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June 30, 2024 12:00
A journey through mountains. Tips on getting started writing a book.
starting to write

How to Start Writing a Book

April 9, 2023
April 9, 2023

The moment you start writing is perhaps the most exciting of the writing process. But don’t worry if you also find it daunting! You have the whole world at your fingertips, with only the looming blank page as your (not insignificant) obstacle. And while all this freedom is one of the wonders of creative writing, it can also produce uncertainty. With no clear programme or step-by-step process, it’s no wonder so many people have questions about how to start writing a book.

These questions often encompass more than the actual writing; we want to create a beautiful, dedicated writing space, hone a productive writing routine, map out a milestone-filled writing schedule, and pick up a few good writing habits from some professional writers. Isn’t that a big part of why we’re so enthralled by writing podcasts, and prone to digging up a blog post or two from our favourite bestsellers?

So if you’re right on the precipice, about to begin writing – or even if you’re just toying with the idea of writing fiction – know that you’re not alone in your doubts and curiosities. And know, too, that writing a book isn’t as formidable a task as it might seem. For now, don’t think of it as creating an entire book or obsess over the shape your writing career might take. Instead, go step by step, one writing session at a time.

In this article, we’re going to help you to bite the bullet and start writing the best story of your life. We’ll help you create a realistic writing schedule and a sustainable writing routine that brings not just productivity, but joy. We are, after all, the home of happy writing!

And if you really want to optimise your writing process, can there be any better (virtual) writing space than the home of happy writing?

Take your writing seriously

The Novelry’s courses guide you through every aspect of writing a book, from coming up with the idea for a novel and sketching out a viable story, to knuckling down to the actual writing and carving out your unique writing style – and we also give you a sound understanding of the publishing process. And with your own writing coach and a cheering crowd of fellow writers, you’ll keep writer’s block at bay, and never lose interest in your story.

consider a writing school as you write or a self publishing school if you're interested in selling your own book after writing it

We can get you from the seed of a book idea to a finished first draft, and you can even have a professional editor read over your entire manuscript once you’ve been through the editing process and started thinking about having your book published!

Whether your ambitions are to write the first page or an entire story, self-publishing or lining the shelves of high street bookshops, we can give you the writing tools you need to realise your dreams. Join so many other writers at the worldwide online writing school with the most 5* reviews and discover the writing course writers call ‘life-changing’. Make the book-writing process a joyous one!

Throughout the article and at the end, you’ll also find lots of related resources for further reading to help you with every step of writing a book. But to really drill down into each of these points (and so much more), our courses are the way to go.

And now, here’s some guidance to help you start writing!

Contents

Here are our key steps for starting to write a book:

  1. Shift your thinking
  2. Find your book idea
  3. Learn the basics of story
  4. Choose and understand your genre
  5. Explore your setting
  6. Get to know your characters
  7. Craft your hook
  8. Research
  9. Outline your novel
  10. Set up your writing habit
  11. Finish your first draft
  12. The second draft and beyond

image of a path beginning with mindset

1) Shift your thinking before you start writing

Before we get down to any actual writing, it’s worth thinking about your mindset. If you’re going to write a book, you need to be prepared for the journey ahead – and understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

That means there’ll be highs, lows and lots of good old hard work. You need to develop resilience and have a deep well of motivation to draw from, so you can keep writing your novel even when it feels like walking through quicksand or rapidly setting concrete.

The good news is that positive thinking can be another of your writing habits – it’s a muscle. You can train yourself to ignore the self-doubt and the jeers of your imposter syndrome (we’ve all been there!). Just say, ‘no thanks, that won’t help me.’


Hacking your mood

At the outset of our creative writing courses, our founder and Booker Prize-listed author Louise Dean shares some of her hacks to keep your spirit as you write a book. These include:

  • Changing your password to something that makes you smile or laugh, or is some form of affirmation.
  • Buying yourself fresh flowers for the house.
  • Creating a playlist that makes you feel good, or productive, or nostalgic, or whatever your story needs!

Make your work play

Yes, you need to be ready to work hard – to commit to your writing time, to get words on the page, to fight with your characters and wrestle with your plot.

But you also need to remember that the business of writing books needn’t be too serious. Particularly when you’re getting started on your first draft, you need to let yourself play. Anything could happen on those pages! That’s the magic of writing fiction, and at first draft nobody will ever see what you write. So play without judgement and see what your cast gets up to.

Go into the process with a playful spirit and an open mind.

image of a path with ideas as the second step

2) Choosing your book idea

Lots of writers have more than one idea rolling around their heads at any given time. They can even be very different ideas – some authors with great success writing fiction might feel the call of a non-fiction book, or at the very least be tempted to change genres.

Other times, we know we like the idea of writing a book, but we haven’t got any particular story we’re desperate to tell just yet.

It’s normal.

So how do you go about finding and selecting the perfect story idea to commit to?

Again, we have a lot of advice on this in the first stages of our writing courses, but we can give you some pointers on seeking inspiration and getting your ideas organised here.

Seeking an idea for a story

If you’re still in the inspiration phase, another shift in mindset can work wonders. It’s quite simple really: you need to get out of yourself. Retrain your brain to stop thinking about you – your experience, your needs, your desires, your hardships, your successes.

Instead, focus on the people around you – even perfect strangers. Empathise with them. Imagine their lives, needs, desires. Their most heartbreaking memories and their most euphoric moments. Their deepest fears.

It’s quite simple really: you need to get out of yourself. Retrain your brain to stop thinking about you.

This can not only make your day-to-day life infinitely better by infusing it with empathy and compassion, but also spark writing inspiration in the most unexpected (or even pedestrian!) moments. And it’s great training for the character development to come.

You can also turn to the great stories of literary history – fairytales have long been great story starters, as have the Greek myths. And creative writing prompts are a fabulous way to get your creative juices flowing! Again, avoiding rigidity and pressure is crucial here; let yourself play, explore, meander and imagine freely.

You don’t need to seek death-defying thrills or drown yourself in research. We’ve spoken to at least one bestselling author here at The Novelry who’s found their story idea while taking out the bins! It’s all about being open and ready.

image of a path with story as the third step

3) Learn the basics of story

Before you begin writing or even planning your book, you might like to spend a few moments learning about the building blocks of story. Because, granted, as humans storytelling is in our DNA. But understanding its elemental makeup can help you nail your plan and make writing more instinctive.

This is something else that we explore in-depth in our courses, but you can also find a great guide to the intricacies that create a story here. The article breaks down key terms and concepts like:

  • Narrative
  • Plot
  • The role of relationships
  • Setting
  • Theme
  • Perspective

It’s a good idea to read through it before you dig in, but in short, a story is fundamentally about change.

Through the structure of your story, we should see changing circumstances. Often a fall from grace or a rise to power.

It can be material change in the world of the novel, political change, moral change, or small-scale personal transformation just for the protagonist.

4) Choose and understand your genre

One step that people often skip in their eagerness to write a book is the all-important genre research.

In fact, your genre should be one of the first things you consider. It’s the first thing agents assess in your submission cover letters, and they’ll be checking that you’ve used the right ingredients for the genre you’ve placed yourself in (as will readers – because an agent, after all, is one of your first readers). Your genre will then affect all kinds of decisions down the line, from which editor you get assigned to how your book’s marketed.

Why? Because genre is the cornerstone of traditional publishing. Publishers acquire novels by genre. Their departments are divided by genre specialists. Bookstores are divided into genre sections, and readers buy books based on their reading preferences – largely according to their favoured genres.

You need to know from the outset what you’re writing and why. It’s perfectly OK to write a crossover or mash-up, provided you do it thoughtfully and purposely.

Genre is the cornerstone of traditional publishing. Publishers acquire novels by genre. Their departments are divided by genre specialists. Bookstores are divided into genre sections, and readers buy books based on their reading preferences.

If you’re still figuring out what genre to write a book in, start with what you love to read. If you already have a book idea, try imagining it written in a few different genres and see what feels most exciting to you.

Once you know your target genre, familiarise yourself with its inner workings. Most specifically, you’ll want to understand the driving force at its heart. You also need to know its conventions, tropes and clichés inside and out. Otherwise, you can’t know when to meet and when to subvert reader expectations, and you risk disappointing them – or losing the reader’s interest altogether.

image of a path with setting as the next step

5) Explore your setting

Another important step on your journey to write fiction – or even creative non-fiction – is getting to know your setting. The when and where of the book. You’ll want to have a strong sense of your story’s world before you even think about writing the first page.

And for many writers, it’s the setting itself that sparks the story.

When your story is happening

The ‘when’ is the time period – the 1980s, WWII, the day before yesterday, 200 years in the future. It might be that the whole book happens in one time period (or indeed one day), or you might have multiple timelines or an epic saga that spans generations.

Either way, the era of your story will directly influence the behaviour and actions of your characters. The time period we live in dictates anything from the food we eat and the music we hear, to our civil liberties and systems of belief.

Of course, at the planning stage, different genres and periods require slightly different approaches. The genres that have the when most obviously at their core are historical fiction and futuristic science fiction. Any literature focused on social commentary also tends to be heavily concerned with the issues of the period – and often of the writer’s too, should it be different. This applies to writing about the past, present or future, and it’s something our writing coach Kate Riordan explains at length in her top tips for getting started writing historical fiction.

Witnessing social change in a historical novel can educate and enlighten us, not just about where we’ve come from, but about where we might be going next.
—Kate Riordan, ‘Get Started Writing Historical Fiction’

Essentially, in choosing when to set your story, you need to think about how that context impacts your themes and characters. Not only are you showcasing a particular time period, you are also allowing your reader to explore its moral universe, and often how it relates to ours.

Where your story is happening

The ‘where’ is the physical location or environment of your setting – a hostel in Amsterdam, a chalet in Val-d’Isère, an east coast university campus, or a galaxy far, far away. This, too, will determine much of your characters’ thoughts and behaviours – whether they are responding directly to it, or influenced by it.

Genres that typically have a very strong focus on place include crime and suspense (particularly domestic noir) and science fiction and fantasy (SFF) – although place is crucial in all novels, and can be pivotal in any genre.

The thing that often distinguishes the ‘where’ from the ‘when’ is that many writers have the chance to explore their physical setting. If you’re able, treat yourself to a visit. Walk around, breathe in the air, meet the people. Jot down descriptions while you’re there – they may include details you wouldn’t get from looking on Google Maps.

Assess your reasons

For both the where and when of your setting, make sure you understand the why. What are your reasons for choosing that time and place? How does it work with your plot and your characters? How does it influence the message of your story?

As most writers will tell you, you’re going to spend a lot of time in this world. You want to be certain it makes sense for your story, and is somewhere you enjoy exploring.

image of a path with character as the next step

6) Get to know your characters

You’ll spend as much time – and possibly a lot more – with your characters as you will exploring your setting. And before you put pen to paper, you’ll want to have a strong sense of who they are, and who they’ll become by the end of the novel – particularly your protagonist(s).

Most fundamentally, you should spend time exploring:

  • Their major problem
  • Their biggest fears
  • Their deepest desires
  • The things they need but don’t want (and don’t know they need)

Tips for crafting characters

We have a lot of advice on character development, and even some handy character development exercises you can try as you sketch your cast.

If you take one of our courses, you can also enjoy coaching from published authors to guide you and ensure your characters are dynamic and compelling.

In the meantime, here are a few top tips:

  • List the fictional characters and real people you find most compelling, and why. Try to find some connections between the names on your list.
  • Make sure your main character is not you.
  • Think carefully about your character’s flaw and how you’ll reveal it to the reader.
  • Consider the circumstances of your story: who would be the worst placed to deal with the impending troubles? That might be the most intriguing main character...

Once you have a great protagonist, you can think about the characters surrounding them. Who would bring out their best qualities? Who would bring out their worst? Who would supplement their weak points? Who would they be fascinated, repulsed, controlled by?

Make sure you spend plenty of time on your secondary characters, too. You don’t want any one-dimensional or tokenistic people in your writing!

7) Craft your hook

Now you have the building blocks of your story, an immersive setting and a great cast of characters, it’s time to distill them into one irresistible hook.

Your hook will keep you focused and motivated through the writing process. It’ll also be crucial further down the line, when you query literary agents and when they submit your novel to publishers, and then when those publishers market your book to bookshops, and those bookshops sell your story to readers... Basically, the hook is incredibly important – particularly for high-concept fiction.

Hook-writing resources

You’re in luck because we have a free mini-course on creating a fantastic hook!

Failing that, make sure you read our full guide on how to write a killer hook. For now, we’ll summarise it. In essence, your hook is your elevator pitch. It’s how you’d answer an agent if they said, ‘Sell me your book in thirty seconds.’

To get to your hook, you need to break down the key parts of your concept:

  • What the book is about
  • Who the book is about

And finally:

  • What is at stake

For example, bestselling author Jack Jordan’s hook for Do No Harm was:

An organised crime ring abducts the child of a leading heart surgeon and gives her an ultimatum: kill a patient on the operating table or never see her son again.
Which is stronger: a doctor’s oath? Or a mother’s vow to protect her child?
—Jack Jordan’s hook for Do No Harm

You can see his process for crafting this beauty in the full article!

At this point, you might also like to play with a (working) book title. It can help make the whole story feel more real and complete, and keep you motivated.

Again, don’t put pressure on yourself. Your title can (and likely will) change many times through the writing and editing process.

8) Research

A brief note on research, because you should probably do at least some before you get started. But what you definitely don’t want to do is:

  1. Let research become an obstacle (or excuse) that prevents you from starting to write
  2. Get so bogged down in facts and figures that your novel becomes a non-fiction book

So by all means, familiarise yourself with the time and place of your novel. Find out about your protagonist’s profession. Try your hand at the love interest’s quirky hobby. But don’t let it take over!

When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
—Jonathan Franzen

It’s wise to know your characters and the crux of your plot before you do any research. That way, you can focus on finding out what you know you’ll need. You can also leave smaller details to fill in later – after the free play of the first draft.

That’s the key: get the information you need to fit your story, and don’t suppose you need to have all of it before you write.

Research like a published author

We’ll give you a full checklist of good resources on our courses, and we have recordings of our live Q&As with research-savvy writers across genres.

If you’ve not signed up yet, you’ll find lots of guidance on our blog, like this article from Mike Gayle, and another by Patrick Gale.

If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the backstory as you can get it.
Stephen King

9) Outline your novel

We know the idea of plotting often panics writers. If that sounds like you, you’ll be glad to know that many successful writers don’t have a detailed outline before they get stuck into writing – including Louise Dean, founder of The Novelry! As she says:

Setting up a structure seems to take the magic out of things and feels like putting on a corset (without the adult possibilities).
—Louise Dean


Tess Gerritsen also wrote a brilliant article for us on how she’s tried pre-plotting and found it simply isn’t for her.

Even Stephen King doesn’t outline ahead, and he’s considered to write some of the best plots of all!

I want to put a group of characters... in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or to manipulate them to safety... but to watch what happens and then write it down.
—Stephen King

Give yourself a loose blueprint

Having said that, we would suggest you give it some thought and put a loose plan together – safe in the knowledge that nobody is going to hold you to it.

The situation comes first, then the characters, and then – like Mr King – you can let the characters do things their way, not yours.

As part of our creative writing courses, we’ve created a template plan for all our writers – an interactive tool that gets you to answer the practical and pertinent questions publishers ask of their submissions. As its foundation, it has The Five Fs® of story structure – a concept we come back to many times throughout our courses.

This planning method is perfect because it shows our writers what’s driving their story and it keeps their writing focused, but at just one page it doesn’t become prescriptive or restrictive. Plus, we encourage all our writers to update their plans regularly, thinking about the shape of their story.

A quick intro to a rough outline

If you don’t have access to our tools just yet, here’s a handy way to sketch the skeleton of your novel. Think of the book as having two halves: the problem and the solution. The midpoint between these two will be vital – and is often a good place to start writing and/or planning.

There’ll have to be some turmoil and trouble to get your character to the midpoint and beyond, and you can note down some ideas about what will bring those on. Try and give yourself at least five to be getting on with – remember they might change!

10) Set up your writing habit

Now that we’ve taken care of the preparations and nailed down your book idea, it’s time to start thinking about the actual writing! And to get you beyond the first few pages and ensure you don’t stop writing once the novelty wears off, you’ll have to create a sustainable and enjoyable writing routine.

Choose your writing space

The first thing to do is figure out where you’ll settle down to write a book. This one is entirely subjective – different people work in completely different ways. Some prefer to be surrounded by others who are knuckled down and zoned in. Others like a busy setting with plenty of activity to watch and conversations to eavesdrop on. Some set up a study or even a garden shed that they can treat like a home office (or hole up in wearing their PJs!).

How you choose to write your own book comes down to the atmosphere that makes you the most productive. Some good options include:

  • A library (plenty of inspiration, resources and often fellow scribblers!)
  • A coffee shop (caffeine on tap and potentially a hive of activity for story ideas and chit-chat to help you get the rhythm for dialogue)
  • A co-working space (literally designed to boost productivity)
  • A cosy place in your home (ideal if you’re like many of us at The Novelry and beyond, and like to write first thing in the morning)

Above all, make sure this is a space you like being in. If not, your writing time will definitely become a slog and you’ll be inviting boredom and writer’s block.

Schedule your book writing time

If you’re going to write a book, you almost certainly need a schedule. And that’s not just our opinion: most authors treat writing a book like any other job or passion, committing to it daily. Over half of the published authors we surveyed write at least Monday to Friday! And, just as we recommend, a vast majority write in the morning rather than later in the day.

Again, there’s no foolproof step-by-step process for writing books. The time of day we write, much like our writing spaces, is all about personal preference and maximising our comfort and productivity. But if you want to get not only to a finished first draft, but writing and editing your very own book from start to finish, you need to commit to regular writing sessions.

Slow and steady

Because that’s the thing: most successful writers will tell you that regardless of how many words they get down or how much self-doubt they’re experiencing, the secret to writing a book is to write every day. Just get the words down. Even if they’re terrible. Even if you’re going to delete them the next day. Don’t let writer’s block be an excuse – just write something.

Our advice is to aim for daily writing sessions of just one hour. If you’re passionate about your book idea, this won’t feel like a sacrifice, it’ll feel like a treat. By doing this often, you’ll form a regular writing habit. Expert wisdom says it takes 90 days to form a habit – which is where our world-famous Ninety Day Novel Class gets its name! Better still, it can get you through your first draft in just 90 days – and if you commit to the process, you can have a finished novel, edited and ready to submit, in less than a year (and yes, that’s where our Finished Novel Course gets its name!).

It’s not just us who think this way. Great writers like Stephen King will tell you that leaving a book to stew and ferment is a good way to ensure it never gets written.

The first draft of a book – even a long one – should take no more than three months, the length of a season.
—Stephen King

Of course, life gets complicated. Unexpected things can come up and throw a kink in your writing routine – that’s OK! Even if you’re scribbling a couple of lines of dialogue on a napkin or leaving yourself a voice memo with a development to your subplot, try and spend some time moving your story forward, wherever you may be.

Set writing goals

A key part of any writing schedule is goals. Remember, if you want to be a professional writer, you should treat this like a job – give yourself tangible goals and targets. Writing a book is a long, sometimes challenging process. You need to build in milestones to celebrate!

For our writers, we recommend having one hour a day of writing time as the goal. If you manage that, you’ve earned your gold star (or fancy coffee, or riverside walk, or chocolate biscuit, or favourite song – however you like to reward yourself!). We call this the Golden Hour.

The great thing about this goal is that it doesn’t depend on how many words you’ve written on a given day, because we know that fluctuates. And a goal of one hour is applicable whatever genre you’re writing in or age group you’re writing for. It even works for a non-fiction book!

Other goals you might set are:

  • Writing a certain amount of words (find out what other writers aim for here)
  • Completing a chapter
  • Developing a character or filling in a character bio/template
  • Creating an outline or plan
  • Completing a specific bit of research

Consider book-writing software

As with the other specifics of how you choose to write a book, the tools you use should suit your needs.

You might prefer a lovely, fresh, unlined notebook and fountain pen like our founder, Louise Dean. You might be happy with a straightforward word processor like Microsoft Word. Or you might like the writerly bells and whistles that something like Dabble, ProWritingAid or Scrivener can offer, to help you write while keeping your plan and research organised.

If you think writing apps and other digital tools might be right for you, have a look at our favourite ones!

Find your community

The other surefire way to get through the long road to writing a book is to have a supportive writing community cheering you on. There are lots of places you might look, and we have a wonderful group of writers at The Novelry.

Having a team who believes in you and understands your ups and downs is vital. Writing a novel is a unique endeavour, so no matter how much the people in your life adore you, respect you and have faith in your story, they probably won’t be able to relate. A sounding board – people who’ve been there and can help you through the lows and celebrate the highs (even those smaller milestones!) – makes a world of difference.

That being said, we’d advise against sharing your work-in-progress too early, or until you’ve had a chance to do at least one round of edits.

Your first draft is just for you. Sharing it too early can damage your story and, worse still, your confidence in yourself. And you’ll never be able to write a book you don’t believe in.

So we’d suggest you avoid workshops that make their members share at first draft, and instead find a community that can support you through the process – one that’s designed to understand that this is a process, and one that can’t be hurried.

image of a path with a writing coach as the next step

Find a writing mentor

Ideally, along with your community of fellow writers you’ll have your very own book writing coach. Somebody you can share your ideas with early on, who’ll advise you with no judgement or agenda. Somebody who’s been where you are, and not only finished their book but found publishing success. They can help you plan your story to make sure it’s true to your vision, in line with reader expectations and – if publishing or self-publishing is your goal – meets the demands of the industry.

Again, this is one of the most powerful steps you can take to ensure you see the process through and don’t lose faith in your fabulous ideas!

image of a path with the first draft as the next destination

11) Finish your first draft

Once you’re set up, it’s time to write your book! Whether you do it from an ancient library, a coffee shop, or the delights of your bed, this is your time.

At first draft, you just need to get the story down on the page. You can use this writing time to get to know your characters – lots of good writers find the character development really happens after they’ve started, when they’re throwing characters together and plenty of curveballs are headed their way.

Remember that this isn’t the time to put pressure on yourself, judge your words, give into your imposter syndrome or fret about the demands of the market. This is precious time, just for writing. It’s just you and the page (or screen).

If you’re following our guidance, that means little and often – writing one hour every day, preferably in the morning.

Remember that this isn’t the time to put pressure on yourself, judge your words, give into your imposter syndrome or fret about the demands of the market. This is precious time, just for writing.

The most important thing at this stage is to keep your work to yourself. Now’s not the time to send it to family, friends or even your writing group for critique. That comes later, after you’ve done a round of edits.

you can go to a self publishing school if that's the route you want for your story

12) The second draft and beyond

Of course, the focus of this article is on starting to write a book, but we know many writers are spurred on by the desire to finish – to see their novel published and their book cover in shop windows. So we’ll give a quick thought to the steps that follow the first draft.

Take a break!

You’re going to want (or rather, you’re going to need) to take a good break from your manuscript once the first draft is finished. We recommend four weeks. Let it marinate. Get some space from it.

Feel free to make notes as things occur to you – edits you want to make; characters you want to change, add, remove; dialogue that needs to be tightened; maybe even new book ideas.

But don’t touch that draft for four weeks.

Learn about editing

What you can do during your break is learn about editing, so you’re ready to dive in when the time comes.

There are lots of great resources – our guide to self-editing for fiction writers is a very good place to start! You can also have a look at our breakdown of what a professional editor does, so you understand the different forms and stages of editing, and are ready for what’s to come. Remember if you’re self-publishing, it’s likely that much more of the editing will be solely down to you. (You can also find out more about how self-publishing compares to traditional publishing from an author who’s done both.)

Get a professional editor

Just like a published author is an invaluable guide and mentor as you write, a professional editor is an incomparable and – for most writers – indispensable ally. Ideally, you want an editor who knows about you and your story, and can help you polish it to publishing standards while retaining its wonderful you-ness.

That’s one of the things that makes The Novelry unique – and so highly recommended by successful authors and publishing professionals alike. Our writing coaches work closely with our professional editors, so that everybody on your team understands the ins and outs of your story, and how it’s come to be.

What’s more, our editors have decades of experience in the industry, and have worked at the biggest publishers and with some of the most famous authors out there. They can advise you on everything from how to structure your story and sharpen your dialogue, to how to format your manuscript and negotiate the design of your book cover – and everything in between.

Just like a published author is an invaluable guide and mentor as you write, a professional editor is an incomparable and – for most writers – indispensable ally.

If your goal is to write a book readers will love – whether that’s your close friends and family or an audience of millions who’ll turn you into a New York Times bestselling author, you need a truly brilliant editor in your corner.

Finding an agent

Once you have your edited manuscript ready to submit, it’s time to find a literary agent (unless you’re going down the self-publishing route).

This is where novel writing becomes really businesslike – you need to be professional and you need to be dedicated. Dig deep into that writerly resilience again, because finding an agent isn’t always smooth or quick. Many of the most celebrated authors had to knock on quite a few doors before they got a yes, so don’t take rejection or radio silence personally. Agents are incredibly busy, and they can only take on a very limited number of clients. And remember, a no isn’t a no to you; it’s just that particular story at that particular time wasn’t right for their list.

Make sure you take time to learn about the submissions process, and bear in mind that it can differ between different agencies, and even different agents within one agency. We have lots of helpful articles that agents have written for us, as well as this handy guide to writing the cover letter that will support your submission.

The Novelry can help you find the right agent and get your foot in the door. We work closely with the leading agencies in the UK and the USA, who trust us and look forward to receiving submissions from our skilled writers. We can also help you hone your submission package to make sure you’re grabbing agents’ attention right away.

Learn about publishing

Once you have an agent, a lot of what comes next is largely out of your hands. This is your time to celebrate and take a break! Enjoy it – you’ve definitely earned it.

It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about the publishing process, if you’d like to. That way, you’ll know what to expect further down the line.

If you’re interested, have a look at our guide to the stages of publishing and everything that follows the book deal.

Resources and further reading

Here are some resources you might want to explore! And to really dig into writing craft, professional tips and inspiration, have a look at some of our favourite books on writing.


On confidence

Katherine Arden on Resilience for Writers

Sophie Kinsella on Motivating Yourself to Write

Rachel Joyce on How to Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer

Writer Imposter Syndrome

On planning

What Is Story?

Book Ideas: What Should You Write About?

Thriller Story Ideas and the Influence of Fairy Tales

Creative Writing Genres: Their Driving Force and Impact

Character Development in Novels

3 Character Development Exercises

5 Creative Writing Prompts to Develop Your Craft

How to Research for a Novel with Mike Gayle

Patrick Gale on Researching Historical Fiction

On writing

How to Write a Novel in 9 Steps

How to Keep Writing Your Novel

How to Start a Story

A Guide to Story Structure

How to Write a Hook for a Novel

Writing Dual Timeline Books

Writing Crime Fiction with Mark Billingham’s Tips

Get Started Writing Historical Fiction

Suspense Writing: 5 Top Tips

How to Write Dialogue in Fiction

How to Write A Book

Average Daily Word Count for Writers

On editing

Self Editing For Fiction Writers: 10 Top Tips

Pacing a Novel: Practical Tips

Show, Don’t Tell

What Is Chekhov’s Gun and How Can You Use It?

When to Get Feedback on Your Writing

On publishing

The Stages of Publishing: After the Book Deal

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Book Submission

What Does an Editor Do?

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

Trident Media Group Submissions: Ten Tips for a Perfect Package

Someone writing in a notebook
Members of The Novelry team