Ways of writing a novel


As someone who has never actually gone on any writing courses, I must say I sometimes find it hard to write a novel.  I have many, many ideas and more often than not start writing something then get stuck or lose my way or whatever else that happens and wind up leaving it.

The first novel I wrote, the one I self-published for me, was written so haphazardly that I don’t think I will ever be able to write another novel the same way.  I wrote as ideas came to me which mean I had lots and lots of bits and pieces by the end that I then had to string together to create a uniformed whole (or at least something resembling a singular novel). It was tiresome to say the least and probably accounts for any loopholes or unexpected changes of character that one would have encountered when reading. I have already decided I am not going to go back and rewrite it. Maybe in ten years time, or when the fancy takes me. Indeed being as accurate as possible in plot, character and timeline was not my foremost reason for writing the book. Finishing was, in fact, the reason for starting in the first place – if that makes any sense.

Since then, however, I have tried to write novels that will flow more easily from beginning to end. And I do feel that the only way to achieve this is to write the novel from beginning to end – no patchy bits to glue together. This is how I would imagine most authors to write. And has, as such, become a standing rule for my writing. Even when I get what I think is a brilliant idea for another part of the story, I refrain from writing an entirely new chapter or section or sequence on it. I write down the basic idea (on my ideas page) and don’t even link it to the particular book I am writing because I think that, when the time comes, if it fits into the story, I will use it, if not, I have it and I may use it for another story. In doing things this way, I no longer have to fit ideas together that may result in uncomfortable reading.

Even though I have achieved this in my writing, I still find so many other obstacles on a daily basis (least of which is actually finding the time to sit down and write) that I am constantly having to adapt my writing skills. As an example, I sometimes struggle with what to do first. I know everyone is different in this and some will launch into writing, leaving the whole scene and all the characters to build up around their pen. I have done this with one novel but found it actually causes my flow to be constantly interrupted as I stop to think of why a character has just done something or what other character could come into the story to counterbalance.  Another story that I am writing requires a whole new world or even worlds to be imagined for the story to be accurately played out in them and therefore writing without forethought could pose some significant problems. And guess what: I have indeed come unstuck so have left that story for now to give my mind a chance to properly create the setting before I continue.

In the meantime I have started another story. This time, however, I am going about things a little differently. Do you remember in school how the teachers would show you how to visualise the plot, settings and characters of a set-work novel you were reading? In my class, we had to write down each part of the story on separate pages in our books, starting off with writing down what the setting entailed. That helped to visualise the environment and trigger the imagination into getting involved in the story. Next, we had to create characters but leave half a page to a page for each of the main characters and 5-6 lines for subsidiary characters. The characters were physically described, their relative connections to each other and to other (sometimes unnamed characters) in the story were described, their characters were described (as at the start of the story) and as the story progressed, so the blank lines under each character was filled with changing ideas or attitudes and changing appearances, etc.  And of course, the basic plot was described (usually through reading the blurb on the back or the preface in the front, if their was one), which in turn would be expanded upon as the book was read.

So the story I am now starting will be designed in this manner. The village and houses are fictitious but based on a real village and houses to allow me to visualise the setting. With regards to characters, there are to be many (as there always are in a village) but some will be more significant than others. I wrote down boys christian names, then separately I wrote girls christian names and lastly I wrote down a number of suitable surnames. I then wrote the surnames next to the names that seemed to fit them (with both the boys and girls). There were many more names than surnames so quite a few received the same surname but I didn’t stop to check that. I only checked after all characters were named. I then started building a character ‘bank’, starting with the first male name, then searching for all the other linked names to add them under the main name as either spouses, children, siblings or cousins. I must say it has made things quite interesting 🙂

And now I can start with my story, from beginning to end. Don’t worry, I do have a basic plot in mind and, as I have the various characters and their individual characteristics and situations in mind, I should be able to write a story that builds up but at the same time flows along!

How do you start a new story? Do you launch into it. Do you carefully plan out characters, settings, plot? Is your writing all over the place or does it flow from start to finish? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Copyright © 081013 by Karen Payze

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6 Comments

  1. my latest story, which is in chapters on my other site ‘Sitting on the Porch’ still writing it by the way,, started off with the just a short story originally then I added a parchment piece and now I am writing a long running story, fantasy, called the Parchment. a magical fantasy story and magical creatures and a magical identical world from where the main character lives.. I actually bring ideas to life as I write.. it seems to work for me. 😉

    • Sounds good 🙂 Will have to go check it out 😉

  2. I literally just have some ideas for the characters and the setting, and start writing. I don’t do any planning at all.

    Not everyone can do that and many people need to do the planning first. It’s the difference between ‘plotters’ (those who need to write a plan first) and the ‘pantsters’ (those who just make it all up as they go).

    Neither is inherently the best way to do it – it’s all about finding out what works for you best.

    • Indeed 🙂 I think I will try this way then I will be able to see which way I lean. I always thought I was one who could just write freely without planning but I’m starting to feel that maybe I actually do need a plan to stop myself from losing the plot (so to speak :P) x

  3. Funny, I just do the plotting before hand. The rest is done as I imagine the story unfolding. I make notes about setting and character to be consistent. Maybe as I grow I’ll do more, my work tends to be on the short side. 🙂

    • It’s so interesting to hear the different opinions and ways in which people tackle their writing! Actually the way I am going about it now, which includes a fair amount of research (necessary research) seems to be working very well for me so far. I can easily ramble on about things without prior planning and have done so with short stories and my first novel but actually, now that I am doing it this way, I feel far more comfortable. But of course, the story will still flow out of my brain by itself. It just just helps to have the beginnings of a story in place, an overview of it! Methinks my brain prefers the structured writing style – for longer works anyway. I’ll probably carry on with my inane ramblings for the rest of my writing bits ;P

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