Creative Writing: 5 Tips for Writing a Novel
  • 3-minute read
  • 22nd January 2017

Creative Writing: 5 Tips for Writing a Novel

Even though creative writing gives you much more freedom than academic writing, it takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication to master. Luckily, if you are writing a novel, there are a few things you can do to make sure you end up with something you can be proud of.

1. Start Small

One mistake aspiring novelists make is leaping right into writing a full-length novel. If you’ve not written fiction before, consider starting with a few short stories. This will let you hone your creative writing skills before you set to work on your seven-volume masterpiece!

Not exactly what we had in mind, but sure. (Photo: kelly taylor/flickr)
Not exactly what we had in mind, but sure.
(Photo: kelly taylor/flickr)

2. Where to Begin?

Speaking of starting points, coming up with an idea for your story is one of the trickiest parts of writing a novel. The old adage of “write what you know” applies here, so one option is to base a story on something in your life or something you’ve observed.

Another top tip is starting with a character. Who is your story going to be about? What is their background? Where do they live? What challenges do they face? If you can answer these questions, the rest of your story should start falling into place.

3. Have a Plan

Once you have a basic idea for your story, you should take some time to make a plan before you begin writing. Try to consider what the major plot points will be, who the main characters are, and what the end point will be.

You might need a bit more detail than this.
You might need a bit more detail than this.

You don’t have to stick to this rigidly once you get going, but it should give you a basic structure you can use to guide your writing.

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4. Give Yourself a Quota

Every author has days when they don’t feel like they can get anything done or when the words seem to come out wrong. But don’t let this put you off!

Give yourself a quota of words to write each day. This doesn’t have to be much (even a few hundred or a thousand words a day will add up eventually). They don’t even have to be perfect (you can edit later, so resist the urge to hit “delete”). The important thing is to keep going.

5. Edit Ruthlessly!

Once you have a first draft, take some time away (have someone else read it and give you feedback if you can). But when you do come back to your manuscript, be brutal!

Editing your own work can be painful, but it has to be done. Make your story as streamlined as possible. This means making small cuts where redundant words and phrases appear. But it can also mean cutting sections that aren’t essential to the plot, such as unnecessary scene-setting.

Red pen optional. (Photo: Nic McPhee/flickr)
Red pen optional.
(Photo: Nic McPhee/flickr)

If you can do this, you should end up with a much better novel as a result!

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