By Shilpa Jain
The fact that you are reading this article proves that you are a budding novelist, and have made several failed attempts in churning out a decent manuscript. Welcome to the world of amateur writers! Don’t be disheartened. An amateur of today can be the potential pioneer of tomorrow. Who knows, you are that pioneer in the making! And your uncategorized book is destined to be the dawn of a new genre!
Novels can be broadly categorized into fiction and nonfiction. Each of these categories can be subcategorized into numerous genres. Let’s narrow down our topic to fiction novels. A novel by definition is a long manuscript with a word count of more than 40,000. Let’s take a leap into the world of fiction, and visit a few guidelines of putting together a novel.
Step 1: The Story or The Plot
The basic requirement of a fiction novel is a story. How do you pick up ‘the one’ plot out of the several hovering over your head? Well, there is no particular sign. It should be a plot that you are passionate about. A story that has blown away your mind. A story that has haunted you in your sleep, and has overshadowed your thoughts when you were awake.
Sounds a bit like love, doesn’t it? You don’t want to write about a plot that is used in six out of ten novels. And you certainly don’t want to use a plot that is uninteresting. Your plot is going to be the face of your novel; well, actually, the back cover of your novel. It forms the backbone of the synopsis that you read on the back cover of every novel. The one that influences a reader to pick up or put down a novel.
Were you holding your breath when your imaginary reader was reading the back cover of your imaginary novel? So, take a hint. Your plot has got to be strong, unique and interesting.
Step 2: The Setting
After you are certain that you have a story that you want others to read, you have to gather the ingredients that are going to make your story interesting.
To begin with, you should have complete clarity on the era and the geographical location of your story. That would help your story flow smoothly with a realistic touch. Net surfing your era and geographical location will help you put your imagination on paper with more ease. Of course, if your genre is fantasy fiction, your imagination will have to slog harder to describe the setting of your story.
Step 3: The Characters
These are the guys who breathe life into your story. Their conversations and expressions in words and body language help the reader identify with them. Your characters should have the strength to drag your readers into their fictional world and compel them to feel their emotions.
To give depth to your characters, in your mind, you need to be clear about their backstory. For instance, even if your protagonist is a 40-year-old woman, in your mind, you should know what she has been up to for the initial 39 years of her life. That will help you build a character with a strong personality and more dimensions. This holds true for all your main characters. As you move ahead with your story, some new and unaccounted characters are bound to be born depending on the need.
Step 4: The Narration
There is no hard and fast rule about whether the narration should be in first person or third person, or whether one should use active voice or passive voice. However, going by the latest trend, active voice and first person are in vogue.
It is important that you are smooth and comfortable in the style you use. Remember, trends are dictated by novels and not vice versa.
Step 5: The Dialogues
This area is like a playground for the writer within you. There is so much scope of making your book interesting with the conversation you use. It is important to keep your conversation natural and realistic.
Dialogues bring out the true nature of your characters. They make a character seem witty, dumb, selfish, genuine, etc. Forced information through dialogues is a bad idea. It makes your characters look plastic. Imagine that your scene is playing in the real world, and script your dialogues accordingly.
Step 6: Organization
Some writers prefer to break down their stories into chapters before they begin the actual writing. It’s like charting the course before you start your journey. You are obviously allowed to stray when the course needs to be altered. Some other authors start with a vague idea of their goal, and enjoy their journey by saying, ‘Surprise me’.
Whatever method you follow, you need to have a goal in mind beforehand. The play of your characters throughout their journey depends on the final outcome, which has already been decided by you.
Step 7: Fillers
Once your story has a start, build up, and climax, you have to add fillers. Fillers are incidents that take the story forward towards its final climax. Each incident should be interesting and arouse the curiosity of the reader to turn another page of your book.
Step 8: Take a Break
That was tiring, wasn’t it? Getting into the skin of every character to experience and express their emotions! Phew! Wasn’t easy at all! So, take a break. Get a breath of fresh air. Lots of breaths, actually. Try not to think about your story at all. In my experience, a break of two weeks will refresh your mind.
Now read that first draft of your story again. Read it with an unbiased mind. Did you like what you read? No, then you have some serious rewriting staring back at you. If yes, go ahead with the basic editing. If you like your story only in parts, ponder and identify the drag points. Work on it. Redraft your novel, with breaks in between, until you are completely satisfied with the final product.
Step 9: Beta Readers
This is just a fancy name for the people who accept your offer to read the edited redraft of your manuscript. They can be friends, colleagues, relatives, or acquaintances with a taste for reading, preferably for your genre. These are the guys who will give you an uncensored brutally honest opinion about your baby. Accept it with modesty.
Everyone finds beauty in their own child; it’s only the neighbours who can spot the defects. So, humbly accept their opinion and groom your manuscript.
Step 10: Professional Editing
This may be a good idea if you have a story that means business. Before sending it to agents or publisher, it is worthwhile to get it in its best form.
However, professional editing, especially for content, can be a costly affair depending on the expertise of the editor.
Lo and behold! Your novel is ready to take the reading world by storm! All you have to do now is to find a means to publish and market your product.
On a serious note, writing a novel is just one-third of the job done. The other two-thirds of the job involves publishing and marketing your book.
Every writer’s journey is unique. Some may nail it in their first endeavour, while others may become wiser and more mature with every venture they undertake. If you are passionate enough, even after several failed attempts, work on your drawbacks. Get as much feedback as possible. Analyse your strengths and your weaknesses. Strengthen your weaknesses, and exploit your strengths. Remember, there is no guarantee that you will reach the heights you have dreamed about even after all this is done. Be prepared to fall with grace. Give everything; expect nothing in return. Sounds a bit like love again, doesn’t it?
A published author, she has successfully carved her own niche as an accomplished writer. Her dedicated and ever-growing audience is charmed by her awesome skill and command over various genres including romance, adventure, mystery, thriller, children’s books and even a healthy dose of medicine. Also a trained Physician, she uses her medical acumen to add interesting facets and dimensions to her writing. A passionate writer, she writes from her heart and polishes her craft with her powerful intellect.
Read her novels to experience the ‘World through the eyes of Shilpa Jain’.
- I shall always love you
- A case of black magic murders in Mumbai
- I love you so much, it hurts
- An adventure of Maya and Chris with Dan, the friendly ghost
- An adventure of Maya and Chris with the saviours of Prithvi
- The kid who wanted to become a superhero
- Eve’s apple: Sex education for teenage girl: A mother to daughter talk
Shilpa also offers Consulting Services to coach budding authors, to guide creative writers and for other creative writing projects. For more details:
Attribution for images: Pixabay.com, Pexels.com, Unsplash.com