Simple Steps to Writing a Novel

Typewriter for Writing a Story

So you have a story in your head and you suddenly feel inspired to write it. You sit down and you open a Word document. The story flashes through your head. The action, the heartache, the drama. But where do you start? How do you start? Suddenly you’re overwhelmed.

While some writers can simply start writing by the seat of their pants (called pantsers), some of us need a little more structure and guidance. If you are one of the later, here are some tips on where to begin.

Firefly Cast of Characters

Establish the Main Characters

If you’ve been thinking about your story for some time, you may already know who your characters are. You may also know things about them such as what they look like, where they work, their strengths and weaknesses, and so on. Either way, you need to create a character journal with all their information. The more important your character is to the story, the more thorough this journal should be.

Dwarves Bilbo and Gandalf in Rivendell Hobbit Movie

Establish the Setting

This is something else you might already have in mind. Creating a journal about it will help you fine tune it. A journal is also a great way to keep track of details later on as you write your story.

Set Up the Story Structure

If you’re having trouble just sitting and writing, having a story structure can help. The first structure you need to consider is the three acts basic acts that most good stories should have. The acts also help you determine your overall plot.

The first act establishes your setting and characters, and then brings about the inciting incident. The inciting incident is the event that rocks your character’s boat, the even that calls for his or her intervention. This incident can be something as simple as a death of a family member to something as cataclysmic as an explosion wiping out half a city. The second act consists of your character trying to resolve the situation only to find it’s not easy. Two steps forward, one step back. The third act contains the climax and the final wrap-up.

I have only given the basics of the three acts. If you’re having trouble with this, there are a ton of books and free online resources that can help.

Notecards for Writing a Story 001

Map Out the Outline

An outline is not the same thing as the story structure described above. The outline consists of the story structure, but it is much more detailed. It doesn’t just help you with your timeline, it also helps you establish important scenes, show you where gaps are, and gives you something to refer to as you write.

I have written an article previously on how using index cards helps me establish an outline – Outlining Your Novel with Index Cards. Make it fun with colored index cards!

Decide the Point of View

This can be a tricky one. Before you write, you really need to know how you plan on telling the story (or showing it, I should say). Here’s an article titled, Point of View Writing. It gives the basics and in an easy-to-understand way. The article states that Third Person, Limited is the most common point of view in fiction. I agree. And it is the point of view I use. I find it the easiest to use and the easiest for readers to fall into. But whichever you use, be sure you are consistent.

Decide the Tense

There are only two choices in writing tense: past tense or present tense. One would think that writing in present tense would be best because it establishes the immediacy of what’s happening. But past tense can work just as well. For some reason, I tend to do my outlines in present tense, but write my novel in past tense. Whichever you choose is fine, just be sure to be consistent. The Write Practice has another great article regarding writing in past tense versus present tense.

Book Time Clock Ticking

Write

This can still be the hardest part. But a friend and fellow writer posted something on her blog recently – Write Bravely. What does it mean? It means write and don’t worry too much about what others think. Don’t worry if your point of view or tense is off or whether you have enough descriptions in your scenes. Just write. You can worry about all that other stuff later.

If finding the time is a problem, make the time. Give up a television show or two. See if your significant other can help take up a chore or two. Even an hour a day is better than nothing. You’re story is never going to get written if you don’t make the time. Here are 10 Ways to Create More Time in Your Day.

Conclusion

Try not to look at novel as one big huge project. Big projects are easier to complete when you break them down into smaller projects. Use the headings I’ve used in this article as mini-projects. Even the heading Write can be broken down. Just take it one chapter at a time. One chapter at a time and you’ll get there. Good luck!

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