If you strain your ears hard enough, you might hear a cacophony of typewriters as dispossessed Democrats -- bedeviled with the urge to write a book based on their brush with history and power -- peck away.

We can, in fact, expect a glut on the market of novels, memoirs, autobiographies and historical analyses inspired by the Carter reign.

Although a novel may seem the most indirect medium to communicate experience and vision, fictionalizing subject matter also is a convenient way of distancing oneself from the situation. We generally have an emotional stake invested in our own experience and relationships, and it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to extricate ourselves from those burdens to write effectively.

One Washington-area author, for example, attempting to write about the murder of a close friend found the task virtually impossible because of her personal grief and anger. However, after imbuing the character of her friend with some imaginary characteristics, and changing slightly the events leading up to the murder, the author freed herself from the restraints of reality, and the story took on a life of its own.

Once you have made the initial decision that a novel is the most effective medium to get to the heart of your message, the task of creating a suspenseful plot, an intriguing setting, and believable characters may at first be overwhelming.

"I'm absolutely terrified. I'm scared to death," a Washington-based psychotherapist and former wrestler confessed as he confronted the prospect of his first novel.

Another incipient novelist -- a professor of English at American University -- admits similar fears.

"I feel like a baby again. I've been teaching this stuff for so many years, but it's a totally different experience when you try to do it yourself." y

Washington-area novelist and former Glen Echo Writers' Center teacher Patricia Griffith maintains that novel-writing is a process of decision-making:

You must break down your raw vision, she says, into a series of identifiable, smaller, and conquerable units. It is like light being passed through a prism and separating out into the strong, clear colors of the rainbow.

What are some of the decisions that must be made before sitting down at the typewriter to churn out page after page of engrossing prose? The experts basically agree on these points:

1. Decide on a framework for the novel: What will the raw material or milieu be? As a general rule, it is safest to stick to what you know best, be it the corridors of the White House, or a small town in the Midwest.

2. Have a clear idea of the effect you wish to create. Do you want to vilify members of Congress for their lust and greed? Or extol their virtues of self-sacrifice and public service?

3. Develop an initial complication -- a "hook" to entice the reader and propel the novel forward.

4. Focus in on your characters. It is important to have a clear idea of what they look like, their motives, their interests, their points of view, their idiosyncracies, for it is the details which will breathe life into your characters and your novel.

Although there are countless formulas and axioms for writing a novel, there are no magic tricks, as the experts stress, no short cuts, and no miracles. The process is tedious and painful, and the pain involved is more than the discipline of sitting down at your typewriter several hours each day.

As Flannery O'Connor describes the process in her book, "Mystery and Manners":

"Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won't survive the ordeal."