Is it hard to write your first novel?
The answer depends. If you consider it a burden, yes. If you don't spend time on it, yes. However, if you want to get the story out, then the answer is no. And if you understand that writing a novel takes time and continuous learning and upgrading your skills, definitely no.
What do you need to know when starting your first novel?
There are a lot of things you should know. Forget everything you think you know. You will soon find out that writing fiction, is not something you learn in school. Of course, in school you were taught the basics. Those are indeed vital to your writing. They are the foundation on which you will start your novel. But what you need to know, is yet to come to your attention. That my friend, is done through practice, self-learning, and if you have more seasoned writer fellows, that would be awesome. Is it hard? Yes and no. Yes, if you aren't willing to learn and accept it's an ongoing process, no, if you start writing and researching for tips and theory on it.
You've got all you need to get started at a click distance. You can access both free and paid material to help you write that first novel, that maybe is haunting you for years.
Most used language to write books is English. Why? Because you have a worldwide target. Even if you are a native English speaker, or English is your second language, the anxiety remains the same. You fear of not being good enough, or if you're doing it the right way. It's true that writing in English, as a second language, will bring more anxiety and even depression at some point, especially if you don't have someone to check your work and guide you, or you don't have the financial means to hire someone for it.
I'm going to tell you to stop that negative thought processes. It doesn't matter. Assume the fail, get over it, and start writing. It's like in the lottery. You buy a ticket, accept the money loss upfront, but you can be the next jackpot winner. You don't know your fate as a writer, until you try it.
It doesn't mean you will fail when you assume failure. It means that you are cool with either outcome. That gets you in the right mood, relaxed, to work on the next literary masterpiece.
For all writers, seasoned or not, the most important thing is the psychological part. Most failures were when writers gave up writing or completing their novels. You may have a great debut, and be the next renowned author, or you may fail terribly. You have to get that, imprint it in your heart and mind. What you need to understand is that practice makes you better. With time, you will decipher what you did wrong and what you can improve. That's your golden mine. Improving your craft.
Once you accept those things, clear your mind, and take it as a hobby, but as a passionate hobby, you are on the right track.
Another thing is that you shouldn't start with the money idea in your head. It's going to be a huge disappointment. You don't want that. It will get you discouraged. Plus, your work will be seen that it was for the money and not for the story. Don't ask why, the readers will know.
To start a story, a book, a novel, you have to either draft an outline of it, or to free write on it. Those who write without an outline, are called pantsers. There is no right or wrong, as long as you have as a final product a great story, achieving what you promised the reader in the title and book description.
They say that pantsers can have problems on creating mystery or suspense, or having plot holes, because they haven't plotted the story beforehand. I say different, once you finish your first rough draft, you will go back and re-read the story, and will identify a lot of things, including those mentioned above. You will be able to re-write, and adjust and improve your craft without problems.
Therefore, think of what your style is, and pick between the two. Are you more of a planner, thinking that an outline serves your writing and story better? Then first outline your story from start to end. Are you a free style person, going with the flow, having the mind film of your story? Then free write it.
How do I start writing the novel already?!
Yeah, now that we've covered the prep part, let's get technical. You can start the novel, meaning your story, in various ways.
First part is to settle the genre or genres your story will have. Most bought genres are romance, mystery, crime, SF, YA, supernatural, in terms of fiction.
Once you have your genre picked up - - and here I suggest choosing one that you love writing on - - it's high time to start with the actual writing. You can have your story begin with a bang, an action, the end, the main character doing something, a flashback, describing surroundings the story is set, time period. Whatever you fancy and consider it's a good go for your story. But -- yes, we never get rid of that reversed situation, unfortunately -- select something that will ensure grabbing your reader's attention, not yours. You will love your book, nonetheless, you are its writer for crying out loud, if you aren't loving your book, who else would at least? Huh? Still, you write for your readers, you need their engagement. To obtain that, you need to write a hell of a beginning that would make them devour each line. So, you've got homework on it. I never write my story multiple times and then pick what sounds better as a start. However, there are writers who do exactly that. Now, you write it the way you feel is right for you. The outcome is important, you need to get attention!
Next on your list. Characters. Make your characters explode through their build up. The have to have an evolution spike. No matter how weak or strong is you character, you need to keep it going. It's obvious they will have some low moments, realization situations, hits, whatever, but they need to serve their purpose, and show their growth somehow within the story.
The antagonist. They say that the antagonist has to be evil from start to end. It's valid. But if you have a set of villains, make some of them turn on the good side, even help the greater good, and help your main character. You need to have a main villain, as it's the reason of the entire plot, and the one interfering with the main lead's smooth line of progress. Someone needs to be the bad guy, to push your character to exceed its limits, learn something and overcome difficulties.
Make a list of your characters. This list should contain their physical appearance, personality, weaknesses, strengths, habits, hobbies, background story, family, studies, home, you name it. Whatever is important for your story. This serves you in knowing them better. Information from this list may or may not enter in your story, but will help you get a vision of them and how they would perform in different situations in your story. I have to admit I don't make a list for my stories and characters, but writers do it, and it's helpful for them. I am here to tell you different ways I heard of and you shall choose what suits you and your story to start and move forward.
Plot. Either you plot it or free write it, there's one thing I am prone on doing, as I, as a reader enjoy too, is create twists. Yes! Twists! You need your story to keep engaging your reader. You don't want your reader to drop it after a few pages in. Build your scenes in such a way that will keep your readers hooked. It's true that you can't bombard them with twists one after another, but you should keep in mind launching a twist here and there that gives salt and pepper to your story. The twists should make sense, connected deeply to the story, otherwise it will be a turnoff.
Don't exaggerate with extreme situations or scenes. Make them, but smooth them at some point. You need to be out of the ordinary to grab your reader's attention and give them something new, yet be sure to keep in normal acceptable patterns. They are open-minded readers nowadays, but tradition and common sense is deeply rooted in them. You don't want to go overboard, and what dragged them into devouring your book until then, make them go away as they don't agree or like something. They are sensible creatures, and they will become haters for it. I've seen at other writers that, it wasn't easy to digest for them, though they had brilliant stories.
Narration. Choose a point of view and stick with it. Readers don't like to constantly change it. They become confused, and will drop the book. A golden rule: pick one, stick with it, from start to end. I'm not going to tell you which point of view is best for you, because there are stories which work better with one, and other stories work better with another. You have to decide what your story is about and how you want to present it.
When you set the scene, time, etc., you can describe it as long as you need or shorten it. Don't get overboard. As it is beneficial for your story to write about the house, the background, the place, what the character is, etc., keep it concise. No one wants to read for pages length every tiny detail of the house or the wood is settled in. Give enough details and on with next part. Those parts need to be connected to make the reader understand something or have a visual, they don't read your story to have an architectural lesson. They are here for the action.
Dialogue. It's a given your story will have dialogue. One thing I have learned, after making my own stupid mistakes when I started writing, is to have a natural dialogue. You will ask what do I mean by that. I asked too. Natural means not to write long lines with academic words. They need to be like in real life. You won't say " I have to go to the library because I want to read Shakespeare as I love his art and need "Romeo and Juliet" to refresh my memory on it." You should say "I'll go to the library." Just that. The other details, if you must have them in your story, will be said in next scenes when your character is at the library. "I need a copy of 'Romeo and Juliet'." Something like that.
Characters are best represented by their dialogue, their lines. Therefore, you need to make sure that they have the same voice. When your reader reads a line, and they already met with that character, they should pick up from first words who the character is, before seeing your tag with his/her name. Their personality and way of speaking should be representative enough to have a voice of their own.
Productivity. This is an essential part. You need to write to start your novel, and you need to write to finish it. It may be hard on some of you to keep their focus on being consistent, for others not so much. There are other factors that could keep you from writing such as work, family issues, etc.
What you need to know and stick with, is to write at least 100 words a day, or 500 words every other day. When you have the time and peace for writing, strike for 1500 words or more. All those 100 or 500 words will keep your story moving forward, and those over 1500 words will spike your novel's progress.
OK my dear ones! That's a wrap! It's all I can think of right now that should get you started. I hope my thoughts here will be of help and give you that nudge to start writing your masterpiece! When I will have some more to say, from my personal experience, I will do a follow-up. Until then, write, write, write! 🙂
May the muse of all awesome writers fill you to write with a golden fury! 🙂
Kisses and hug!
Your true friend always,
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