Six Steps to Starting Your Novel

With NaNoWriMo coming up, it’s time to start planning your novel. Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned writer, here are my six top tips to get you started.

Tip 1: Create a unique main character

You’re going to spend a lot of time with this character, so make them unique! And I’m not talking about giving them some oddball hobby. They need to have personalities too.

I use the Myers Briggs personality test to help shape my characters. Knowing my main character’s personality has helped shape who she is and how she responds to situations.

I also fill out a detailed character outline with this information:

External Characteristics

  • Name, age, birthday, gender, race, setting, physical description, clothing style, and general disposition
  • Family, friends, and pets
  • Hobbies and fears
  • Residence

Internal Characteristics

  • Childhood event that shaped her
  • Secret shame
  • Who she loves most in the world
  • Driving ambition, greatest flaw, and greatest virtue
  • What she does when no one is looking

Feel free to add to this list! But you don’t need to include all their personal details in the novel. Sometimes it’s good to just have the background.

Tip 2: Use your character to create the story

Once you have a detailed, unique character, you need to use them to shape your story. You may have an idea before you develop your main character. That’s okay! Go ahead and blend them together.

Tip 3: Make sure your problem is deep enough

If the problem you give your unique character can’t span 50,000 words or more, it’s not deep enough! Your story may not be deep enough if:

  • Your character can solve the problem with a simple “yes” or “no” decision
  • Your character is a teen and follows their parents’ advice to solve the problem (and no complications arise from it)
  • Something outside your character’s control solves their problem for them

If you include any of these, don’t fret! You can still deepen the problem. Try these ideas:

  • Try a “yes, but” or “no, but” decision to add tension and suspense
  • When your teen character follows their parents’ advice, make it backfire or have complications
  • If their problem is solved by something out of their control, then refocus on the complications that could arise

There are many ways to deepen your plot. Just keep brainstorming!

Tip 4: Write an outline

No matter if you’re a Plotter or Pantser, you do need to stay organized! I recommend the Four Act Structure for writing your outline.

It doesn’t matter how much you outline. Your story will take on a life of its own. My original ending for Lies that Bind flew out the window. Stay flexible!

Tip 5: Know your setting inside and out

Most of my pieces take place in my hometown. I know every nook, cranny, and side road. You don’t have to be that familiar with your setting but know what you’re talking about.

Like I said about your characters, you don’t need to include all the background. Just knowing it can help with your writing!

Tip 6: Start writing

When I’m writing my first draft, I do writing sprints. I’ve worked my way up to 45 minutes a session. You don’t have to do writing sprints, but I do recommend dedicating time each day to writing. When the time comes, dedicate the same amount of time to editing.

It can be hard to get started. I know it was for me. But get words on paper. Any words.

They will come.

Is there anything I’m missing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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