12 things to take care while writing a novel

Not everyone can spin out the best story that hits the bestseller list. But almost every aspiring author has this goal in mind- and this leads to countless hours of research online- scouring word mines of wisdom, signing up for webinars, listening to podcasts, and what not. I have pondered over this matter for hours and in this article, I would like to summarise the 12 small (and basic) yet profound steps every author needs to consider in their journey to write the bestselling novel. This is a list I compiled based on my personal research, and this article is by no means a complete or definitive guide to become the next bestseller.

The 12 things to take care while writing a novel:

1. The Very First Impression

2. The Point of View

3. Who is Who?

4. Keep their Eyes Glued to the book

5. Trust is What Really Matters- Isn’t it?

6. Rise of the Hero

7. What’s going on?

8. Where is it going on?

9. How Would it End?

10. The Tempo of your Novel

11. The Straight Route

12. Avoid Junk

1. The Very First Impression

When you are an author whose name has not yet struck a good chord in the minds of bookshelf hunters, the first thing that you might need is to grab the attention. When a reader checks out a new author in the shelf, he/ she takes the book, flips through the first two or three pages to know whether you have got what they need. Basically a reader is looking for to hang on- and the aim of a bestselling author should be to deliver something really good that would make the reader’s hands forget the idea of leaving the book back at the shelf and move on. In short, care to be taken in writing the first 3 or 4 pages of the book should never be overlooked.

2. The Point of View

Even before writing, think about a point of view and confirm it. There are many points of view like first person, limited third person, multi-viewpoint, omniscient. It doesn’t really matter which point of view you choose- but make sure you maintain the same till the last!

3. Who is Who?

First things first. Who is the protagonist, who are the supporting characters and who the hell is the villain? These are some of the questions that arise in the mind of a reader when he starts to read something out of your book. So don’t forget to introduce the main characters as soon as possible. There is no rule that you should introduce the main character first (even though that would be a better idea) and I personally don’t stick to this. If your plot needs you to introduce that not-so-important-character to make a plot point, it’s ok. Do it. But I feel that it’s safer not write anything that makes the reader project the sub-character as the main character.

4. Keeping their Eyes Glued to the book

Let’s keep their eyes glued to our novel- that’s what a successful novel is about. How to keep their eyes glued to our work without letting them wander into distractions? I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out the answer- make sure the novel doesn’t have boring stuff! How can we achieve that? Over the countless articles that deals with this topic, one word gets highlighted with double underlines: Conflict.
There should be tension, stress and heat. Make your character suffer something, let something destroy the ordinary life of your character. If the character or his life has nothing to go out of normal, then I believe that the book has already lost it’s reader’s interest.

5. Trust is What Really Matters- Isn’t it?

Don’t forget that your readers are human beings- just like you. Unless, you are a genetically modified ape developed in a secret biotech facility who can browse the internet and read articles. In that case, it’s an honour to meet you.
Every human being has got some basic instincts. One such instinct is to trust another human being- and once trust is established between two, then there is an intimacy and interest.
What has trust to do with novel writing? It’s simple. If your novel is about fantasy, then the reader hopes to get a thrilling adventure in a totally different world. You might have a sizzling one liner on the back cover, or a hooking plot summary slapped on with some thoughtful question. It’s basically a promise regarding what you are about to deliver in your book. Always keep your promises. To create trust within in the novel, give hints about the future- what might happen to your character, or what is the upcoming disaster- and then answer these questions that you have created.

6. Rise of the Hero

In most of the novels, there is a hero-villain interaction along the plot of the story. While cooking up your novel, make sure that the reader can make out the hero and villain crisply- and soon. Scribbling a heroless novel for a long time might not be a really good idea, and it’s just my humble opinion. A hero has to emerge- and he/she should catalyse the story forward. Any mistake in this crucial part, and your reader might be planning to sell it off at ebay at whatever price he gets!

7. What’s going on?

One thing the reader shouldn’t ask while reading is:’What’s going on here?!’ The reader should know up front what is at stake. The words of your work should automatically sketch a picture of what is happening in the novel. Clearer the picture, better will be the reader’s interest and motivation to complete reading your novel.
The reader must know about the conflict of your characters- don’t just write things in a pretext that your reader would guess it. Just because an idea happened to pass by your mind doesn’t mean it will pass though the reader’s mind. Give the reader the visuals- what’s going on, what could be gained and by whom, what stands to be lost and by whom.

8. Where is it going on?

Locations is one area where many authors slip over that unseen banana peel. We need to set the locations where the various scenes are going on. I know, listing out the details of the location like a grocery list can be an instant king of boredom empire. Which is why the location should be set around the character- this helps in drawing a clearer image, as far as I can gather. Ultimately, there should be some description of the landscape around.

9. How Would it End?

The commencement must point towards the conclusion. Simply this means that the way you begin a novel, the reader should be able to get some idea on how this stuff would end. This is done by setting certain aims for your Hero. The reader presumes that the hero might accomplish some of those aims. And make sure it happens like that. (Hint: #5 Trust is What Really Matters- Isn’t it?) Don’t make a fool out of your reader. Even while dealing with suspense, there are certain guidelines you must follow.
Don’t let your novel be a haphazard serial of non-parallel events. Make sure that every situation gets linked up together and reach a common end. I think it’s wise to decide upon the end of your tale even before you start telling it- else, it would be a waste of a lot of time and energy. I didn’t know the end of my first novel when I started typing it out and ugh! I haven’t kept the track of how much time I lost in rewrites, but I can guarantee that it’s a lot. You may decide and change the climax on the course, but the end should be decided at the start.

10. The Tempo of your Novel

Another serial killer who ‘dogged’ my steps: the tempo. Although it’s tough to arrive at a constant pace throughout the novel, have an idea of the pacing and try to stick to it. Everything about life has a near constant pace around which minor variations occur. Genres like Action, Thriller and Mystery needs to have some tight pace, whereas romance readers probably read a book to relax with a glass of wine. In short, know your target audience before you set the pace.

11. The Straight Route

Don’t stray off. There should be a clear cut path towards end your novel- a path that you must follow when writing and the one reader follows when reading. Events happening in your novel should be either on track or on a parallel course in relation to the ‘path’. But NEVER ever deviate from it! While straying away, the clarity of the novel course is lost. This definitely proves to turn into a mental irritant in the reader’s head.

12. Avoid Junk

Yes, just like junk food can destroy your body, junk words can destroy your story. Don’t just add something into your novel for the sake of adding and fattening the book. Every single thing mentioned in your novel- be it a scene, a dialog, a description, a suspense, a twist in the plot- anything mentioned should be meaningful and must contribute to the main storyline. If it has nothing to do with the storyline, strike it off.

So, these are the 12 basic takeaway points I learned while attempting to pen my novel. Have you got anything to add to this? I’d love to hear them.

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