How To Write A Story Or Novel – Tips for Beginners

What is the Difference Between Short Story and Novel

If you are a beginner prose writer and still haven’t decided which literary form you want to use, you may hestitate between choosing a shorter or longer kind of text to work on. While shorter texts, or short stories, might seem easier to write, creating a real novel might be a more interesting and challenging task. Before you start writing, it is advisable to learn the peculiarities of the two.
The first thing you should know is that novels and short stories differ not only in the number of words. A story is intended to produce a momentary emotional effect on the reader and often to be consumed by the reader “in one sitting”. However, a novel is not just an extended story – typically it features a variety of characters and more than one storyline and is designed for reading over a longer period of time, generating various thoughts and emotions in the reader’s mind.

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What is a novel?

A novel can be described as a narrative which may be fictional or romantic or telling about our day to day experiences. As a rule, a novel is longer than a story and is written in prose form with the ideas flowing systematically. To make a novel successful it has to be interesting so as to keep the reader’s attention to the very end, which is a more complicated task for many than just writing a captivating story.

How to start a story or a novel

Starting a story could be one of the hardest, mind compelling exercises one could ever undertake but no need to worry! We’ve got simple steps to get you started writing your best seller novel.

  • Choose the genre you are going to write in – this phase is very crucial as it gives you a clear understanding of all other components of the novel, from characters to the outline and setting that your storyline is going to take. It is prudent that you pick a genre, which you are most comfortable with, not simply trying to follow the recent best seller trends. This will help you delve into your thoughts and express them without difficulties and will make the writing experience more fun, less torturous and less stressful.
  • Begin with the end – endings are the hardest part of the story to come up with. Beginning with the ending gives you clear directionality on the path that your story will take, how you will build on the characters, what will be the fate of each of them and provides understanding of other important components of the story.
  • Establish your characters – there is no story without characters, so you have to identify all the major and minor ones in your story before putting down the plot and hence starting to write the story.

So, how to write a novel?

Writing a novel could seem to be even a more mind-blowing task than creating a shorter text. However, all you need is a clear and concise idea of what you want your novel to be all about coupled with a smooth flow of ideas, and this will get you started on your great story outline in no time.

Basic Step-by Step Guide to Writing Process

  • Create a clear and precise outline – the story outline is simply the plot of the whole thing, from the theme and characters that the story will revolve around to the events that will be highlighted in the narration. As mentioned earlier, it is prudent not to let the outline hinder or limit your scope of imagination.
  • Get started with the draft – once you have identified and familiarized with the above components, start writing the draft. In this phase, let your imaginations, ideas, and creativity take charge in coming up with the story. Your thoughts should be in synchrony to create a smooth flow of events and thus, a very interesting storyline and attract more readers once your book is published!
  • Rewrite – once you are done with the draft, and you are satisfied with the flow of the story and turn of events, sit down, be comfortable and bring the story to life. Write something that you would be eager to read.
  • Edit – this is the very last section that will require your full attention to bring the story to its fullest perfection. Here, you have to go through the story more calmly yet with a lot of comprehension and understanding to get rid of those simple mistakes and errors starting from the grammatical errors, to complexity in wording, to misplaced events or instances and even poor sentence, paragraph and chapter development. You may also hire the professionals to help you get this done to utter proficiency and perfection but be vigilant and careful not to get your hard work taken away from you.

After proper review and identification of a publisher, you can now relax and wait for the fruits of your labor.

Exxentional elements you should consider while writing a book:

  • Do away with the outline – an outline is meant to give you the direction your story is going to take but most often it ends up restricting your scope of imagination, and you may end up creating a bogus story that does not have that element of adventure and fun that will be the key to attracting readers.
  • Come up with an appropriate and workable setting – a novel setting describes when and where your story will unfold. These two elements (time and place) are correlated, and hence you have to choose them wisely and make the reader feel that  he or she is part of the narration when describing the two. Remember to be as precise as possible when mentioning the novel set up.
  • Consider the point of view – it basically describes the person telling the story, that is, is he/she a first, second or third person? This improves comprehension of the storyline and will go a long way in helping the reader understand certain events that are somewhat unrealistic. Be careful to stick to the persona you have chosen throughout the story to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
  • Choose the protagonist – a protagonist is essentially the lead character in the story or rather the character that the events will revolve around. The protagonist is usually the reader’s interest so be careful to build an impressive but yet realistic storyline including this character.
  • Do not ignore portions of scenes that come into your mind – you are not bound to following the story outline to the letter on how the paragraphs and pages will flow. It is better to note down the events and scenes as they come into your mind. This makes the story more fascinating. However, after adding anything you should re-read your writing to make sure the plot is consistent.
  • Come up with the conflict – all stories must have a conflict or trouble somewhere along the line to make them more intriguing. Hence, you should build on the conflict in your story and make it somewhat realistic to come up with a good resolution at the very end of your tale or novel.
  • What are the stakes in the story? – It is evident that your readers will only be drawn by their emotions or attachments to the characters in your story, especially the protagonist. So, it is crucial to weigh your stakes very well including what key characters win or lose especially regarding their wants, interests and important aspects of their personalities.
  • Be open to working with topics or areas that you are not familiar with – this enables you to expand your scope of writing. However, be sure to research on the new topics so that you get the facts right.
  • Set a realistic deadline – time is of essence and hence you have to give yourself a workable time frame that will neither be too much to keep you off your feet nor too little to make you stressed out and end up with a rushed and unappealing story or even make you skip some ideas that may be crucial to building it.
  • Identify a reliable reviewer – it is important to get the very honest truth about your story. Hence, choose someone you can trust but who will give you the truth as it is, without sugar coating!

Tips for shaping your characters for a story or novel:

  1. Come up with biographies for each character – it should include their names, age, marital or financial status, educational background, jobs, family background among other factors that may be relevant in building their storylines.
  2. Identify each character’s ambition – what is each character’s personality, wants or goals?
  3. Comprehend each characters’ arc – a character arc describes the plot or storyline of the character from the time the character will be brought into the story to the end of the story.
  4. Comprehend the conflict – as mentioned earlier, a novel just has to have a conflict or problem. Come up with the conflict in your storyline and try to provide a clear way of how the problem will be solved.


Writing Using the Snowflake Method

The snowflake method is basically a methodology used mostly in fiction novels where a writer begins with the simplest yet detailed idea and then goes on to more complex ideas of the fiction story or rather, the writer starts with a major central idea of the story then goes on to expand it and add in more deeper details. It is alluded to the ‘snowflake’ method because writing a fiction story, where a fiction writer begins with a central idea and then builds on it, is just like drawing a snowflake.

Snowflake outline

  • Summarize your story in one sentence – basically, use 15 words to describe the very theme of your novel.
  • Expand the sentence into a paragraph – here you add some details about the sentence that you had created, more like explaining or giving flesh to a sentence. The first sentence gives the set-up of the story, the next ones should focus on the conflict you had created for the story, and the last sentence should provide the conclusion.
  • Focus on the characters and come up with an approximately one-page summary – characters are a major component of the story. The summary should include their names, the conflict they face and how they will overcome it, their brief story outline and the fate of each of the characters.
  • Expand each of the sentences you had written earlier into paragraphs – this is the whole idea of this method, developing each small idea into something bigger. This step will go a long way in giving directionality to your storyline.
  • Write a one-page long description of each character’s story taking into account the components you had described in the third step to make the descriptions focused on the points of view of the characters. This helps to shape out your characters and paint their personalities more vividly.
  • Expand the one-page writing you created into a four-page write-up – take each of the paragraphs and add more detailed information, expressing each character’s storyline more vividly to help you get the story flowing.
  • Create a character chart for each of the characters describing features such as birthplace, history, life experiences, educational or family background among other details which are essential for coming up with the storyline.
  • While considering the synopsis created, come up with a list of every scene and event that you will include to grow further, and each character’s story.
  • Use the scene list to write a comprehensive story for each of the events listed keeping in mind the characters that are involved in each of the scenes.
  • After this step, you are more than ready to write your first draft.

General tips on writer’s work

Writing any piece of article, book or any form of a write up is a skill and an art that is learned over time of practice and experience. Some common and simple tips on how to write a book include;

  • Commitment, devotion, dedication, and patience are some of the key qualities that each writer should possess.
  • Apart from the mentioned traits, a writer should most importantly be passionate about his or her work. Much as book writing may be a hobby done to just past time, it should be done with passion, drive, and love for it.
  • Play around with words – books are all about words written sensibly and systematically so, do not shy away from working on your language and experimenting.
  • Avoid grammatical errors such as spelling mistakes and poor sentence structure.

Creativity should be employed to the fullest – let your mind delve into those imaginations and adventurous experiences and express them without holding back.

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