5 Things I learnt from Writing my First Novel

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Is it time to file my first novel away?

You’ve written your novel; it’s been redrafted more times than you care to remember; it’s finally *finished* and ready to submit to publishers and literary agents.

Having that final draft in your hands (or on a screen) is a huge accomplishment, and for me a large part of writing my first novel was learning *how to write a novel*.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said my dream wasn’t to get it published. I would love to see my books on shelves in bookshops, in window displays and on Amazon with shiny starred reviews.

But the longer time ticks for between me writing ‘the end’ and a positive response from an agent appearing in my inbox, the more I must consider maybe it’s time for me to file my first novel away.

It’s still early days. I’ve only been submitting to literary agents for two months. And I know from trawling through endless articles online, this process can take years; I must stay positive and hope one day my dream will come true.

But until then, I need to look at what I have learnt from writing my first novel and see that process itself as the success.

I’m sure there’s still bucket loads to learn. But even now, as I begin to write the opening chapters of my second novel, I feel much more confident than I did the first time around.

These are the top 5 things I learnt from writing my first novel:

1: Plot

When writing my first novel, I knew what the overriding plot was going to be – what the unique selling point was, or what the blurb on the back of the book would be. Yet I hadn’t sat down and planned out specific chapters.

I confess, I’m still not a massive fan of over planning. I find as I’m writing, my ideas develop. That is where I discover sub-plots, and the ideas that ‘flesh-out’ the main overriding plot.

However, I’ve learnt it’s really helpful to have even a basic plot outline, which bullet points what you want to happen at certain points in the novel. Without it, the plot can become confused and many re-writes could be required!

2: Character Profiles

When I was writing ‘The Blue Stone’, I felt like I knew my characters like the back of my hand. Whilst I did jot down notes about each of my characters, I didn’t have proper character profiles – a file which recorded everything from eye colour, date of birth, to the contents of a character’s fridge.

This caused me the time-consuming task of scrolling through hundreds of pages of writing, searching for a detail I was sure I’d mentioned before, such as the hair colour of Mr X. It also made editing and proof-reading more challenging, having to flick back and forth cross-referencing facts. It would have been so much easier if I’d just recorded it all in a character profile in the first place!

  1. Write something you enjoy writing

A whole novel feels like an awfully large amount of words. I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer, so The Blue Stone wasn’t my first attempt to write a whole book. Those times, I usually got a few chapters in and then gave up. Why? Maybe because I hadn’t planned properly and didn’t have a strong enough plot (see point one), but also possibly because I wasn’t writing about something I truly enjoyed and was passionate about.

The scenes I enjoyed writing most in The Blue Stone flowed from my pen, and I’m really enjoying writing my second novel too. It’s impossible to come home from the day job and keep up with writing something you don’t enjoy.

  1. Make your research interesting (and enjoyable)

It goes hand in hand with point three. If you’re writing something you enjoy, you should enjoy doing the research for it too. I’m currently finding the research I’m doing for novel number two fascinating – which definitely helps keep me motivated to do it!

  1. Get others to read your work

And better still, get other writers to read your work.

Feedback is so important! I’ve recently joined a local creative writing group where I can workshop extracts from my novel each week. Other people will be able to see your writing with a fresh pair of eyes, spot spelling and grammatical errors and provide feedback on the plot. Not only will it improve your writing, but it will improve your confidence too.

My first novel, ‘The Blue Stone’ is a middle-grade time travel novel. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

 

 

 

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