2020,  Fiction,  How To Write A Novel: Step by Step,  The Writing Life,  Writing prompts,  Writing quotes



I promise solemnly:

1. to write as often and as much as I can,

2. to respect my writing self and

3. to nurture the writing of others.

I accept these responsibilities and shall honour them always.

Gail Carson Levine – Writing Magic

Starting a novel is a daunting task. If you have been following the How To Write a Novel series, you’ll know that we have done some preliminary work with ideas and characters, and outlines. But at some point, you need to begin actually crafting this work that will be at least a couple of hundred pages long.

So, let’s get started!

At the top of the page, write the following:

My story is about (a character) in a setting (place) and ( the problem). This may seem very simplistic, and it is. A novel is much more complex. But still, you need to have a basic understanding of what your story is about before you start. For example: Winds of L’Acadie, is about Sarah, who is spending the summer in Nova Scotia at her grandparent’s house, and she time-travels to 1755 as the deportation of the Acadians is about to take place.


Author Kate Messner suggests this option: My book is about _________________________, but underneath it is really about __________________. In other words, you’re saying that on the surface, the obvious story is one thing, but the emotional growth part is really about something else. For example: Winds of L’Acadie is about a teen girl who gets stuck in 1755 in Nova Scotia just as the deportation of the Acadians is about to take place. But underneath, it’s really about Sarah searching for a sense of home and family.


Author Linda Sue Park, describes it as What Your Character Wants, and What Your Character Needs. What your character wants, is the superficial, obvious story line, and What your character needs is the underlying emotional growth. For example: In Winds of L’Acadie, what Sarah wants is to go with her mother to Paris for the summer, and NOT stay with her grandparents in Nova Scotia. What Sarah needs is to connect with her extended family and to experience that sense of family with the LeBlancs. I could say more, but…spoilers!

Okay, now that you have established what it is that your book is about, and you have a sense of where you are headed, it’s time to begin writing the first scene.

Here are some tips:

  • start with action
  • grab the reader’s attention
  • introduce your protagonist in such a way that the reader connects and cares about her or him.
  • set the mood or the tone of the story
  • turn your character’s world upside down.

Write the first scene of your story. Then choose five of your favourite novels and read the opening scenes of each. Make a list of everything the author accomplishes in the opening scene. Go back to your opening scene and see if there is anything crucial that should be included.

Remember, info dumps do not belong in the opening scene. Spread out the backstory a bit or your reader will be bogged down and not feel inclined to keep reading.

Every Monday, I have been posting new content in my HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL series. Tuesday through Friday, I post an inspirational quote and a writing prompt. Due to a family situation, I have made the decision that today will be my final HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL post until after the summer break. I will, however, start up with regular postings again in September. In the meantime, I hope you keep working on your project.

Over the summer, I will continue to post inspirational quotes and writing prompts a few times each week, in case you are looking for some added motivation.

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