Writing Tips

Four Practical Steps to Start Writing Your First Novel

The idea of writing your first novel can be intimidating. And then there’s the actual writing of it – which, of course, is even worse. But it doesn’t have to be! Not if you break down each part of the process into smaller, manageable tasks. The first is figuring out what you’d like to write. The steps in this post will help you with this, and provide a great foundation to get you started on that first novel. (Or, if you’ve already written your first book and are stuck with a subsequent one, might help spark your creativity!)

1. Make a list of what you like to read

Your years of being a bookworm have finally paid off! (I’m assuming. If not, maybe you should start there before following these steps ?.) Make a list of the books you enjoy reading and what your favourite books are. That’s it. That’s the first step. It’s that easy.

2. Write down why you enjoy reading these books

Is it because you loved how the killer in that mystery novel turned out to be the protagonist’s best friend whom he never suspected? Or is it because you swooned when the hero of your favourite romance risked his life to keep the heroine alive? Use your instinct here, and write down everything that comes to mind. Pay attention to character traits, to tropes and to plot devices.

3. Note down anything you didn’t like about the book

This is the time for your inner critic to come out. Note down all of the things you would never write in a review about a book you loved just in case the author might see it (which we do). Yes, it was great that the killer was the protagonist’s best friend. But why weren’t there more clues pointing to that? And yes, the protective hero is great, but wouldn’t it have been even better if the heroine had saved herself?

In this step, you could also think about what you would have done differently, or about what you’d like to see, but haven’t read. For example, I’ve never read a romance with mixed-race main characters. I’ve certainly never read a royal romance with mixed-race characters. So, I used this to inspire my current work-in-progress.

These three steps give you a starting point for your novel. You now know what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see. This is also a good way of getting out of a funk if you can’t come up with an idea for your next book. The final step then builds on this.

4. Switch on your computer (or take out your notepad) and write

Yes, I know that you only have a vague idea of what you’d like to write. And yes, I know there’s no plan and no structure. And if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think you have the time to write, you definitely won’t want to waste it by writing nonsense, right?

Nonsense can be fixed. Better yet, it will give you something to fix. You’ll know what’s working and what isn’t. If you write without a plan, you’ll find a freedom that may encourage creativity. It helped me not to think about what I thought I should write, and to just write what I wanted to. Of course, the end-product was a bit of a mess, but there was an end-product. And that’s what these steps are trying to help you with.

The truth is, unless you’re a full-time author, there’ll never really be time to write. And even if you are a full-time author, there’ll always be excuses. But write you must. If you don’t, you’ll spend so much time thinking about how much you want to write. Time you could spend actually writing. Whether it’s fifteen minutes in the morning before work starts and a paragraph on the page, or an hour at the end of the day and an entire page. Write. Before you know it, you’ll have the first draft of your first novel.

More importantly, you’ll be a writer.

Do you have any advice on how to start writing that first novel? What are the things keeping you from plunging in? Share in the comments or get in touch on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll try to help ?

2 thoughts on “Four Practical Steps to Start Writing Your First Novel

    1. I’m so glad you found it useful! 🙂 I write with you and others like you in mind. If I can help at least one aspiring author find their way, I’ll be happy!