If I was given a pound coin for every time someone said to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel… ” — I’d be a very rich woman. Many consider it, but few end up writing a full novel and even when some get that far, they leave it languishing on a pen drive somewhere, or printed out on a dusty shelf, lacking the confidence to allow someone to read it, let alone publish it.
So how do you go about writing a novel?
Well first you need to have an idea. There are tons of ideas out there from every walk of life. Open up a newspaper and you’ll see all sorts of topics you could write about. Maybe it’s the local vicar who ran off with the organist, an unsolved murder, an historical story of interest, a sporting achievement, someone who’s battled with an illness against the odds, the list goes on and on.
So what do you do once you have an initial idea?
Some authors get right down to writing by the seat of their pants whereas, others plan meticulously. They write out character charts, research indepth and outline their novels, if that works well for you then go for it. I tend to plan beforehand, but I then write by the seat of my pants as I think if there’s no surprise for the writer then there’s no surprise for the reader.
So how do you finish a novel?
You have to write from A – B, it’ s a simple as that. There are no short cuts. It’s about getting up and out of bed and writing when you don’t much feel like writing. It’s like turning on a tap, once you get in the flow, the creativity will come. If you wait for the muse to rouse itself, you might well have a long wait!
So you’ve finished your novel, what now?
Get someone to read it! Though I advise you don’t show it to people who will tell you what you want to hear. It’s no good your mother or your auntie telling you how great it is when the truth is it sucks! The best type of readers are those who don’t know you personally, so it might be best for you to join a critique group.
So you think your novel might be good enough to publish?
Stop there! Ask yourself the following questions first.
1. Is it edited to within an inch of its life?
2. Are there any parts you could omit which would make sense if removed? If so, they’re not necessary to the story.
3. Do you know your market? Are your writing for the romance market for instance? If so, there’s no point in submitting it to a Sci Fi publisher and vice versa.
4. Is your story interesting enough to publish? Many writers don’t submit their first novel to a publisher as it was their training ground. They learned from writing it — how to format it, setting out chapters, laying down dialogue, etc. If you think it is good enough though, and it well could be, is it a page turner? The only way you’ll be able to tell this is to give it to someone to read, but again, don’t give it to someone who will tell you what you want to hear!
So your novel is good enough to send off to a publisher. Ensure you check the publisher’s guidelines carefully first. It’s no good sending your baby off somewhere if the publisher only takes agented submissions, your word count doesn’t meet their requirements, they don’t publish your particular genre, etc. It would be a complete waste of time!
So what happens if you submit your novel and it gets rejected?
Rejection is all part and parcel of being an author, it happens to everyone. Even J. K. Rowling suffered more than her fair share as Harry Potter was rejected numerous times! You just need to develop a thick skin and be persistent! If an editor takes the time to reply personally to you and gives you some pointers as to what might be wrong with your story, take note. Editors are busy people but they know what sells and what doesn’t. You can learn a lot from an editor’s letter, that’s if you lucky to get that sort in the first place as quite often authors receive standard replies.
Is there anything else you can do?
Yes, join a writing group whether it’s online or at your local library. Writing groups can be a very useful way to find out what works and what doesn’t. Some writing groups encourage you to share your work and you have the added advantage of learning from other authors and finding out what’s going on in the writing world.
So now you know how to go about writing a novel, what are you waiting for? Your muse to wake up? Get cracking or you’ll never know what you could have achieved!!
Lynette Rees is the author of several romance novels and one crime fiction novel [writing as Lyn Harman]. She’s had numerous articles published online and in national and international magazines. Some of her publishing credits include: Writers’ Forum magazine, Carillon [UK], Living Now [Australia], Ocean Magazine, Vibrant Life, Obadiah [US], Horizon Magazine, Suite 101 [Canada]. Her most recent published novel is, ‘Blue Skies’, an historical romance, set in 1890s Merthyr Tydfil. Currently, she’s working on a follow-up book called, ‘Red Poppies’, which as the name suggests is set around the First World War. You can view Lynette’s novels here:
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