How to Write a Novel

By Glen C. Strathy

Taking a little time to learn how to write a novel, before you start writing, will pay off tremendously. In the first place, your mastery of some simple novel writing techniques will result in a better manuscript. Secondly, you are more likely to actually finish your novel if you have some theory to fall back on when you get stuck.

Surprisingly, beginning writers often feel that, since they've read a lot of novels and perhaps taken some literature courses, they already know how novels work. Therefore, they conclude that writing a novel should be a breeze. Not true. To assume that novel reading qualifies you to be a novel writer is like assuming that, since you've lived in a house all your life, you know enough about houses to build one.

That's not so say you can't write a brilliant first novel off the top of your head, in one draft. There are a few writers who have done so, and they are the envy of us all. The vast majority of novelists, however, find their work goes much easier and faster after they’ve taken the time to do some learning and planning first.

At the same time, we know from experience that too much theory can itself become paralyzing. Let’s face it, novels are very complex creations. They can be studied from many different angles, not all of which are useful for the writer. And even practical topics such as story structure can become overwhelming if you study them in-depth or put them too far ahead of inspiration, passion, and spontaneity.

In the articles below, we will introduce you to some of the most powerful secrets to novel writing we've been able to find and discover to date. They will help you create a well structured and emotionally compelling novel without relying on clichéd formulas.

At the same time, we have tried to present these tips and secrets simply. We aim to give you enough theory to nurture your imagination and make your novel writing process easier. Just remember that you shouldn't spend so much energy mastering the theory that you fall out of touch with your passion.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Just before we start...

The first two articles below are intended to "set the stage" before we get into the more powerful secrets. They are to let you know where we are coming from in terms of theory, and reflect on where you are coming from as a writer.

Avoiding the Two Types of Writer's Block

What kind of writer are you -- a "pantser" or a "plotter"? Both kinds have their advantages and disadvantages, and both can experience different types of writer's block.

Story Structure from Aristotle to Dramatica

Much of the help we offer on this website is based on Dramatica, a theory of story structure which we feel offers the most complete and open-ended model of how good stories work.

How to Write a Novel by Preparing First (A 10-Part Plan)

Writing a novel is a big project. As with most big projects, it helps to do some preparation first. The articles below invite you to give some thought to 10 key areas of your story an to organize your ideas. They will significantly improve your chances of finishing your novel successfully.

How to Write a Novel Part 1: Finding an Idea

Maybe you already have a great idea for a novel. But in case you don't, use this easy technique to generate an endless supply of story ideas.

How to Write a Novel Part 2: Choosing a Story Goal

The most important step in creating a plot for your novel is to decide on a story goal, which will be the lynchpin of your plot. Here are some of the more common types of story goal.

How to Write a Novel Part 3: Creating a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps

Using the 8 essential elements of every good story, here's how to create a brief plot outline for your novel that is emotionally compelling and dramatically sound.

How to Write a Novel Part 4: The Link Between Climax, Resolution, and Your Main Character

Story dynamics are one of the most useful plot development secrets. Learn how your main character's decision at the climax determines the most effective ending for your novel.

Part 5: Using Archetypal Characters

Discover how to write a novel using archetypal characters to fulfill the required dramatic functions in your story and create tension.

Part 6: How to Create 3-Dimensional Characters

Tips on how to make your novel's characters memorable, believable, and original.

Part 7: Your Main Character and His/Her Essential Counterpart

Knowing the difference between a protagonist, a main character, and a point of view character gives you more storytelling options. Plus, discover the other essential character needed to make your novel emotionally compelling.

Part 8: Choosing a Setting

Discover how Dramatica theory can and can't help you choose the right setting for your novel.

Part 9: Choosing a Theme

A well-expressed theme can be as valuable to your novel as character and plot. Here's how to convey a message without being heavy-handed.

Part 10: Writing a Complete Outline

The final step in preparation involves writing an outline of your novel. This will help ensure your first draft is tight and emotionally compelling, with no sagging middle.

Now that you have an Outline...

You may want to refine your plot by designing the Progressive Plot Structure using some of the tried and proven story models.

You might also want to look at the Creative Writing Tips page for more creativity and plotting techniques, and the Style Tips page for help with the actual process of putting words down on paper (or into your computer).

Or, you could just start writing and check out these other resources when you feel you need them!

Do you have a question about how to write a novel or any of the articles on this page? If so, visit our Questions About Novel Writing page to get the answers you need.

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