Everyone can write a novel, but only a few can pen a great one. Before you think of yourself as the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, you have to learn the ropes of writing a novel first.
Think of the general plot
This would help you formulate ideas to come up with subplots and characters. You may use formulaic plots if it’s your first time to dabble in fiction. Here’s an example: Gods punish man. A hero is chosen. The hero refuses the call to adventure. He changes his mind and listens to his mentor. The hero saves the day. People live happily ever after.
What you have just read is a simplified version of the hero’s journey, a pattern deduced by Joseph Campbell. The hero’s journey is the universal plot in myths, and can be seen in various literary works, including novels. There are other formulas for plots – you often read about the “opposites attract” theme of romance novels, or the adventure stories in children’s literature.
Create your characters
Bring them to life by giving them realistic attributes. It is better if your readers could see real people in them. For instance, a villain could remind them of their childhood enemy, or a very nasty teacher they had in grade school. A mentor or fairy godmother could have been inspired by your best friend or someone who has been a good influence to you.
Give your characters depth. Build a universe out of these people. JK Rowling conjured an image of Hogwarts and invented fancy names for professors and wizards. Tolkien had created the world of hobbits, elves, and orcs – he even invented their own language!
Outline your novel
Be more specific with the details in each chapter. This is where you could play with tension, character development, and conflict. The chapter outline is the skeleton of your novel. You could see how your write-up goes even without writing too many words yet. Also, this is what some publishers and agents ask for from authors. This is what they use to gauge the quality of your novel.
Start writing each chapter
Once you begin the writing process, everything else follows. You can add dialogues to make your plot more interesting. Just write and write – keep the ideas flowing. At the end of each output, you would be the sole judge as to which parts to keep, and which ones to discard. This step not only teaches you how to write a novel, but how to edit your own work as well.
Linda Merrill (Ph.D., University of London, 1985) Lecturer in Art History, Emory University. My interests: Art and literature in late 19th-century England; aestheticism and japonisme; 19th-century American painting. One of the professional essay writers and editors at AceWriters company.