How to write a novel
Most people have a story within. Why not write it down? Perhaps this year is the time to write a book.
I’ve written both a novel and a non-fiction book and have another done, more in progress. Writing a book isn’t hard once you have a grasp of how to do it. So this video is meant as a starting point to get you writing.
1. What is your story? Fiction or non-fiction? Part of that question is the message you are trying to convey and why. You should write a short paragraph so that you know your mission statement. Without it, you’ll find yourself lost.
2. Resolve to work at it, even when the writing gets tough, because it will. Any writer will tell you that creativity is a minor part of writing. The major part is discipline. My favorite writing quote is by Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
3. Who are your characters? Define, and by that I mean write down the major characters and extensive details about them before you start to write. The more know them the more the book will write itself. If you can, do the same with minor characters. You never know, one might surprise you and take over the book.
4. Do an outline. Writers disagree on this point. I don’t understand how you can write a structured book without some sense of the basic story line. How detailed you make your outline is your own decision. Mine are short, I never stick to them, but I do rewrite them as the story takes over the outline. Your outline is just your basic story.
5. What is the arc of the story? This term confuses me every time I look it up. Basically, it’s the drama and rise and fall of action in your book. What’s at stake? You need a conflict, which must be constructed. Then you resolve it. If there is no conflict, your story will likely have little meaning.
6. Figure out your point of view. This issue is the top problem of someone writing a book for the first time. Who is speaking and what is their voice (or, how do they speak). What motivated them? Figure it out.
7. Watch your word choices. Until you write 200 or 300 pages you likely don’t realize how often we all use the same words! What isn’t noticeable in speech is glaring in print. And make sure the words you pick are the ones best suited to make your point or build your picture.
8. Don’t rush.
9. Show don’t tell. You are the reader’s eyes. Spark their imaginations.
10. When in doubt, cause a problem for a character. One writing teacher I had said that to write a book you just keep messing things up for your characters until all gets resolved at the end. It’s good advice.
11. Pick an audience and genre before you write. Perhaps you don’t care if anyone reads your book; most writers do. Reaching and selling to an end audience is easier when you know who they are and can market to a specific genre’s readers. It’s how both online search and offline bookstores work.
12. Spend a lot of time coming up with a title and an opening sentence. You either grab a reader at the beginning or you don’t. Many Intro to Novel Writing courses spend a whole class on each of these topics.
13. Write the story that eats at you regardless of whether it’s what you know or not. If it isn’t, do the research. Google images saves us from having to travel.
14. Know your setting. Details make a story believable.
15. Set deadlines and be disciplined about them.
16. Be careful about soliciting feedback, especially early in. Some people will help, others will be jealous and sabotage your confidence while a number will be just plain wrong. I’m now at the point where I really don’t care if people like what I write or not. Well, sort of. Okay, it always hurt. No guts no glory. Just don’t ask too soon. And listen to feedback objectively.
17. Finish. This step is the absolute hardest and what sets apart true novel writers from wanna be’s. Until you “ship” you haven’t finished and can always turn it into the great American novel. Ship. No book will ever be perfect or fully done.
18. Find a community to provide support along the way. Or start one.
These basic steps will get you started and before you know it, you will have finished a book. Then comes the tough part, editing and selling it.
1. What is your story? Fiction or non-fiction?
3. Define your characters.
5. Conflict and how do you resolve it?
6. Point of view.
7. Watch word choices.
8. Don’t rush.
9. Show don’t tell.
10. Cause problems for your characters.
11. Identify your audience and genre.
12. Title and first sentence are key
13. Write the story you want to tell.
14. Know your setting.
15. Firm deadlines.
16. Feedback but not too early.
18. Find a community for support.