So, you want to write your novel…?
Congratulations! You’ve decided to take on a dizzying, tormenting, horrible – and yet wonderful challenge of writing your novel. Yay!
Whatever the plans may be for your novel, whether it’s to one day publish your novel or just for fun, there is nothing quiet as crazy or satisfying as finishing a story. To finally write the words ‘The End’ and mean it, is a wonderful feeling. The only thing I could think of that would be any crazier might be being a mom (but only slightly)
Through this series, we’re going to cut it into bite size pieces, because like with any goal, it can be daunting when you first start. You’re looking at the blank page thinking “Holy crap, I have to write a whole novel? I haven’t even got one word down yet!” I know, I’ve been there. We all have.
So, what are you waiting for? Are you ready to become a writer and write your very first story?
Everyone seems to be writing these days. I mean, even Youtubers are getting book deals (Looking at you, Tyler Oakley).
I know that everyone has a story inside them, just bursting at the seams trying to get out.
- Are you the kind of person who always seems to have a story to tell?
- Or maybe you have people in your family that are so insane that they might already be fiction (Like Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? crazy.)
- Maybe you’ve always had a story inside, but just never new to right way to go about it.
This two-parter will help give you the general idea of the next steps. It’s easy to get lost when writing, so a nice, step-by-step can sometimes be necessary.
Research can be a lot of fun, believe it or not. Trying to find pieces-parts that mesh with your story can be fun and irritating. Are you setting your story in New York, but have only seen postcards, research, find which boroughs are the safe places and the not so safe places.
Maybe your Main Character (MC) is a welder, and yet you know nothing of welding. You’re gonna have to do some research on that bad boy.
What if your characters need to find a lost, sunken, treasure off the coast of Japan that has magic powers? You better know what you’re talking about with not only the geography, but what has already been lost, why, and where people have already looked!
I like to do as much research as I can before I even think of writing. It stops me from stopping half way through a story to find out what that little prickle-y thing on the end of some plant is.
The Things (Minimum) that you need to do research for:
- Your setting (space, Hell, another dimension, Montana, etc.)
- Your characters (Typical macho hero, dweeby nerd, princess Gets-Kidnapped-A-Lot? And what about sidekicks?)
- Your theme (What are we going to learn from this? Is it ‘Love conquers all’? Or maybe ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’?)
But you must be careful: Most of this research is going to be for your eyes only.
Unless you’re writing a non-fiction, then you aren’t going to need to know all of the parts of a circular saw, nor will your readers care.
I’ve done it myself, with one of my most recent stories about a stockbroker. I knew nothing of the stock market. I knew that it goes up and down, and people make a lot of money from it. I knew that Wall Street was an actually street in New York and that there is a Bull Market and a Bear Market.
If you had asked me what thought words meant, I would have told you that it was a really old roller coaster in the middle of Manhattan that has animatronic bulls and bears, like Five Nights at Freddy’s.
However, my readers didn’t want to know the behind the scenes. They really didn’t care for history behind Wall Street or any stock investing tips. That’s not why they started to read it. They wanted to read about my character, Finn, and the struggles he faced because of his new found wealth (the entire motif of the story. We’ll get to that soon.)
That’s why is important to know that with research, try and keep most of that stuff behind closed doors. It’s for your eyes only, and if you want to let your readers in on how the wormholes and time portals of your sci-fi work, make it entertaining. There is a very good reason why we all fell asleep in that class.
With the term outline, you will have two different reactions. One side of the room will cheer, knowing that they have a road map for their stories. The other side will groan, complaining that they just want to ‘See what happens’.
I agree, with both sides.
I used to be what is referred to as a Pantser. It’s somebody going by the seat of their pants. They don’t plot out every single aspect, nor do they want to. They just want to wind up their characters and watch them go.
It used to work well until I got stuck on a problem that I couldn’t get out of, and I gave up on the story completely. I took notes so that one day I could come back to it, but I left them so cryptic (It was a treasure hunter story) that I couldn’t read the notes! It is lost forever.
Please don’t do that. Know that you are allowed to see and write (in your native tongue) what the ideas for your story are. It’s not a bad thing and will save you in the future.
Then you also have Plotters. These people plot out every single detail they can about a story, that way there is nothing left to chance. No surprise cameos, no coming back from the dead, and no desperate moves, like making someone pregnant at the last scene (even though it adds nothing but shock value)
I recommend taking notes if nothing else. Get all of the words that are filling your head and writing them down. Laptops, notebooks, scrap pieces of paper, restaurant napkins – just get it down on paper and collect it all in one spot. Make yourself an event list, these are scenes that you know you want to write but don’t know how to get there. That’s okay, you don’t have to write now. Just write it down so you don’t forget it.
Set a schedule
Okay, so now you should have a good couple ideas of what your story is gonna look like, what type of characters you have, the setting – you might have even drawn some pictures! Cool. Now the part that no creative person in the history of the world likes: Scheduling and deadlines.
Hey, I warned you in the beginning, buddy. Six months, despite what you might think now, is not a lot of time. It really isn’t. There is so many emotions that you go through when you’re writing a story – packing them all into six months might qualify as insanity by most medical professionals.
Let’s do some basic math (don’t worry, I’ll do it for us)
- 0 – 1,000 is Flash Fiction
- 1,000 – 20,000 is a Short Story
- 20,000 – 50,000 is a Novella
- 50,000 -90,000 is a Novel
- 90,000 – 120,000+ is an Epic
So if we want to write a novel (Minimum 50,000 words) in six months (183 days) Then we only have to write 273 words a day. Do you think you can handle it? I mean, that less than two Twitter updates a day!
If you want to write it in three months, it’ll be 555.
In a month, 1,667 words a day in order to keep you on the straight and narrow.
When you break it down, it doesn’t really seem that bad, does it?
But see, here is where I’m gonna throw a curve ball at you: I don’t just want you to match your word goal, I want you to exceed it. Even if its only by 100 words (making your goal 373 instead) you’d finish your novel in 4 months and two weeks.
It actually seems rather doable.
That’s because it is! Once you get passed the “holy crap, I’m going to write a novel now” jitters, you’ll see it’s so much easier if you just take it one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll have your novel in no time.
The fun part!
The important thing to remember, especially when it comes to first drafts is Every first draft looks like crap!
Imagine your favorite novel, the one that got you interested in writing, or the one that, in your mind, is sitting on the pedestal as the best book in the history of the world.
Five bucks says that the first draft was a piece of crap.
That’s because first drafts are about exploration.
With outlining your story ahead of time, you give yourself a little road map. You know what to expect and you know what you want to happen, but how often do you go on a road rip and have it work out exactly the way you thought it would?
If if you do all the research you possibly can on the themes and the way you want your story to go, when you get down to the brass tax, you realize that the main outline is there, it’s just hidden.
A lot of the time, you’ll come up with a line half way through the story that you didn’t know you needed. Sometimes the character will just develop a mind of their own and go ‘nope, I think I’ll do this thing instead’.
The goal here is to get your first draft on paper as quickly as possible.
Sit down, grab some coffee, close the door, silence the inner editor that is pointing out that typo and write.
That’s the beauty of the First Draft. We, as writers, really don’t know what we’re doing, until we get that first draft on paper.
How are you doing on your novel? You doin’ good, or want to pull your hair out? It’s okay, you can tell me. I’ve been there before. Comment with your current word count, or even goal. We can share in the celebrating together. I’ll bring the wine.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @morgancharleswrites. Also, don’t forget to teach me how to use Instagram (Back in my day, if you wanted someone to see a picture, you had to copy and paste an attachment in an email. Razzen frazzen…)