So you finally found an idea that’s novel-worthy? If you’ve never written a book before, you’re probably thinking, “Where do I even begin?” Look no further. Here are some tips I learned when I tried (and failed) to write a novel in high school, and when I succeeded at pushing out a manuscript draft my freshman year of college. However, I’m still a novice, so I’ve also collected some information from other writing blogs and my favorite authors. So if you’re a starting author like me, here are some steps to take to get that novel idea rolling.
1. Characters first. While this may differ per writer and novel, I find it helpful to develop your characters before you go any further in developing the plot. Why? Well, the entire outcome of the plot usually depends on the choices and reactions of your characters. Your character can’t go egg her ex-boyfriend’s house if she’s a goodie two-shoes who’s afraid of confrontation. Also, your entire plot will fall flat if you don’t have compelling characters to drive it. The characters give the reader a reason to care about what happens. Don’t know how to develop characters? Look here.
2. Map out your plot. After you have an idea of who your characters are, map out your plot. If you know where you want to start and where you want to end, it can be hard figuring out how to get there. While there are many ways to do this, my favorite method is making an outline. While some authors like to write without an ending in mind, if you’re less experienced this can often lead to useless meandering, or you create a problem you can’t untangle. Write every word with the ending in mind. However, if you find later that something doesn’t fit, don’t be afraid to change your outline and adjust.
3. Develop the setting. Once you have your characters and plot, make a world to place them in. In genres other than realistic fiction, you need to map out every little detail of your world so your reader won’t be confused. If your setting is a real place, spend time in that place to make sure you can describe it accurately. Know what each place looks like, in detail. Draw pictures/ maps if you have to. If you can’t see your setting, chances are neither can your reader. Also, make sure certain spaces are accurate to the time/ world/ characters. If your character is a neat-freak, their bedroom should be spotless. If your story is set in 1982, it would be out of place for a refrigerator to be made of stainless steel.
4. Research, research, research. This is where “write what you know” comes into play. Unless your book is about your life, you need to do some sort of research when you’re writing your book. You may think, “Hey I didn’t sign up for this. I write fiction so I don’t have to research.” But if you want your story to feel real, you will have to. If you’re writing about anything you don’t have first hand experience of, look it up. If there’s an alcoholic in your story, read up on first hand accounts. If you’re writing sci-fi, base the technology off real technology in our world. If there’s a court hearing in your book, know how the legal system works. Talk to people who have gone through these things if you can.
5. Make sure you’re committed. If you’re going to commit to writing a novel, you have to be crazy about your idea. You have to be sure you aren’t going to get bored of these characters and plot line for years. You also have to make sure there aren’t glaring plot holes and accuracy errors. The last thing you want to do is to put in all this work and give up halfway through because you’ve lost interest or found what you’ve written isn’t working.
6. Make a writing schedule and stick to it. This is the hardest part of writing a book: actually writing and being consistent about it. Find when you write best. If it’s in the morning, write then. If it’s late at night, write then. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, make yourself do it. If you don’t write every day, you’ll lose that creative spark. Writing is work, but if it’s your true calling, you should enjoy every moment of it.