Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Write a Novel? Start Writing!

If you have ever written before, I'm sure you'll be familiar with this weird feeling in your stomach of having an idea... but being unable to start writing. Yes, I know it too. Sometimes, tons of ideas come to mind at once, but I just don't know how to develop them further and ignore them until they disappear again. If you have an idea, and you're sure it can turn into something, than certainly don't let it go. How to write a novel? One word at a time!

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into the small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."
(Mark Twain)

1. Get started.

Before getting anything down on paper, consider whether the story idea has the potential to turn into an actual novel (or a short story, depending on your ambitions and interests). Before taking out your pens or pencils, really consider this. Not every concept can turn into a story, so this is an important step to follow before blindly charging into the writing process and then finding out it does not have that "spark" you had hoped for. Nothing worse than working on a story and being forced to stop halfway because it just does not have that flow you'd imagined. That's why it's important to carefully consider beforehand (= no unnecessary work and a better product). If it's not a work you are passionate for with all of your being, this will shine through and your readers will not be excited about it either.
"One of the most difficult things is the firsts paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily."
(Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

2. Brainstorm.

You now have your basic idea, but where will it lead? Brainstorm your ideas to get a clear idea of what your story will cover. Even if you don't include some of the original things you jot down, you might later use them for another work. No harm done writing it down! Either way, make sure you have an idea of all the following aspects, or your story will fall apart in front of your eyes:

  1. A protagonist with a conflict to overcome or a goal to achieve. Your story needs to have a driving force, and this driving force is the conflict that pulls your readers in. It has to be high-stake as well as realistic/relatable for the reader.
  2. Uniqueness. This could mean the character, conflict, setting, or all combined. If your story is just "a story" like all others, it will not be remembered and make no impact.
  3. A strong theme. Every story has a theme, but is your theme one that matters to your reader? Is it something they can relate to? Does it have importance in their lives?
"I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that's only the first step. Ideas are easy. It's the execution of ideas that separates the sheep from the goats."
(Sue Grafton)

3. Stay involved.

I often find myself "stuck" at some point or another, but the only way to fight through this is through perseverance. Don't stop at that "initial idea," but enrich and enlarge it until it's all there. Work out several plot points, and weave a story around it. It personally helps me to have an outline, which prevents the story from weaving on and going nowhere. Depending on how you write, this could be helpful to you too.
"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work."
(Stephen King)

4. Fine-tune!

Plenty ideas, but the importance is the execution. No good stories are made merely with "ideas." Writing is rewriting, and editing should be 90% of the process. After having made a draft of your now-brainstormed ideas, edit them, and edit them again. Edit first for plot, characters, etc. Edit then for grammar, spelling, word choice. Lastly, edit for polishing, smoothening, and flowing. Do it several times, and have others have a look at it too. This is the largest part of the writing process, so do spend the majority of your time on this.
"Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's."
(Stephen King)

5. Save, save, save

Saving is a thing you should be doing throughout. And certainly keep backups. If you lose your work, it's gone... unless you have an extra version. Next to saving it on your pc, send yourself a copy, put it on a USB, etc. That way, you'll be sure to have it.

What about you? Do you have ideas for a novel? Do you have tips for starting your novel? Comment!

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