Want to be a novel writer but struggling on how to start? This may help you. Let me share with you some of my thoughts and pointers.
There is no magic formula to be a successful writer. But aside from hard work, perseverance, creative imagination and passion to write, the following are some steps that really helped me when I was writing short novels, these might help you too.
1. Plan your story. Before starting to write, I already have a plot of a story in my mind. From there I make a plan on what to write in each and every chapter to develop the story in the long run. I keep a notebook as my journal where I put the story plot and plan. I normally establish the personality of my main characters and the theme of the story in the first three chapters.The next three chapters is the development of the theme and the characters. In these chapters the reader has to be able to identify the characters’ personality and identity. The last three chapters is the highlight of the story, where the conflicts, mystery and the compelling problem of the main characters normally appear, we call it “climax”. The resolution of these conflicts should be established in the final chapters too. If you laid down the story plan, it will be easier for you to just follow as you write each scene’s details. It’s like a bird’s eye view of your story. In this way, you can easily see how your story will be developed before proceeding to the details. I always leave the end blank because sometimes as I write the story and I see that I have to make a twist then from that point, I formulate how I would end the story.
2. Start with a scene that can catch the readers’ attention. You may start with a prologue, it maybe a scene or event in the life of the main character with significance to the story but try to avoid revealing the mystery of the theme in this part or else you will defeat your purpose of engaging your readers to dig more into the world of your story. You may start with a scene that seems to be intriguing to the readers, something that when you are on their shoes can make you try to find out the answers to those questions that arise. A striking start makes a reader continue on reading till the last pages. Some writers start their story with a quotation or a monologue of the main character. Make it something intriguing. Writers have different styles to catch the reader’s attention. You can have your own style too.
3. Make your characters believable and alive – your main character doesn’t need to be perfect or too good to be true. Illustrate them realistically and believable. Describe them as normal persons with personality flaws and weaknesses but make sure to put heavier emphasis on their strength, their adorable and lovable attributes. Be consistent in describing the personalities of the characters be it the protagonist, antagonist, and the other backup characters. Make the secondary characters significant too where readers could remember them and their important parts in the story. Describe the characters in a way that the readers can use their five senses; smell, vision, touch, taste and hearing. It’s like bringing your readers to the story interacting with the characters by using sensory detailed descriptions.
4. Put yourself in the story– Put yourself in the story by putting your heart, your feelings and your emotions. The story and all the scenes there should be shaped internally, by the writer himself. No matter how good you write and your vocabulary is exceptional and proficient, if you can’t even relate to the emotions you’re trying to illustrate, it will show and you won’t make it. Let’s say there’s a tragic scene because your main character had been kidnapped. Her abductors brought her at the top of a towering building threatening to push her to her possible tragic end. Imagine the feeling of looking down from the top, as you see cars, vehicles and people like tiny ants, how would you feel if you are on her shoes? Terror would probably engulf your whole being. From making yourself feel how the character would feel, you can write authentic descriptions of her emotions at that very moment. As how best-selling author Lee Child puts it; “You use what you feel and expand it, right up as far as you can, and that way you get a sort of authenticity.”
5. Review your story and do some necessary editing – Finally, you’ve finished your novel. Read back, delete some parts that has no significance in the theme, in the totality of the story. Sometimes, writers tend to give too much elaboration on some instances in the life of the main character which even when such is deleted won’t affect the whole theme of the novel and most of the time making it better when deleted.
6. Lastly, be prepared to get approval or rejection. – So you decide to try to write, be prepared for the possibility of approval and…of rejection. In the first instance, praise God for the success. If the case is the latter, don’t lose your self-confidence and don’t just leave your dream. If after all your hard work, your work is rejected, keep believing in yourself. Do not be discouraged, continue to find your niche and still press on developing it. It doesn’t mean that when your first novel is rejected that the next will be rejected too. Take that experience as a polishing of your skill, a ladder to be able to reach your goal. Believe that there is always a second chance, a new open door, and a lot of opportunities that awaits a strong hearted person like you. You can still get better if you keep working at it.
In addition to these, make the following part of your habit;
1. Develop the habit of reading. To be a writer, you should be a reader. By reading the work of other writers you can have an idea on how you will work on your own novel. But be original, don’t try to copy them, be yourself, develop and practice your own style, just read them and learn from them. Read as much as you can, as frequent as you can, as focus as you can. By dissecting a book you’re reading ( its style, its content and the technique) you will surely get something. In addition to reading other writers books, you can enrich your writing skills and knowledge by reading available how-to-books and magazines from online or from the bookstores. You will be familiarized on the dos and don’ts in writing and you will be able to acquire the tools you needed to start with.
2. Always have a notebook with you when you’re traveling, in new places, or even when you’re reading or just resting. Sometimes an idea enters your mind in these moments. Make sure to immediately jot it down on your notebook for your short-term memory might occur anytime so these better be recorded right away before losing them totally.
3. If you need to tackle some scientific, medical, historical or geographical subjects in your story, make sure to do some research about the topic to make it factual, realistic and believable.
4. Write without any disturbance. Write inside a room by just yourself in quiet times as much as possible. Noise and other disturbance will cause you to lose the momentum of ideas flowing and coming in.
5. Lastly but the most important, pray. Before starting any project make sure to ask God for guidance and wisdom and He will provide what you ask for in faith.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:5 NKJV
About my writing journey – I used to write for Precious Hearts Romances Publishing Company on 2003 – 2004 , the number one Tagalog romance pocketbook novel publisher in the Philippines. Out of the 13 novels I’ve wrote and submitted, 12 were approved, published, sold nationwide and in some nations where there are Filipinos readimg Tagalog romance pocketbooks. The rejected one was approved and published by another publishing company. I got a chance to talked to one of the editors of Precious Hearts Romances Publishing, I remember she mentioned to me about an aspiring writer who was very persistent in sending her novels, more than ten times and not even one was approved. I’m not saying this to brag but for you aspiring writers out there to see that perseverance is a character that we writers must have. I believe that the said writer also succeeded in the end, for she did not easily give up. Her courageous heart probably had led her to success. I was also hesitant to try writing, honestly I didn’t believe I can. I was in doubt of my ability but I still tried. What if I did not try, and allowed my apprehension took over me, how could I find out that I can also write novels? My writing career was short-lived because I decided to work abroad, but for me it was a successful one, my pen name had started to be recognized then. I thank God I got the chance to join the bunch of romance novel writers in the Philippines, even for a short time. My experience as a short romance novel writer was not international level, but I believe that my some sort of advice can be of help to the aspiring writers out there.
I hope you got something from my two pennies. If you have some more ideas or tips, you can add yours so we can together help those who dreams to be a novel writer.