Here are a few guidelines to help you on your way with your first published novel!
Nail down the story idea
Write a book you’d love to read yourself. What are you passionate about? What keeps you up at night with excitement? Begin with an idea that sticks in your mind and that you can’t seem to shake. Let it grow and take form.
Read books in your genre
Expose yourself to a range of styles and authors to determine what has already been done and what proves to be popular with your potential audience. If you want your novel to be successful, you need to understand how to think like a reader!
Determine whether you’re an Outliner or a Pantser.
Authors typically fall into one of two approaches: The Outliner spends time upfront planning characters, plots and trajectories while the Pantser writes by the seat of her pants, allowing the characters and story to unfold in the process of writing. You may find that one of these approaches feels more natural to you, but very often a hybrid works well; a basic outline and structure that allows enough freedom within it for the story to evolve.
Create an unforgettable main character and choose your setting
Your main character is key! Take time to sketch out a holistic profile within the context of the story so that you create a strong and convincing character. To begin with, consider the following1:
The Goal: what does your character want?
The Motivation: Why does your character have this goal?
Dynamic or Static: Will your character undergo fundamental changes throughout the course of the story, or will they remain largely the same?
You can then explore a more in-depth character profile using a resource like this Character Profile Template. Even though you may only reveal 10% of your character’s traits and information, by having a deeply thought out profile you are able to write an authentic and believable character.
Your character lives within a particular setting or context, and this informs everything in your novel from the character itself, to the plot and beyond. If you choose to write about a setting outside of your immediate knowledge and experience, be sure to research carefully! Even if you are writing fiction, you must be believable or risk losing the attention of your readers.
Create an outline
Even if you may be a Panster, a basic outline is always a good idea and it can really help those moments of inertia in your writing process. There are many ways to outline a novel, and it depends on your style as an author as to what will work best for you. Visual mind maps that represent your plot point, characters, themes etc. can be great, or even a detailed synopsis that covers all major story elements. For more ideas on how to create a great outline for your novel, have a look at this post on How to Outline a Novel.
Establish a writing routine
Even the most prolific, bestselling authors face the challenge of motivation and writer’s block. One way to ensure you finish what you start (the novel!) is by establishing a clear routine right from the start. Pick a time each day that you can dedicate to writing and select a spot that you can do that in, be it at your dining room table or in the coffee shop down the road. Another good tactic is to set a daily word count goal – even if it’s 300 words (1 page) each day! Writing regularly and consistently is far better than trying to sit down for hours each day.
Revise and Edit
Most authors recommend that you allow the writing process to flow and save the editing for later. If you attempt to edit as you go, you can get tangled in the minutiae and lose the movement of the story. Once you have your first draft, you can focus on revising, rewriting and polishing the final manuscript.
Know that you will fail along the way and learn through the process. Don’t give up! Persist and keep going. Your writing will only improve that more you write! Share your progress with friends or family and get constructive feedback that will keep you on track.
The most important thing to remember is:
“Before you can launch a bestseller, you have to write a bestseller.” – Jeff Goins
So, if you have that dream, keep writing! Many authors only became published after writing several books. But they achieved success because they never gave up! You can too.