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How to write a novel


Moorcroft Wood

Many people think they can write a novel and intend to ‘do it one day’. Then they never get around to it. Making a start is often difficult and then you find all sorts of problems. First you have to decide who the novel is about; your protagonist. The protagonist in a play is the first character to appear on stage; the main character. So you decide on your main character and have some idea what he or she is like and then you need to set the stage for the story. Where is your main character?

I have set the stage for this article with a photograph of woodland. Can you describe that woodland?

The sun was low in the sky as Jack walked through the woodland, the trees cast shadows across the path ahead of him. The sun shone through the young spindly trees as the gate to the woodland came into view. The birds sang in the trees and Jack wondered for a moment how long it would be before the woodland would be a blaze of colour once again as the seasons changed. It had been a long winter and the first bright day of Spring…

We have a protagonist and we’ve set the scene. Now we need a plot, a story; where will Jack go, what will he do? What will happen to him? Obviously your story needs to be different, but you need to observe some rules to make it easy for the reader to read. The rules of punctuation and grammar for example.

I would also avoid having too many characters or too intricate a plot or unusual names; the reader has to remember all that and so do you as you’re writing it. You might want a climax if you are writing a thriller; to build up to the climax of the story, you also could have an ante climax. You also need an ending, a point in the story that you have building up to; the end. The end might be written in such a way as to allow you to write a sequel; a continuation.

When you change the story a little, you start a new paragraph. When the story changes significantly you can start a new chapter. A new chapter in Jack’s life could be when he leaves that woodland. It could be after he leaves and when he arrives at his next location?

When you have written your first chapter, it’s a good idea to check it for errors and try to perfect it. Try reading it out aloud, does it sound right? Does each sentence lead into the next? Do you stick to the story or wander off the topic? Do you keep your protagonist in the story or wander off onto other characters. The story is about your protagonist after all.

You can have a protagonist and an antagonist to make the story interesting. A wife as protagonist with an idle shiftless husband as antagonist. If you are writing comedy the antagonist could be an ordinary guy with a ever criticising mother in law.

The main thing you need to know about writing a novel, is you need to make a start. Don’t expect the first one to be great, it will probably be crap; but you’ll learn heaps from the experience! Then you can start to learn about publishing!

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10 responses

  1. I found that first one a learning book. I am two chapters short of completing the rough frist draft of number two but am going back to the first to re-edit. It may see the light of day yet.

    2, April 2012 at 1:01 pm

    • Hi Nick,

      Yes, I rewrote my first novel and keep thinking about either rewriting it again or writing it again and making it simpler. It’s a comedy and adventure. I want to keep the comedy but cut some of the adventure. Doing my blogs takes up time and doing the research does too. I’ll get around to getting a novel right and publishing it one day!

      2, April 2012 at 2:34 pm

  2. For me I find the most important part of the story is the antagonist. If you have solid antagonism then the reader won’t stop turning pages.

    2, April 2012 at 3:16 pm

  3. Hi Tyler,

    I see your point and that is often true. My novel was a comedy/adventure and so the antagonist was the trials and tribulations of the adventure. The adventure is set at sea and so to begin with the antagonist is the weather and then later the sea. It doesn’t have to be a person but in a thriller or a mystery, then I think it does have to be a person.

    This post seems popular and so I might continue with it next week. I never know what to write about on a Monday!

    Thank for visiting and commenting.

    2, April 2012 at 6:04 pm

  4. I’m not a novel writer, but these are great suggestions for anyone who is. Great tips!
    Great post! Thanks for visiting my blog!

    2, April 2012 at 10:46 pm

  5. Hi Judy,

    It was a popular post, so I might make it a subject I write about every week. Thank for the visit and comment.

    3, April 2012 at 9:37 am

  6. Pingback: How to write a novel | Narration « Mike10613's Blog

  7. Pingback: How to write a novel | Style « Mike10613's Blog

  8. Pingback: How to write a novel | Planning « Mike10613's Blog

  9. Pingback: How to write a novel | The storyline « Mike10613's Blog

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