So you want to write a novel?
Buckle up. It’s not as easy as what your friends make it out to be when they say, “I think one day I’ll write a novel.” The thing is, it just doesn’t work like that. While most authors have a strict process by which they follow, the most important thing to remember is that writing a novel is different for everyone. Along the way, you will find what feels right for you.
Do you create the ending before the beginning? Do you write without knowing what’s going to happen next? Do you create the title, then write the book? Or write the book, then create the title?
It’s all based on who you are as a writer, and no two writers are alike. So allow me to show you the basic steps on how to birth the story that has been burning within you.
- As cliche as it sounds, writing a novel needs inspiration. Consider a 300-page book, because the author didn’t spend that much time and effort writing such a story with absolutely no inspiration. So step 1: find what inspires you, what makes you happy, and push that inspiration onto a page. If that means listening to music, listen to all the music you can. If inspiration comes from walking in the park on a cool autumn afternoon, go on as many strolls as possible. Just find your inspiration and transform it into words. See if you can begin by describing your character feeling the way you do when you feel that surge of inspiration starting to hit.
Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot that reading makes you a better writer, but that’s because it’s true. You must read to be a good writer. And read the genre you write, not just the newspaper. If you’re writing a YA book, read a lot of John Green, or Nichola Yoon, or other YA authors to get a handle on how they structure their stories and what makes them stand out to you. Is it the characters you love? The cute or heart wrenching plots? Use these books as examples for how to write your own. Treat them as respectable role models, and follow in their footsteps.
- Having trouble with organization? Don’t worry, that’s okay. This means you have a story that you need to slice up and make chapters out of. Basically, you need an outline. Begin with sketching out your story, perhaps with a loose summary of whatever content you have so far. Then, decide where you want to place your scenes chronologically in the book. Do your characters kiss in chapter 1 or chapter 18? (Choose the latter; it works better that way). You’ll need a notebook or something else where you can write down and check off the scenes as you move down the list.
My outlines look something like this:
~John goes to coffee shop
~He talks to a girl
~Flash forward to later when he calls her
Just something quick and clean, and mostly to keep me organized and to keep me from straying off from my storyline.
Overall, your outline doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty or neat. It has to only be clear enough to keep you on track with where you’re going in the story. Along the way, the gaps in the outline will fill in the more you write. Remember, the entire point of the outline is to keep structure upright throughout the novel and the author’s writing. So just…write.
- Now, the next step can get scary, but I promise it gets easier the more you plug along.
What you need to do is answer the journalist’s questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why? Answering these will determine the main character, what they’re doing, when they’re doing it (time period), where they’re doing it (setting), and why they’re doing it. The last question is imperative, because the “why” questions will pull it all together.
Once you decide on your main character, decide what pushes him/her toward the climax of the story, referring back to the “why” question. Decide what exactly it is that answers, “Why is he/she doing that?”
Maybe it’s his/her desire for love. Maybe it’s his/her longing to leave behind the past. Maybe it’s his/her fear of loss that drives them to cling on to something/someone. Whatever it is, make it the very thing they cannot live without. The very thing they will do anything to have. And make them fight for it.
- Lastly, I suggest beginning your book with an ending in mind. This way, you’ve got something to work for, something to look forward to writing. Without an ending in mind, you might get lost trying to navigate your way to…where exactly? Try to create an ending based on the opposite of your beginning. If you start off happily, end sadly. If you start off rainy, end sunny. Do whatever works for you, because in the end, it’s your book.
These tips are to hopefully push a first-time book writer to begin chapter 1, because–one last note–chapter 1 is the scariest thing you’ll ever write. I hope these tips are helpful in your writing endeavors, and I hope they softened the intense idea of writing your own book!