Read on for 15 writing tips from one aspiring novelist to another.
- Character – create characters who change, who try and fail, who dream and get hurt, who are human. Use Carl Jung’s ‘personality types’ or ‘Enneagram’ to identify motivations. They must have different driving forces behind each of them. Characters are the building blocks of your novel and if they elicit a ‘meh’ reaction, then your reader won’t be sticking around.
- Plot – the unfolding of events in the story should continuously cause your characters to react, to change what the characters are doing and have been trying to do, to cause them to go to a different place or find a new route to where they are still planning to go, to change what is needed from them and what they ask of others.
- Imagery – paint a beautiful picture, do this delicately. Great books that have everything and no imagery can be colourless, tell your reader how the sky is inked across the horizon.
- Setting – know in your mind where every scene takes place, because this will allow details to float into your consciousness and then on to the page.
- Surprise – the excitement comes from not knowing where the story will go. Toy with the idea of surprising events to throw in and imagine how it will change the shape of your story.
- Outwit – throw in a red herring, make your character believe something that isn’t true – fool the reader at least once in the story, they’ll love it.
- Pace – make sure things move on at a good speed. If two characters are alone talking in a room for a considerable length of time, it’s a good sign your work is stalling. Make sure you look for moments that could be expanded, too, like action moments or emotive moments rather than skirting over them.
- Voice – your character must have opinions about the world and things, likes and dislikes. If they ascribe to no belief system you are showing the reader a world only through a glass screen, not through another person’s eyes – almost the whole point of novel-reading.
- Philosophy – touch on the deeper questions in life, don’t keep it superficial. A novel needs depth and thoughts about life and meaning, or why write?
- Enlighten – make the reader think about the world in a way they didn’t before, paint a picture differently, explore a characters thoughts and emotions, pull the reader into a situation they have never or might never experience.
- Emotion – build situations that cause conflict and desire. Build emotions carefully, but not necessarily slowly. Allow the unfolding events to continuously build the emotion in each scene. The more emotionally involved a reader is, the quicker they will turn (or swipe) the page.
- Humour – every story can a afford a little humour, be it an unfortunate event, comical observation, or incisive, self-deprecating comment.
- Truth – communicate things that are true, whether they are behaviours people display, thoughts people have, invisible social customs they enact, the reader wants to go ‘Oh yeah, that’s so true’.
- Read – read other books and poetry, explore how other writers write. Consciously look at their work and unconsciously absorb it, and you’ll be a better writer for it.
- Finish it – the key to novel writing. It doesn’t matter how bad you think it, just finish it. Once you have it written in full, you can only make it better from there.