How to succeed in writing a novel

How to write a novel

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Deciding to produce your first novel is a brave choice, one that you’ve surely agonised over for quite some time. You’ve probably analysed its realistic potential for success multiple times and have spent hours tossing and turning in bed each night brainstorming potential plot ideas for your first book. Beginning the process can seem like a daunting task but this article is dedicated to helping you put your pen to paper and will send you on your way to creating your own literary masterpiece.

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How to write a novel

Planning
Planning your novel’s first draft is probably the most important step you’ll need to take. Here you can calibrate all of the character details you have in mind, map out the direction of the plot and generally give yourself a set of crucial moments throughout your novel so that you don’t end up writing purely to fill the pages. This step ensures that any plot holes are filled and that your ideas run coherently and with overall purpose. A lot of writers find that deciding on the ending first (a bit of an oxymoron there, I know!) helps them to gravitate the entire novel towards that final scene and allows them to decide on their characters’ fate before they develop too much of an attachment to them. You may not stick entirely to your plan but planning pushes you onto that first step which will eventually grow into hundreds of pages worth of creative material.

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First draft
Writing your first draft will at times be the bane of your life. It will also become one of the most precious things you’ll ever own. Creating version number one of your novel is tough and there are likely to be times where you start to hate every single word you commit to the page. If so, it’s often useful to take a few days away from it once you feel your inspiration is starting to dwindle. It’s also really important to find a workspace that suits you. JK Rowling became just as famous for writing her ridiculously popular Potter books in an Edinburgh café as she did for the magical content found in her novels. Follow her lead and find somewhere that offers you a suitable space to work in away from too many distractions. Whether this in your own home, a library or even at the beach make sure that it works for you. To create a successful first draft, just write. This sounds obvious but now you’ve worked out your plan and you have your characters and plot loosely set, you need to get it all onto paper. Don’t worry about using boring words or reworking parts you’ve already written, focus on building up your word count and think about making it perfect later.

Editing
Once you reach this point you’re ready to start shaping your first draft into an actual novel. It’s important that you read your draft from start to finish to gain an idea of all of the changes you feel you have to make. At this stage you may want to take notes of all the incoherencies- incomplete character arcs, laboured dialogue or events that don’t run smoothly throughout the novel. Whilst reading, a complete spelling and grammar check is needed and you need to be happy with the order in which your scenes run within the draft. Once you’re happy at this point, a second read is probably necessary in order to remove scenes that you feel don’t work, add new ones in and refine your characters and the role they play in your story. Here you can work on the language and style of your writing, making edits so that the tone of your novel reflects the story’s content. It’s fundamental that you’re satisfied with the plot details and if not, don’t be afraid to re-write certain parts. Distribute your edited drafts to close family and friends in order to get their constructive feedback and opinions on any final changes you need to make. This process should be repeated until you feel you have a novel ready to be taken to a publisher.

Find an agent and start the publishing process
Here is when reality really starts to hit- your novel is ready for publication and could soon be read by an audience other than your family and friends. But to make this happen you need to find an agent. This is important as their expert knowledge of the publishing world could really help you target your novel towards the most suitable publishing houses and could make success much more likely. www.agentquery.com is a useful search tool to finding the agent who’s right for you and allows you to browse the agents who work within the same genre as your own novel. Create a query letter stating all of the key details about your novel (title, genre etc.) with a short synopsis and send it out to the specific agents that you wish to work with. In the meantime, you can start to contact small publishing houses directly. Do your research and find which ones publish work in the same category as yours, sending out your query letters to see if a deal can be drawn up between you.

It’s useful to note that you can publish your novel independently on Amazon either on Kindle or as a paperback book without the need for a publisher or an agent. Although tough, if you advertise and network yourself effectively you can move up the popularity rankings and make your novel available for purchase whilst you’re seeking an agent and publisher.
If you’re serious about writing your own novel then give it a go. Find a time to work around your daily schedule and see if it works for you. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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