Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fiction: How to Start Writing Your First Novel

If your dream is to create a bestselling novel, join the club of millions. Writing fiction can be one of the most rewarding things you may do as a writer. You’re here because you want to begin writing fiction. Many of you are confused as to where to begin. Use this guide to clear up the confusion and anxiety that many new writers face.

The First Step is All About the Mindset

You already took a baby step – you decided to write a novel. If you feel the urge to start writing your story right away, hold back for just a second.

First, let’s try to understand the world of fiction. Not every writer survives. Everyday, thousands of writers decide to write a novel. Some begin to write the first pages of their story. A precious few end up finishing their novels.

What accounts for the failure of so many would-be fiction writers? Perhaps it’s a busy schedule or a lack of motivation. Each writer has his or her own reasons for not finishing their novels.

With that said, here’s lesson #1:

99 out of 100 reasons are actually excuses. For the purpose of becoming a successful writer, use the word, “excuse” whenever you have a bad reason for not writing. Remember, reasons are excuses, and excuses are lies. Ultimately, reasons are lies that you tell yourself, and these lies will come between you and success. Start with a clean slate – make a promise to ignore the excuses that enter your mind. This may be the most important thing you will ever learn as a writer.

Technical Information – Let’s get this out of the way

A novel consists of about 100,000 words, which comes out to about 400 double-spaced, typed pages. Sounds like a huge amount of work, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s a lot of work, not to mention dedication and drive. If you feel discouraged at this point, go back and read the previous paragraph.

Reflect back on your favorite novel. It may contain anywhere between 80,000 and 100,000 words, give or take a few. Nowadays, some novels go over by up to 50,000 words. If you think that your fiction novel will go longer than 100,000 words, consider breaking it up into several books. For example, if you have 400,000 words, you should create a series of four books. On the other hand, if the idea of 100,000 words or more sounds frightening, perhaps you should consider writing a short story. A short story may contain up to 40,000 words.

The Name of the Game

The first thing any fiction writer should do is choose a genre – a category or style, so to speak. The genre will determine where or how it will be classified in a bookstore. Examples of genres include mystery, romance, horror, science fiction, fantasy and mainstream. These are not the only genres out there – many more exist and there are sub-genres for each category, not to mention mixed genres such as science fiction mystery. Do your homework and read up on various genres.

Dealing with the Creative Process

If you have even the smallest idea for a story, that’s enough juice to get you through. Even for those of you who have no clue what to write about, you can still get the creative process started.

Understand the creative process. I consider the creative process to be a time where you think, create, and write. It is the ultimate tool to finish your novel. Call it anything you want – some writers call it “quiet time”. It’s a bad term, however, because there are writers who talk out loud to make sense of what’s going on in their minds.

Gather your ideas. Don’t lose them.

Ideas come and go throughout the day. You may think that great writers have this rare gift of coming up with wonderful ideas for their stories. The truth is anyone can come up with a knock-you-socks-off idea. The trick is to gather those ideas in one place, whether in a notebook or in an index card box.

You never know when a fabulous idea will come to you. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse, and one by your bed. I know several people who pop up at 3 am to write down an idea.

Some of your ideas may seem “stupid”. Write them down anyway. It could become the best idea yet, once you play around with it. Too many writers “throw away” their ideas by not writing them down. A lost idea is just that – lost. You can always go back to a “stupid” idea, but you can’t do that with a lost one.

Make a schedule. Keep to it.

Include time in your daily schedule to work on your novel. It could be 15 minutes in the morning before your family wakes up, or a half hour during your lunch break. You don’t necessarily have to write during the creative process. You could use the time to think over your ideas or create new ones. Remember, a great novel can take two weeks or two years. Don’t restrict yourself – the quality of your novel will suffer.

Improve yourself and your novel will follow.

Make sure your facts are straight. Use the internet and other resources to help you find the correct information. Unless you meant it to be so, always use the correct info or your book may lose steam with some readers.

There are many great books at your local library or bookstore that can aid you in developing your plot, characters, and your overall story. Consider taking a workshop or course in creative writing if your story doesn’t excite you. Grammar, spelling, and sentence structure are also important to your book, so always get help in this area when you need it.

Revise, revise, revise.

If your story isn’t perfect in your eyes, correct it. It could mean erasing fifty pages of text, or changing a scene. Some writers get half way through their books and realize that something doesn’t make sense, so they rewrite the whole thing. Constantly reread, edit, and revise for a well-written, polished novel.

Here’s to Your Success

This guide will not be the only thing you need to succeed. You will go on and read many more books, articles, and magazines. Fiction writing is very multifaceted and the art of fiction writing will come to you in its own way. Never wrap yourself up in following an exact method – it won’t work. You can follow directions and take the advice of others, but your story will only unfold with your imagination. Word hard and stay motivated!

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