Writing a Novel: Things You Need to Understand First

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So, you want to write a novel, but don’t have a clue where to start. Novels are one of the most well-loved forms of literature. The sky’s the limit with these things, but don’t go too crazy – you might have the most compelling, out-of-the-box concept but fall short at delivering it well.

You might end up with a completely unreadable (wordcounttool.com measures the readability of your work) mess of wasted ideas. You can’t write a novel in a snap – it takes serious commitment and lots of patience. Before you start writing, here are the elements of a novel condensed into four meaty chunks.

Plot

The plot is the foundation of your novel. It is the ship sailing across the sea. If we learned anything about the Titanic, it’s that a ship has to be navigated and constructed well so that it won’t sink.

Throughout writing your novel, you need to have a clear view of your plot.

You must know who your audience is. Are you writing for middle-agers or young adults? What is your goal? Do you want to write a love story unlike any you’ve read before, or do you want to write a social commentary on stereotypes? How about both in one story?

Once you’ve figured out your genre or niche, it’s time to outline your story.

Premise

If movies have teasers, novels have the premise. These are the short descriptions you see on the back of books, which, more often than not, makes you decide whether you want to read it or not.

Conceptually, once you’ve figured out a premise, you can develop and expand your plot from there.

A premise doesn’t always have to reveal too much, just enough to pique the reader’s interest. You can even use a dialogue sequence to make a premise.

Setting

The story setting is the time and place of the events in your novel. If you’re aiming for realism, do your research. Writing a Victorian period novel where the characters speak like Valley Girls won’t fly. Unless that is the story. If you’re writing a hospital scene, you’d have to know how surgery works and the difference between a defibrillator and a heart monitor.

Form

Writing is a discipline as much as it is an art.

Good form and structure can be the thing that makes a person pick up your book till the end, or put it down after only a few pages.

Your narrative has to be consistent and deliberate.

Would a murder mystery be better in the third person, or would a second-person narrative add an element of suspense? Character chapters show multiple points of view, but would it be better to tell the story from only one perspective?

Characterization

Your characters are the crew that mans the ship. They steer the story. The three important qualities in writing your characters are motivation, relatability, and growth.

You wouldn’t want to read about a one-dimensional character. The hero who always wants to do the right thing is way overdone at this point. No person has only one personality trait, so your characters should have layers. By the end of your story, your characters should not be the same as they began.

Another pro-tip? Avoid writing tropes. Trust me, no one wants to read about a damsel-in-distress falling in love with a rebel jock, or a nerd to popular kid social redemption for the nth time. Literary tropes can make your story seem formulaic, regardless of how much thought you put into writing it. Always give your readers something new.

Conflict

We would not know joy if there is no pain. Similarly, conflict is necessary to drive your story. Even children’s stories have conflict – The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, you name it.

Like how a sailor navigates through a storm, how your characters deal with conflict determines a big chunk of the story.

Resolution

The resolution is like a ship safely reaching land – most of the time. One of the biggest gripes for any literary work is a lack of resolution. Although some contemporary pieces tend to end in cliffhangers or open endings, it’s good to know where a story ends.

After considering all these points, you should be ready to flesh out your novel. Remember, a novel may be fictional – but if written in a way that impacts the reader – they are as real as it can get.

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