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Top Tips For Writing Novels

novel writing process Apr 14, 2019

The Novelry is the worldwide novel writing school. Here are our top ten novel writing tips - you're unlikely to find them elsewhere. 

  1. You're the author, you get to play god. Play dirty.
  2. Attach emotion to your story.
  3. Say what you see. Don't try too hard.
  4. Don't make the main character yourself.
  5. Stop the self-loathing.
  6. Write against 'type'.
  7. Don't think of yourself as a writer.
  8. To pick up speed, go slow.
  9. It will take 9 months, baby.
  10. Keep it simple – story, story, story.

1. You're the author, you get to play god.

This is the only part of your life you control. Sure, you can claim the characters speak to you and guide you. But my bet is you'll whip them pretty hard before they do. Whip them harder, make them behave badly, and against their interests or instincts. Throw some mystery into the story. In great novels, there's often something that doesn't make sense. Indulge yourself. Don't go by the book.

2. Attach emotion to your story.

Use the things you love to 'ornament' your book whether those are the things people do and say, the objects, colours and patterns and music you love. Create your own sentimental fool's paradise, and you'll be back daily. Did I mention you should indulge yourself? This book is for you (in the beginning.) 

3. Say what you see. Don't try too hard.

Simply tell us what you see, and see into the corners, look for the things in the wrong places. We will track the story via dissonance, the colours that stand out, things out of place. Don't strive for poetic metaphors, they've been done. (Phew.)

4. Don't make the main character yourself.

The book will die at 30,000 words. We see this too many times. We work hard at The Novelry to show you how to reassign aspects of the author's personality to the characters in the book. Put yourself in 'whole' and you'll end up hating the damn thing. It will die - do you see why? 'Fictions' live forever.

5. Stop the self-loathing. 

Writers writing are horrible to themselves. You will come to see the purpose of this; it's your judgement and ambition and taste, and that's all good stuff eventually in the edit. But in the first draft, recognise the cruelty, and stop it. Counter it with affirmative action. Treat yourself to some proper old-fashioned love. (Our community functions to intercept and torpedo self-abuse where we see it!)

6. Work against type.

Never write to 'type'. Write old people young, young people old, make men womanly and make women manly. Politics divides people into types, art says 'we are one'. A good place to start a literary novel is to show how this 'type' has a life wrought with the same problems and affections we all share.

7. Don't think of yourself as a writer.

Don't think of yourself as 'a writer', think about the story. You're never a great writer, but you can write a good book. When you start to think your fingers type gold, you're in trouble. It's a relief to unshackle yourself from the burden of being 'a writer' of this or that. Every novel is new. Every novel asks a question and teaches the writer something new if it's any good, so you need to retrain with each and every one. Just tell a good tale the way it should be told - straight as you can. Learn to write a novel every damn day. You're always learning if you're any good.

8. To pick up speed, go slow.

I put my writers on word diets to stop them from over-reaching themselves. That way you keep the best bits back and always look forward to writing the next day when you've had time to reflect. The 'brilliant' next bit may end up being quite different. This is a way of layering up the work and helps reduce the number of drafts you'll do.

9. It will take 9 months, baby.

Some writers write slow, some fast. It all ends up the same, about nine months from start to finish if you stick with it. Whether three or more drafts or the one. Work your way. When writing a novel set up a habit in ninety days, knock out a first draft of the story in ninety days, but I tell my writers don't sweat the word count. When you've got a good habit you can write a novel a year My ideal scheme is 3 months thinking, 3 months first draft, 3 months second, 3 months working on the third draft with agents and publishers. 

10. Keep it simple. Story, story, story.

Keep it as simple as possible. Know your one-liner off by heart. Use your experience and your location. Where you live is exotic to the majority of people who don't live there and it makes it easier to write with spare, poignant, illustrative detail. Don't complicate matters when you're writing a novel.

The answer to almost any question when you're writing is - story. Story, story, story. The alpha and omega. From once upon a time to the end.

Enjoy your writing, it shows in the prose.

Make it your secret joy and never show your first draft to anyone.

Happy writing.

Creativity has a lot to do with wit - outflanking expectations with bold leaps - based on more than a hunch. The Novelry helps busy people write novels. We give you tools, not rules, and they're tools you're unlikely to find anywhere else, they're practical and effective, fast. Join us for a novel writing course today and get your novel done in style. Our professional team of bestselling authors and publishing professionals are here to help you get published.


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