How to start writing your novel

10 Mar 2018

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It’s often daunting to see top writers churn out bestsellers year after year. It feels like these writers have discovered some amazing secret to writing. 

To some extent, they actually have. However, the ‘secret’ is not so much a one-line answer as it is a set of ideas, philosophies, and practices that these writers have imbibed over the years.

Many novice writers often get inspired, write a few pages and eventually burn out or get distracted by daily activities. In this case, it helps to have a strong foundation to bounce back from. 

These methods of writing a novel will help you create a strong foundation so you can start writing and keep writing.

1. The juicy method

In this method, you can start off by writing down the parts of the novel that really appeal to you. Maybe it’s a scene where there is a plot twist. Maybe one of your important characters die. When you write down these core scenes and arrange them chronologically, you will get a better feel for the entire novel.

Remember, you don’t always have to start at the beginning. In fact, most writers know how their novel will end before they even write the beginning.

2. The Outline Method

If you like to plan things before you tackle them, this is the perfect way to start. You can start by noting down the major incidents in your novel like this:

(a) The inciting incident

What problem is your protagonist going to solve? Write it down in one line.
A four-year-old’s quest to reach the top shelf to get a jar of jam.

(b) The major subproblems

These can be a few or many, depending on the complexity of your novel. Solving these subproblems helps your main character proceed towards the end goal.
Problem: Parents keep coming into the kitchen -> Solution: Try it at night
__Problem: Climbing on a chair doesn’t help as he is still too small -> Solution: use another tool

(c) The resolution

How is the problem solved and what happens at last?
He hooks a rope through the shelf-handle and pulls. The entire shelf door comes off, waking everyone up
– Gets scolded
__– Mom shifts all the contents of that shelf to another lower shelf. Now the jam is reachable!
– Different outcome, but intended result.

Spend some time writing down one to two sentences for each part of your outline. This will be a good marker to continue from when you are stuck. You can then focus on expanding each part. You at least know where in the story you are when you start writing!

3. The Character First Method

Although you have a story in mind, it is driven by the way our characters behave. Sometimes, we realize that one of our characters will have to act differently in order to complete a scene, and it just feels wrong to change their behavior. The story then takes a different turn altogether.

To avoid these character-plot conflicts, you can start off by creating a timeline for every major character in your book. On a single sheet of paper, you can write down the events and incidents that the character goes through from the beginning of the novel to the end.

Then you can organize these parts to understand how the characters influence each other in order to drive the plot forward.

4. The Short Story Method

Instead of going all in and writing your novel, you can try writing a compelling short story. Yes, you will have to truncate many details, remove many characters and possibly cut interesting incidents short. However, if you can write your entire novel in a one-page story, you will be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your story.

In fact, it will help you realize which parts are truly necessary and which parts you were better off without.

As with any art form, consistency and perseverance is key to ensuring that you don’t get stuck. It also helps to join groups of writers around you, read other people’s work and try to develop as an author.

Which of the above methods did you find the most interesting?


I write stories and poems and compose songs when I’m feeling inspired. I love meeting artists and creators and collaborating with them. Talk to me about books, movies, music, food, cats, dogs and coffee!

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