What are Some Tips for Novel Writing?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Writing a novel is a goal for many people, professional and amateur writers alike. Sometimes, the idea of writing a book hundreds of pages long can seem dire and impossible, but it is far from the case. Having a clear plan, doing excellent research, and remaining dedicated to your goals can greatly increase the chances of producing a finished novel.

It is important for a novelist to be comfortable with where they're writing.
It is important for a novelist to be comfortable with where they're writing.

Probably the most important early research that can be done for novel writing is reading. Reading a wide variety of novels can help new writers understand the limitations, explorations, style, and structure of the novel genre. It is important to remember that writing a novel does not mean copying a famous author's style, but spending time reading a lot of novels can teach a novice writer what he or she likes or dislikes about the style, what kind of characters are interesting, and even what genres the writer favors. Reading can serve as a self-education for novel writing, and many experts believe it should be maintained on a daily basis.

Writing a novel can be a daunting task.
Writing a novel can be a daunting task.

Outlining is one of the best ways to ensure that novel writing is not just an exercise but will result in a finished book. An outline is the blueprint of a novel; the major plot points, characters, and themes are all written down and carefully reviewed before a word of the novel is even written. Many authors write step outlines, where each important moment or beat of the plot is written down as a list. Step outlines help an author get a feel for the exact actions of the plot, and can highlight any weak spots or characters that need additional development.

Some writers can write an outline in a day, while others need weeks. While an outline is an important step to novel writing, it should not distract an author from the business of actually writing the novel for too long. Writing schedules are an intensely individual thing, and must be discovered rather than learned. Some people work best throughout the night, or in the early morning before the kids are up. Many suggest writing every day, but some writers work in caffeine-filled bursts of several days at a time before collapsing for weeks or even months while staying away from the novel. Discovering a personal writing schedule will help focus creativity and ease the process of novel writing.

While writing, it is important to keep an eye on spelling, grammar, and structural rules. It is unwise to believe that all that will be fixed by an editor, as the book will have to get published in order for that to happen. Finishing a first draft with 2000 errors will only result in a lengthy revision process that can quickly become discouraging. Running spelling and grammar checks or proofreading at the end of each writing session can save an enormous amount of time.

Novel writing is almost never completed entirely alone. It is natural to turn to trusted friends and mentors for help with confounded plot points or even general advice. Having a small circle of readers for novel writing can give a writer fresh ideas and new perspectives. Just remember: a reading friend wants to offer his opinion, not write the book himself. People who get furious when their notes are not incorporated or magically produces his own novel with an eerily similar plot are not good readers.

Novelists might choose to proofread as they go to make sure tone and style remain consistent.
Novelists might choose to proofread as they go to make sure tone and style remain consistent.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - I agree that reading and writing are both very important to the novice writer, but there are other things you can do as well. Joining a writer's forum can help a huge amount, as they are often chock full of good advice from professionals and people on their way up. Reading books on writing, or taking courses on writing can also help. Going to writing conferences can teach you something new as well as being very inspiring.

And I think one of the best things a writer can do is edit other people's work, in a critique group. Discussion of what works and what doesn't can really hone your ability to edit your own work. Even a book club can be good for this, but there are a lot of really great writers' groups out there.


The best tip for anyone trying to write a novel is to read a lot and write a lot. Those are the most basic things you can do, but they are basic in the same sense that any foundation is basic.

I've heard so many so-called writers talk about how they have hardly read any books, but they expect to be able to write, probably because they have seen a lot of movies.

That's not even like deciding you can build a skyscraper without getting a degree in architecture. It's more like deciding to build a skyscraper after only ever seeing a few pictures of skyscrapers.


When people talk about how their characters are practically alive and have their own personalities, they can sound pretty annoying, especially if you've never experienced that yourself. But the point is not to listen for voices in your head. It's to develop your characters to such an extent that you know exactly how they would react in a certain event and you write them that way, even if it doesn't exactly match what you had planned out.

Novel writing is usually about putting characters into trouble and then figuring out how they would get out of it again (or at least, how they would try to do so). Without consistent characters, you don't have a novel.

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