Novel Writing 101: So You Want to Write a Book?

Have you ever had the dream of writing a book? Maybe, thinking to yourself something like this?

“I’m going to write a novel this year. This time, I’m really going to do it.”

A surprising number of people have tossed around this idea before, or included it on their bucket list for lifetime goals. Maybe you’re one of them. I know I am. But how do you get from “I’m going to write a novel,” to actually printing a copy of it out for people to read?

Well, the good news is, you can write a novel. Yes, you. You don’t have to have an MFA in Creative Writing. You didn’t even have to major in English in college. You do have to be willing to work hard, learn through practice, and accept criticism. You’ll fail, more times than you can imagine right now, but in the end, if you don’t give up, you can accomplish your dream. And if you’re willing to put in the effort, you just might see it all the way through to publication one day.

I’m just getting started on pre-writing for my third novel, another YA Fantasy, and so I thought now would be the perfect time to walk through the writing process with you, dear readers. One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog is to share the things I’m learning along the way, so today we’re kicking off a series on Novel Writing 101.

First things first. What do you need to write?

  • Determination – I’ll be honest with you, writing a novel isn’t for the fainthearted. It can be exhilarating and life-giving, but it can also be nails-on-the-chalkboard, I’m-going-to-burn-this-laptop frustrating. You’re the only one who can see your story through to completion. But you’re also the one who can stop yourself from reaching your goals if you’re willing to give up.
  • Time – After all, novels don’t write themselves. You’ll have to put your time where your mouth is, and maybe even change some priorities around to give yourself time to write. For more tips, see my post here.
  • Writing resources – Unless you do have that MFA, you probably have a lot to learn. Start investigating library books and websites on fiction writing to learn the basics. Consider attending a writers’ conference (it’s okay to go even if you’re still exploring the idea of writing – there’s plenty to learn).
  • Materials – pen and paper, laptop, tablet, notebooks, index cards… You’ll figure out what you like best as you go. Pinterest is great for creating virtual storyboards (more on that in the future), or you can use a physical board on a wall.
  • An idea – Your little nugget of gold, that bit of inspiration that’s so interesting to you you’re willing to spend the next year or more nurturing and pruning it into a novel.

Now let’s focus for a minute on that last one – the big idea. I’ve written a guest post about where I find ideas for my stories, which you may find helpful. Honestly, my head is pretty full of ideas. The hard part for me is weeding through them to find the ones that really captivate my attention.

Here’s your assignment: start collecting ideas you could use to write your novel. They might be about a character, or a tidbit of a scene you can imagine, or thoughts on the setting. Find yourself a notebook and write your ideas down–all of them–because you never know when you might want an idea later, even if you don’t end up using it now.

We still have a lot of work to do to massage that idea into a full-blown plot sentence, but let’s save that for another day. For right now, get out there and start daydreaming.

Image courtesy of CC0 License.

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