Writing a novel can seem overwhelming because it’s a big and complex task, much like building a huge house. Many famous writers felt the same way before they started. If you’re worried about how to begin and write a novel, don’t be discouraged.
Think of writing a novel as constructing a house. No matter how much you plan, there’s always more to do. No novel is perfect. Creating realistic worlds, interesting characters, and a compelling plot exploring important ideas is a huge job. You might be wondering how to fit all this into just a few hundred pages. Don’t worry, this article has tips to help.
Whether you’re nervous about starting your first novel or just curious about how to begin, this article will guide you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to write a novel, but these ideas can help you start. Think of them as a starting point, and soon you’ll be deep into the writing process.
How to Write a Novel in 10 Simple Steps
To write a novel might seem tough, especially if it’s your first time. But don’t worry, it’s not impossible. Many successful authors, whether they are bestsellers or hobbyists, follow a similar process. First, you brainstorm and plan the story. Then, you create an outline and start writing. Even though it’s challenging, if you’re determined, you can do it. Here’s what you need to begin your first novel.
“First, think of ideas. When you want to write a novel, you must have a story in mind. It could be a detailed world or just a basic idea. Remember these two important things:
- Choose a world you like: Your readers will spend a lot of time in the world you create. You also need to spend weeks or even years in this world while writing. Pick a place and time that excites you. It’s okay to have multiple settings, but don’t make your story too complicated.
- Have an interesting story: A novel needs a good story that stays interesting from the beginning to the end. Make sure your idea can fill hundreds of pages. If you don’t think it can, maybe consider writing a short story instead.”
2. Make Characters Interesting.
When you write a novel, having a good idea is not enough. Your story needs characters that people care about. These characters are the heart of your tale. First, think about who these important characters are. Your main character is the most crucial. You need to know everything about them – their past, their personality, and their successes and failures. The more you understand your characters, the better you can tell their story to your readers. Learn more about creating great characters in our detailed guide.
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3. Choose How the Story is Told.
Once you know your characters well, you need to decide how you want to tell the story. Do you want a character in the story to tell it (first person)? Or do you want to talk about the characters from a distance, like someone watching from far away (third person)? There are different ways to do this:
- First Person: The story is told by a character using “I.” This can make the story more emotional. For example, books like The Great Gatsby and Sophie’s Choice do this.
- Second Person: This is rare. It uses “you.” Sometimes, authors use this to emphasize certain points in the story.
- Third Person Limited: This is like watching the characters from afar. The narrator doesn’t use “I” and usually doesn’t know everything about the characters. It focuses on what can be proven. A book called A Confederacy of Dunces uses this style.
- Third Person Omniscient: The narrator knows everything, even the characters’ private thoughts. Many popular books, like The Da Vinci Code and It, use this style.
4. Make Your Outline.
Writing stories is like building a house. You need a strong foundation and a clear plan. Here are some steps to help you make a good plan for your story:
- Sum it up: Start by summarizing your whole story in one sentence. This keeps you focused on the main idea. Imagine it as the backbone of your story.
- Big Picture: Create a basic outline with main events like the start, the most exciting part, and how it all ends. Just focus on the major events at this stage. This gives you a sense of your story’s structure.
- Acts: Divide your story into parts, like chapters in a book. Most stories have three parts: the beginning, the middle where things get complicated, and the end where everything is resolved. Some stories have more parts. Dividing your story helps you keep a good pace.
- Details: Add details to your scenes. Think about what your main character wants in each scene. Good writers can tell a lot in a few words. Make sure each scene serves your main character’s personality and story.
- Conflict: Add problems and challenges to keep your story interesting. Readers like tension and excitement. Just like in music, where there are calm parts and exciting parts, stories need moments of conflict and resolution to keep readers engaged.
- Ideas: Write down any ideas you have, even if you’re not sure where they fit yet. Sometimes seeing all your ideas together helps you organize them better before you start writing.
5. Choose How Your Story Will End.
You should decide how your story will finish. This can happen early on, but if you haven’t figured out an exciting ending yet, do it now. Think about what your readers will remember most from your story. The ending is crucial. Make sure it’s great, whether you’re writing a thrilling bestseller or a deep, character-focused literary work. As a writer, having a clear ending in mind can help you create a story and characters that lead towards that ending. How will you reach this planned ending?
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6. Begin Writing Your First Draft.
Planning is great and necessary, but don’t let overly detailed plans stop you from doing what you need to do, which is writing your novel. Your first draft might not be perfect, and you might end up rewriting it completely later, but it’s essential to start without getting stuck in doubt. It’s okay if this draft often called a rough draft, is too long and has mistakes or missing parts of the story. You’ll have time to fix it later.
7. Take a Break and Come Back
After you finish writing the first draft of your novel, it’s a good idea to take a break from it. This break allows you to look at your work with fresh eyes when you return to it. When you review your first draft, pay attention to these things:
- Make sure your story is clear and easy to understand.
- Check if your main character is well-developed.
- Ensure that your world-building, including the background and descriptions of the setting and time period, is detailed enough.
- Make sure the action in your story progresses at the right speed.
8. Write Your Second Draft
Depending on how you feel about your first draft, you might need to make small changes to specific scenes, or you might decide that your novel needs significant revisions. If your story has major issues, you might choose to do a “page one rewrite,” which means starting from scratch and completely reworking your novel.
9. Get Feedback from Others.
After finishing a second draft, many writers share their work with people they trust, like friends, fellow writers, or editors. It’s important to listen when multiple people say the same thing about a problem in your story. Consider their feedback, especially if more than one person mentions a similar issue. However, be aware that some readers might suggest solutions that don’t feel right to you. You don’t have to follow every suggestion. It’s your story, and you should keep your vision intact.
10. Write more Drafts of your Story.
There isn’t a set number of drafts that make a book successful. Some books are ready to publish after just three drafts and some small edits. Others need six or more drafts. Some drafts focus on fixing small things, like making the language consistent or reducing the number of words. Others change the story completely. Every book is different, so be ready for unique challenges and successes as you work on your specific story.
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