How To Write A Novel
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!


Writing takes dedication, courage, discipline and, most importantly, a solid understanding of the basics. That’s where comes in. If you’ve never written a novel, the 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.


Here are 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 own writing.


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.



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 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.


Ultimately, 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, right away!


EnjoyDaLife   EnjoyDaLife wrote
on 4/14/2012 12:39:59 PM
i really needed this for my 1st novel! thanks!

bigred7   bigred7 wrote
on 11/2/2010 11:42:12 PM
Excellent. I really learned something from this article. Thank you.

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Advice and tips on how to write a novel.