How to Write a Novel

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1. Set aside proper, regular time to write

If you’re serious about doing this, show yourself and your writing some respect, figure out some regular time to do it, and then stick to that. Writing a book is both amazing and also, at times, a difficult slog. It’ll completely fall away if you don’t keep it up. It’s hard to hold your novel in your head, so that you can get down to work quickly and easily – if you leave long gaps between writing sessions and work erratically, you’ll be giving yourself a big uphill struggle and you’re much more likely to give up.

Many students and adults who want to start writing novels like to play in online casinos. After all, this is not the only thing that helps them to distract themselves after long sessions in writing courses. Whether they’re playing for money or just for fun, students learning to write short stories enjoy playing at the online casinos that accept paypal. This is because they like the casino atmosphere and winning.

What ‘regular writing time’ actually IS varies from person to person. It could be the famous dawn session that many people wake up to each day; it might mean grabbing an hour to write every afternoon while your baby sleeps, or taking your laptop or notebook on your train journeys to and from work. Perhaps you can manage three hours on a Sunday afternoon but not during the week at all.

For some people, shortage of time is not a problem – but instead the challenge is to create structure in your time and find your focus. Here too, my tip would be to establish a workable and productive routine. Don’t expect yourself to be able to write all day every day – this can be very daunting. Instead decide on designated shorter time slots for your writing – you’ll probably find you can achieve more that way.

In general, my tip is to regularise your writing hours as far as you can – stick to the schedule and make sure others around you understand that it’s important for you to be able to do this.

2. Establish the Setting

Ian McEwan’s chilling novella, The Comfort of Strangers, derives much of its tension from the setting of Venice — the convoluted streets and hidden alleys are essential to the feeling of disorientation that leads to the protagonist’s undoing. When I began writing THE YEAR OF FOG, I knew it could happen only one place: San Francisco. And I knew the story of a child disappearing into the fog must begin on Ocean Beach, where the summer fog is so dense, you can see only a few feet in front of you. I’ve since published several more novels set in San Francisco. The moment I set foot in San Francisco twenty years ago, I found my muse.

What location is your muse? What place do you know so intimately, you can describe it like no one else? Setting may be simply backdrop, or it may rise almost to the level of a character in the book — as in Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides and James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, and one of my favorites, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

When you consider the setting of your novel, be as specific as possible. If it begins in a city, what part of the city? What street? What building? Why does the story happen here? How does the place define and challenge the characters?

3. Consider the Point of View

Who is telling the story, from what distance? Do you have a first person narrator at the center of the action, an omniscient narrator who can access the thoughts of any character at any time, a limited third person narration that sticks closely to one character? Do you have multiple narrators telling the story from different angles?

In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the seemingly cold-hearted protagonist Mersault nonetheless engages the reader’s empathy because the first-person narration invites the reader into Mersault’s anxious mind. We understand his motivations from his own point of view, and actions that might otherwise seem reprehensible begin to make sense.

I write novels in first person, because I love the intimacy. First person is the point of view that allows you to most deeply inhabit the protagonist’s voice. When I settle in for the long haul of a novel, first person just feels more natural. When writing short stories, however, I often write in the limited third person, which provides a different kind of stylistic freedom.

How to write your second novel

I am waiting for my visa to be approved, weeks after I am supposed to have travelled to the UK for the paperback launch of my debut novel, Lightseekers. According to the Home Office, the Ukranian war has made processing refugees priority over visa approvals for visitors. Again, a global crisis which I have no control over has upended what should be a momentous occasion in any writer’s life.

There is a thrill that comes with being a debut author that my dear friend, Oyinkan Braithwaite (My sister, the serial killer) says should be bottled and sold in exclusive stores. It would be an instant bestseller. It is a heady feeling. You hold an advance copy in your hand, smell the pages, flip through the text, and for the longest time, you are convinced this is not your creation. You’re not holding years of sweat and blood in your hands; this is literally a miracle in print. I have spoken with writers who cried on receiving advance copies of their debut books. Some have plunged into depression as they search for their next. I know of writers who collapsed from exhaustion on seeing their work in print. Others have been so motivated by the entire process that they start the next book hours after holding their published first.

For me, it was a combination of all the above and more. Talk to writers who had their books published during the pandemic and most will confess that it was a surreal experience. No tours, no signings, no interaction with readers. None of the excitement that align with your dreams of hobnobbing with the literary glitterati. Interviews, launches and festival panels were all virtual, so it’s no wonder I felt disoriented. As if all these was happening to someone else and I was playing to a script written by a dystopian writer with a perverse sense of humour. Don’t get me wrong. It was a hell of a ride, and I applaud everyone who refused to be daunted by the challenges of the pandemic. The show went on, and with quite a number of successes too. Living in Namibia, I was always realistic about the chances of my being in the different countries where Lightseekers was supposed to be published. But I never anticipated how disconnected I would be from the whole process due to the Covid crisis.

It robbed us of a lot, this Covid. Lives, careers, businesses, human connections and more. As a debut author, it robbed me of the total experience of appreciating all the hard work my agent, publisher and publicist put in place for a successful book launch. The emails of reviews, pdf-ed or screenshot, or sent as a link were not the same as holding the newspaper in your hands or actually engaging an interviewer in a conversation rather than an exchange punctuated by the muting and unmuting microphones! Three months into this, I was all zoomed out. But the thrill of holding those advance copies had not waned. The feeling pushes you to keep going on these virtual tours, while yearning for a stronger connection with your readers. I craved the readers’ validation like a toddler who just drew their first stickman. Mum! Daddy! Look what I drawed!

Let me tell you; be strong. Be very strong when you venture on to this platform. I was warned by other writers who didn’t heed this warning at their emotional peril. There is a special kind of trauma awaiting the insecure writer who is naïve enough to think they can handle all kinds of feedback; negative, positive or lukewarm and recklessly venture into the abyss that is Goodreads.

It all started innocently enough. The early reviews were not bad save for a few rather caustic ones. You can tell the ones who didn’t give the book more than a cursory chance, or the ones who didn’t appreciate the subject matter or the setting, or the ones I can bet my Macbook on who did not read the book. At all. At least not the version I wrote. But Lawd, the misinterpretations, the assumptions and the rain of abuse on my main character was unexpected. All of these would have been okay if the readers refrained from assuming something I never expected: That every character’s choice in the novel was mine, the author. That freaked me out. I recall one reader calling me misogynistic because a male character expressed his helplessness about understanding women.

It was then I made my next grave mistake. I started engaging with the readers. I would click ‘like’ on their comments (I cannot call them ‘reviews’, sorry). I would answer questions about certain aspects of the book, and invite dialogue about misconceptions. I thought I was in a safe place. After all, these were people that loved reading. Boy, was I wrong! Lightseekers made 9 Book of the Month lists and yet, I was reduced to a pathetic, babbling idiot on Goodreads. My need for connecting with the reader became toxic. I clicked on the app with trepidation. Fear was now my overriding emotion when I read the readers’ comments.

How to Write a Novel

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How to Write a Novel

Writing a novel is like building a house: no matter how much planning and work you put into it, there is always more work you can do. No novel is perfect, and the effort required to build believable worlds, complex characters, and an entertaining plot that explores nuanced themes is certainly overwhelming. If you’re here, you’re probably wondering how you can fit all of these requirements into 300-odd pages. It’s a question many writers ask at one point: how to write a novel?

Whether you find yourself nervous to start writing a novel for the first time, or whether you’re intrigued by the novel form but don’t know where to begin, this article will help ground you in how to write a novel. In truth, there’s no single, one-size-fits-all novel writing roadmap, but use these ideas as a diving board and you will soon swim through the writing process.

Ready to learn how to write a novel? Let’s dive into the novel form, the elements that make a novel come to life, and some other novel writing tips to make your project successful.

How to Write a Novel that Gets Read [In 15 Steps]

How to Write a Novel that Gets Read [In 15 Steps]

Following these steps will make sure you don’t forget anything. They will help you with each part of the process. In addition to this, using a template will help you plan and organize them even better:

novel writing template

A novel-writing template gives you a road map of the entire process so you don’t get lost or overwhelmed. Writing a novel is still hard work, but it keeps the story on track and moving forward. Now let’s jump into the entire process of writing a novel.

Is it Hard to Write a Novel?

It requires a lot of struggle, including brainstorming ideas, planning, actually writing the story, and staying up all night fixing plot holes. It’s cumbersome to resist yourself from going off-track and a grueling job to mesh your ideas together to maintain your story’s fluency.

1. Settle on an Idea

If you’re reading up on how to write a novel, chances are you already have a story idea in mind. Make sure it is an idea you love and can get excited about. Make sure it is an idea that can be fleshed out enough to be a whole novel.

Write something that your readers will want more of. Create a storyline they have never read before. If you’re stumped on what to write, try using this writing prompt generator. It’s a simple but useful way to spark some creativity if you’re struggling with writer’s block.

2. Create Space

If you don’t already have a desk, get one that you are comfortable with that has lots of space. Having an office to yourself will give you a quiet, personal space to do productive work. You can decorate the walls with art, pictures, quotes – anything that brings you peace and inspiration.

If you aren’t able to set up an office for yourself, that’s okay. Find a quiet space for your desk to go, and make it as personalized as possible. Ensure you have room for all your tools and essentials.

3. Find Your Tools

Next, you need to decide what you are going to use to actually write the book. Many will default to Microsoft Word, but this is not your best option. Word has its benefits, but at the end of the day, it is clunky, linear, and not ideal for writing anything longer.

For a complex and comprehensive fiction writing software, you can check out Scrivener (read the full review here). It is a popular option among novelists, and it will help you in a lot of incredible ways.

These are free programs that scan your work and edit for things like grammar, syntax, and even readability. If you want to learn how to write a novel, these programs can help you. They are especially helpful when crafting that first novel when everything is a little overwhelming.

4. Set Goals and Deadlines

Many writers get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work that is required to finish a novel. They stare at the blank page in front of them, and they don’t know where or how to begin.

Goals will be different for everyone depending on their lifestyle, but a good place to start can be a daily word count. Commit to writing at least 200 words every day. If you think you have more free time, make it 1000. If you have nothing to do but write, make it 5000.

200 words every day goal template

5. Eliminate Distractions

Especially when you get stuck and/or hit with writer’s block, everything can turn into a distraction. Leave unnecessary papers off your desk, and keep your cell phone on silent and in another room while you work.

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6. Do Your Research

When it comes to research, don’t ignore, rush, or skip this part of the process. You want your novel to be believable and accurate where necessary. Especially something like psychological thrillers or historical fiction, these things require extreme accuracy with a lot of small details.

7. Create an Outline – or They Don’t

Some people outline like crazy and need to have every piece of the plot all planned out. Some only create a brief and simple outline that can be changed and worked with. Others still will write with no outline whatsoever.

8. Fill Your Story with Tension and Conflict

Even soft, light-hearted romantic comedies need it. Conflict is what drives the plot. Think of any novel you’ve ever read, and try to come up with some of the conflicts the characters experienced. It probably didn’t take you long. If you try to think of a novel where no conflict existed, you probably can’t.

Put your main character in dangerous and compromising situations. Create tension between characters, and write interesting dialogue. Don’t be afraid of drama. Use perspective to your advantage.

First person and third person are the two most common when it comes to point of view. Both of these have the potential for conflict. Third person is great for creating dramatic irony, and first person gives a lot of insight into the mind of certain characters.

9. Create Compelling and Dynamic Characters

It can be helpful to create a physical appearance for them as well. This can be done mentally, or you can find a picture online that you think resembles what you want them to look like. These pictures will be for your own reference.


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