Writing Tip Wednesday: So you want to write a novel?

You read heaps of them right? Novels, that is. You enjoy them, and you think to yourself, ‘I could do this, it’s going to be so easy’. You even get the idea for what you think will be a fantastic story.
But then you have to get that idea out of your head and on to the page. And for some people, actually starting is the hardest part.

So how exactly do you write a novel? I always wanted to be a writer. When I was 18 I decided to get serious and find out just how I go about doing that. So I went to the library and borrowed every single book on writing that I could find and I learnt what I had to do.
Here are the basics that I’ve learnt:

1) Just write.
If you are serious about writing a novel then you’ve just got to find time, stop putting it off and just write.The first step to writing a book is actually writing. You might just want to sit and type and see where the story takes you, or you might want to plot out the story and work off of that. Either way you have to start writing.

2)Be prepared to suck/not get it right the first time.
Writing a novel is a big investment. Bigger than big, it’s huge. It takes time, a lot of time. It takes months, sometimes even years. Yes, years. You might think you have a great story and write the first ten thousand words everything flowing, going along great and then you hit a wall, get stuck and run out of story. You may write 1,2,3, plus ‘practice’ manuscripts before you write one good enough to sell. And though practice manuscripts may take a lot of time, I feel they are invaluable in helping you learn how to write, especially how YOU personally write, and help you to find your voice.

3)Let’s get physical.
Once you have an idea you need to start writing. The best place to do this is on your computer. You can hand write it in a notebook if you want but you will eventually have to type it up if you want to send it away to an agent/publisher. You should choose a font such as Courier or Times New Roman, and make it size 12. Most places will want at least 1.5 paragraph spacing. I go with double unless specifically stated otherwise in the agent/publishers guidelines.

NOTE: Novels for adults are generally over 70,000 words long. That’s right, that means you need to keep a story going and interesting for at least 70,000 words. YA is usually around 50,000 and up.

4)Tearing your writing to shreds.
You’ve done it. You’ve gotten that story out. It has a beginning, a middle and end, and it’s long enough. You’re done, you feel good, you’ve written a book, you’ve accomplished your goal. But don’t crack out the Champaign just yet. You are nowhere near done, not if you want to get your novel published. That was just your first draft. Now you have to edit. You have to edit, and edit and edit until it is as perfect as you can get it. It’s a good idea get other people to read it who you trust and see if they can point out any flaws. It’s a good idea to join a writers group and get their opinion on it. It’s nice for your mum to read it, but she is going to tell you its good even if it’s crap, so getting non family members to read it will be more helpful.

5)letting your baby out into the world.
Once you’ve written a manuscript you think is good enough, you can start querying publishes and agents. They will have guidelines on their websites detailing how they want you to present your work, what to send and how. Make sure you FOLLOW THEM TO THE LETTER.No matter how good your book is, if you don’t follow the guidelines you will get rejected.

You will usually be asked for a query letter and a synopsis. A query is a letter describing your novel and yourself and is no more than a page long. A synopsis, which may be anywhere from a few hundred words to 2 pages, is a summary of your novel. (You can find good examples of these on the net.)

Note: some publishers, especially in places like America, will not accept submissions from a writer, only from an agent. In my opinion an agent is a necessity.

The publisher or agent may ask for a partial manuscript (3 chapters)or the full manuscript, or you may get a rejection.

Expect a lot of rejections. Every great writer has received plenty of rejections in their life, so don’t feel too bad when you do to.

6)Read, read and read some more.
If you have never read a novel in your life don’t decided to write one. You cannot write a novel without first reading one. All authors will tell you how essential reading is, so do it.

There you have it: how to write a novel. Remember, the most important rule to writing a novel is actually writing it. And once you start, don’t stop. Write to the end, even if other, better ideas come along. Put them away an ideas folder to write when you are editing your first manuscript. If you keep stopping to write a new book every time you have a new idea, you’ll have a thousand half finished books and no actual finished books. Books don’t write themselves. You need to write them. If you are serious enough about it you’ll find the time to squeeze it in everyday.

So there you go, now you know the basics. Go and write today.


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