Writing Wednesdays: Vital steps to writing your first novel

Writing your first novel can be hard. In this post, I share some vital steps on how to write your first novel.

Know your characters

Voice is always important in a novel, and your protagonist(s) have a lot of influence on your voice. It can help to write out the main characteristics or fill in a character profile (everything from hair colour to pet peeves to what their Twitter password would be), or maybe to mind-map your character to help you know them better.

I usually get the ideas of my characters before I develop the plot, but they’re always worth putting some effort into thinking about before you get stuck into your novel.

Tense and Person

Are you using first or third person? Past or present tense? It’s totally up to you, and I’d mostly recommend doing whatever feels right and comfortable. For instance, most of my YA writing is first person, present tense; but my historical fiction is typically third person, past tense. You might have to try it out a few times to get a feel for what works, but it’ll be worth it. And remember to stick to your choice!

Plot outline

You might be one of those people who likes to plan out your entire novel before you start writing (more power to you!) or you might be more like me and not work like that. Either way, I think it can be really helpful to draft a plot outline to help guide you through – it doesn’t have to be a paragraph about every chapter; maybe you just outline the main plotlines you want to follow, the main events. It can also be helpful to think about any sub-plots you want to work on, and any character development you’d like to have.

(You might like to check out this post on plotting your story versus winging it!)

And a blurb/story description

This is something that always works well for me when I start a new book: it helps me think about the tone I want to set, and helps to keep me on track of the main plot even if I haven’t got much of an outline to go on. This is different to the synopsis I’ve mentioned above, but definitely worth your time as far as I’m concerned.

(You might like to check out this post on writing a good book blurb!)

Tone and Style

A YA romance reads very differently to a thriller novel. It’s worth taking a little time to think about the tone you want to set (again, your characters can have a lot of influence on this, as can the tense and person you use). Also, if you’re planning on using other elements – say letters, or blog posts, or lots of Facebook messenger conversations – you might like to think about how you’d like to incorporate those.

For instance, you could write your whole novel through emails. I read an amazing book called Read Bottom Up that was a story told entirely through texts and emails. Or you might want to go for a ‘Dear –’ style, telling everything through letters, like Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Just start writing

There’s only so much prep you can do when it comes to writing a novel. It’s worth having a think about some of these things before you start, but ultimately, you have to just start writing. (And good luck!)

Do you think I missed anything important to starting your novel? Share in the comments below!

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