I have been writing most of my life, as a child, next to reading, it was my favourite hobby. However there was a point when it went from being a hobby to something more. Now I’m not a published author just an aspiring one so this isn’t about how to write a novel or how to get it published, simply how to finish it!
I think I was about 19 when I finally wrote a story from start to finish. Before then my writing consisted of a number of opening chapters that never went any further. But how can you become an author if you can’t complete a novel?
So here’s some tips…
- Plan – now I know not everyone is a planner…I never used to be! I would get what I thought was a great idea, start writing, be on a roll and then…Nothing! An amazing premise and interesting characters is not enough. I now loosely plan every chapter but that’s just me. Before you sit down to write make sure you at least have a beginning, a middle and an end, otherwise your novel will struggle to get off the ground.
- Go with the flow – okay, so this one might seem to undermine the planning stage but you have to be open to plans changing. You can plan out every single aspect of your novel but until you start writing you can’t always guarantee how the novel will pan out. This is most important when it comes to characters, yes you may have created them but characters have a mind of their own. So, just remember to go with them. I once had a character who was supposed to be in just one chapter then suddenly he kept popping up everywhere. At first I tried to fight it, I had a plan! But once I gave in and went with him things fell into place. Yes I still had the same beginning, middle and end but things just changed along the way. And that’s okay!
- Word count – this was something I never used to take into consideration. I would just write, your novel will be as long as you need it to be, right? Well, not necessarily. When I became serious about my writing I started researching expected word counts for the genre I was writing in. This then gave me something to aim for, this is how you can see whether your novel should be one standalone story or maybe two. Of course, you don’t have to be really strict about this, it doesn’t mean that if a fantasy novel is usually about 120k words then that is the exact amount you have to write. But give yourself a rough idea to aim for because maybe you need to flesh out your original idea if you want it to be a novel.
- Don’t wait for inspiration – it took me a long time to get over this one. I try to write every day but when I was working on a novel, I would wait for that illusive spark of inspiration before continuing with it. Yes, if you get it then jump on it, it is a miraculous feeling! However, it might not always appear so just keep writing. Some days I’m grateful if I manage to write just one great sentence but if I don’t, I still keep writing. If you only ever wait around for inspiration you might never get anything done! Just keep going, that is what the editing stage is for, to fix any of the rubbish you made yourself write along the way.
- Look after the side characters – sometimes it is easy to slot someone in to help push the novel along. And that’s okay. But every character in your novel, no matter how small, needs fleshing out, they all need some kind of individuality. I use to put so much effort into my main characters that I would forget to focus on my extras. So, make sure you look after the ensemble. Fully rounded characters are the backbone of your novel and will help it progress.
- Find the story you want to tell – this is probably the most important one! If you’re writing something that you don’t care about how can you expect anyone else to care about it? Don’t write a novel about magic just because you like magic. Find the message you want to put out in the world. It doesn’t have to be some huge political statement or judgement on the world, it just needs to be the story you want to tell! The emotion you want to show. Don’t write something because you think people will like it, write something because you love it!
They say that everyone has a book inside them, a story to tell, but what sets them apart from the writers out there is the ability to actually, well, write the novel. I don’t start writing now because I had a brainwave, I start planning, I start thinking about how I can turn it into a novel. Yes, I still write random paragraphs and characters just to flex my writing muscles but I know that those snippets are not going to be novels. One of a writers greatest assets is determination and the ability to see things through to the end. Without it, you might not ever finish that novel!
Any tips you would like to share?