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You want to write a novel. You’ve got some story ideas bouncing around your head, but you don’t know how to even begin. Every novel you read makes you want to write your own book too, yet it also scares you. 

Those novels you read are just so… good. They’re polished and clever and well written. It makes you feel that you could never write something good enough so you maybe shouldn’t bother.

Advice for writing a novel

If you’re a new writer, I’ve got a reassuring message for you here about how novels get written. Before you start searching for advice like ‘Tips for Writing a Great Novel’, there’s something very important and powerful to understand.

A novel – in its finished form that you’ve always read – is not downloaded onto the page in a perfect flow. It does not pop out of the writer’s brain, down their arms, through their fingers and onto their manuscript as a crafted story. Novels do not appear as a manifestation of their authors’ stream of consciousness.

Every writer of a great, good, or even decent novel has a process. This process does not involve being a conduit through which a perfect novel streams out fully formed.

You’re not alone in thinking that’s how it works, though. I’ve heard lots of people say to me that they’d love to write a novel but they wouldn’t be able to get the words to come out right. They feel intimidated by the cleverness and beauty of their favourite authors and worry they won’t be good enough. 

They think, who am I to write a novel? That’s only for the special people who can do that.

But it’s not true.

When you read a book that makes you say, “Wow. I wish I could do that,” you’re only seeing the finished product. The final result of persistence, work and learning of the craft of storytelling.

You don’t see the first draft. Or the second. Or the third… you get the picture.

How to write your first novel

It’s unhelpful to think of writing your novel in terms of typing Chapter One and trying to get the words to come out right.

You’ll get on better if you think of the story in your mind as a lump of marble. It’s unformed at the moment. It’s not much to look at. But the potential is there for something beautiful. In fact, the material that the final work of art is formed of is already there. Your job as a writer – as a storyteller – is to find that story and to shape it into what it’s meant to be.

All novel writers do this in one way or another. They take an idea – their lump of marble – and they start shaping it. The rough shape of their plot and characters often begin to emerge first. The world the characters live in starts to become real. 

Gradually the story becomes more defined. The problems, emotions and motivations of the characters come into focus. Eventually, the novel is ready to share with the world. It is unveiled like a statue at an exhibition. Everyone marvels at the writer’s talent and skill, perhaps unaware of the work behind the scenes.

You can do this too. You can write a novel. It is not only for those ‘special’ ones. The only difference between them and you is the place they are on their writing journey.

Learning, support and encouragement for amateur writers.

DEANNE ADAMS - STORY COACH AND MENTOR

I care passionately about words and stories. As a Story Coach and Mentor, I help writers to tell irresistible stories. I offer courses, memberships and programmes to suit beginners, developing writers and those ready to become the writer they've been trying to be for years.

Learn how to 'Show more than you tell' in your writing with my free workbook - your guide to an engaging storytelling style. You can also follow me on Facebook for more tips to support your writing journey.