Great writers make novel
writing seem easy. And, once you read enough great books, you may be convinced
that you can do it yourself. There are plenty of people who believe that avid
readership and the ability to type are the only qualifications necessary to
become the next best-selling author. It doesn’t take too many chapters before
they find out that it’s much more difficult than it looks!
takes dedication, courage, discipline and, most importantly, a solid
understanding of the basics. That’s where WritingRoom.com comes in. If you’ve
never written a novel, the WritingRoom.com resource library will give you some
sound advice on how to begin. But as with any art form, gifted writing is a
direct result of practice, practice and practice. It takes a daily investment
in time and a career-long commitment to improve to become a successful writer.
some step-by-step tips to help get you started.
Read amateur work. Great writing is often filled with subtle
characteristics that are tough to mimic unless you know exactly what you’re looking
for. It’s often easier to learn what “not to do” from beginning writers who’ve
made the mistakes. Some oddities that may stand out: Characters that can’t be
visualized, ridiculous plotlines that never pay off, clumsy dialogue and
awkward sentence structures. Take note of issues you see and avoid them in your
Walk before you run. Try tackling a short story or two before you
take on the challenge of a larger work. You can practice your stylistic skills
such as character development, dialogue and voice in a highly focused format.
This short-form training ground is often much more flexible than a novel, which
can take months to establish a foundation…and many more months to make changes.
Plot it out. Think through your story, starting with the big picture and then
chapter-by-chapter. There’s nothing worse than losing yourself 126 pages into a
novel and not knowing where to go next. Your original plotline is a necessary
map that will guide you through every turn so that you can focus on the
details. Read “How Do I Organize My Thoughts Into A Story” for more tips on how
to outline your thoughts.
Check your comfort level. Once you have the generalities in mind – plot,
characters, setting, etc. – be sure that you, and your readers, will want to
get to know them a little better. If you don’t like a character or an element
of your story, the months you spend thinking about it could put a damper on
your daily motivation. Before diving right in, make sure that you’re passionate
about your ideas and confident in your storyline.
Do your research. Get to know your settings and your character
profiles. A key component of a thriller, for instance, is an exotic locale.
Before you write about sailing through the Bermuda Triangle, you better read up
on the experience. Take a pages and pages of well-organized notes that you can
refer back to at any point to add hints of realism throughout your story.
STEP #3: WRITE!
Start at page one. Write your novel from beginning to end. It’s
always more difficult to draft a conclusion first, only to find out your climax
has changed to include another element. By writing in order, you’ll be much
more efficient at carrying important details throughout the story. This will
result in less revisions down the road.
Keep writing! Push through writer’s blocks or questionable verbiage and forge
ahead. Oftentimes, your first instincts are right on, so be sure to get them on
paper. Feel free to stray from your outline if you feel too limited by your
initial plotline. Keep in mind that perfectionism is never expected (or even
possible!) in a first draft. Plus, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to review
everything with a fresh eye in the revision phase.
Limit your page count. Conclude the original pass of your novel at
around 200 double-spaced pages. Many times, the first draft is a skeleton and
you’re likely to add more meat and bones in the revision stage. Plus, a general
rule of thumb for beginning novelists is to master the short novel before
moving on to extensive works.
Step away from the keyboard. Take a brief vacation or just turn your mind
off for a few days. Try not to think about the novel and do your best to stay
away from your computer. This allows your brain to rest and rejuvenate so that you
can approach the second draft with a fresh focus.
Imagine you’re the reader. Read through your entire first draft from
start to finish. What initial impressions did you take away? Did it keep your
attention from scene to scene? Did the characters evolve as the story
progressed? Did the settings draw you in? Did you walk away with a sense of
closure and satisfaction? Take note of these overarching themes as you read.
Fix big, then small. It’s decision-making time. Review your notes
and take action. Concentrate on the general improvements you can make to the
structure. Revise weak scenes or unbelievable motivations. Once you’ve made
your initial overhaul, go back and start revising the details from the
beginning. Think through each conversation, every description and even sentence
by sentence, leaving no stone unturned.
Ask for feedback. Give fully revised draft to trusted friends
and writing professionals for critique. Ideally, seek out people who are likely
to be your readers (i.e. If you’ve written a romance novel, your sports-minded
husband wouldn’t be the best choice). Online writing communities like
WritingRoom.com are also excellent sources of objective feedback. Read “Dealing with Constructive Criticism” for more information on
how to ask for, and deal with, reader feedback.
Return to page one. Review all criticism objectively and decide
which improvements would make the most positive impact on your story. Revise as
necessary, until you’re left with a work that you truly feel proud of.
the most compelling (and sellable) novels are those that offer some fresh
insights about life in a way that allows the reader to escape to a world filled
with rich locales, appealing characters and fulfilling resolutions. If you’re
confident that your novel can deliver on those expectations, start writing,