How to Write a Novel – 5 Essential Tips

Bookmark and Share

Making It Happen

Making It Happen

This article is by Neil Olmedo.

Everyone has a story to tell.  Most people have the dream of writing a novel, but few actually make this dream a reality.  Here are five essential tips for anyone who wishes to write a novel.

1. Write

The first rule is really very simple: just start writing.  You can dream of becoming an author, but you’ll never succeed at it until you actually sit down and start writing.

Set aside some time to write every day.  Depending on how serious you are about following your dream, this time could be as little as ten minutes or as much as an hour.  Whatever you decide, stick to it, and write for the whole time.

If you’re struggling with using your time, try free writing.  During your free writing session, set a timer for five minutes.  Then, until the timer goes off, write furiously.  You aren’t allowed to go back and edit, and you’re not allowed to stop.  You can write things that will apply to your novel, and you can also write random things that come into your mind.  Sometimes you’ll just be writing nonsense, but that’s fine.  At least you’re writing something.

Free writing can be a good way of kick-starting the creative process.  By forcing yourself to write continuously and quickly, this exercise can help you to lower your inhibitions and stop over-editing yourself.

2. Read

The quality of your writing will depend to a large extent on your reading.  Reading other writers’ work will give you ideas, and it will give you experience with using your imagination.  The best writers are good readers too.

You will definitely want to read a lot in the genre that you hope to write in.  If you want to write a fantasy novel, read fantasy.  If you want to write a mystery, read mystery.  However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to reading just one specific style.  Reading a variety of authors and styles will give you depth.  Spend time with different genres, and see what you like and dislike about what you read.  If you’re really serious about improving yourself, read the classics too.  Shakespeare, Milton and Dante all have lessons for modern-day writers.

3. Daydream

Daydreaming about your story can help you to write it.  If you think about your writing when you’re not actually sitting at your desk, your story will develop more complexity and depth.  Daydreaming can also help you to stay interested in what you’re writing.  If you want your created world to be a place that others will want to visit, make sure it’s a place where you’d like to be.

When you have free time, ask yourself questions about your novel.  Explore and develop the world it takes place in.  Think about the interactions and relationships between your characters.  Relive some of the best moments in your story, and really enjoy them.  Then ask yourself how you can make these moments even better.

4. Interact

When learning how to write, it’s imperative that you interact and share with other writers.

Some writers do this by joining writing groups.  Others participate in online writing forums, such as the one here at Mythic Scribes.  For myself, I found it helpful to take a creative writing class.

Creative writing classes aren’t for everybody, and they tend to be a bit of a mixed bag for aspiring novelists.  The majority of creative writing classes aren’t geared toward writing novels.  Instead, they tend to focus on short stories, poetry and personal essays.  However, many of the skills learned in a class can be applied to novel writing.

Your creative writing teacher may also have different priorities than you, and this could lead to conflict.  If you’re interested in writing fantasy novels, but your teacher only writes gritty, modernist flash fiction, prepare for a clash.

One thing that creative writing classes are good for, though, is making you write.  It’s amazing how much easier it can be to conquer writer’s block when you have assignments, deadlines and grades.

5. Rewrite

Rewriting is an extremely important step in producing a quality novel.  Although rewriting and editing too much at the beginning can cause you to lose momentum, you should know that it will be very necessary as time goes on.

No matter how talented you are, you will need to write multiple drafts of your book before it’s ready for publication.  Learn to think of your writing as a work in progress, and try not to let your ego get wrapped up in it.  If you know ahead of time that you’ll need to rewrite, you won’t be disappointed when editing time comes.

Your Tips

Which writing tips have proved most helpful to you?  If you’ve encountered any useful writing tips, please share them with us here.

For further insight, check out The RPG Experience to Writing a Novel.

To have future articles delivered to you, subscribe to our weekly newsletter or to our RSS feed. To respond to this article, leave a comment below.

Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author whose details are mentioned above. Are you interested in writing for Mythic Scribes? If so, please check out our submission guidelines.

More Posts

9 comments
Deb Stevens
Deb Stevens

I'm tinkering with a blog at Kicking Corners about my process of writing a novel, and I have found that all these things you say are true...I just want to add to a couple of your points: If you daydream it will make your writing that much faster, when you're actually able to sit down and do it. This has been essential for me, and I love that you included it in your top 5 tips. Awesome. I'm finding that blogging is a great way to interact, though that goes hand-in-hand with getting yourself out there to interact with other bloggers. This is somewhat time consuming, but it's worthwhile. dbstevens, kickingcorners.blogspot.com

Someone Random
Someone Random

I'm a constant daydreamer, though, I am also very absent minded. If I could focus, I would write a novel or at least start on one. Also, how do you get your writing consistent? I find one day I can write pages and pages, some of it actually half decent =P. But others I can't write a sentence! Is it just something that comes with experience, or is there a secret? Good list, by the way.

Rahi
Rahi

yeah..daydreaming is what all about I do. Going on with my stuff but  sometime it become too hard for me to locate the words for describing characters..

Keith
Keith

I think it was Browning who said, "It takes life to love life." He was so right. It takes living life to write about life. So live your life. Then write. Just live and write over and over again.

Steve Redmond
Steve Redmond

Your advice about writing to get get better even if you aren't writing anything in particular is great. Most aspiring authors think that they can just sit down and write a novel from beginning to end right away. This is not usually the case however. I free write constantly and while some of those "stories" may eventually work their way into my novel(s) most of them will just be practice.

Kirk
Kirk

Very helpful stuff.  I have had this idea for a novel in my head for years and am just now beginning to bring it to life on paper.  How do you keep focus, with a life that requires a lot of time elsewhere?

John M. Haley
John M. Haley

I'm finally following ALL of this advice--most notably, 4 & 5. I'm rewriting my first novel as a collaborative work with another Mythic Scribes member. It's being written as a series of short stories, and it's a mix of new and old content. Hopefully, we're cutting fluff without adding fluff. As for 2 & 3, I've been doing that all of my life. Reading is one of the few ways I can stop the daydreaming. 1 complements 3. @8f665f114170e885008de7f8bb0b0ff9:disqus, here's what I do. See if this work for you: (1) Plan out your first chapter. A plan can be as simple as beginning, end, middle. (I like to know how my chapter ends before filling in a main idea for the middle.) (2) Write that first scene, and make it the best scene in your story. If you love it, move onto the next scene and make THAT scene the best scene in your story. Think of every scene as part of the journey. You want to savor each part of the journey, not rush to the destination. (3) Once you finish that first chapter or first 10,000 words or reach a milestone of your choosing, find a reader. Friends are supportive. Total strangers (on forums, for example) are objective. Work with both. Also, on feedback: you should only thank people for feedback. Don't argue and don't promise to follow their suggestions. You are the author. You choose to take, consider or ignore advice; you're not obligated to communicate that choice.

Deb Stevens
Deb Stevens

This is all really great advice. Thanks for walking us through some of the things that work for you. dbstevens, kickingcorners.blogspot.com

Aderyn Wood
Aderyn Wood

I LOVED how you mentioned daydreaming.  After decades of being a daydreamer, I finally realized I was dreaming stories.  Yes, this is the way to think of and fine-tune stories.  I liked your tips and I agree.

Blog  |  Forums  |  About  |  Sitemap  |  Privacy Policy