How To Write Novels
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How To Write Novels: Novel Writing Essentials : How To Write A Novel With The Correct Structure
First of all, an author has an idea: it may be small but it grows over the weeks and months until he or she decides it's time to get the story down on paper! This is the start of a long and exciting road, and it can be quite daunting.
The good news is that learning how to write a novel is a skill than can be learned, and the best way of learning it is to do it. However, the process is much easier if you have guidelines, a kind of road map to success with your first novel. This course is the road-map you need. You will learn the following novel writing essentials:
- How to write novels with a viable main plot
- How to write a novel with subplots to augment and improve your main plot
- To represent your novel in the form of a Story Arc
- Tips for writing great main characters with realism
- Advice for writing support characters
- How to apply backstory, conflict and tension into your novel
- How to write dialogue to support characterization
- How to self-edit your first novel using online tools
- How to publish after writing your first novel
Easy to understand and goes in to a lot of detail about terms and what they mean. I really appreciate that in a course! Ended up learning more even though I thought I knew it all going in to the course! I would recommend his course if you want to get a better knowledge of character creation, story telling, and overall things you might have missed. (Especially, if you're like me and think you know everything.) All in all the instructor presents a wealth of information and what you should do in your novel writing! It is very helpful and easy to understand! (Donalda Feith)
Much better than the run of the mill. Gives useful information that can be used right now to begin writing. I like the way the course is organized, taking nothing for granted but not talking down to students either. The pace is great. All in all, thoroughly recommended. (Lars Peterson)
I was looking for a good grounding in novel writing, and this gives a really good outline of the process. I've learned new things (Perry Carver)
I like the way James spends time on each topic. English is not my language (French) and I need some good tips for writing good prose. 'How To Write A Novel' looks good, and contains some solid tips. (Benoit Fourrier)
How To Write A Novel The Structured Way
Whew! There's a lot to take in, but it really does flow logically once you see how all the elements of a modern novel fit together and help to improve your novel writing skills. Even beginners can succeed at novel writing if you are well organized and the manuscript is planned well.
The course 'How To Write A Novel' will guide you through the essential steps to a successful novel, even if you have no experience. You need to bring your idea and the willingness to want to learn how to write your first novel, that's the main thing.
How To Write A Novel (without having a break-down)
The title of this course is self-explanatory, in that it is designed to help you write the story you have always wanted to write, through explaining the various elements of novel writing through the course of its lectures. I would like to applaud you for taking your first step towards novel writing; writing your first novel is not easy, and acknowledging that you even want to do something about the story that you have in your head is a huge event.
I understand that this can’t be easy, mainly when the idea of novel writing seems to stand out scarily and appears to present pictures of people sitting in dingy rooms, furiously typing away on their rusty typewriters with no sense of time or anything else – just writing (or trying to write) their first novel book.
This stereotypical image associated with writing can often put people off learning how to write a novel in a structured manner, because they begin to fear the amount of work related to it. However, this course is designed in a manner that allows you to be able to consume small parts of the novel writing process without it becoming an overwhelming experience for you - you will learn how to write a novel painlessly!
Quite often, aspiring writers tend to think they lack the expertise required and don't know how to write a novel-length story successfully – but that’s where you’re wrong. Armed with enough dedication and information, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to do this!
Through the course of this course, various lectures outline and attempt to answer any questions you might have had about the various aspects of novel writing. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner – we begin right with the basics, and go all the way to novel completion, with the additions of suggestions regarding editing and publishing as well. The lectures focus on a wide range of topics, from dialogue use, to world building and structuring your narrative – giving you everything you need to get started on that novel you always wanted to write.
Be open to learning on this journey towards becoming a more efficient and thoughtful writer – and you will be surprised by what you discover about yourself (and your novel writing skills) by the end of this journey.
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Who is the target audience?
- Anyone wanting to learn how to write novels
- You want to learn how to write a novel
- Keen to learn the essentials of how to write a novel
- Probably have an outline in mind for a novel and need to learn how to write it
- You have previous creative writing experience
- Understand the typical novel structur and how to write their first book
- Understand and how to apply the story arc to write a novel
- How to write novels with subplots and complex story arc
- How to write novels with realistic characters
- How to write novels with the correct theme and setting for the genre
- Know how to write novels with conflict and tension
- How to write narrative and appropriate point of view for a novel
- How to write a novel outline for your first book
- How to write compelling dialogue for a novel
- How to edit your first novel and find online resources to help
- How to publish after writing your first novel
- How to publish a novel on Amazon Kindle and write a winning description
Congratulations, you have now decided to commit to the process of novel writing. This, in itself, is a crucial stage to arrive at, as it requires a recognition that you want to write a book – and that you want to tell the story in your book well. Through the course of the lectures in this course, I will guide you through the various processes and techniques associated with novel writing.
In this lecture, we start with the basics of novel writing – What kind of novel is it or story that you want to tell and how should it be structured? What are the elements associated with it, and how is it supposed to flow, when looked at from a structural perspective? What are the elements you want to specifically focus on in your novel? How should you tell your story? All of this is discussed in the following chapter
What does a novel need to have? You might have heard the common response to this question: a novel is required to have a beginning, middle and an end. Quite obviously, this is going to seem like a deliberately frustrating response to you, because it does not aid your writing process at all, and does not give you the sense of direction you need to get started. However, I’m going to tell you that this response is just about right – while perhaps in need of some elaboration.
All stories require their storytelling arc to be successful, and it’s easiest to envision them regarding their beginning, middle and end. This helps you get a sense of the where the divisions in the story arc, and helps you plan it accordingly. It also helps understand where conflicts and other ‘problems’ within your story are expected to arise.
The beginning is expected to start off in a relatively reasonable manner, in that the daily lives of your protagonist(s) are depicted through this. Through the beginning, you help establish where your characters currently are and assist the reader in understanding what kind of settings, norms or social structures they are a part of. Through the course of your narrative of the beginning, you establish an idea of what ‘routine’ means in the story you are telling. This is important because, over the course of time, you will be breaking this routine to drive the story forward.
At the point between the beginning and the middle is where the conflict itself is introduced: it is usually an event or an incident that happens to the protagonist(s) or someone around them that creates within these characters a call to action. This can be a question, a realization, a journey towards self-discovery, or a rescue mission – all of these incited by a specific action that occurred, that increases the level of conflict observed.
Through the middle, the nature of this conflict rises in importance, and so – the focus of the middle is the development of the storyline about the conflict situation that you have decided to establish. The middle also gives you an opportunity to describe and detail several critical moments of crisis, all of which serve to highlight the story going forward, and prompt the protagonist(s) towards further forms of action.
This crisis-based description reaches its peak when you reach what is referred to as the ‘climax,' the isolated event that changes things around completely. This may be a great war or even just a disagreement of some kind but refers to the moment where the most amount of growth is seen, leading to the establishment of the idea of resolution.
It does not necessarily mean that the solution is found in this instance; it’s just that a concentrated burst of action is seen at this moment. The critical moment pivots the story around and is often observed as being the moment your character (or their destiny) to be fulfilled or fully understood.
Quite understandably, it is falling action that follows this pivotal point in your novel. Falling action follows the realization that the character has come to during the climax – and requires the character to act upon the same by using the knowledge or experience they gained during this process of growth. Given the nature of your story, it is during this part, the end, where the resolution to the conflict or crisis is achieved.
Additionally, it is here that the answers to the questions or the epic journeys are received. The concept of closure, however temporary or permanent, is realized at this stage as well and this allows for the creation of a situation where life goes back to being the way it was from the beginning – along with the transformative journey your character experienced along the way.
Remember to modify this structure depending on the kind of story you’re choosing to tell – and more importantly, do not divide your novel into very obvious chunks associated with the beginning, the middle, and the end.
While you should use them as a means to make your writing process more manageable, you can’t present it to a reading audience in a way that makes them feel like their reading experience was similarly disjointed. Thus, it becomes your job to present your story in a manner that is more compelling than obvious, and does not let readers notice these patterns in your writing – and instead, engages with them at a much deeper level.
Stories within your stories
In addition to the main story arc you’re looking to follow in your novel, your story must include smaller stories within them, secondary to the narrative, and referred to as subplots. These are important because they add depth and complexity to your story, thus enhancing your story in a manner that might not have been observed if you relied on the single dimension of a story. Having said this, you need to ensure that these subplots don’t take away from the essence of your novel itself.
Make sure you have a physical representation (such as a table) of how your subplots are going to be slotted within the broader framework of the story. Maybe they work within certain chapters but not others, maybe you want to drive both the main plot and subplot side by side. Keep trying to fit and reorganize your subplots within the framework of your plot, so you always have sight of the larger picture.
Given that you are now aware of how a basic novel is expected to flow, it’s quite tempting to follow that exact trajectory to give yourself the plot devices you need. However, while the story arc described in the previous section can exist on a graph – your story shouldn’t work that easily. Your novel cannot be a series of events strung together cohesively for the sake of convenience because it won’t want people to know more.
Think of your story also in terms of the dichotomies of problems and solutions, of questions and answers. Your story needs to have a larger picture instead of just being isolated events. If you view your beginning as the point at which The Question is posed, it is the ending where I need to get my Answer.
This needs to be established through character actions and motivations, and several other factors (later outlined) that drive the story forward. Additionally, you need to be able to weave elements of your story together cohesively. This is achieved through narratives and settings.
Narrative within your story
Narrative and point of view are essential in shaping your story. The perspective you choose to tell the story from makes a difference, as it contributes towards how much information is being made available to the readers, how much of the characters internal feelings and motivations readers are made aware of without dialogue, and so much more. For this reason, it is essential that you weigh the pros and cons of different narrative styles.
Adopting a point of view
As an author, you can either choose to adopt first, second, or third person points of view. Of these, the second person is not used as commonly because of its difficulty in establishing coherence and maintaining tense and grammar structures throughout. Within first and third person perspectives, you have several possibilities.
You can have a first-person narrative with a major character leading the narration, or you can have a first person narrative with an observer telling the tale instead. In the third person, by comparison, you will have the choices of an objective narration, a narrative where the perspective makes you aware of every occurrence in the story (omniscient), or one where there is omniscience, but limited to the space a certain character occupies (limited omniscient).
Given that each of these presents different kinds of information to your reader, your choice of perspective depends on what information you want to make available to your reader, ranging from internal versus external conflict to considerations about character awareness.
Setting within your story
For your story to have a proper setting, you need to establish it within the framework of a particular kind of society. This can either mimic or be one of the modern-day societies present in the real world or can be something you are choosing to create entirely from your imagination. If you decide to adopt a particular society as being the base for your story, make sure you do your research about it. This will help inform you how characters are expected to behave, how they’re more likely to be, and even the kind of relationships they will share with others – all of which have a driving influence on your plot.
You might also choose to create your society instead; in which case, you’re choosing to world-build. World building opens up some of the restrictions that may exist with choosing to engage with an already-present society, but also requires more effort on your part. If you decide to create a culture or a world that is not based off a pre-existing one, make sure you think about all the factors that go into the existence and sustenance of an actual society or culture.
Try to answer some, if not all of the questions that follow. What kind of environment do people live in? What is the social structure of this society? How does the economic system of this society work? What are the rules and governing bodies associated with this society? What value systems do they use in their norms, and what are the kinds of questions or conflicts they struggle with? How do they look, behave, think, or speak? What kind of technologies do they have?
To write a novel that has a story or plot you can be proud of, you do need to induce some conflict in their life. I know this might seem like a mean suggestion to make – but how else would you possibly drive the story forward?
The focus of this section is on how conflicts are created, driven, or sustained, to use them as powerful plot devices that serve the overall purpose of good storytelling. Following are some suggestions on how you can create well-rounded conflict situations that will make for an enjoyable reading experience.
Use the genre to your benefit
The genre of writing that your story falls under can often inform what kind of conflict you want to create for the character – if not guiding you towards a how as well. Given that your writing or your plot ideas so far have already established a broad genre that you can consider, this can be used to aid your understanding of how you want the plot to move forward.
Given the nature of the genre, what kind of conflicts arise from the situation? If it is a fantasy world, do we want to talk about wild dragons? If you’re focusing on science fiction, are we going to talk about large corporations? Evil scientists? What works for one genre might not work for the other, but you can use that very fact that to arrive at the conflict you choose to explore.
Always the tone of surprise
Given that you’re using the genre to your benefit, what you also want to be able to do is push the boundaries of your genre a little bit. You don’t want to explore tales that have frequently been talked about, that have the same story arc and the same conclusion that every other book within that genre does. You want to hold with you the element of surprise – that requires you to look at the genre differently.
See what you can contribute to an already considered idea. Have that reflect on your character’s actions, or in the way the conflict is presented to them. Make it an experience that is uncovered to the readers part by part, and laden with surprises, not one they’re already tired of because they have come to expect it.
To put it simply, while conflict and tension are terms that are often used interchangeably, within the context of novel writing, you can assign specific roles to them. Conflict refers to the situational aspect, while tension refers to the emotional aspect. Thus, conflict is created in the situation, while tension is created in the writing.
This can be in the form of internal thoughts, and depicting displays of emotion, but can also be achieved through crisp sentence structuring and through maintaining an air of mystery while revealing the story to your reader. This helps create a sense of urgency and understanding what the character themselves is going through.
Molding Your Characters
Next, we move on to creating your characters, arguably the most crucial part of your novel. While many might say they have specific stylistic preferences for how they want the writing to flow, or how they expect the narrative to be structured, for the average reader, it is the aspect of the characters that stand out. This is what they’re most likely to remember and want to connect to, so it becomes essential to present this to them in a way that will make them want to know what happens to the character – for your readers to have any investment in the storyline whatsoever.
When considering characters, you need to remember that your characters need to pan out in a certain way for them to sound less like a cardboard cutouts, or characters simply placed there with the purpose of driving the plot forward. What you need to do is create characters that are believable – could you picture this character as being a real person, or do they fall flat?
Conversely, do they seem like the caricature of an actual person? Give your character attitudes, morals and values; add some depth and dimension to them so you can envision them as being real. To this effect, though it will be elaborated upon more in the chapter about dialogue, give your character a voice of their own. They aren’t going to sound particularly inventive or real if they all sound like each other – make sure your dialogue reflects the differences in the people.
Additionally, give your characters something the reader can relate to. This does not necessarily mean that readers should be able to imagine themselves as every character. There is a need to craft out a character with intentions, experiences and a past that shapes and explains why they behave or think the way they do, even if it is a character people might not agree with. This realism makes the character more relatable, and thus, more likely to be acknowledged.
The words your characters use
Think about it this way – the words your characters use are the ones your readers receive to base their opinion on. Yes, your character’s actions are equally important – but can you imagine a story where entirely no dialogue was used? (No, that was not a challenge for you to attempt to write a novel without dialogue.)
Dialogue can be a way to drive the plot forward, by creating some conflict, by helping express to a broader audience within the story what the character’s intentions are, by prompting some action, and in many more ways. Thus, it becomes essential to understand how you can create a dialogue that is both believable and effective.
Dialogue drives things forward
Given that dialogue serves as a vocalization of conflict that is present within characters or between characters, it is no surprise that dialogue needs to be written in a way that drives a story forward. We all have meaningless conversations sometimes, but that’s because we have a lifetime’s worth of time to be able to have them. Your characters, however, don’t.
They have a very short span of time within which their story needs to be told in a manner that makes your reader want to know more. So, skip out on the unnecessary dialogue and pleasantries – this will add to the word count of your novel, yes, but will not add substance to what you’re looking to convey in actuality. Of course, this is not to say that all dialogue has to create conflict – but as a general rule of thumb, this works!
One way to ensure you’re adhering to this rule quite cohesively is to hide the dialogue and check if the story continues the same way without it – if it has no contribution to the overall story whatsoever, you might want to consider removing it. It doesn’t have to contribute to the plot directly – but even through consideration of your character’s motivations, morals, or changing their pattern of thinking, dialogue can be made useful, instead of some filler.
Focus on its flow
The strange thing about writing dialogue – and indeed, all writing in general, is that the amount of work you put in needs to guide the piece towards sounding more effortless. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, this applies even more specifically to dialogue because you want the conversation to flow naturally. Your characters need to have a conversation that sounds plausible within that realm or universe you’re considering. You might benefit from reading your dialogue out loud, either by yourself or with someone else joining you for some parts, to see if you would engage in conversation similarly. If not, work on making it sound more natural.
Dialogue tags are also relevant in this process, with the word ‘said’ being most commonly used. While the use of other verbs is perceived as being distracting by some in that it takes away from the actual dialogue, you need to be careful to ensure you don’t overuse the word said. After a while, it does become obvious that your characters are saying things to each other, and unless there’s a marked difference in tone, your readers don’t need to be actively reminded of that.
In the same vein, also make sure that your characters don’t sound robotic in how they respond. A parent lecturing a child would not warrant the child reacting with the same length of response – you’re not obligated to keep the balance of dialogues between the characters in the conversation in the same ratio. As long as they have a reason for speaking as much or as little as they, their contribution is sufficient.
The emotions behind writing
Writing was something that you enjoyed doing, something that you worked hard on and something you should be very proud of. However, editing might not follow the same trajectory. Often, you might look at your work after having completed it and feel very dissatisfied with it – don’t. This is not a reflection of your writing ability, but rather an insight into how tiresome editing can be.
No matter how much your brain tries to convince you otherwise, what you managed to write in your first draft was good writing and you are not a terrible writer. Self-doubt might plague you regarding whether your voice deserves a place, let me stop and reassure you that it does. Your ideas are important. The story you’re choosing to tell is essential.
Please make sure to remember the emotional aspect of what you feel about your writing, and recognize signs of self-doubt that may emerge and shut it down. Once you have done this, you can approach editing more technically.
Edit, but take measured breaks
However, to start with, do take a break from your writing – you will not want to read it the day you finish writing your novel’s draft, and that’s okay. What you want to do is be able to approach with a rejuvenated perspective, but while your idea is still fresh in your mind – balance your breaks accordingly. During your writing process itself, try to highlight specific sections that you think need more work, and then move forward. This way, you can approach your writing with an awareness of what the primary focus of editing is.
Make lists to organize information when editing
Organization helps; you might have noticed this by now in your writing process. When you’re trying to organize information during editing, try and pick out patterns of what requires most work. Is it the pacing you’re not content with? Is it the overall dialogue delivery that you wish was done better? Being aware of what needs most work allows you to direct a larger chunk of your attention in that direction during the editing process, and will help you create a product you’re more satisfied with.
Ask others for help
This is going to work for you on multiple levels – you need a group of people who can work as your unabashed supporters, you need another that will help you along the editing process, and you need yet another group that will provide constructive criticism. You might find it easier to combine or divide groups two and three depending on your preference, but ideally, you want to be able to direct attention towards both the stylistic and grammatical elements when they’re editing, and it might be helpful sometimes to split that into two groups to get measured feedback accordingly. As for your supporters, well, make sure they’re cheering you on and are there for you every step of the way!
Once you’re done with the editing process, you have finished putting in all the work you had to put in for you to be able to make your novel something you are proud of. However, while the fact that you’ve gotten this far and are this dedicated is exemplary, this isn’t enough, in that you still have one important stage to go: getting your finished product, your art and your voice out there to the rest of the world.
This task might get a little tricky because it is during this stage that you might begin to involve others within your process actively, and all of it becomes slightly less reliant on your intrinsic motivation. To aid you along in this process regardless, this section provides a brief overview of the different publishing routes available to you, and what the requirements and expectations from each of them can be.
If you are hesitant about getting started this process, do remember that all the work that you put into this novel is worth it. You have created something that is worthy of an audience, and it is only a matter of finding the right kind of outlet that will help you reach that audience. At the end of the day, you don’t want to have a long manuscript that you occasionally pick off from the shelves, dust off and stare at. The world deserves to be able to enjoy your work.
Though the term may seem fairly self-explanatory, this avenue of publishing refers to the age-old design of getting published, in its involvement of agents and other third parties. This form of publishing requires you to submit your work to a literary agent, who acts as an intermediary between you and a publishing group. It then becomes the responsibility of this agent to find you a large publishing house that will be able to do your book some justice.
Specifications of traditional publishing
The publishers also take responsibility for the (re) editing and design aspects of your writing project, and will also be responsible for ensuring that your book gets distributed to all the important avenues – they now ensure that all the relevant bookstores have a copy of your book. Not only this, they also take responsibility for the digital publication and sales of your book. Given that the publishing house bears the costs of the printing, editing, design, distribution, as well as promotion, it is more likely that you will be paid a certain amount upfront for the manuscript that you submitted to them.
Given that the whole process from start to end might take a while (upscale of a year) to finalize, you need to be patient if you choose to go down this route. Additionally, this form of publishing would appeal to you if you want to see your books in an actual bookshop. However, you do need to note that this will mean that more often than not, the publishers will have the final say about essential decisions about your book. It is common for established novelists to choose this route, simply by virtue of their experience in the area.
Digital publishing is taking the traditional world by storm today, and how. With the advent of social media, new and inventive promotional strategies have come forth that allow you to explore this option as a serious alternative to traditional publishing. Given that the way readers consume content and the kind of work they want to see is changing, this is an alternative you will want to read more about.
Quite often, the third-party involvement associated with traditional publishing can be quite a bit of a hassle – not only is finding a literary agent to approve of your work a task by itself, the next stage associated with finding you a publisher does not necessarily get easier (or quicker). Digital publishing turns a lot of that over on its head through revolutionizing the way we perceive the book industry.
Specifications of digital publishing
For instance, digital publishing involves lower costs at your end and lets you retain a more significant portion of the profit margin. However; you will not get paid upfront and will not (quite obviously) get to see your digitized books making their way to the bookstores. However, it is an excellent way to reach out to a broad audience worldwide, a range of access you might not have had before.
To tap into this audience, you need to be savvy regarding your marketing strategies and be willing to be out there promoting your books actively. Thus, in this form of publishing, the uncertainty of finding a publisher is replaced instead by the uncertainty of selling your book efficiently. If you’re confident enough if your abilities to be able to do this, this might just be the route for you!
With this, I conclude the guide on how to write a novel, designed to help you do exactly what the title states. I thank you once again for selecting this course, and I hope you find it useful in helping you write that story inside of you that has longed to have a voice for so long.
Through this course, the lectures were designed to help you in both the planning and writing stages associated with a novel, often sequentially. I hope that the elements, styles, and techniques listed have guided you towards how exactly you can structure your own story to present it with the most effective narrative. While some of it might have seemed technical, know that being aware of these technicalities will make sure you incorporate them at least some level of your writing, which will further reflect on the writing output that you eventually create.
Following specific instructions about writing can often seem like a daunting task, usually because we all tend to associate writing as being relatively restriction-free. However, writing – particularly novel writing, given the length of the piece you are attempting to write – is also an exercise associated with discipline, and this is where this course attempts to inform you. When you become in the know-how of the nuances related to novel writing, you would automatically become a better and more thoughtful writing.
In the end, I hope that this course gave you the opportunity to do precisely that – think more about how you’re writing and why you’re writing in that particular manner. Being a reasonable critical eye for your work creates a space for insight to be generated to aid improvement. At the same time, do remember that you can often be your own worst critic – draw that line between unabashed appreciation for your work and being overly critical of it; strike the crucial balance.
Having said this, good luck, and happy writing!
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