So you’re ready to write your first novel. Great! Now what?
As a writer, you may have a great idea for your next story living in your mind. However, when it comes time to put pen to paper, you end up staring at a blank page for hours on end. Writer’s block is real.
But fret not. This is something almost every writer deals with at some point in their creative career. Take a breath, clear the clutter in your brain, and make a plan to get started. Here are a few of the strategies we have learned while writing our novels.
1. Build a connection with your characters
An almost-universal commonality amongst the world’s novels is the reliance on strong, developed characters. These figures are central to your story and drive the plot from beginning to end. One of the biggest missteps you as a writer can make is not taking the time to flesh out your cast of characters at the beginning of the writing process.
Take the time to get to know your main characters intimately. Develop their backstory, make a list of their defining personality traits, write down their goals and dreams. By creating a foundation for your characters, you will have a North Star to guide your writing and help you better understand how your characters will react to the situations you set up. As a result, your novel will contain rich, complex characters to draw in readers and keep them engaged in the plot.
2. Determine your story’s point-of-view
This may seem like a given but deciding who is telling your story is critical in writing a compelling novel. The narrator of your story is pivotal in determining how the reader understands the plot and how they relate to your characters.
You can go with a first-person POV to allow readers to dive deep into the central character’s thoughts and feelings. A third-person POV offers a chance to provide a bird’s-eye view of the action. If you want to get a little more interesting, try implementing an unreliable narrator to make your reader guess if what they are reading is even true or not. Whatever you decide, make sure it complements the plot of your novel and stick to it throughout the writing process.
3. Figure out the main conflict
Any good novel centers around some kind of conflict. In some cases, this conflict is internal — the character faces struggles within themselves that they must overcome during the course of the novel. In others, the conflict is external and sees your main protagonist taking on outside forces, or maybe a spandex-clad villain, in their quest. Either way, take the time to define your main conflict and use it as the main tool for plotting your novel.
4. Don’t forget your setting
In the midst of fleshing out your characters and plotting the story of your novel, it can be easy to pick your setting without giving it much thought. Big mistake.
The setting is where the characters live, and, as such, will influence what they see, feel, and do. Start by deciding on a location. Is it a city? An imaginary land? Somewhere in space? When you have this question answered, decide what time period your novel takes place in. Colonial America, Victorian England, modern-day New York City, or maybe a dystopian future. The options truly are endless.
It is also important to decide the timeframe of your story — two days, four months, five years, etc. Knowing how much time you have to work with will help determine how fast or slow to move the story along, and you will be able to carefully plot your characters’ development as well.
5. Create a timeline for yourself
Alright, you’ve done all of the steps above and you’re ready to start writing, But, wait. There is one more thing you should: map out a timeline for yourself.
Without even a loose timeline, it can be easy to lose track of where you are at in the writing process. Start by setting a deadline for when you will have your story idea, characters, setting, and plot decided upon. Then, set a word count goal for each day that works with your schedule, whether it be 500 or 2,000 words. And give yourself a deadline for when you’d ideally have your first draft done.
After your draft is done, set goals or deadlines for your revision process. Do you want to review one chapter a day? Or do you want to set aside two weeks for editing? It’s up to you, but having a timeline in place will make sure you keep the process moving and your novel doesn’t get stuck in literary limbo.
The writing process is difficult. As writers, we can all agree there are a lot of moving parts in creating a novel, and it can be hard to keep up and stay motivated. But implementing a strategy from the beginning using the tips outlined above can set you up for success. Writing a novel is hard work, but you can do it with a little planning and a lot of creativity!
Want some input on your first novel? Or are you ready to publish your work? Send us a message.