Five tips on writing your first novel

The fact that you’re thinking about writing a novel should be reason enough for you to get started. Don’t look back in a few years’ time and regret the fact that you never wrote that book.

Just make the decision and go through with it, and gain that experience for your next novel, and your next, and so on. The only way to get better is by getting started, being bad for a while, then getting better and better every day.

1. Set up a routine

One thing’s for sure: if you wait to feel inspired before you get back to that novel, it’ll never get finished. The most important part of writing is writing every day, between set times – whether that’s for the whole day, or two to three hours in the evening, or squeezing an extra hour out of your day by getting up earlier in the morning. Fit your writing time around your life, but make sure you keep to it every single day, and keep that time sacred so that no one can interrupt you. With a set routine you’ll train that writing muscle to know when the next session is coming, and you’ll know that you’ll perform.

2. Plan with Post-its

There are many ways to plan out your novel and get started, but one blissfully simple method is by using Post-its or small scraps of paper. Write the start of your novel in a single line on one Post-it, and then the middle sentence on a second, and the ending sentence on a third. Line them up on the floor, and think about what needs to happen for the start of your novel to progress to the middle. Then do the same to bridge that gap of events between the middle and the end. Keep filling out single sentences on more Post-its to fill in all the steps in the timeline, getting into more and more detail. Soon you’ll have a full timeline of maybe five or six feet in length. The more you look over it, the more you’ll see where things need to change or come out. Once you’re happy with it, stick it all on the wall so that it’s always in the front of your mind.

3. Divide your book into acts

Novels may typically have three acts, which gives your reader a gradual buildup to a dramatic event, and then some relief, and then a second buildup and relief, and a third. You could think of this like a line graph showing peaks and troughs on a rollercoaster ride, with each climb being higher than the last. Splitting your book into acts, typically three acts, is a way to pace out the events of your book to give your readers dramatic buildups and payoffs… but with a little light relief to follow, to balance things out and prevent a novel from becoming exhausting to read. Dividing your book into thirds like this is also a great way to ensure you keep the pace consistent, and to grow your character further and further through the events that they go through.

4. Use music to capture moods

You have plenty of ideas, but ideas can get buried away in our subconscious. Writing to the right music is a great way of bringing these ideas bubbling up to the surface again, and writing to an appropriate soundtrack can really help you capture the thoughts you want to put across in your novel. If you’re writing a sci fi or a fantasy epic, for example, you could try searching YouTube for the soundtracks to your favourite movies in this genre, and write to them, and see what you come up with. A hard fast rock tune is perfect for a fight scene, while relaxed ambient music like a deep house mix could be ideal if you’re writing a more peaceful scene. Music is a brilliant tool to put yourself in a particular frame of mind – and writing a novel is all about being in particular frames of mind.

5. Write for yourself

You can’t write a novel for anyone but yourself. Trying to compromise and write what you think others will like is only going to give you a watered-down story that tries to please everybody. It’s far better to write your favourite story, the book you’ve always wanted to read but could never find. Some people will hate it, and that’s alright. But some people will love it, and they’ll ask you for more. Take feedback and criticism on board, of course, so long as it helps you to become a better writer. But you’re not a mind reader, and the only reader you know you can please is yourself – so write your novel for you.

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