5 Tips for Writing a Novel

Although I’m not a newbie in the world of novels, I’m far from being a best selling author with a plethora of titles under my belt. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned from my own experience.

Professionalism please!

A while ago I hosted other writers sharing short stories about the Afterlife on this blog. I had about six contributors, but to my surprise one of them handed in his writing with spelling errors, and another sent her story in the body of an email. And although I have nothing against self-published authors, there is no excuse to not take a professional approach to writing.

So here is how my creative juices usually splash onto the page.

Tip 1 – Let your ideas incubate:

Go with the flow

I have several ideas for different novels. From time to time when I least expect it, a plot twist or an interesting line of dialogue comes into my head. Or someone comes up with a one liner or a life philosophy that’s worth repeating in one of these books.

I’ll record the thought or the proposed dialogue on the recorder of my smart phone, and later transcribe it to my notebook under the title of the book I think it’s best suited for.

Tip 2 – Find your characters on Google:

The main character of a book I am writing.
The main character of a book I am writing.

I’ve only done this recently. Use Google to find images of the types of people you see as your main characters. When you find the right image, look at each person and give them a catchphrase.

Now work out Head, Heart and Below. (This was a tip an HBO writer shared in a TV documentary).

Head = Their education and what they believe.

Heart = Who they loved.

Below = The type of person they like to sleep with.

Then add various other characteristics under the title TRAITS.

Tip 3 – Always read aloud the last thing you wrote:

Make sure you’re alone when you do this

I’m not big enough in the world of novelists to pump out a few drafts and send it to my publisher so an editor can fix all my mistakes. So the first thing I do before I continue writing, is to read aloud my last day’s work as if I’m addressing an audience of potential readers.

You’ll be amazed at the grammar and spelling mistakes, or simply the strange turn of phrase you have written previously. Other times you’ll find you can express a sentence better, or you’ll find more compelling ways to explore your imagery. And you’ll also see redundant words.

Tip 4 – Do your laundry when you write:

As soon as I leave my laptop to go outside to hang washing, my brain rewrites what I have just written, and in every case, both better and with more imagination. Seriously!

This is also true if I get up to prepare lunch or go for a pee.

Secret Tip – An antidote for writer’s block:

A talented editor told me that when I suffer writer’s block, close my eyes and imagine walking into a dark room with just a chair and a film projector. Now let the film play the movie version of the scene you are writing. It will all unfold naturally. Write down what you watched. (This was a tip used by one of the writers of the original series of Star Trek)

Tip 5 – A first draft is never a novel:

All of us at one stage were first time writers, and we all thought when we typed the last full stop, we had a masterpiece. I hate to break it to you but that is never true.

Don’t touch your manuscript for three months. In the meantime start another novel or rediscover the outdoors.

When the time has passed, print out your proposed masterpiece in a font you’ve never seen it in. Now take it to the beach or a park or somewhere away from your writing desk, and have your red pen ready.

For the first time you’re experiencing your writing as the reader, and you will see where the pace slows, where the plot doesn’t work, what scenes need to be added or dumped, what chapters need to be rearranged, and various other story faux pas you thought worked on first draft. Now, work on your next draft.

Then repeat this exercise two months later. (Or get a friend you trust will be brutally honest with their feedback to read it).

Now go and write that best seller that will be on everyone’s lips!

PS. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section.

2 Replies to “5 Tips for Writing a Novel”

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