Beginners' Tips: How to Write a Novel

 

 

 

If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel but have absolutely no idea where to start, then this article is for you. I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember and wrote my very first ‘novel’ at the ripe age of thirteen. Since then, I’ve worked on my craft and discovered Wattpad – a free online platform that allows users to read or upload their own works – where I published seven more works. Over the years, I learned a few tips and tricks that made writing my stories easier and more efficient, and I’ve decided to share them.

Writing a novel can be placed in two categories: Planning, research, and the actual writing. Planning is integral to writing a novel, but don’t be afraid to stray from the set plan and allow your creativity to flow. When writing a novel, plot, character, setting, structure, theme, and genre are fundamental components, which will be discussed in greater detail below. As it will be seen in this article, these components are quite interlinked, and do not function alone.

  1. 1. Planning and Research

    GENRE

    Establishing the genre in which you label your story with is crucial, as different genres have different characteristics and in turn effect the rest of the fundamental components. For example, romance novels are characterized by a central love story between two characters and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Typically, it focuses on a challenge that presents itself to the relationship, that the characters need to overcome. Many writers detest genres as labels, and find them overly deterministic, but it can be helpful for someone starting out when thinking about the plot, characters, structure, and themes.

    PLOT

    A plot is a sequence of events in a story, that relies on the principle of cause and effect. Novelist E.M Foster encapsulates the differences between story and plot as well as the nature of the cause-and-effect relationship between them. According to Foster “The king died, and then the queen died,” is a story. “The king died and then the queen died of grief,” is a plot. The plot is the first step in writing your novel. One way to determine your plot is to ask yourself the following five key questions: What? Why? Where? Who? How?

    What : What story do I want to tell? 

    Why: What is the meaning behind your novel?

    Where: Where does the story take place?

    Who: Who are the characters? What are their roles? 

    How: How do the events convey the story?

    These answers will provide you with a basic idea of your plot, as well as allow you to build on other components such as theme and characters simultaneously. If you are experiencing some writer’s block and can’t think of anything - don’t worry. Thankfully, the internet has blessed us with many platforms where pages post writing or plot prompts. Furthermore, plot generators are handy tools to any writer who needs some inspiration. Typically, you enter key information into the plot generator, such as the two main character names, three adjectives and the name of a city/town. Using this information, plot generators create a basic plot for you to build off on... some even add titles and covers! 

    SETTING

    Setting refers to where your story takes place. Setting is not only key to the plot and a fundamental component, but it is also integral in informing the genre that you are writing in. For example, in fantasy, world building is exceptionally important. Setting refers to more than just the geographical location of the novel, it also refers to timeframes and social environment. World building can be challenging, but the internet helps us once more with that. The following website aids with anything from details to a specific city to fantasy races to populate your world. It is a great tool for world building but also helps to break writer’s block.

    CHARACTERS

    Most novels typically have two main characters around which the story revolves. Characters inform the story as much as the story informs the characters. You don’t need to plan every single detail of your characters, in fact, some find it restrictive if they have a complete and detailed outline of their character, whereas others love to flesh out a character.

    Nevertheless, there are a few basic things you need to know about a character before you start writing: their full name, age, appearance, ethnicity, nationality, occupation and their relationships with partners and family. These things will build a sufficient character, and you can incorporate key plot events into their backstory.

    It is important if you are basing a character on a different race or ethnicity than what you are that you do extensive research on the race/ethnicity in question in order to represent the character correctly. Especially cultural and social norms.

    Characters in fiction can largely be categorized into five classifications:

    Dynamic Character. The dynamic character is the one who changes over the course of the story; has character development. This is also typically the main character.

    Round Character. In contrast to dynamic characters, round characters demonstrate fluidity and a large capacity of change from the get-go, whereas dynamic characters change when circumstances force them to.

    Static Character. Static characters do not experience much, if any, development in the story and virtually remain the same. They are considered tertiary characters and often do not advance the plot, as they remain the same.

    Stock Character. Stock characters are composed of archetypes and stereotypical traits. For example, a jock is someone who only cares about sports, not academics, and are usually stupid.

    Symbolic Character. Symbolic characters are usually supporting characters and typically represent something larger than themselves. They can represent recurring motifs which in turn informs the theme. 

    For more details on these characters, click here.

    If you struggle to formulate characters, fear not! Character cheat sheets are character questionnaires that help you to build and flesh out characters. Some produce a generic character profile after entering all the answers, while others simply evoke your creative thinking and allow you to have all your character details in one place. Similarly, character generators exist too.

    STRUCTURE

    Structure refers to the order in which events take place in the novel. Structures can be chronological – usually a three-act structure or dramatic structure – or achronological in which plot devices such as flashbacks are involved. The three-act structure is a structural model usually used in fiction, divided into three acts, labelled numerically. The structure of this particular act progresses in such a way that it poses a dramatic question that has a yes or no answer. For example, will the two main characters end up together? 

    The first act is composed of the exposition in which the main characters, their relationships, and the world they live in is established. It also brings forward the inciting incident; the moment where the main character is met with conflict that leads them to make a decision. This moment is indicative that the main character’s life has changed forever and poses the dramatic question. It also signifies the end of the first act.

    The second act – also known as the rising action – is centred around the main character’s attempts to solve the conflict. It’s during the second act that character development takes place too.

    The third act is a combination of the climax and the resolution. The climax is where the main character experiences the most tension while confronting the conflict or challenges brought on by the inciting incident. The resolution features the aftermath and demonstrates how the characters have changed and what their lives look like now.

    There are many variations of this structure, and alterations can be made to suit your needs. Some writers also incorporate prologues, but this is not necessary. While reading these tips, it is important to remember that these tips are merely guidelines, you don’t need to completely stick to it. Follow your creative instinct while applying these guidelines.

  2. 2. Actual Writing And Additional Tips

    Read books in the genre you want to write. It helps with inspiration and gives you a guideline of how your genre is written.

    The higher the stakes, the bigger the challenge and thus the more satisfactory the ending will be. 

    Pick a writing software. Most typically use Google Docs or Word, but there are websites specifically tailored to creative writing. These have functions such as the inhibition of using other applications that would deter you from writing. 

    Write down your notes. Keep all of your planning and ideas compiled into one place, whether it be a notebook or an app on your phone.

    Establish a writing routine and writing goals. Keep these attainable and suitable for your everyday schedule. Remember that writer’s block happens to the best of us and can knock you off your schedule, so don’t beat yourself up over it when it happens. Combat writer’s block with a brief break from writing and try reading more. After your break, go back to your writing routine. It’s been my personal experience that if I know my writing is bad, I don’t want to keep going. But it is important - we need to write badly so that we can become better. Your writing space should also be conducive of productivity and free of distractions. 

    With that being said, feedback is absolutely crucial. Find people in your inner circle or other readers to read and provide feedback on your work, to improve your skill. Alternatively, utilize online reading platforms such as Wattpad to upload your work and receive feedback.

 

 

Writing a novel is no easy feat, but it is a feat shared with others. 

“Every writer I know has trouble writing” -  Joseph Heller