Ten Tips for Writing a Novel
I’ve written a novel. I’ve actually written three, one of which is currently being crowdfunded at Unbound!
I wrote my first novel when I was 16, and whilst it will never be published – it’s pretty cheesy – it’s over 300 pages (TNR, 12pt) and I completed it within two years. I wrote my second novel when I was 18. This one does have a chance – if I edit it heavily!
But my third novel: My Mr Keats, was completed when I was twenty years old, written within 6 months, and received a lot of praise. And, like I said, is currently being crowdfunded!
So today, whilst I may not be a published novelist (yet, hopefully) I have had short stories and poetry published, and completed three full-length novels. As such, I want to help you write yours!
To write that all important novel which is rattling around in your head, and I know you can finish, I offer these ten tips!
Write where you’re calmest
A slightly ‘meditative’ tip. Don’t write where you feel you should, like your desk or a coffee shop. Write where you are calmest and can concentrate best. For me, this was in libraries and on trains. I find that both are usually fairly quiet, with a lot less distractions. The library is great for when I need more information on a topic, but want to avoid the internet! And trains, for me, are great sources of imagination, as my mind wanders. You might find that your calm spot is the garden or at school. Write wherever you feel able to concentrate!
When suffering from Writers Block (inevitable, I’m afraid) go for a Walk!
It doesn’t matter if you just walk up and down your street, take the dog for a walk or just go and buy some milk. Get out of your house, or wherever you’re writing, and just walk. Plug your earphones in, or listen to an audiobook. Simply walk. There are no rules to what you do, but get away from your writing for at least 15 minutes and just think and relax.
Close all Social Media
Sometimes it is inevitable that we are going to be on our computers, and turning off the internet is just not logical or worth it. But whatever you do: do not open social media tabs! I occasionally needed to research things and so would use google, but if my twitter was open I would end up scrolling. Same with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and all the rest! Use the internet if you need it! But leave the social media off!
Don’t read back your work more than a few sentences!
When you’re in writing mode, you may think you want to read the chapter through one last time before you move onto the next. Don’t! You’ll be distracted by a spelling mistake, or a sentence not flowing, a change in pace or a character error. You won’t move on, you’ll lose your writing energy and come back to the next chapter thinking: ‘what happens next’. Just write. You will have loads of time to edit when it is written! But write it first!
Don’t skip ahead
I remember when I was 16 and writing my first novel that I had about 15 different scenes really vividly pictured in my mind. But getting from scene to scene was unplanned. On one occasion I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to write the first kiss scene! Before the two characters had even become friends. So I wrote it…I couldn’t pick up my pen to write the in-between chapters for weeks! It was frustrating! They were too short or too long, too simple or too extravagant! The first kiss happened earlier, or the build-up wasn’t enough! You see the issue…sometimes the scenes you see so vividly in your mind won’t work unless you write the sequence of events up to it! However excited you are to write that scene, wait until you’ve written up its natural point before writing it! Otherwise, you’ll burn out!
Workshop, if you can
This is a tip that I would recommend to most writers, although I understand that some won’t find it useful. If you can, find a group of writers – no bigger than 6 of you – to workshop your writing with! Maybe a twitter group, or a group of friends. Even a Facebook group. Set yourself a deadline, i.e. one week, to write the next 500-1000 words of your story. Share them with each other and then critique them. It sounds terrifying, but it really isn’t. For the most part it is confidence-boosting, as well as a quick and easier way to find those plot holes and grammar issues you missed!
Keep track of what your characters names are & what they look life
I suggest having a notebook from the beginning of your story with the basic details of your characters: names, age, hair colour, build and accent. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll find that you’ve written your tall, dark and handsome main man as a skinny, short, blonde with buck teeth and a Scottish accent. You can go over this throughout editing, but envision your characters to begin with and keep notes to make your life easier!
Try not to mention secondary characters that never appear!
Guilty as charged. Try not to mention the school friends from ten years ago, or the brother that’s fighting in the war, or the friends and relatives that you never meet. If they are imperative to the story, then by all means. But if they’re fleeting stories which characters mention don’t bother. You’re better off telling stories of events or pets, then secondary characters. They take up word count at the end of the day and don’t progress stories much.
Do not judge your writing by your word count or page numbers
There is no point thinking to yourself that you must write 1000 words a day – you won’t. You’ll write as many as you’re able. I hate the idea of having to write a certain number as you’ll either force yourself (which makes the process less enjoyable) or you’ll forcibly stop yourself and you’ll lose the energy. You will know when your book is finished. Be it at 100 pages or after 1000. You can edit once it is written, never aim to only write a certain amount! Most of the time it has to be cut or shaped anyway!
You’re writing a novel! It is meant to be enjoyable. Nobody writes a novel because they think they should. Don’t worry about the genre or the latest trends in publishing, write for you. Write the story that you want to tell! Don’t add characters because your mate asks you to, or write a story based on what your mother thinks you should. When you have an idea write it only for you. Until your novel is published it is only for you.
Those are my Top Ten Tips for writing a novel! Let me know how your story-writing is going! I’d love to hear about your latest projects and I’m always around to offer creative writing advice should you need it!
Please check out my novel on my Unbound page and pledge where you can – pledges start from just £1 and it really means the world when someone pledges and helps me on my way to getting my novel published!