So, you want to write a novel? It starts with one word. And then all the rest comes in a tornado of agonising strain and hard work. I commend you on your guts for wanting to start a project that can be as long-lasting and time consuming as…well, writing a novel.
Writing can be a skill that’s hard to tame, especially if your trying to tackle it as a first-time writer. And to stick it through the then end of your novel is something that very few first timers actually do. Here’s a few tips and guidelines for you to keep tucked at the back of your mind as you begin your epic journey, or as you delve into the wishing well, or as you witness a scene you really shouldn’t have.
Whatever happens in the beginning, hopefully these 10 tips will help you reach the end.
1. It’s Going To Take A While
Take this and accept it. I remember when I started writing my first novel. I thought it would take me a year at most. That I’d be writing 1000+ words a day no problem and that by next year I’d be published telling my friends and family to look out for my name at Waterstones.
No. That didn’t happen. My first novel ended up taking just over 3 years to write and edit, and the agonising process of finding an agent that liked it took even longer.
The main thing to realise is that no matter how long it takes, you will reach the end eventually. And when you do. It’ll feel incredible.
2. Prep Time Is Important
Do you dive into the deep end before learning how to swim? Writing’s the same. There are certain aspects of a novel that you can’t just skim over when you’re writing. Prep time is one of them.
If I were to lay it out bullet point by bullet point, I would say these three things are what you need to have nailed in before starting: Your main character(s), your major plotline events, your ending. When you write your main character will become your best friend or your arch nemesis. Either way, you’ll need to know everything there is to know about them. Your major events are what’s going to affect your character to the most, change them and evolve them. Your ending is who they become when the dust clears.
It might not all be relevant by the time you come to translating it to paper, but the small details will help you, not your audience, flesh out your story and make it feel full.
3. Writer’s Block Will Happen
No matter how much you prep, you’ll have a day where creativity fails you, or emergencies find you, or bad moods effect you. And on other days you’ll feel perfectly fine and writer’s block will still come.
Don’t panic and break down. It happens to the best of us. My remedy for this is to write. Write nonsense, write something that make zero sense, write a scene that’ll never make the final edit but it gets your creativity flowing. If this doesn’t work, try writing something else entirely. Maybe there’s been a short story or poem that’s been kicking around in your mind and deserves to be written down. Just be sure to fill the writer’s block void with a creative interlude.
4. You Won’t Always Want To Write
Slightly different from writer’s block where you can’t write. Some days, you just plain don’t want to. And that’s fine.
Not every day of your life needs to be filled with a creative hobby. The more you push forward through a passion the more that passion starts to feel like work instead of play. So my advice is don’t push. We all need a break some the things we love because as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. So, get some ice cream and put your feet up. Read a book, watch TV, go for a long walk and let your mind rest.
5. Treat Your Characters As If They Were Real
Like I said before. Your main character will either become your best friend or your arch nemesis. Either way, you’ll need to know everything there is to know about them.
It may sound childish, like it’s the same as having imaginary friends. And, well, it is. But writing a novel is exactly where having an active childlike imagination is something to be desired. You need to dig into the part of yourself to truly bring your characters to life.
6. Write From The Heart
There are writers that just know how to write what sells, and there are writers that write from the heart. The best of the best are both.
Most people get into writing because they feel as if they have a story to tell, and that it deserves to be written down on paper. And while a lot of the time, writer’s cringe when they look back over their first novel, it’s always filled with the warmth and belief a first story should have.
Try taking inspiration from personal experiences and everyday life. A conversation you overhear on the bus, or a slightly out of the ordinary incident in a park might be just what you need to create magic.
And don’t say your life isn’t interesting. You just haven’t looked hard enough.
7. Meet Other Writers And Talk about Your Ideas
Writing is a one-player game. Thankfully, the creative process is filled with chances to share you ideas and dilemmas with others. Communication is a fantastic way to broaden your writing horizons and meet people who have the similar interests as you at the same time.
Try looking online for people in your area who are writing novels, or search for a writing club where you can get upfront opinions from other enthusiasts. Figure out how other people write and learn about their writing processes, maybe they’re doing something that you could find useful.
8. Write Fast, But Don’t Rush Creativity
Just keep swimmi- writing. I meant writing. Because writing is a creative activity, it can take your mind to many different places. And if your like me and you have the shortest attention span ever, your mind may wonder just a little too far off topic.
Writing fast and keeping those fingers moving will help with that. But it won’t help with creativity. In fact, it drains it. If you find your self drifting through your writing, write your sections in quick bursts to keep your mind focussed. Take quick breaks to refresh your creative drive and keep going. Don’t worry about whether it’s badly written, that’ll all come in the edit.
9. Don’t Set A Total Wordcount, Set An Ending
I’ve seen so many ‘writing tips’ and ‘things writers need to do’ articles and this is one that always props up. And it’s one I’ve never been able to live by.
If you’re naturally organised and feel energised when your day is scheduled, then this might work well for you. The idea is to work out an approximate total for your first book, a goal for you to reach so you’ll feel motivated to keep writing.
But me? I spent years thinking, world building, character planning, jotting down random notes and factoids that would never make it but were fun for me. But I never set a wordcount. I found no motivation in a dull number on a screen, I felt no creative spark from anxiously watching the wordcount rise.
Instead of setting up a wordcount as a goal, set you story’s end as your goal. Have you ending clear in your mind before you start writing the prologue and treat that as your target point. No time, no numbers. Just words.
10. Don’t Stop Writing
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
– Toni Morrison
If this is something you love, then failure won’t stop you. And the best way to trick yourself into writing more is to not stop in the first place. Carry a notebook around so you can jot ideas down as they come to you. Designate a time every morning or evening specifically for writing your novel. Turn of the Wi-Fi and pull the plug on the TV if that’s what it takes to get you to sit still. Just. Don’t. Stop.