7 Steps to Start Writing a Novel: A Beginner’s Guide

7 Steps to Start Writing a Novel: A Beginner's Guide

Are you finally ready to embark on the journey of writing your very own novel? Congratulations! This guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to get started. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a complete beginner, these seven steps will help you lay a solid foundation for your writing journey.

Once you have a clear idea of your story’s structure and tone, it’s time to dive into the craft of writing. Start with the basics – creating convincing characters, constructing engaging plots, and mastering the art of dialogue. Authors like Ray Bradbury, Jane Eyre, and Jonathan Lethem are just a few examples of literary giants who have perfected these storytelling techniques.



While it can be tempting to dive straight into the writing process, taking a step back and planning your story can save you a lot of time and frustration down the line. Use tools like Milanote or Reedsy to outline your chapters, jot down ideas, and organize your thoughts. With a clear plan in place, you’ll be free to let your imagination run wild and explore the depths of your story’s potential.

As you’re working on your novel, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of engaging your readers. By structuring your chapters and sentences in a way that keeps them hooked, you’ll create a reading experience that is impossible to put down. One of the best tips for achieving this is to end each chapter with a cliffhanger or an intriguing question that compels readers to keep turning the pages.

When it comes to the actual writing, don’t get bogged down by trying to make every sentence perfect from the start. The first draft is all about getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page. Editing and refining will come later. Remember William Faulkner’s famous phrase, “You must kill all your darlings.” While it may sound harsh, it speaks to the importance of cutting out clichés, unnecessary descriptions, and anything that doesn’t serve the story.

Finally, don’t forget to take breaks and relax during the writing process. Writing a novel can be an amazing and rewarding experience, but it can also be mentally taxing. Give yourself time to recharge and step away from your story. By doing so, you’ll come back with a fresh perspective and renewed energy to tackle the next chapter.



So, what are you waiting for? Begin your writing journey today by following these seven steps. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a complete beginner, these tips will help you craft a captivating story that will engage and inspire your readers.

Prepare your mind and tools

First, find a quiet place where you can focus and let your creativity flow. Whether it’s a cozy corner in your favorite coffee shop or a room transformed into your personal writing fortress, make sure you have a space that fits your needs.

Next, gather the tools that will be crucial to your writing process. This includes a notebook or a computer, whichever you prefer, to jot down all your thoughts and ideas. Having a dedicated space to keep track of everything will help you stay organized and prevent any important details from slipping away.



Now, let’s talk about your mind. Prepare your mind for the journey ahead by asking yourself a few key questions. What genre are you writing in? What is the main conflict in your story? Who are your main characters and what are their motivations? Answering these questions will give you a strong foundation to build upon.

Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. As the great Lord Franzen once murmured, “The point of writing a novel is not to exhaust yourself but to explore something that didn’t exist before and that you like.” So, open your mind to unexpected twists and turns that may take your story beyond what you initially planned.

One technique that can help ignite your creativity is to collect images and lines that inspire you. Create a visual jar filled with photographs, magazine clippings, or even handwritten notes that resonate with your story. Whenever you feel stuck or in need of inspiration, take a peek inside your jar and let the images and words fuel your imagination.

When it comes to plotting your novel, aim for a balance of structure and spontaneity. It’s good to have a general idea of where your story is heading, but allow yourself the freedom to go off course if a new and compelling idea presents itself. Let the characters guide you, and don’t be afraid to let the plot evolve naturally.

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One thing to keep in mind is that beginnings are crucial. Your opening must be engaging and attention-grabbing, hooking the reader from the very first line. Take a look at the openings of other books in your genre to see what works and what doesn’t. Aim to create an opening that is both intriguing and convincing.

Lastly, don’t worry too much about getting every detail perfect in the first draft. The most important thing is to get the words on the page, even if they’re not quite up to your standards yet. As Plath once said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” So, push through any doubts and let your creative juices flow.

With your mind and tools prepared, you’re ready to embark on the journey of writing your novel. Just remember to loosen up, have fun, and enjoy the amazing world you’ll create within your pages. ✅

Generate ideas and choose a concept

To begin, jot down any ideas or phrases that come to mind. Don’t worry about them being perfect or fully formed; just get them down on paper. Once you have a list of potential concepts, set aside some time to explore each one further. Consider how you could build a story around the concept, what the stakes could be, and what kind of genre it would fit into. For example, if your concept revolves around a young girl with magical powers, you might want to explore the fantasy genre and think about the conflicts and challenges she could face.

A helpful tool for organizing your ideas and concepts is Milanote, which allows you to create boards and add images, notes, and more. Using Milanote, you can visually map out your ideas and easily move things around as you develop your concept.

As you flesh out your ideas, keep in mind the beginning of your novel. The opening scenes are critical for grabbing readers’ attention and setting the tone for the rest of the story. Consider starting with a high-stakes moment that immediately hooks the reader. For example, you could begin with a character witnessing a murder or finding a mysterious object. By starting with a compelling scene, you’ll ensure that readers are drawn into the story from the very first page.

In addition, think about the point of view you want to use in your novel. Will it be first-person, where the reader experiences the story through the eyes of one character, or third-person, where the narrator has a broader perspective? Each point of view has its own advantages and disadvantages, so choose one that best suits the story you want to tell.

Another important aspect of the beginning of your novel is the establishment of the setting and background. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the world your characters inhabit. This will help readers immerse themselves in the story and create a more engaging reading experience.

When you’re just starting out, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin. But don’t let that stop you from getting started! The most important thing is to put pen to paper and start writing. Remember that your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s more important to get your ideas out and worry about polishing them later.

To help you get started, here’s an example of a novel concept: “Jane, a young woman living in a post-apocalyptic fortress, must navigate a treacherous world ruled by an oppressive lord. As she begins to question the status quo, she discovers a hidden rebellion that could change everything.” This concept establishes a high-stakes situation, introduces an intriguing protagonist, and hints at the larger conflicts and themes that will be explored throughout the novel.

In the end, the key is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating your own amazing novel. Remember to keep learning and growing as a writer, and don’t be afraid to take risks with your storytelling. With time and dedication, you’ll be able to craft a novel that will captivate readers and leave them eager for more.

Now that you have a concept in mind, it’s time to move on to the next step: creating memorable characters.

Develop your characters

  1. Start with questions: Before you begin writing, take some time to think deeply about your characters. Ask yourself questions like “What motivates them?” or “What are their fears and desires?” This will give you a solid foundation to build upon.
  2. Identify their voice: Each character should have a unique voice and way of thinking. Determine how they speak and what language they use. This will help differentiate them from one another and make them more interesting to read about.
  3. Show, don’t tell: Instead of telling the reader everything about your characters, show their traits and personalities through their actions, dialogue, and interactions with other characters.
  4. Characterization through conflict: Create conflicts and challenges for your characters to face. This will not only help develop their personalities but also create tension and intrigue in your plot.
  5. Consistent characterization: It’s important to ensure that your characters remain consistent throughout your story. Avoid sudden changes in their personalities or actions unless it is a deliberate character arc or development.
  6. Learn from the masters: Study the works of renowned authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Charlotte Brontë, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and Anthony Doerr. Analyze how they develop their characters and learn from their techniques.
  7. Give them a life beyond the plot: Characters should feel like real people with lives outside of the story. They should have their own backstories, interests, and relationships, even if these details are not explicitly written in the book.
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By following these steps, you can ensure that your characters are fully developed and bring your story to life. Remember, creating amazing characters can make the difference between a good book and a life-changing one. Don’t worry if it takes time and effort to master the art of characterization – it’s a skill that can be learned, and with each story you write, you’ll become better at it.

Outline your plot

Here are 10 steps to outline your plot:

  1. Start with a basic idea: Think of a unique and engaging concept that will grab readers’ attention. Avoid clichés and strive for something fresh and unexpected.
  2. Identify the major events: Determine the key moments and turning points in your story. These will shape the structure and tension of your plot.
  3. Build your characters: Create relatable and sympathetic characters that readers can connect with. Make sure they have goals, motivations, and conflicts.
  4. Setup the conflict: Introduce the main conflict early on to engage readers from the start. This will create tension and keep them hooked.
  5. Ask questions: Pose questions and mysteries that need to be resolved. This will keep readers curious and eager to know what happens next.
  6. Create subplots: Consider adding subplots to add depth and complexity to your story. These can provide additional layers and keep readers invested.
  7. Establish the mood and setting: Set the tone and atmosphere of your novel through vivid descriptions. This will immerse readers in the world you’ve created.
  8. Use examples: Take inspiration from successful authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, and Ray Bradbury. Look at how they’ve structured their novels and study their techniques.
  9. Take notes: Keep a notebook or use digital tools like Milanote to jot down ideas, scenes, and character details as they come to you.
  10. Review and edit: Once you have your plot outline, review it and make sure all the pieces fit together. Look for any plot holes, inconsistencies, or pacing issues that need to be addressed.

Remember, outlining your plot is an important step in the writing process. It ensures that you have a solid foundation to build upon and helps prevent confusion and writer’s block down the line. So take the time to outline your plot before diving into writing your novel!

Start writing and keep going

1. Draw readers in from the very beginning

The opening lines of your novel are critical in grabbing readers’ attention. Make sure to create a sense of intrigue and set the stakes high right from the start. A great example of this is the famous opening line from Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

2. Show, don’t tell

Readers want to experience the story through the characters’ eyes, so try to show instead of tell. Use vivid descriptions and sensory details to bring your setting and characters to life. Instead of telling the reader “she was sad,” show her crying or murmuring in a dark room.

3. Keep readers engaged with conflict

Conflict is what drives a story forward and keeps readers hooked. Every scene should have some form of conflict, whether it’s external or internal. Don’t be afraid to put your characters in tough situations that will keep readers wondering what will happen next.

4. Make your characters relatable

Readers are more likely to invest in your story if they can connect with the characters on a personal level. Give your characters flaws, strengths, and relatable traits. Show their emotions and reasoning behind their actions.

5. Avoid cliffhangers

While cliffhangers can create suspense, overly relying on them can frustrate readers. Instead of leaving every chapter on a cliffhanger, strive to provide satisfying resolutions while still leaving room for further intrigue. Remember, it’s important to give readers a sense of closure along the way.

6. Determine the expectations of your genre

Every genre has certain conventions and expectations. Familiarize yourself with the expectations of the genre you’re writing in and find ways to meet or exceed them. For example, crime novels often have twisty plots and unexpected revelations, while fantasy novels may have epic world-building and a sense of wonder.

7. Read widely and learn from the masters

Read as much as you can, across different genres and styles. Pay attention to how successful authors craft their stories, develop their characters, and create tension. Some famous authors to learn from include J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Anthony Burgess, and Sylvia Plath. Their works can show you different approaches to storytelling and inspire you to find your own unique voice.

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Remember, writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay committed, push through the tough times, and keep putting words on the page. You have the potential to be the next great author!

Revise and edit your draft

When revising your draft, start by reading it with a critical eye. Look for any plot holes, inconsistencies, or confusing passages. Make sure the setup, events, and characters are properly established and that the tension builds toward the climax. Determine if your crime, event, or royal setup is compelling enough to keep the reader’s interest.

Consider the mood and feeling your novel evokes. Does it match the tone you want to establish? Are there any parts that feel out of place or don’t contribute to the overall story? Does the point of view (POV) work for the story you want to tell? Is it a first-person, third-person, or multiple POV narrative?

It’s important to engage your readers from the very first page, so pay attention to your opening lines. Do they grab the reader’s attention? Do they pose an exciting question or present an unexpected situation? Make sure your opening lines draw them in and make them want to keep reading.

When editing your draft, focus on improving the clarity and flow of your writing. Cut out any unnecessary words or sentences that may confuse the reader. Be mindful of the pacing and avoid long-winded descriptions or excessive introspection. Use vivid and concise language to create an engaging narrative.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from beta readers or hire a professional editor. Other people’s perspectives can provide valuable insights and help you identify blind spots or weaknesses in your manuscript. Take the time to carefully consider their responses and make changes accordingly.

As you edit, keep in mind the advice of famous authors such as George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Sylvia Plath. They all stressed the importance of honing your writing craft and paying attention to every word. Remember their words when editing your own work and strive to create a polished and well-crafted novel.

Share and seek feedback

When seeking feedback, it’s important to be open to criticism and willing to make changes. Consider joining a writing group or workshop where you can exchange critiques with other writers. You can also share your work on platforms like Reedsy or Milanote, where you can receive feedback from editors and readers alike.

Feedback can help you identify areas where your novel is too slow or where the stakes need to be higher. It can also point out instances of clichés or clichéd language that should be edited out. Pay attention to what readers say about your characters, as they are the heart of your story. Are they relatable? Do readers care about their fates?

Keep in mind that seeking feedback is also a learning experience. As you receive comments and suggestions, you’ll develop a better understanding of your own writing style and the genre you’re working in. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new techniques.

It’s also important to consider feedback from multiple perspectives. Anthony Burgess once said, “What the artist can achieve by the use of multiple viewpoints I am now trying to achieve by the use of alternate takes.” This means that by hearing different opinions, you can build a more well-rounded story that appeals to a wider audience.

As you seek feedback, pay attention to the pacing of your story. Are there any parts where the action slows down too much? Can you tighten the writing to keep readers engaged? Look for opportunities to create suspense or tension, using cliffhangers or conflict to keep readers hooked and turning the pages.

Remember that feedback is just one person’s opinion, and ultimately, you have the final say in how your story is shaped. Use the feedback you receive as a guide to improve your writing and make your novel the best it can be.

FAQ

What are the essential steps to start writing a novel?

The essential steps to start writing a novel include brainstorming ideas, outlining the plot, developing characters, setting goals, creating a writing schedule, conducting research, and starting to write.

How can I make the first few pages of my novel compelling?

To make the first few pages of your novel compelling, you can introduce an intriguing conflict, create vivid descriptions, start in the middle of the action, use strong and engaging language, and provide a clear and intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

What are some effective techniques for raising the stakes in the first few pages of a novel?

Some effective techniques for raising the stakes in the first few pages of a novel include introducing a time limit or deadline, creating a sense of danger or risk, revealing a stunning secret or twist, raising the emotional intensity of the main character, and introducing a major obstacle that the protagonist must overcome.

Why is it important to up the stakes within the first few pages?

It is important to up the stakes within the first few pages because it helps to capture the reader’s attention and creates a sense of urgency and excitement. By introducing high stakes early on, readers are more likely to become invested in the story and continue reading to see how the conflict resolves.

Can you provide some examples of how to up the stakes in the first few pages of a novel?

Yes, some examples of how to up the stakes in the first few pages of a novel could include a protagonist receiving a threatening message, a character being chased by an unknown assailant, a discovery of a deadly secret, a character making a life-changing decision, or a major conflict that threatens the protagonist’s goals or desires.

What are the steps to start writing a novel?

The steps to start writing a novel are: brainstorm ideas, create an outline, develop characters, set the scene, establish a writing routine, get feedback, and revise your work.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.