To write a novel, first, start with short stories. Many of the elements required for short stories carry over to longer works. In addition, it’s better to experiment on a 1,000-word short story than an 80,000-word novel. Once you’re comfortable with short stories then you can move on to longer works.
Short Story Tips
Writing short stories lets us experiment. We can have fast successes and failures. I’d rather try something on a short story than commit it to a whole novel only to find out it wasn’t working once I finished writing the entire thing.
As you hone your skills and find your voice with short stories, voraciously read novels. Read classics and contemporary works. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read for enjoyment but mostly to learn. This will give you a sense of what works and what doesn’t, as well as to identify what you like and don’t like. This will pay off huge when you go to write your novel.
Start Your Novel
Now you’re ready to plan your novel. Whether you are a planner (plotter) or a discovery writer (a pantser—you write by the seat of your pants), you should have some ideas before you begin to write a novel.
I like to start with a list of characters, their bio, a story arc, the key elements, and a chapter outline. After all, if I’m writing that many words, I don’t want to waste effort.
For others, this prep work would stifle creativity, but it motivates me. Pick the method that works for you and start writing.
By the way, many novelists admit to writing several novels before one is good enough to publish, so don’t expect your first effort to write a novel will be a success. If it is, that’s great, but be prepared to crank out a couple before you find much interest.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.