Writing a short story is easy. Even a play is manageable. But sitting down and beginning the first words of an endless daunting novel? A story where every character’s development, appearance, behavior, and the story’s structure, plot, and flow itself all sit on your head. Imagine creating your own world and building a story within it. This post provides the simplest novel writing tips for beginners.
Most writers spend countless days planning their imaginary world only to drop the idea. Most end up not starting the first line of their book. Others get to a point in their book where they simply feel the story’s not worth a shot. Others meddle up with their own plot – I’ve done that myself.
First things first, make sure you’re looking to write a novel, not something short like a short story or a novella.
Whether you already have a plot in mind, starting as a new fiction writer, or writing for the national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), this post on novel writing tips for beginners goes out to everyone:
Things to Do Before you Start Writing a Novel
If you’ve had experience writing stories before, there are said to be two types of writers – plotter and pantser. A plotter structures the story beforehand, outlines it, caresses its characters carefully. A pantser sits on the other extreme – he sits down and begins writing right away with a rough idea.
But writing a book isn’t a day’s job. It’s not a 100-meter run, it’s a marathon. I’d recommend plotting your story beforehand. But outlining your story isn’t enough. Here are some things to do before you start writing a novel:
- Have an idea in mind
- Outline the idea to detail
- Keep your target audience in mind for marketing
- Read books similar to your genre
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Have an Idea in Mind
Sure, keep your laptop or your pens and papers ready to start away. But first things first, have an idea. If you believe you have an idea that is hard to put down for its readers, go for it. Make sure the idea is something that you genuinely find interesting – you’ll have to work on it for months, years if you’re lucky! Here are some plot ideas to get you started.
If you wish to take up your novel writing a notch higher, take up a course on writing one. Starting with ideas, structuring, targeting your audience, marketing, to publishing – taking a course can help you lead through all these.
Here are some of the best English novel-writing courses I handpicked for you on Udemy with great ratings:
Name of Course
No. of Hours
How to Write a Romance Novel (Fiction Writing Mastery)
Novel Writing Workshop
Writing Your Masterpiece (Fiction, Memoir, and Novel Writing)
Write a Bestselling Novel in 15 Steps (Writing Mastery)
Novel bootcamp; imagine, plan and start writing that book!
The Book Factory: How to Make a Steady Income Writing Novels
Outline a Novel with the Plot Idea to Detail
You have your idea now – great! Now, don’t start away. Bear a few more steps, it’ll go a long way. Pen down (or prepare an excel sheet, whatever’s convenient) the idea in detail. You need not write long descriptions of your idea, but just snippets that’ll help you index and arrange the structure. Here are some things to note down for outlining:
- Your protagonist: Key features, motive, and name.
- Characters: All the characters’ behavior, motives, development, and how they play a role in the story.
- Structure: Here’s a basic example – conflict occurs in protagonist’s life, reason for the protagonist to overcome the conflict, hurdles faced, and what changes the protagonist and other key roles of the story.
- Conflict: If there’s no conflict in your fiction piece, it’s more of a description of imaginary beings and nothing more. Pen down the conflict faced, reason for it, difficulties faced to overcome it, and how it changes the characters’ lives.
- Main Scenes: What are some highlights of the story, the best scenes. Note down your favorite scene of them, note down ones you can use to market when you’re publishing.
- Changes in Characters: Did anything change in the protagonist or other key roles’ lives? If so, note down how.
Keep your Readers in Mind
Whenever you tell someone a story, you unconsciously keep them in mind. Their age, things that interest them, how the person is, and so on. Always consider your reader when writing as well.
What age group are you targeting? Where do they live? What genre are you slipping into?
Novel Writing Tips for Beginners: Read Books Similar to your Genre
Read, read, and read! Sure, you get more ideas with reading as mentioned in my post on writing tips. But to write a novel, read other books to see if your plot is already out there. See if you can modify your plot to make it better. See what your readers in the genre love, what they’d find a great ending, patterns of the character’s dialogues, and so on.
It’s essential especially if you’re picking up a new genre for the first time – be it fantasy, romance, crime, or dystopian fiction.
7 Novel Writing Tips for Beginners
Writing is easy, but getting your novel published is something else. There are going to be tons of mistakes when you begin. No one can be Stephen King on their first day. Here are some novel writing tips, beginner author tips to be precise when going for your first book.
- Begin with suspense to hook your readers. There’s no right way to begin the first chapter of your novel. But to hook a reader, here’s my advice:
- For a mystery novel,- add suspense in the beginning. Give away just enough to keep the reader curious.
- For horror, portray a snippet of your story, a part that’s disturbing yet doesn’t give away everything.
- For historical fiction, my personal favorite is Dan Brown where it begins with ‘All organizations mentioned in this book are real‘.
- Describe the locations and time periods of characters. Unless you’re writing plays, this is more significant for fantasy novel writing where worldbuilding is a major element in the novel. Be it for beginning your fantasy book series or a standalone piece, plan out the fiction world to detail. The rules of your imaginary world, time period, how technologically advanced is it, features of the characters’ race/community, and so on.
- Stick to one writing style. Like I’ve said on my plot twist building, readers are more intelligent than you think. Stick to one writing style every time you sit down to write. Your readers will sniff out when you’re not consistent with words. You’ll see it yourself when you go for self-editing.
- Build a routine to write every day. Aids with the previous point in maintaining consistency in your words. Even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, this brings routine to your activities and helps you finish your book with an order.
- Start writing! Most people wish to write a novel, some have plot ideas for them, a fewer even make outlines of the novel’s acts, locations, and characters. But only a selected few of them ever begin. I’ve done this myself. So start writing before you doubt yourself!
- Take Feedback from a Reader. Have a close friend who’s willing to be a tough critique on your piece? Go for it! That’s a luxury to most writers. Take feedback on the plot holes, paragraphs where the writing itself could’ve been better. Welcome all kinds of critiques with an open mind, after all, it’s your first book.
- Edit your novel drafts. Similar to editing a short story, if you’re publishing your novel, it’s bound to go through numerous edits and checks. Do your own round of edits to your work. Make sure the tiny bits like grammar and spelling are in order. Reread and improvise wherever possible with better sentence formations. There’ll always be room for embellishing your work.
More on Novels: Genres/Types of Novel Writing
To broadly categorize, the types of novel writing are literary fiction and commercial/mainstream fiction. Writers whose goal is inclined to art go for literary fiction as selling their book isn’t their first priority. But most authors, experienced or beginners, hit off with commercial fiction as it’s pertinent for common readers and not just literary enthusiasts.
Moreover, commercial fiction is vast with its subcategories of romance, thriller, historical, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi novels, horror, and even speculative fiction. And how about the YA fiction (Young Adult)? There’s no limit to ingenuity here.
Some articles also suggest commercial fiction and mainstream fiction are two separate classes where commercial stories include one-offs while mainstream fiction refers to works of authors we often hear in this generation – authors whose books stay mainstream throughout the world. Some great examples are JK Rowling for Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer for Twilight, Dan Brown for his crazy thriller series on various powerful secret organizations, and so on.
More Articles to Read:
- Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Short Stories
- How to Convert a Story into a Play Like a Pro
- The Secret to Ending a Story the Right Way
Is Writing a Novel Worth It?
From a commercial perspective, it’s tough to say. There are plenty of writers who’ve made a living just writing novels. There are more than plenty who’ve never written novels and yet work on book reviews, children’s books, works closer to it, and still make money. Being a professional novelist is a good career for sure. But for a beginner, it’s best to start small.
Getting a novel published for a first-timer isn’t a bit easy. Even if you succeed in publishing, there’s no guarantee you’ll make a good return for the time you’ve invested in it. And to a beginner, when your book is rejected by several publishers, it can be devastating after the months (or years) you invested.
So is writing a novel worth it? Absolutely, yes! But here’s how I’d go about it. Whatever profession you’re currently in, do well with it. If you’re a writer writing for newspapers, a blog, comic books, or a magazine column, stay and give it your best. When you have that seed in your mind, an idea, begin to jot it down, write your first novel draft side-by-side.
That way, your novel isn’t the only thing on your mind, it’s an in-progress hobby.
How Long Should a Novel Be?
A blunt blurt out for a novel’s length is 40,000+ words. Anything shorter falls under novellas or short stories. But some writers argue that a novel should have at least 50,000 words. Anything longer than over 110,000 words is less of fiction and can fall under non-fiction books, be it travel memoirs or self-help books.
But novel writing tips for beginners as we know it isn’t limited to traditional word-form scripts. We have graphic novels as well where it’s considered a novel over a certain number of pages or a minimum of 20,000 words.
Say you decide on crafting a series of flash fiction stories for your novel, that’s a whole different world altogether.
Highlight: Are 20,000 words enough for writing a novel? No, 20,000 words aren’t enough for a traditional novel. But it suffices for a graphic novel which can be anywhere between 20,000 to 75,000 words or at least 64 pages as CJ points out.
Best Apps for Novel Writing
Novel Writing tips for Beginners – Whether one writes on actual sheets with a dustbin beside to discard bad drafts, uses MS Word, or an online tool, anything works as long as it proves to be efficient. What’s the point of having the ‘best writing tool’ out there only to find yourself uncomfortable with it.
There’s no ‘best’ when it comes to writing tools. But as a blogger and writer, the top 3 tools I use for writing are Google Docs, Medium, and Grammarly.
- Google Docs: Helps with the complete draft-up of the story with all its features similar to MS word such as heading choices, highlights, colors, underlines, and so on.
- Medium: When you write a story on Medium, you’ll see why it’s so addictive. It’s completely distraction-free and lets your idea flow through your words.
- Grammarly: No, I don’t use the editor app of Grammarly. I make use of its plugin to edit punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes on all my pieces. It helps in my first round of editing.
Novel Writing Tips for Beginners: Conclusion
If not all, this sums up most of the aspects of novel writing tips for beginners. This should give one a clear idea of what to choose before beginning, where to begin, and how to go along with the writing. The idea of writing a book looms before one like nothing short of an edifice. But finishing one is fairly fruitful.
Hope this post on novel writing tips for beginners helped you out. All the best on writing! :)
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