So, you’ve decided to write a novel. Maybe a friend suggested that you write a novel after they read your last post on Facebook or your blog. But there are actually things you need to know and deal with before writing a novel.
This is more important than you might have been led to think.
And I’m not talking about any of that woo-woo perceive to achieve because you can aspire to pespire stuff.
You might think it’s not necessary till your mind goes blank, as soon as you sit in front of your computer. Or as soon as you’ve got pen/pencil and paper.
So, you’ve got a case of writer’s block even before writing a novel.
Or you’ll keep putting off writing cos you can’t bear the thought of putting down your jumbled thoughts and un-Queenslike English for others to judge.
Before my first book came out, I thought, “This is not going to happen” but I did it, anyway.
I shudder yet smile when I look at the first draft of FOREVER THERE FOR YOU; it went through a number of evolutions (and a brutal editor that worked with my publisher) before it became the product that is available for purchase now.
But I wrote, anyway. I wrote like I’d be the only one reading it. I wrote even when it wasn’t convenient. At the time, I was working a full-time job AND doing my postgraduate in Food Law with the De Montfort University.
And I wrote cos you don’t get to call yourself an author until you’ve actually put a book out into the world.
So, that’s what you’re going to do; you’ll make time and you’ll write.
What if it’s horrible and no-one wants to read it? That’s your current mindset talking. So, download the free guide below to fix it.
Else you’ll quit even before writing a novel cos you’re convinced that the thing you haven’t even written is too bad for anyone to read.
But come, oh! How will anyone know (if) it’s horrible if it’s still in your mind?
And if it’s really horrible, that’s why editors exist. They’re these incredible creatures in human form who have absolutely no regard for your ego. Or your tears.
Their mission in life is to quicken your heart rate by redesigning your manuscript in red ink. Or in another colour of their choice.
That’s why they make little side notes that order you to explain something further. Or they tell you that something you spent a lot of time writing, is redundant and needs to be cut out of the manuscript.
But they need to do this with a manuscript that exists somewhere apart from in your head.
Just like an agent or publisher actually needs to see something written down before signing you becomes a possibility.
Side note – A year before I even put in the paperwork to make The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium Ltd a legal entity, I knew the first editor I wanted.
She shredded the sample of a manuscript for the first book in a YA series I wrote.
OK, shredded is a bit dramatic. Even for me. But my point is when I got the edited version and saw her notes, I was impressed.
She didn’t care that I was already a published author and had a fair bit of press attention by that point. Her notes made me really think about the YA story I was trying to tell. And I didn’t feel insulted cos why would I?
So, as soon as the company was set up and we got the first manuscript to publish, she was the one I contacted.
No matter how good they are, nobody can edit, represent or publish what is still in your mind. You have to articulate it somehow, first.
And you don’t get to call yourself a published author till you release a book – that is, out of your mind and into the world.
So, now you’ve got your mind sorted and you really don’t know what to write. You know what you want to say but there’s something else you need to do before writing a novel.
You need to know how to collect your thoughts in a way that flows properly.
So, create a novel outline.
What is a novel outline and how do I create one? I hear you wail.
A novel outline is a document that contains key points about the plot, structure, characters, themes, settings and other elements in your novel.
It works as a guide. It can be as simple as you want, so don’t let the word ‘document’ make you afraid.
Some people say they don’t need an outline and they want to just flow in the spirit.
And download your free novel outline cheat sheet below.
This is the most difficult part of writing.
I admit I was told and I wish I’d taken the advice more seriously before I actually got published.
Yet, it’s one of the things you don’t fully understand till you’re in.
Unfortunately, many authors think of marketing as this thing you do after you have put out the book.
Or as an uncool thing that only stuffy CEOs, publishers and marketing executives do, cos it’s not artistic enough for creatives to be bothered by.
But it’s something you should start thinking about before writing a novel.
Cos you’ll get a shock when you realise that not all the people who liked your posts on Facebook and your blog, will buy your book.
And I’m not even talking about the pitiful trolls who are desperate for your attention.
It’s just that no matter how well-written it is or how much time you’ve poured in, your novel will not be everyone’s cup of tea. And it’s not just readers now.
There are editors, agents, publishers and marketers who won’t touch your work – and it’s not always beef.
There are media outlets and practitioners (blogs, radio and TV stations, magazines, podcasters, influencers, etc) who won’t want or let you on their platform.
And it’s got nothing to do with whether you refused to sleep with someone or pay a bribe.
If an agent clearly states on their website and ALL their promotional material that they only represent romance writers, why on earth would you send them a query for your psychological thriller?
If a book reviewer says they only review YA fiction, why do you think they’ll want to read your novel whose theme is geriatric nookie?
There are specific types or genres of books we publish at The FSHE Ltd. So, if your book doesn’t fall in these categories, we don’t touch you.
No matter how much you believe in your writing or yourself.
You’re reading this cos you have been given reason to believe that there is value here for you.
So, ask yourself – what are you doing, trying to get on a TV or radio talk show on politics, to talk about your book when you know there’s no political hot topic in it?
Or that it doesn’t contain a theme that can be spun into a political issue?
Forever There For You almost didn’t happen. A previewer (someone who read the first draft) told my editor that it’s impossible for a mother to send her daughter back into an abusive marriage to die.
I was so discouraged cos I’ve seen this happen over and over again.
I even started to doubt what I knew and was very tempted to change the content to suit her. Till I was told that the previewer was a woman in her 50s from an Eastern European country.
Don’t get me wrong, I am open to constructive criticism and I did make a compromise by including a glossary at the back of the book.
But it’s ridiculous and actually unfair to expect a 50+ year old lady who’s lived in Europe all her life and has never even seen a Nollywood film to understand the context a Nigerian 20-something year old (as I was at the time) is writing from. What did I expect?
She had no idea what I was on about.
But she also wasn’t willing to educate herself in that area. And I’m not saying that cos my ego is shot that she didn’t give me a 5-star rating or whatever.
She wasn’t being a hater (and I realised that even back then) but what do you expect when you’re trying to sell to the wrong market?
Folk will treat your book like unwanted milk!
Yes, you’ve got no way of knowing where your work will end up. And no, not everyone will agree you deserve a decent review.
But you insult yourself when you deliberately grant access to someone who’ll claim that your story isn’t valid – cos that’s where they’re coming from and they’ve chosen to stay there.
Sometimes, people reject your book (and by extension, you) not because you’re not good enough, but because they’re not your market.
This is something you need to understand before writing a novel. They won’t buy the product if they’re not into the idea.
It’s like trying to force people to play a key role in a conversation that doesn’t concern them, they have no interest in and they don’t understand.
But you may not realise that cos you’re not listening. Your marketing problem could be as simple as this – you’re trying to sell in the wrong place and/or to the wrong people.
Or it’s the right place but you have not been able to communicate the value that your target market will get from your book.
The tin wey you get no go solve their wahala. So, why should they care?
Another thing you need to bear in mind before writing a novel is that being seen everywhere (on blogs, in popular reviewers’ inboxes, newspaper and magazine covers, etc) doesn’t mean you’ll sell. Especially if your target market isn’t accessing the places you’re putting yourself and your book.
Unfortunately (or not, cos it helped us learn), that was a huge, time-consuming and actually the most expensive mistake we made at The FSHE Ltd. Which in hindsight, I find really odd that we tried at all, cos it’s something I’ve always refused to do on a personal level.
I don’t respond to requests for every interview, collaborate with everyone who asks or is suggested, attend everything I’m invited to, or agree to go on every platform that I see.
Cos there’s nothing like a product that appeals to everyone.
Even with things some of us see as basic, people only make choices for reasons that make sense to them.
Not everyone who drinks milk uses the same kind. Some people would like to get certain brands, but pepper no rest. Some don’t like the taste of the milk manufactured by one brand, so you won’t get them to consume it for love or money. Even if the face of their favourite celebrity is on the pack.
Then, you have those who are lactose intolerant or have some type of medical issue, so even if they have the funds and like the taste of the milk, they can’t consume it.
That’s why there are different brands producing what seems like the same product, but at different price points in different packaging and for different tastes.
Just as you have different literary agents, editors, publishers and media outlets focusing on collaborating with writers to put out books to readers with specific interests.
Seriously, you need to know this before writing a novel – nobody but you gives a hoot about your book; they care what it will do for them.
So, if you’re not clearly communicating (to a publisher, marketer, book blogger, influencer or reader) how your book will help whomever you’re marketing to, you’re just not going to sell. No matter how much you spend on social media and other ads.
Who is this book for? And no, ‘everyone’ is not an answer.
Now that you know the 3 M’s you need to sort before writing a novel, have you downloaded your novel outline cheat sheet and “Banish to Finish” guide? They’re free!
And you can register for the webinar below if you want to start writing fiction.
Leave a comment below to let us know how this has helped you.