Many people wish to write novels, but don’t know how they should get started. Perhaps they believe that they’re not good enough writers, or that they’re not intelligent enough to do it, but I’m here to tell you: you can do it. This is a person who has wept many, many tears and has spent many sleepless nights brooding over the idea that he was incapable of accomplishing the completion of a novel. I have since written several novels, and am in the process of writing several others (one of which you can read as I write it right now). I’m a busy autistic college student with an anxiety disorder who still writes every day. I’ve been through the gauntlet; I assure you, nothing can stand in your way. If you want to write a novel, do it, and let nothing stop you.
I will guide you through the writing process by telling you the process that I myself use. This is a guide to not only write a novel, but to write a good novel. Writing novels is a talent that anyone can develop, and though it isn’t easy, I guarantee that it is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling things you’ll ever do.
First, you need an idea for your book. Well, where do you get ideas?
The way that I get ideas is to simply ask myself, “What sort of book would I like to read?” and then, if that book doesn’t yet exist, I take it upon myself to write it. In fact, that’s the entire reason I write: to read the books I want to read but that don’t yet exist. If, for instance, you want to read a story about two of your favorite characters getting married and sharing a domestic life together, write a book about that. Don’t worry that it’s based on another’s work; fan fiction is literature, just like anything else, and even if you wish to write original novels fan fiction is a great way to hone your writing skills. After all, the best way to improve at writing is to write, no matter what it is you’re writing.
Once you have your idea, plan out your novel. This isn’t a strictly necessary step, and you can skip it if you like, but in my experience you want to do it if you want to save as much time and have as few headaches as possible. Planning out your novel gives you guidelines, establishes the rules of your world, and minimizes frustration. If you have a general idea of where your book’s going to go, you’re going to minimize the time you’re frustratingly wondering what to do next, or revising parts to accommodate your new ideas.
The way I plan out my books is by using the Snowflake Method, which is described in advancedfictionwriting.com. Basically, the Snowflake Method is planning out your plot and creating your characters in the broadest strokes possible, then getting gradually more and more detailed about them until you know everything about them. If you’re writing a book in a science fiction or fantasy setting, I would also recommend establishing ALL of the rules of your world and writing them down before you begin writing the novel itself. That way, your rules will be consistent throughout your work and your readers won’t feel cheated.
Once you have your world built, your characters made, and your plot established, the next step is to sit down and pound out your first draft. There’s no shortcuts or workarounds on this step; the only way to do it is to do it. This is easily the most frustrating and difficult part of the process, but it’s also one of the funnest and most fulfilling, and I can tell you a few ways to make the frustrating parts more bearable:
First of all: relax, don’t worry about quality, and throw your perfectionism out the window. This is from someone who would like nothing more than to pen the apotheosis of human artistic achievement; perfectionism is your single greatest enemy. Take it from someone who has learned the hard way, after spending several years of his life fighting a losing battle to achieve perfection. Don’t worry about quality; there’ll be time for that later. Your only concern for the moment is to write the book. It doesn’t matter if what you write is any good; the only thing that matters is that you’re writing. If you get tired or frustrated, take a break from your manuscript until you’re up to working on it more. Sleep, or have a good meal, or read another book for a while. Take all the time you need; your manuscript will always be there for you when you come back to it.
Next, write as often as you can, and take all the time you need to finish it. Even if you can only write a couple of sentences every day, remember: you’re still making progress, and some of the greatest literary masterpieces took years or even decades to reach completion. You will only fail if you give up.
But most importantly: never, ever, EVER destroy ANY of your work. If you write anything, no matter how cruddy it is, KEEP IT. Even if you DO give up on it, you must still NEVER destroy or abandon your writings. Once again, take it from someone who learned the very, very hard way: there is NOTHING that will induce more regret and despair than wishing you hadn’t thrown away your work in a fit of despairing rage, weather because you want to keep working on it or because you want to see and remember what you created when you were younger.
Once you finish your book, go back and edit it until you have your final draft. Flesh it out, add details, and refine it until it’s well and truly completed; you’ll know it when it happens.
Once you have your completed book, you can share it with others, put it online, or try to sell it to a publisher. What you do with it doesn’t matter that much, though; what matters is that you’ve done what many others have only dreamt of doing. You have written your very own novel.