Updated: Feb 7, 2019
In this post, you'll learn the basics of how to write a novel. Many people want to write a novel, but it's kind of just like a far-off dream. It's the kind of thing most people think is something that would be cool to do, but they say, Oh, I don't have the talent to write a novel or There's no way I could write something that long or I don't have the time to write over 50,000 words. But the truth is, you can do it! It does take effort and time, though (unfortunately, I can't honestly say to you that it's easy or just like magic), but it pays off in the end. Trust me, it does. But if you're trying to write a novel just so that you can become famous and rich, there's about a 99% chance it won't pay off for you. Writing bestselling books that become worldwide hits isn't simple. But anyway, let's get into the basics of writing a novel.
Okay. Let's start of with some advice: Quantity is not always quality. In other words, don't make your novel longer than it needs to be just because you want it to be a big, thick, impressive book. Instead, focus on making it good quality. So, don't get angry if your book isn't the length of War and Peace or some other giant novel. Start small if you need to. Almost everyone does, and it's not a bad thing. A novel is long, so writing shorter books to begin with is great to 'warm you up' to the novel level. I wrote short stories when I was five or six, which led to my first novel when I was seven. Alright, back to the basics.
Lesson 1: Plan your novel. This stage is kind of like the preproduction phase of writing, and it can help a lot. If you haven't planned out your plot, the book will be like a wild rollercoaster ride - and not in a good way. Things won't make sense and it probably won't have a very good arc. So, to prevent this from happening, make a rough outline of your story that has the main plot points and events. If you plan it out too much, though, you won't have very much freedom while writing when you want to do something different from the way you planned it out. Planning out your characters is also good, so think about who they are and what their personality traits, physical appearances, and other qualities. You can try writing bios for your characters to develop them even more. Having good characters is essential to a good book. Most of these things also apply to filmmaking, as you'll see in 'Making a Film: The Basics'. You don't always have to do a lot of planning, though; sometimes you can just start writing immediately.
Lesson 2: Write: whenever, wherever. After all, the only way to make a novel is to write it! Writing a novel takes a lot of time, so plan out times when you can write. I'm sure you can fit it into your schedule somewhere if you're dedicated to making your book. Also, don't procrastinate. This is a big problem, and everyone does it. If you wait too long to write your book, you'll probably never get around to doing it. Taking breaks is fine, and it helps, too; but don't put off writing for weeks or months or else your poor book will just fade away, collecting dust on your hard drive or wherever you store it. So my point is: Write. Just write. It doesn't matter if you don't feel like it, or if you don't have any ideas. Just write. The only way to finish this is to write. Write. Write. Write. (Okay, I think you get it.) But seriously. Write.
Lesson 3: Don't give up. As you go through the long process of writing a novel (or even a novella or a short book) you will probably get to a point where you just feel like you're tired of working on it. Or, maybe you look back on what you've written and think, What? This is terrible! I'm an awful writer and never should have started this in the first place. Well, that may be partially true (just kidding) but just ignore that voice inside your head. You will rewrite it, so don't worry. Or, you might think it's so bad you shouldn't bother continuing. Still, just keep on going. Writing a novel takes a long time. Writing a novel can be tiring. Writing a novel is... well, you understand. But you have to finish it. You have to get it done. If you feel like you don't have the motivation to continue, try taking a brief break to do something fun (or not fun, but fun is better). Then come back to your book and think about what it will be like when you finish it. Not if, but when. Think about the great feeling of having completed a novel, whether it is your first or your twenty-first. Hopefully you will be motivated to continue. If not... well, I could go on about how to get back on track and be motivated to finish your novel, but I have a feeling you don't want this entire post to be about one thing like that.
Lesson 4: Editing and rewriting is a very important part of your book. If you don't do it, you won't have really finished your book, and it probably will have a bunch of mistakes and errors that will never get corrected. So, edit it. Before we go on, I'll give you some good news and bad news about editing. The good news: Editing is really important and will make your book a whole lot better. The bad news: Editing isn't fun. At least, in my perspective. You can hire an editor (I use my parents), or you can do it yourself. I recommend doing both. First, read over the whole book yourself, correcting anything that needs to be corrected on the way. Then, when you can't find any more mistakes, give it to someone else for them to edit it. It doesn't have to be a professional editor (of course, this is preferable, but not absolutely necessary), but make sure the person you give the task of editing is educated and knows English and grammar well.
Lesson 5: Publish your book! This is the final step for your book (almost), and it can be pretty exciting, too. There are two main types of publishing: Traditional publishing and self-publishing. I self-publish my books using Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows you to put both e-book and paperback versions of your book on Amazon. It's pretty easy and fast, and you don't have to go through the whole process of submitting your book to a traditional publisher, who might reject your book anyway. I can't really tell you very much about traditional publishing, since I've never done it, but I can tell you about self-publishing. It's free and simple (at least, the way I do it is) and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Once you've published your book, you're done - almost.
Lesson 6: Market your book. If you don't want to sell your book and have anyone read it, just skip this step. Okay, are you still here? Good. Now, like I said at the beginning, you shouldn't set out to write a novel just for fame or money. Well, you can, but it doesn't really work well that way. So, don't expect your book to immediately become a worldwide success. But anyway, marketing is important if you want anyone to read your book that you worked so hard on. There are countless ways to market your book - through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), word of mouth, and much more. I, honestly, haven't done as much marketing as I'd like to, but this website is also another tool that can be used for marketing (see my Books page). You can spread the word by mentioning it to friends, family, and anyone else you know, and ask them (politely) if they could read your book and maybe even review it. Reviews are very important for all things. People want proof that whatever it is you're trying to market is good, and reviews from fellow consumers are great. Also, price your book at a reasonable cost. My books Future and Ice Lords are the lowest price permitted on Kindle, $2.99. (The paperback versions cost slightly more, because of printing.) Don't worry about not getting much money from your book - you just need get it out there first.
Okay. That's the basics of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your book. Of course, there's much more to learn, but I hope you know a thing or two more about writing a novel than you did before you read this. This post is just the first of a short series called 'The Basics', which will cover various subjects that should be pretty interesting. Make sure to check out my next post in the Basics series - Making a Movie: The Basics.