You’ve decided to write your first novel. Congratulations. You can’t wait to sit down and write. You’ve come up with a blockbuster plot with loads of compelling characters. You’re only lacking two things: knowledge and experience.
Attempting to write a novel without knowing how is like getting behind the wheel of a car without taking driving lessons. Or, continuing the analogy, it’s like a driver trying to get to a destination without a road map or directions. You’re going to waste a lot of time going around in circles before you find your way.
Consider doing four things before you attempt to write a novel:
- Read as much as you can about the craft of fiction writing. The good news is you don’t have to get an MFA to learn about fiction writing. There are loads of free resources on the internet (more on that in a minute).
- Read as much as you can in the genre in which you want to write.
- Join a writers’ group, either in your region or an online group.
- Try your hand at a short story before you take on a novel. The novel is a long, complex form of writing that takes years to master. There are no shortcuts.
There are scores of fiction writing courses, webinars and other resources out there, but before you spend your hard-earned money on these, know that there are abundant low-cost or free resources as well. Here are some great resources:
Online (blogs and websites)
I regularly read a number of excellent blogs and websites on the craft of fiction writing. My favorites are:
Author Joe Konrath blogs about writing, publishing, ebooks, and much more. His book, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, is a great resource for new writers.
This site bills itself as a “comprehensive informational Website for writers of all levels. Absolute Write offers articles and information about fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, freelancing, and copywriting. In addition, we provide information about editing, publishing, agents, and market research. You’ll find links to classes, software, and a large and active online community of writers and publishing professionals.”
I especially like the Forum. Set up your own profile and post or respond to other posts. It’s a good way to find other writers and get some great guidance.
Former publisher and current media professor Jane Friedman offers insights into writing, social media and the future of publishing.
Nathan Bransford, Author
Former agent and current author Nathan Bransford blogs about writing, publishing, social media, and much more. This is one of the best sites around.
Martha Alderson’s blog gives tips and techniques for plotting novels and screenplays.
The blog of author Jennifer Hubbard.
Agent Rachelle Gardner’s website. Rachelle offers mature and sensible advice on writing, publishing and the role of agents.
Writer Unboxed is a collaborative blog by authors Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton.
Books on Writing
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, By Jane Smiley
On Writing, By Stephen King
The Art of Fiction, By John Gardner
Write Away, By Elizabeth George
Writing the Breakout Novel, By Donald Maass
Writers’ groups, whether online or in-person, allow you to share your works-in-progress with other writers. Some communities have writers groups that are affiliated with the public library or literary organizations. If you don’t have one in your community, you can approach your local library to start one or just start one by yourself. Online writers groups offer many of the same benefits of in-person groups, but they lack the
opportunities for collegiality that are so important to belonging to a community of peers with a common interest.
Once you have the knowledge of how to write a novel, the next step is to get some experience. Again, writing short stories is a good way to start. Bring you short stories to your writers’ group or submit them to an online group. You will begin to see what your strong points are and where your writing needs work. When you have a few solid short stories under your belt, you will have a better grasp of the elements of a successful novel.
When do you know if you’re ready to write? How long did it take you?