I’ve been getting asked how I write my novels, so I thought it would make a great blog post. If you’ve been wondering how to write a novel from start to finish or you want to learn how to write your first novel then I hope this post will help.
If you’re a reader and wondering how writers write their novels then I’m sure you will find some keen insights here that will give you a greater appreciation for the journey and work involved in writing a book to get published.
There are really only 3 steps to writing a novel that you need to know. In fact this is how any novelist writes any novel. Ready? Go get something to eat and drink ‘cos this is gonna be a long and bumpy ride. Here we go:
1. Put bum in chair.
2. Write words on paper or on computer.
3. Stop when you have written at least 60,000 words.
Easy isn’t it!
Okay, I’m joking a little bit. But in reality, there isn’t much more to it other than that other than details and nuance. Let’s explore some of the details when writing a novel for publication.
1. What’s it about?
Before you even start out on your destination you need to have an idea about where you are going. Learning how to write a book is very much like going on a marathon run. You need to know where you are going.
As far as the novel is concerned, your destination is the completion of that novel but the journey begins by knowing what your book is going to be all about.
The first tips for writing a novel is to first write a synopsis or outline for what you novel is going to be about. You need to know how to write a novel synopsis. What is a novel synopsis? It is basically a few paragraphs to a few pages of the summary of your story.
Perhaps I will write a post dedicated to writing a novel outline at some point as it deserves a post on it’s own. But suffice it to say, you need to have the kernel or germ of your book’s idea in your head before you can start writing it.
Many writers don’t write a synopsis but I have found it helpful if not crucial especially for any novel in a genre that is dependant on story and plot more than character development.
2. Know your protagonists and antagonists
Your protagonist or in some cases your protagonists are the heroes of your novel or the good guys and gals. The antagonists are the villains or the characters working against or trying to undermine you heroes.
For example. In my novel Dust on His Soul, the protagonist is Stephen Bankulu and the main antagonist is Willem the prison guard.
You have to know how to write great characters for your novel in order for it to be successful as the reader wants not only to like or even dislike your character depending on their role, but they want to believe that the character is real, or could be a real person.
So if you want to learn how not to write a novel the best thing you could do is to make shallow unlikeable characters across the board. That is how important your character is to readers enjoying your novel overall. A crappy character will generally make for a crappy novel and vice a versa.
3. Sit and sweat and toil
The biggest problem in learning how to write a fiction novel is most often the novelist herself. We are all our own worse critic. You have to get over that.
I have found the best method for writing a novel from start to finish is discipline and toil. I sit in my chair and write until I have written 1,000 words for the day. You could use time instead if you wanted. You could sit and write your novel or ebook for one hour each day.
However, I have found that my discipline is best when I have a certain number of words to write rather than time. I’m a great procrastinator and I can easily daydream through a half hour and get only 400 or 500 words written in an hour if I just go with time instead of a word count as my task master.
The time for editing comes after the fact, not during. You will handicap yourself if you keep trying to tweak and edit your novel as you go.
If you want to learn how to write a good novel then you will need to write the complete first draft before you even think about going back to edit and polish the words.
4. Spit and polish and shine in time
You have now written your novel, congratulations. But this is now about how to write a novel in 30 days or even 100 days for that matter. We are more interested in how to write a bestselling novel and that takes time.
So as a rule, once I have finished writing the last word on my novel I let it rest for at least 1 month. I prefer to give it 3 to 6 months if I can. What I mean by this, is that I lock the manuscript in a drawer and don’t look at it for a while.
This is important because you’re trying to give yourself some distance from the work. When you come back to it your eyes will be fresh and you will be better at seeing glaring as well as less obvious errors in your writing.
I then edit my novel and then once I’m satisfied with my first edit I give it to 2 or 3 close friends and allies to tear apart.
After that I go over their edits and add my own as I see fit for a second time. I then send it off to a professional proofreader and editor for a spit shine. At this point I’m now pretty much ready to publish the novel and collect my 6 figure pay checks! LOL, if I’m lucky
I hope these tips on how to write a novel have been helpful. Remember that you need to start with a story and then have a good idea of who the main players or characters are in your short novel of tome whatever the case may be.
Then it all comes down to putting in the sweat equity, being persistent and patience as you write daily for months until your novel is finished. You’re only about halfway through writing your book at this stage. Now you’ve got to get it polished. And then voila, you have a fancy, brand spanking new novel that will earn you millions of dollars for years to come… or so we can dream