Writing a Novel

novelA novel is a work of narrative prose that tells a story of one or several characters; it can be either fictitious or based on real events. Though there is no magic formula to creating a literary masterpiece, following the advice below can help you to write a genuine novel.

Steps for Writing a Novel

  1. Decide on what type of novel you want to write, its size and genre; it would also be useful to consider your target audience. By following parameters inherent in your chosen genre, volume, and audience type, your novel will be more holistic and consistent.
  2. Choose the setting. You can either develop your plot within your hometown, or expand it to other countries, planets, or even universes if you choose to write a sci-fi or fantasy novel. The setting may sometimes influence the plot to a significant extent.
  3. Create the main characters. No matter whether they are copied from a real prototype or are completely fictitious, they still need background history to appear more vivid and alive. Even if you don’t mention a wide-range of facts from these characters’ bios in your story, it will still improve your writing and make it more credible by inserting their backgrounds.
  4. Sketch out the plot. At first, let it be simply an amount of milestones that will affect the development of your story. After you chalk out the general direction in which the plot will unfold, think of the smaller aspects that will guide the main characters from one milestone to another.
  5. Do research. If situations presumed by the plot invoke the usage of special skills or knowledge, or if you are writing on a subject you are not quite familiar with, you must conduct sufficient research in order to avoid making elementary mistakes, and to look competent and credible.
  6. Write the first draft of your novel. Visualize the situations from the plot and describe them. Use conversations, descriptions, hints, and conjectures to convey your thoughts and emotions to your audience.
  7. Proofread and edit your novel. Feel free to rewrite certain sentences, paragraphs, or even chapters if you feel it will enhance your story.

Topic Selection

You must have read many books throughout your life. Respectively, you have come across many serious and deep themes; such themes can serve as viable topics for your own novel. List them, and then choose the one you like most of all, and that can develop into an interesting plot and characters. Below is a list of possible topics for a novel:

  • a shift in lifestyle as a result of traumatic events or other circumstances
  • memories of a dying man about his life and his reevaluation
  • adventures in a distant land, or even a world
  • a love story of two young people who have never seen each other in person
  • a detective story about mysterious events in a small town
  • a biographic story of success of a fictitious person
  • the author’s interpretation of certain historic events

Key Points to Consider

  1. In case you are describing events that take place in the real world, you can exploit your knowledge about it. But if you are writing science fiction or fantasy, you might need to invent your fictional world’s history, political system, social and cultural norms, and so on. Take a look at Frank Herbert’s Dune, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and you will understand that a detailed background is crucial for a well-rounded fictitious story.
  2. When you have writer’s block, the best option would be not forcing the story out of yourself, but taking a break. It can last from a couple of days or a couple of weeks; the trick is to quit thinking about the novel for a while. Let your brain rest—switch to other activities. A story ground out is usually not satisfactory. Also, when you feel stuck, you can use brainstorming techniques to provide yourself with several new ideas.
  3. Novels usually fall into the category of literary and commercial works. Classical stories renowned worldwide are usually called literary novels. They are characterized by intense sentiments, deep themes, meanings and symbolism, and complex literary devices. Commercial novels are usually written for the entertainment of the target audience, and aimed to sell a lot of copies. Many novels of this category follow predictable story lines and are exploiting certain heroic archetypes of the main characters. However, there are plenty of crossover novels which both sell a lot of copies and are original and deep in meaning.
  4. The world you create within your novel should be inhabited not only by the main protagonists, but with other characters as well, even if they are simply the crowd.

Do and Don’t

Do

  • Do constantly carry a notepad and a pen with you to make sure you don’t miss substantial ideas.
  • Do re-read what you’ve written several times. Each time you return to the written text, you will be able to see drawbacks that could be corrected, think of a more appropriate word, or find any other way to improve the text.
  • Do try to make conversations sound natural. Dialogues between the main characters often become a problem for amateur writers; conversations may sound unnatural, they can be too mannered, far-fetched, or supersaturated with details. To compose correct dialogues, pay more attention to the way people speak on the streets.
  • Do show your work to other people. Your friends, relatives, or other people you trust can always cheer you up, inspire you, help you with advice, or give constructive criticism.
  • Do set a daily limit for yourself and stick to it. Writing has a lot to do with discipline, so make writing your novel a regular exercise.
Don’t

  • Don’t ever borrow ideas from another author without giving a reference to them. You will hardly ever invent new material in literature, considering the thousands years of its history, but it is better to come up with your own unoriginal idea than to steal it.
  • Don’t edit your novel while in the process of writing it. When you are writing, you shouldn’t worry about how the text looks like or whether it is readable; your main task is to create a mainframe, a backbone, and decorating it is a matter of secondary importance.
  • Don’t try to write perfectly and professionally from the very beginning. Most likely you won’t succeed in it and feel discouraged by the thought that you have got no literary talent, though it might not be true.
  • Don’t try to write a novel without having a clear idea of how the plot will develop, who are the main characters, and what you want to say by composing your story.
  • Don’t write without proper research when it is needed. If you run into a field about which you have insufficient knowledge, you should find information about it.

Common Mistakes When Writing a Novel

- Making your character all-knowing. Since you are the author, you know how the plot moves, but your characters are inside the novel, thus being unable to see the whole perspective—especially if you are writing in first-person. This means your characters know little about other characters’ motives, and do not have a solid idea of how events are going to develop.

- Weak characters. Some authors rush to develop the plot so much that they almost forget about the main acting persons, turning them into a kind of trigger that causes events to unfold further. Poorly-crafted characters who have no or little personal history are dull and boring, so the reader won’t sympathize with them.

- Too much description. In pursuit of credibility, aesthetics, or other ambitions, amateur authors often supersaturate their text with epithets, metaphors, unneeded explanations, comparisons, and so on. This makes the text difficult to read and distracts the audience from the plot and the characters.

- Using crutch words. Some words may be so common and unremarkable that your eye doesn’t stop on them while editing or writing. This results into numerous repeats, which may spoil the impression of the text when finally noticed.

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Samples for Writing a Novel

Bus Ride (faster than normal pace) (later chapter)

Without any specific purpose, I browsed the Internet for 20 more minutes, and then decided to do a little clean-up. I picked up my jeans, t-shirts, and socks lying on the floor, and put them into the washer; each sock I gathered looked like a stranger to t...

Trans-Romanian Hustle

Everything went haywire for Johnny and his friends a little after 15 minutes from the time they stepped off the plane. At the airport lounge, Johnny took Big Jacob and went to bu...

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