Once in a while we all dream about becoming writers, publicists or at least famous bloggers. Sharing information with others and being useful is in our nature, so it is not surprising that courses and training programs on writing a novel are becoming more and more popular. However, the most useful advice you will ever get (and it’s absolutely free) is to be patient and persistent. No one writes an outstanding novel overnight! It takes time, learning and motivation.
In this article we have collected 15 most important steps, which will help you to become a novel writer. For your maximum convenience they are additionally divided into three phases: before, in the process and after writing your story.
The best way to prepare for the writing process is to consider it as a marathon: the more efforts you will put in it, the better your results will be. Don’t be in a hurry and don’t expect quick results. Are you ready to be heard? If yes, then let’s get started!
Step 1: Come Up with a Great Idea
Everything starts with an idea. Probably it is quite an obvious step but not a very easy one. Actually, most of the soon-to-be-writers prefer procrastinating: they buy stationary, find a calm place for writing, read a few more books. Unfortunately, without a clear understanding of what to write about it is impossible to create a novel.
However, if you don’t have the slightest idea of what to write about, you shouldn’t panic! There are hundreds of various online websites and resources that offer templates, ideas and examples of novels.
In case you already have a general idea but don’t know how to develop it, take a piece of paper and write several lines on the topic of your future book. Take your time to think about the message you want to render to the audience. This message will be the main idea of your book.
Step 2: Read Books in the Similar Genre
To understand what the reader wants, you need to get familiar with books in the same genre. Here are only some of the reasons why reading is crucial for any author:
- You’ll see what techniques and literary elements were already used and will be able to add something new;
- You’ll understand what stories and instruments have more popularity and will be able to choose a winning path;
- Reading is fun!
Step 3: Choose the Point of View
If you are wondering how to write a novel you should start with choosing a particular point of view, from which the story will be told. It is a very important stage and may greatly influence the whole course of the novel.
Below is a list of the points of view that you may take into account:
- First person. You tell the story from your own point of view or from the perspective of a narrator. The pronoun to be used is ‘I’;
- Second person. When a second person is used, it means that the audience is directly addressed. The main pronoun here is ‘you’;
- Third person (limited). In such a story narrator has limited insight to emotions and thoughts of a certain character. Pronouns are she, her, he, him, they, them and so on;
- Third person (all-knowing). Omniscient perspective means that narrator can cover everything that happens to any figure any time of the novel. Pronouns are the same as for the limited point of view.
Step 4: Create a Setting
Power is always in details, so when creating a novel you need to make sure that the context is clear and strong. It will set the tone for your novel: from the plot to the character.
If your setting covers a subject that you are not familiar with, it is important to conduct a thorough research. For example, if your novel is happening in the past, make sure you render all historical events and other details (clothes, spelling, etc) accurately. If you are talking about social groups you are not familiar with, it is necessary to work with readers’ sensitivity.
Step 5: Work on the Main Characters
While many writers think that creating characters should start with their outlooks, it is actually better to start from the inside and then make one step further to the outside. Here is the path you need to follow:
- Main goal. What does the character want most of all?
- Aspirations. Why does the character have such a goal?
- Static or dynamic. Will the character remain relatively the same during the story or will he change?
Once you figure out the above elements, you can proceed with depicting other details of the character. Here are the resources you can use:
- Build a profile that contains even the slightest details: personal characteristics, family tree, appearance and so on;
- Draw a picture of character’s history;
- Choose the most suitable name for your character. If you lack ideas, there are many generators online.
Step 6: Set the Conflict
If you want to create a breathtaking story and not a plain report, then your novel should always consist of a conflict. Basically, there are two main types of conflicts that always attract the reader:
- Someone possesses something, loses it and tries to return it (a person, a thing, etc.);
- A person gets into a trouble and tries to solve it.
Conflict is the main thing that interests the reader and shows all the obstacles the character had to go through to overcome (or not) the existing problem. If you are writing a novel, you will need to face two types of conflicts. They include:
- Internal. What treats of character will change while the person is trying to achieve the main goal?
- External. What obstacles and situations will be on the way of the character?
The best way to create a remarkable story is to include both of them. When the conflict is clear, you need to pay attention to the stakes: what happens if the character won’t be able to achieve the goal?
For example, The Avengers want to save the world (it’s the main conflict). If they don’t, humanity will disappear (the stakes).
Step 7: Outline a Novel
If you have academic background you probably know how important creating an outline is. Even though writing is a creative skill, it still requires thorough planning.
There are two main types of writers: those, who plan the whole novel ahead before they start writing and those, who only have a general idea of the plot.
If you want to finish the novel and publish it, it is better to choose the first variant and start the process with creating an outline. Once in a while you will experience writer’s block and to avoid it you will only need to consult your plan and to see what should go next.
Here are the most common and trusted ways of outlining any type of novel:
- Creating a mind map. It is a visual presentation of the plot, topics, characters, chapters and conflicts. This can be a chart or even a set of pictures;
- Synopsis. A written outline that briefly renders main elements of the novel (usually around three or four pages long);
- A bullet list. Every element of such an outline is assigned with a letter, number or a bullet;
- Skeleton. Simply write down the most remarkable things about the novel. Highlight, circle and mark key features the way you want;
- Concentrate on the characters. You can write down everything about the main characters and let them drive the story;
- Concentrate on the scenes. Write down main situations and scenes that will happen and place them in an order of appearance.
Step 8: Select the Structure
Usually novels and any other written pieces have three main sections: beginning, middle part and ending. However, you can always change the structure and alter the way your story looks like.
Here are the approaches you can choose:
- Fichtean Curve. It starts with the action itself, missing out the beginning;
- Middle of the story. It starts with the middle section but still contains all of the three elements;
- Seven-point structure, where the story is presented as a range of ups and downs.
By now we have discussed eight steps that will help you on a preparation stage. Now all you need to do is to start writing. Hopefully the tips below will be of a great use!
Step 9: Choose Software
Modern writers have lots of advantages over authors from previous centuries. One of them concerns the ways how the novel is written.
You don’t need to take ink and to rewrite the page over and over again if it looks clumsy. Now you can take pen and paper, create a Word document or even download specific writing software. Here are a few services you can use:
- Focus Writer. It is a simple app, which offers you an empty page and enough concentration. However, you shouldn’t expect any sophisticated features and options;
- Write Monkey. If you want to avoid any distractions, pay attention to this app. It has a very plain interface, offering users only a clock and a word counter;
- Calmly Writer. This app shows you only the passage you are working on at the moment, so you won’t be able to jump from one part to another, loosing concentration and attention;
- 750 words. If you want to make writing your regular routine, this app is a great option! It motivates users to write three pages per day and offers a variety of statistics, like writing speed of users and so on;
- Reedsy Book Editor. While you write your book, this app edits it! So even if your draft looks clumsy, Reedsy will fix it.
Step 10: Know Your Audience
You need to be ready that your book is not for everyone. Different people prefer different types of literature, so you need to write your novel considering the potential audience. To get started you can look at your own book shelf: what books predominate?
In case you are not sure who your audience is, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s their age?
- What book genres they prefer?
- What do they like?
- Who are their favorite writers?
- What movies do they like?
- Do they live in a particular location?
You can continue asking questions until you understand that you have found a right prototype of a common reader.
Step 11: Create Your Routine
It is pointless to describe theoretical importance of making the writing process a part of your routine. Let’s just go straight to the steps that will help you to write your novel day by day until you achieve the expected result:
- Set an exact time without any negotiations. This means that you devote a certain time every day (once a week or month) to writing. You are not allowed to do anything else;
- Quantify the success. Start with setting clear goals. They should be realistic, like the quantity of pages per day or a certain number of words. Such small wins will help you to keep going. When you break the bigger task into smaller stages, it will be much simpler and more entertaining for you to achieve your goals;
- Share information with others. What happens when you are promoted? You probably throw a party or at least tell your friends about it. When you reach a certain stage in your writing, you can share it with others. This will not only please but will also motivate you, because most likely those people will ask you to share next chapters with them.
Step 12: Apply Different Techniques and Devices
In most of the cases we can’t tell why a certain novel is stuck in our memory. It happens because the author has used a winning and appropriate literary tool. For example, foreshadowing or irony. Actually, there is a huge variety of such devices and you can get familiar with all of them online, choosing the most suitable one.
Step 13: Always Revise the Novel
Editing your story may be quite tricky, because most likely you will always find parts to rewrite. So if you want to avoid this pointless cycle, try not to edit the novel at once.
Go through it looking for a particular issue to change. If you notice mistakes or imperfections, write them down and return to them in future. Here are the things you need to pay attention to:
- Never tell, just show. There are situations, when you will have to state your idea. However, try to minimize them and instead illustrate your thoughts and ideas. Such approach is more appealing and will help the audience dive deeper into your story;
- Use ‘said’ in majority of cases. When rendering dialogues, it is better to use plain ‘said’ instead of ‘remarked’ or ‘exclaimed’, because they distract the reader from the conversation;
- Say no to purple prose. It is a language, filled with unnecessary words and complicated phrases. It only distracts readers from what you have to say.
If you want to become an excellent editor without entrusting this stage to others, you can take editorial courses or use one of multiple online editing programs (although they are good only for the basic level).
Step 14: Cooperate with Beta Audience
Beta reader is a person, who reads the final draft before it is published. Beta reader can be your relative, friend or a person that you have met in a literary society.
Getting readers’ feedback is crucial, because being caught up in the story, authors sometimes miss holes in the plot or big mistakes. Beta readers can greatly help in detecting and eliminating such things before you let the bigger audience read your novel.
Step 15: Contact an Editor
Everything starts with a simple ‘I’ll write a novel’ but only a few writers make their way to the final stage. When your novel is already written and the beta audience has made comments, you need to hire a professional editor.
It is not cheap but if you think of all the months or even years you have spent on writing the book, you will see that it is a very important investment. No one wants to get negative comments simply because the novel wasn’t polished enough.
There are different editor types, including:
- Developmental editor. If the budget allows you hiring several editors, you need to start with a developmental specialist. He will give a detailed review of the novel, making comments on its problems, holes and other issues;
- Copyeditor. Such specialists pay attention to the language you have used and eliminate mistakes, repetitions and poor vocabulary;
- Proofreader. This specialist is polishing the final version of your novel in order to be sure that it is readable, interesting and smooth.
You are probably interested how much you will have to pay for such services, right? Well, the bill you will get greatly depends on the type of services you are looking for, experience of a particular editor, deadlines and the size of your book.
However, here are the average prices for 50 000 words:
- Developmental editor: $1,200;
- Copyeditor: $1,000;
- Proofreader: $500.
Now you are familiar with all the stages that are required for creating a flawless novel. It is a right time to pour yourself some coffee and to get started!