lost world is always a legendary place within the context of the normal world, and the protagonist may be actively seeking the world. An example of this type of world can be seen in The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- The Same World: Today, we have a whole world of information at our fingertips – including information about our own world. We know all of its landmasses and continents, and if we don’t, that information is a mere Google search away. For this reason, it would be tough to take a protagonist from Europe traveling to America and call it an adventure – although, that’s what it is precisely. However, while for some readers this would be a new world, and the same would apply to the protagonist, for an American reader, it would be a delving into their own world, wouldn’t it? However, back in the day, exploring the new world was an adventure in and of itself – the novel Robinson Crusoe comes to mind.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the “Same World” type of world absolutely cannot be used in contemporary adventure fiction. There are two different ways to go about it. First is perspective, and the second is delving deep into places that would be unfamiliar and new to your general audience (the Amazon rainforest, the Atacama Desert, the highest peaks of the Alps and Himalayas and other gigantic mountains of the world, and more). The difference in this type of world (compared to the other three) is that these are real places with real features. The danger in these stories stems from the need of survival, rather than the world (or some of its inhabitants) being out to “get” the protagonist.
The other way of portraying the same world, through perspective, means that in the beginning of the novel, the protagonist gets plunged into the same world they have always inhabited, but they are looking at now from a different perspective. For example: A protagonist, who has a normal life: a job, a family, and two dogs, is suddenly accused of a crime they did not commit. Despite their innocence, neighbors and friends start to treat them differently, giving the protagonist a good taste of what is really lying underneath the surface of society. In the meantime, in order to save themselves from being wrongfully convicted, they need to prove their innocence. Since no one wants to help them, they need to delve deep into the underbelly of their city or town to track down the real perpetrator. This plunges the protagonist into a completely new world – a world that they always knew was there in the back of their mind, but never really thought about it. However, this types of stories are usually placed within the crime genre, drama, and thriller, especially because they do not feature a complete new world. The difference between the Side World and this world for example, lies in the fact that this world has never really been hidden. Moreover, in Side World, the protagonist visits the hidden world, and maybe eventually gets out. The hidden world remains hidden from the rest of the normal world. However, in the Same World category, shown through a different perspective, the new world becomes visible. Once you’ve seen it, you cannot un-see it.
Additionally, it’s worth noting in this section how The Lord of the Rings is a good portrayal of adventuring into the same world. While the world of Middle-earth is new for us, the readers, Frodo as the protagonist doesn’t actually go to a new world – he explores the known world, something that is unthinkable for a Hobbit to do, since their society is a comfortable one that rarely seeks adventure and danger.
And what ties all of these together is the innate sense of wonder and danger that follow the protagonist like a good angel and a bad devil on their shoulders. The sense of wonder means that parts of the new world are going to be wonderful. From magic, to humans possessing magical powers, to all sorts of legendary creatures, like angels, pixies, faeries, chimera, gryphons, and a lot more. The sense of danger, of course, has to follow: the protagonist can be unwanted in the world by the world itself (fighting nature), or from its inhabitants (as in our example above).
3) Essential rules of worldbuilding
First rule of worldbuilding is, of course, consistency. If you establish that a certain type of plant found in the new world is a panacea for all illnesses, then you need to remember that fact as you write the rest of the story. If later on in the story, a character falls ill, and the readers know of the panacea that can be found, it would be a glaring plot and worldbuilding hole if the protagonist doesn’t seek the panacea out as an all-cure method to heal the character.
The second rule of worldbuilding is: never try to reveal all of the world, all at once. The world you’re going to build for your story is an iceberg. Your readers will only glimpse the section of it that’s above the water. This means that you need to explain only the information that the readers need to know in order to understand the story. Revealing too much means you are giving the readers info-dumps that are not necessary to what is happening to the protagonist at the moment (for example, when a bad guy is chasing the protagonist through a cave littered with attacking creatures, it’s enough to say that the cave has a defense system that has been breached and now the defensive creatures are attacking. That moment is not the time when you need to explain all the different defense systems available in the world).
Third rule: avoid stereotypes. An easy example: Let’s say that the protagonist goes to a lost world in the Amazon rainforest, whose people haven’t met other humans for centuries. The first image that pops in mind is of backwards tribesmen who probably wish to hunt the protagonist, or maybe even want to eat him. Even if you’re writing a new world, beware of creating characters that fit into known stereotypes (the overly-feminine gay male, the knowledgeable nerd wearing glasses, etc.). Even if you’re delving into a new world, it doesn’t mean that some stereotyping will not happen by accident, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of stereotyping has already been done in all sorts of media and entertainment – yes, including novels.
4) Plotting the story
No matter which genre you’re writing in, plotting the story means structuring it around several specific events: The Inciting Incident, which sets the story in motion and presents the problem, followed by Plot Point 1 (which marks the end of Act 1 at the same time), and is the moment when the protagonist makes the wrong decision. Act 2 is the trials and ordeals and wonderful things that happen as a result. First, it appears that the protagonist made the right choice in Plot Point 1, only for him to discover in Act 2 that it was the wrong one. Making the right decision is Plot Point 2 (marking the end of Act 2), means you’ve crossed into Act 3, where the protagonist acts upon the right decision and resolves the conflict and the story.
But, when it comes to adventure fiction, it’s worth noting that there are several other stages to consider. For that reason, we’ll draw upon the journey best described in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (by Joseph Campbell), and see how it relates to adventure fiction.
The Hero’s Journey does not offer a different type of structure. We still have three acts – or phases – of the story. What we can glean from it, though, is a more detailed outline. Since Campbell’s journey is too long, we will use the adaptation of it made by Christopher Vogler.
The hero’s journey, as presented by Vogler, is as follows:
- Ordinary world
- Call to adventure
- Refusal of the call
- Meeting with the mentor
- Crossing the first threshold
The Hero is presented in his own ordinary world, and he receives the call of adventure. This call can be a literal call, a problem that needs to be solved by going on what would essentially be a dangerous adventure, or, as we mentioned above, the Inciting Incident. Initially, the Hero is reluctant to leave the Normal World and refuses the call (due to insecurity, believing they have no means of achieving the goal, and more). As the hero refuses the call, he receives help in the form of a mentor (meeting the mentor) to guide him, or a new power, tool, or artifact that will help the Hero. The Hero accepts the call and crosses the threshold into the new world of adventure.
- Tests, allies and enemies
- Approach to the innermost cave
- The ordeal
- The reward
In the second phase of the journey, the Hero has arrived in the New World. Here, he is faced with all of its wonders. He meets characters who become allies. But, he also meets the dangers of the world, and its less-than-friendly inhabitants too. The stakes get higher and higher – and the Hero’s life gets more and more in danger. To reach the peak, the Hero needs to go through an ordeal that will lead him to discovering something about both his own self, and about the world that he is. This is the reward moment, when the Hero has seemingly achieved his primary goal. The hero, who, for example, had been stranded into the new strange world, discovers how he could go back.
- The road back
- The resurrection
- Return with the elixir
In the third phase of the journey, the hero gets on the road back home. However, when things are not as they seem, the Hero discovers the real solution to the problem, which is the moment of resurrection, and then return with the elixir. The elixir in this case can be a physical item – but it is also represented in the change in the protagonist as a result of the character’s arc he had undergone through the journey.
At the end, the Hero can either go back into his old world and try to pick up ththe life he had left behind. Or, he could embrace the new world and remain there.
5) Research: when, how, and how much?
Adventure fiction seems like the perfect genre where the writer can use their imagination to the fullest – and run completely with it. And while that is true, there are still some additional things that all writers must think about these days.
We will start with the most problematic question that has arisen recently in the literary world: who gets to tell whose story? The problem stems from cultural appropriation. When a person of a certain race or skin color decides to write a book that is not strictly about “their own race,” an upheaval results in the form of negative reviews, with the question we mentioned above coming to the forefront. If you’re not a person of color, do you have the right to write certain types of stories and characters? Moreover, can the writer manage to tell their story and avoid stereotyping?
The first answer that you want to give is: of course! No writer would be consciously stereotyping in their novel, right?
Except, often, all writers create stereotypes – even when they do not intend to do it. One of the reasons why this happens is because in a book, many things are exaggerated, more dramatic, and more intense than they often are in real life. That’s because conflict keeps things going, and exaggerated traits in characters makes those characters memorable. Our advice: write from the heart. Someone out there will be insulted even if you do your very best not to stereotype. As for the cultural appropriation, if you DO plan on writing about a race other than your own, the best thing you can do: well, that would be research.
In the process of writing a novel that you will know will need research, the best thing to do is to get the research out of the way first. However, you may end up buried in your research books for months – because you may not know what you will need in your novel. For that reason, create a vague outline before you start your research. This outline may even include your basic cast of characters, especially if those characters belong to a certain race or culture (in which case, talk to a real life person).
But, if you want to write about the lost Atlantis world, for example, you need to plan what will be the outcome of the story – whether the protagonist will find it and stay there, find it and come back to reveal it to the world, or find it and come back and continue hiding it from the world. In all cases, the best thing to do is to research the island, and gather all the information on the myth that surrounds it. And with the outline in hand, you will be able to focus on the specific aspects of it that you will need: the landscape, the buildings, and finally, the people. You will not need to read about all the expeditions there were in the past to find the island (if there were any), and even if you do, you would only need specific information – like how the people went about exploring in the past, and how would that exploration happen if it were happening in the present day (which means, researching modern exploration expeditions).
So, create your outline and basic cast of characters. Then, research everything that seems important. Next, before you start writing, look at your outline again. See if it still works. Use your newfound knowledge to brain storm ideas. It’s very probable that during your research, you will be inspired with many new ideas – some of which will be probably be better than before. Create another outline, even if you plan on writing by the seat of the pants. You do not have to stick to the outline precisely, but make sure not to diverge too much from it.
Part 2: Writing, Pace, and Characters
When are you ready to start writing your novel?
The easy answer is: never. You will never feel a hundred percent ready to start writing your novel. But you will need to start writing it – lest the idea and excitement of it are washed away by other ideas that might seem better and more interesting than your original idea.
But, how can you get close to being ready?
Well, this depends on your method. If you’re truly a pantser – someone who writes from the seat of their pants, then by all means, keep doing it that way. Many people think that pantsers create everything as they go along, however, the truth is that they have an idea in their mind about the plot and the characters – and they keep that idea from changing throughout the novel. They just don’t write it down. Many of them, notably GRRM, say that if they know everything that happens, it’s not interesting for them to write the story.
But, if you do prefer to have an outline and a basic sense of the characters, then the best way to get ready to write your novel is to start with the protagonist. Since this is adventure fiction specifically, we will note three things from the start: the world, the characters, and the plot all need to serve the story. Let’s take a closer look at these elements.
1) Creating the protagonist
Who is your protagonist? Well, since this is an adventure story, your protagonist has to be the person who gets to go on an adventure. That means that you will write the story from their point of view, and you will structure the plot around said adventure. You cannot tell an adventure story from the point of view of someone who gets to accompany someone on an adventure – because that role is reserved for the sidekick.
What does the protagonist have? The protagonist has agency. It doesn’t matter if the protagonist doesn’t know how to get somewhere, he or she is the one who makes the decision to go somewhere (which is why your protagonist cannot be a sidekick in the story – unless, as the story goes along, the protagonist rises from a position wherein he or she was a sidekick, and even that rise needs to happen at the beginning of the novel).
Your protagonist also needs two other things: wants and needs. Or, to be more appropriate: a want and a need. The protagonist’s want is obvious: when you’ve presented him or her with a problem, their obvious want is the solution of the problem. That’s what drives them to act throughout the story. What the protagonist needs, however, is a subtle thing – something that is unique within the protagonist as a person, a certain kind of need that they never openly admitted to themselves. That need, also, is something that drives the protagonist to act, even if the protagonist doesn’t realize it. For example, a retired cop decides to (enter a different world) to solve a case. Their want: to solve their case. Their need, however, is to feel important enough again, or, to help another person again. Throughout the story, the cop would find themselves in situation where they have to face this aspect of themselves again and again, until they understand that truth about their motivations.
It’s also worth noting that the adventure genre is one of the genres that actually welcome an ensemble of protagonists. And just like the name implies, an adventure novel can have multiple protagonists, all with different roles and journeys within the adventure world. Often, each one of them has a unique trait that helps move the overall plot along, and, they all have inner journeys and inner issues that they have to work through in their characters’ arcs.
Additionally, an ensemble of protagonists might work in a different way as well, where the author tells a part of the story from the point of view of one protagonist, and then continues the story (often in a sequel) from the point of view of another character, who serves as the protagonist in the latter story.
We will talk about creating the core cast of characters a bit later, but it’s worth to remember that your core cast of characters in your adventure novel should receive almost the same treatment as the protagonist in terms of development. Nothing ruins a story better than a one-dimensional protagonist. It often occurs in stories with multiple points of view and protagonists, where the “main” protagonist is the simple leader who always decides what to do, but has very little brains in actuality. This protagonist serves only to recklessly rush forward, get everyone into danger, save them from the same danger, and keep the story going.
2) Creating the cast of characters
How does one create compelling characters? The quick and easy answer is: by elevating the intensity of the characters’ traits. We already talked before that by exaggerating certain traits, you run the risk of writing characters that are not archetypes but stereotypes. So, here, we will talk about how to not mess up the characters you create.
First, your core cast of characters (the protagonist(s)+major characters) should be introduced at the beginning of the novel. Second, they need to be layered, more than one-dimensional stereotypes, and have their own unique voices. What kind of mistakes can you make here? The answer is many. For example, a female character that serves only as a love interest to the protagonist and adds nothing more to the story. The glasses-wearing socially awkward man with genius brains. The leader protagonist who has big muscles and small brains. This list goes on and on. It’s actually easier to get it wrong than to get it right.
But, there is a way of getting it right. Of course, exaggeration makes characters memorable. But, the same effect is achieved by making the characters real. Treat your characters as real people. They’re not just mouthpieces for the plot – they have hopes and dreams.
If your book features a protagonist and three other central characters, and they all go together on the adventure in the novel, then all four characters will react to what is going on around them in four unique ways. Maybe one of them will want to head back immediately, but by the end of the novel, has fallen in love with adventuring and prepares for their next adventure. Maybe one of them is an adrenaline junkie who by the end of the novel has decided that home is the place to be. Which leads us to: give them all characters’ arcs.
We talk about the character’s arc all the time, but what it truly means is to give your major characters an aspect about themselves that they will change. We do not refer to a redemption story – where a person with negative traits works on them and becomes a better person. We refer to an inner journey that makes a person change their perspective on a lot of things in life – both within the world of adventure, and out of it as well.
They all say, create characters that people can relate to. Others say, I want to read about antiheroes and villains, because goody two shoes are not interesting enough. Many will even add that when a villain becomes good, they become less interesting.
Neither of these statements is gospel truth.
A red-haired person can relate to a redhead protagonist even if none of their other character traits match. And sympathy works a lot better in relating to someone – but if you make the characters too pitiful, then you’re playing with the readers’ emotions to protect yourself from criticism.
So, how does one get a core cast of characters done right?
1) treat the characters as real people;
2) give them histories, backstories, opinions, and layers – some even contradictory with each other – and most of all, reactions!
3) have them change throughout the story.
To get their voices right, listen to real people chatter and talk as a daily exercise. Listen to your family members, your friends, and even random people when you go to a café or ride a train or visit a grocery store. Note how they all speak in the same, yet different manner.
Additionally, the same treatment needs to be applied to the antagonist and the villain, regardless of whether they are the same character or not. An antagonist is someone who is constantly opposing the protagonist – but he or she doesn’t necessarily have to be a villain. A villain is a representation of pure evil. A good villain will also be an antagonist to the hero, while a one-dimensional villain is just someone the hero has to defeat to get the reward and either stay in the new world or go back to their own.
3) Writing the Novel
You can find a lot of methods on writing a novel, regardless of genre. Some writers say the best thing to do when you’re writing a novel is to build up a routine: write at least (insert an impossible sounding amount of words) every day. Or, write every day for eight hours, just like you would work for eight hours in a regular job. Some will advise to write even when it’s hard and you’re suffering from a writer’s block. They say, write anything until something of value comes out.
But, here’s the kicker. You might not be able to write that big of an amount of words per day. Some days, you might write 3000 words, out of which barely a 500 will make it into the final version of your novel. Some days, you will get stuck – unable to get the words out, maybe because your inspiration has left for the moment, maybe because you have been writing every day for the past three weeks and actually need to rest, not write whatever comes to mind, just to keep writing.
Some will tell you that you made a mistake when you outlined your novel – now it’s no longer interesting for you to write it. Others will say that you made a mistake by not outlining your novel – now you’re lost.
Our advice is to write your novel in the way that it suits you. If you can write for three days, and then need a break of two days – do not look at that break feeling guilt over lost time. But, we will point to a single realistic fact: inspiration comes and goes. On some days, you will have to chase it. But you don’t have to chase it by writing anything down. You can chase it by brainstorming. If you’re having a writer’s block, ask yourself why you’re not excited to write what’s about to come in your novel – chances are, you need to change that. Another fact also remains: the longer you’re away from writing, the further away you’ll get from your story.
In the end, writing a novel requires diligence, patience, and determination – however, make sure to take care of your own self during the process as well. Take breaks when needed, but make sure that they’re not too long. Because if they are, you will lose some of the drive and may never actually finish the first draft.
4) Determining the right pace
Pacing in a novel is very important. A novel that is too fast-paced, without any “breathing moments” can be difficult to read. On the other hand, a slow paced novel, without any fast-paced action scenes can be a little bit dull and boring. And by all means, a slow pace has no place in an adventure – the word adventure itself implies action, danger, and excitement.
So, you don’t want to tire your readers, nor do you want to put them to sleep. What is required is a certain kind of balance.
Adventure novels begin in the ordinary world (for the protagonist). At the beginning, the pace needs to be slow. But that needs to change pretty quickly. Soon, the protagonist is presented with the call of adventure. The action continues until the protagonist crosses the first threshold into the extraordinary word. Here, the pace can slow down, as the protagonist takes it all in, but danger follows soon after, bringing action back into play.
A balance between a fast pace and slow pace, interchangeably, offers the chance to keep the readers glued in. Remember, backstories and flashbacks tend to slow the pace down to a crawl, so make sure to balance out these moments with action scenes.
5) Climaxes and Endings: most common errors
The two things that can make or break your adventure novel are the climax and the ending.
The climax is the moment when all the action comes to a head – the hero defeats the villain, grabs the elixir, and is ready to go back home. This is followed by the ending, where the hero makes the decision to stay or leave, and when you can wrap up everything nicely.
What are the errors that happen in this part?
The first is defeating the villain too easily. If the villain is Achilles, for example, and you’ve presented his heel as a weak spot at the beginning of the novel, and all the hero has to do is hit it, then by the time this comes into the novel, the readers will be bored.
Second, the villain gets defeated too early. If your villain is defeated around the 85-90% mark, you’ve done a good job. But if he is defeated earlier than that, then you’re taking too much time with the wrap up of your novel. Compare it to an action adventure film – if the climax happens to soon, it feels like the film just doesn’t end.
Third, the villain is defeated too late. After the climax scene, you jump immediately to the epilogue, where you retell what happened afterwards in a series of flashbacks, or even worse, you make a time-jump epilogue where the hero is back in his own home even. Why is this wrong? Because you’ve skipped out on wrapping things up, and you’ve denied the readers to witness the protagonist’s choice to stay or leave.
Part 3: Editing and Publishing the Novel
In this section, we will be talking about the final steps you need to take before you publish your novel. Regardless of whether you’ll go for it traditionally, or self-publish, you need to make sure that the final version of your novel is well-edited, well-paced, and has a minimal amount of errors.
And while we say these are the final steps – please note that the editing process can take a while. Writing is one thing, editing is another. You may need to do extensive re-writes. You may need to write new material and discard some of the old.
Additionally, we suggest to take some time away from the novel: a week, two, or even more, whatever it takes to get fresh eyes on your manuscript. Going away for some time – and trying even not to think about it at all – might be difficult. You might want to get on to publishing immediately, in which case, we suggest you give your novel to an experienced editor to look at and give you suggestions before you start the editing process. Let’s take a closer look at these steps.
1) Editing the manuscript
While editing the manuscript, you need to pay attention to:
- world building: is the extraordinary world strange, beautiful, and a place where you would like to go to live and play?
- characters: do they have a unique voice? If you’re writing in first-person point of view, does the voice match the protagonist?
- plot: does the plot flow seamlessly? Are all the events in your novel connected with the chain of cause and effect, or do some scenes appear to come out of nowhere?
- pace: are there sections of your novel that are too fast, or too slow? Is the juxtaposition between fact paced scenes and slow reflective scenes balanced out?
- flashbacks: do they come in the right moment, if you have them? Are you divulging the character’s backstories at the right time?
Read your first draft with these questions in mind. Give honest answers to these questions. And prepare yourself for an extensive editing process. After you’ve finished fixing story, character, and world errors, you can proceed to the next step, which is editing and proofreading while looking for grammar, syntax, and spelling errors. In this case, paragraphs that are too long need to be shortened. Sentences as well. Descriptive passages need to be look at closely; to check for accuracy and flow. If the descriptions are too long, shorten them. If they are too short, expand upon them without going overboard.
2) Fixing story errors
Story errors are errors that most often are called “plot holes” by reviewers. When you’re reading a novel, and something does not make sense, then there is a plot hole somewhere.
For example, if the hero is searching for a super special artefact in an extraordinary world, then the hero needs to find the artefact. If the hero finds it too soon, then something needs to be wrong with the artefact (broken, in need of repair, or the hero might need to search for another one). If the hero finds the artefact and all is well and good, then why does the story continue? Even if you’ve found a logical reason, the readers will still feel like the story continues just for the sake of continuing.
How can you fix it?
The first thing to do, is to see what you can change without changing the overall story. If the hero continued to use the artefact from the example above, then change something in the beginning that turns the artefact into a tool for the protagonist to use, rather than seek. Change the protagonist’s final goal to match the story better. This can result in rewriting a lot of sections, because you will need to make sure that the cause and effect chain is consistent throughout the story.
The second thing to do is to give into an extensive re-write. However, do not give into it unless there are too many other errors that you need to fix as well, like world building errors, and character inconsistencies. This might result in a draft that is very different from the first draft – and it might even change the story so much that it barely resembles your original idea. Because of this, even if you do give in to an extensive re-write, be careful not to create new errors in your manuscript, regarding the characters and the world.
3) Fixing character and worldbuilding errors
We touched upon worldbuilding errors for a bit, and here, we will expand upon it a little. Worldbuilding errors can have a great impact on the plot. Most often, it is believed that the story happens in a specific world with its own rules. In a way, it is believed, the world produces the story in an organic way. The truth is a bit different, however. The world needs to serve the story you’re trying to tell. Or, the world needs to serve the plot, not the other way around. For that reason, you need to analyze the world, its wonders – as well as its limitations. The world needs to have wonders and danger. The wonders produce the tools and other possibly magical tools for the characters to use. It also needs to have certain types of limitations, and explanations as well. For example, if you’ve introduced a world where no one ages, and do not answer the question of immortality, you’re introducing a plot hole because the world would naturally make everyone a near-immortal being. And if your story does not involve the question of immortality, then what is the point of having an immortal world? Does this aspect of the world really belong in the story, if your protagonist and characters are merely seeking an artefact related to, for example, alien contact?
For this reason, you need to edit your novel with the worldbuilding in mind after you’ve edited the story in itself. Since the world needs to serve the story, it comes in second to review and edit. During this process, you will need to analyze and possibly remove many aspects of the world that do not fit into the story, especially if the presence of these aspects (or wonders) do not actively impact the story in any way.
Another thing to analyze when it comes to world building is whether you have a lot of moments of “info dumps” in your novel, where one character explains the world to another character in what seems to be an endless monologue. To fix this, think of your world as the tip of an iceberg – the iceberg is there, but most of it is underwater. Your readers only need to know a bit of it to understand what is happening and why. They do not need a history lesson of how the world and its society came to be.
Character inconsistencies are not character idiosyncrasies that might just seem odd in a specific scene. A character inconsistency happens when a character acts decidedly out of character, without a prior cause for that. For example, let’s say that your novel has a group of protagonists, each one with a primary trait that should make them memorable. Then, in one scene, the character known for kindness, for example, does not proactively offer help when needed, or maybe even actively hurts another character without being provoked into it – it happens just because.
Another error that might happen regarding the characters is voice. For example, a child that appears in the novel actually talks with the vocabulary of an adult. Another example is when a character is supposed to talk in a specific dialect, and then they do not. Additionally, if you’re writing in first person point of view, then you need to imagine that it’s the protagonist who is talking and telling the story. You need to use the language of the protagonist in the narration, their specific voice. If you come across a passage that reads like it was written by a narrator, then you need to rework it to make it sound like the protagonist. Similarly, a third person limited point of view also needs to sound like the protagonist, however, since third person point of view implies a detached narrator, you can get away with passages that seem wordy and do not sound like the protagonist.
How can you fix these errors?
Well, the more important question is when. If you fix character inconsistencies before you’ve finished tightening the plot and making sure the story makes sense, then you might need to make more changes in the characters later. As such, it’s better to leave the characters for the final edit before proofreading and fixing grammar and syntax errors. Even though it would be the last, when you’re editing for character consistency and voice, what you need to do is read your draft thoroughly and carefully, analyze each character in each scene, and determine whether they sound and act the correct way.
4) The importance of a good cover
A good cover is essential in attracting readers, but it also needs to connect to the content of the novel. And since we’re talking about adventure fiction, the cover has to attract the readers to go on the adventure together with the characters.
If you are getting published the traditional way, chances are you will get a whole team of designers to work on the cover of your novel. In this case, you might not even get a lot of say in what the cover would look like, depending on the publisher and your contract. But, if you’re self-publishing, you need to create the cover on your own, or hire a professional designer.
What does your cover need?
It needs to connect to the content of your novel, and offer a bit more insight into what the novel is about. It also should not misguide the readers. If your protagonist is whisked off into a magical world where the trees have strange colors and the sky is the color of steel, then it would be great to picture that on the cover. If your novel features an ensemble of protagonists, how many can you have on the cover – and how can you depict them (shadows, outlines, or a double exposure image of the protagonists and the world)?
What you really need to do is to make sure the cover looks professional. There are many tools you can use, if you’re self-publishing, to create a professional looking cover, but you may still fall short if you do not have the right skills. Sure, you can go for a mono-colored background and the title and your name in big white letters, but that might scream textbook instead of adventure.
5) Publishing an Adventure Novel
Publishing your novel can be done in two ways – you can go the traditional way, or the self-publishing way. It’s a given, however, that if you’re getting traditionally published, your novel will automatically get more attention. If you’re self-publishing, then you need to attract attention towards your novel on your own.
Publishing your novel traditionally is harder than self-publishing. You need to get an agent to sign you on, because many publishing houses only accept manuscripts via agents. If you don’t get an agent, you will need to look for publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts – and publish in your genre, in this case, adventure fiction. Moreover, publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts have a certain window of opportunity during which they accept new entries. If you miss that window, you will have to wait for the next time they do so – which can be months or even a year. If you get an agent, then the agent takes on this task. Just make sure that you’re signed on by an agent who has had previous experience in publishing adventure fiction. This means that the agent already knows which publishers to send your manuscript to, as well as how to get the right price.
Self-publishing means that you will be your own publisher. You will take care of the formatting of the novel, the cover, and the marketing that your novel will need before you even publish it. There are many tools that you can use, depending on the platform where you will self-publish your novel, Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and more. It takes time and effort to self-publish, and it can also take money, especially if you want to make printed copies. Amazon’s print-on-demand option – which means that a copy is printed upon a customer’s order – might ease some of the costs. But, what you really need when you’re self-publishing is an established platform (most often, via social media), and if you don’t, then you need reviews. What you can do is find book reviewers who focus on adventure fiction, and ask them if they would be interested in getting a free copy of your novel for an honest review. Additionally, you can run contests where your potential readers can get free copies, and, finally, you can pay to promote your book on Amazon, Goodreads, and other social media platforms.
In the end, no matter which path you choose, remember that publishing a novel can take a lot of time. It would take time until you find the right agent who will sign you, and it will take you time to perfect the novel before publication. It will take time before a publisher signs you on, and it will also take time for you to build a platform online (unless you already have one prior to writing/finishing your novel).
Adventure fiction is one of the more exciting genres today, and the stories belonging in this genre are always full of equal amounts of danger and beauty. Adventure fiction takes the protagonist and the readers on a journey that is both fun and terrifying. Moreover, the best novels always feature some sort of adventure, which is what makes the adventure genre overlap with a lot of science-fiction, fantasy (both epic and dark fantasy), urban fantasy, paranormal stories, as well as world-exploration stories. Additionally, adventure is featured in mystery novels, thrillers, and more.
What this means is that there are no demands in adventure fiction – beyond having the protagonist embark on a physical and emotional journey. Whether that journey is into a new world – or within the shadows of the current world – depends only on you and the story you want to tell. In adventure fiction, you can use elements of all the other genres – mystery, paranormal, science – fiction and more – to create a good story. Start with your idea and your characters, develop the ideas and the world. Write the first draft, then edit it until it’s the perfect version of itself.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a screenwriting student, she is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, watching a film or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her own.