I’m sure all my fiction writer friends agree that one of the questions we get asked the most is, “How do you write a novel?” First, because readers are curious as to how a story that is fresh and exciting and filled with true-to-life characters comes out of an author’s mind. Second, because they have an inkling to do it themselves.
The truth is that almost anyone can write a novel . . . but (did you guess that was coming?) it takes a lot of time, persistence, and skill. Much more than I thought when I first started writing.
I sat down to work on my first novel in 1994. I had a notion for a story, and the first three chapters came pretty fast—fast enough for me to submit it at the Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference. I was worried when I attended because, “What if more than one publisher wants my story?!” The story was fresh in my mind, and the writing was exciting. I thought I was well on my way. (I laugh at myself now, but at least I did it. I put the words on the paper!)
The truth is, I was dipping my toes in a tide pool when the ocean of publication awaited. I had a lot to learn, and it took me almost ten years to learn it. The advice I would give to my younger writer is this: you have to start. If you’re waiting for permission, here it is: Sit down and begin that book, even if you don’t know much about fiction writing. The best thing you can do is to start getting words onto paper. 1) You may be surprised by how much you enjoy it, and 2) you’ll also be surprised by how much you need to learn.
If you are interested in being a writer but don’t know where to start, here is an excellent list of tips from my writer friends on Facebook on what writing advice they would give their younger selves!
- I’d tell myself to make a daily habit of writing, just a little every day, rather than thinking that those big days of super-creativity will happen often. Slow and steady gets more done than sporadic big word-count days. —Tracy Higley
- I would say write because you love it, never to make money. Money is so evasive in this world, so write for the love and hope the money comes. —Erin MacPherson
- I just heard this from Andy Crouch on public speaking, “Do your homework, love your audience, be yourself.” I’d say the same goes for writing. That love your audience part is key. —Alexandra Kuykendall
- Writing is a marathon not a sprint. —Nichole Hartsell Hall
- Write down great quotes AND the attribution! —Joanna Weaver
- Just write. No matter how tired or what is going on. Write SOMETHING everyday. —Janet Spoon
- Don’t write because you are expected to. Write because you want to. —Laura J. Davis
- Keep it simple and too the point, don’t stress over it God will give you the words, and the more you write the better you get with it. —Heather Fryfogle Strickland
- Discipline yourself to a daily routine. Once per week does not work. —Ken Carfagno
- Stop procrastinating and allowing yourself to be distracted and focus, focus focus! —Carolyn Davis
- From E.L. Doctorow (I actually have this posted in my office) — “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining a book is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” —Stephanie Whitson
- An oldie but goodie: Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. —Joyce Starr Macias
- Have more discipline and don’t believe the first correspondence writing course instructor that your novel is ready to be pitched and will be published! For most publication doesn’t come that easy and you have to work hard and learn the craft well. —Pamela Meyers
- Don’t push yourself to start too soon. Live the life God puts in front of you. The writing is an outgrowth of that life. You’ll have a lot more to say at 42 than you did at 22. But there’s a part 2 to this . . . When you *do* start writing seriously, go for it with everything you’ve got. Get up at 4:00 a.m.. Study the craft. Be brave. Write BIG. —Victoria Bylin
- Don’t give up. Keep learning. Don’t let others opinions affect how you view your writing ability. —Cindy Ervin Huff
- Take a fiction-writing course first. —Gay Louise Balliet-Perkins
- Stop waiting until you “want” to write and don’t have anything else going on. Just sit down and do it. Someday you will have small children and learn this skill the hard way. —Laura Weymouth