If only someone could tell you how to write a novel the easy way.
Because you’ve tried to write one and zilch. No inspiration, no skill, no idea where or how to start.
Or maybe you kinda know what you want to write about but how to write it all down in a way that reads like a real book, is your problem.
I still remember the first time I saw a physical copy of my first book, FOREVER THERE FOR YOU.
The only reason I didn’t burst into tears was cos I was in a really public place (London Victoria Rail Station where I was meeting my publisher). That’s so not the place to draw some types of attention to oneself…
But I kept saying over and over again, “Oh my God, it looks like a real book”.
My reaction to seeing the cover of my next book, BECAUSE HOME IS… was different. I cried for reasons that I won’t go into cos they’re not the point of this post.
But can you imagine what it’d be like to hold your finished manuscript or see the eBook version in any online store?
That’s why this blog post is here – to show you how to write a novel the easy way.
We’ve broken it down into 7 simple steps. Cos out of all the things that are hard, this shouldn’t be one of them.
1) Start with a character
Think about every book you’ve ever read and loved or hated. Every book that made you feel something. Or that made you go places you thought didn’t exist. That made you care.
It was because of at least one character.
People don’t pick up novels cos they want to get a PhD in something. That’s what they go to school and read nonfiction for.
Of course, novels can teach readers a new thing or two.
But people are drawn to novels because of the characters. People want to know what’ll happen on the next page because they care about what’s going on with a character.
It’s that simple.
No matter the genre – mystery, historical or contemporary romance, family saga, legal or psychological thriller, YA, etc – nobody will pick it up if they don’t care about a character.
Many times, about the main character.
- Who is your main character?
- What’s his/her name?
- What nationality and race are they?
- What do they look like?
- How old are they?
- What do they care about?
- What do they want most in the world?
- What makes them different from everyone around them?
- What are their fears?
- What’s their worst personality trait?
- What’s their deepest, darkest secret?
- Who’s their nemesis?
- What’s their back story?
People are interested in people – what they like, what they don’t like, why they do certain things, if (or how) they’ll get away with doing certain things.
So, make the character the kind of person (or animal or supernatural being) one that your reader will care about.
Care about doesn’t mean 100% love.
You just need to get your reader emotionally invested in the character and what happens to them.
So, make your character as compelling and relatable as possible.
2) Create an outline
Ever heard or read the Chinese proverb: the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory?
If you hadn’t before, now you have.
Some people want to fly by the seat of their pants and write as it comes.
And that is not a crime.
But there’s a good chance that if you do that, you’ll forget stuff.
Nobody is infallible and it doesn’t make you less authentic or talented if you outline your ideas.
I heard someone complain bitterly about a book because the author had given the main character four different names! They weren’t multiple personalities; it was literally one person who answered to all these different names for no justifiable reason.
An error that could have been easily avoided. Apart from obviously missing an editor, an outline could have saved the writer (and their readers) a lot of trouble.
I honestly believe creating a novel outline can truly help with the process of how to write a novel the easy way.
A novel outline doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. A simple one will do.
It’s meant to guide you, not restrict you.
Research is your friend.
Cos no matter how much you think you know about a subject (whether it’s a topic or a person), there’s always something you don’t know.
And what you don’t know and don’t research now could be the reason a reader hates your book.
If a character you’re writing about has a mental illness, which one? How does it play out? What are the triggers?
If a character you’re writing about lives in Lagos (Nigeria) or San Francisco (USA), what part? And how does that affect them or the story?
If the main character you’re writing about is a serial killer, how do they carry out their depraved acts? When and how did they start?
All of these (and more) are questions you won’t be able to answer properly without doing some form of research.
Research can happen in more than one way.
Personal experience (or the experience of a close friend, colleague, partner, etc) can form the basis of your research.
You also have the option of asking people questions just to see their reactions to things you might want to include in your novel.
Then, there’s Google or social media. People are putting out all kinds of stuff that can give you an insight into how individuals in a certain situation might react to something.
You can also read books whether a nonfiction title on an issue your characters are going through, or a fictional account just to see how an issue has been treated already. It doesn’t mean you have to follow their exact same route but you could get some pointers.
Research is a definite key for how to write a novel the easy way because you not only get to avoid some unpardonable errors, you also learn things you didn’t know before.
4) Pick a point of view
This is the perspective from which the story is told or narrated, using a character.
And it’s done in first person (“I”), second person (“you”), or third person (“s/he” or “they”).
This isn’t about dialogue where characters would use pronouns to refer to themselves.
If it sounds complicated, it’s not. I promise.
With the first person point of view, a novel can read like an autobiography cos of the use of I/my.
My father came home that night and I asked him…
So, although you (the writer) are writing the story, the readers are experiencing it from the point of view of the character who’s narrating their story using I/my.
But like I said before, it’s not dialogue between two characters. It’s literally the way the book is written. An example of how well the first person point of view is employed is in MURDER AT MIDNIGHT.
There’s the second person point of view and this happens where the story of a person other than the narrator is told with “you”.
You shouldn’t talk to your friends like they are…
Again, this isn’t dialogue between or among characters. It’s the way the book is written.
Then, we have third person point of view but this is actually divided into two.
There’s the third person limited (which I feel like many novels use).
Kunle walked towards Francesca with an angry look on his face. But she looked straight at him.
Which is different from the third person omniscient.
All Kunle wanted was to explain. But all Francesca could think was how much of a loser he was.
The difference between the two is that in the second one, the narrator knows exactly what’s going on with each character and is telling us.
Because we’re being told, we don’t need to be shown. Which would be an exhausting read cos we’ll be going back and forth between each character’s emotions at the same time.
And we’ll know exactly what’s going on at every point in time – including in the mind of each character – instead of watching stuff play out.
Pick a point of view from which to write, that’s easiest for you. Some people would say one point of view per novel, else it’ll get confusing.
And I agree with that.
Cos the point of this blog post is for you to know how to write a novel the easy way. So, I’m about not complicating things especially if mixing and matching is going to be difficult for you to implement.
Some people never actually get to hold their manuscript cos they just won’t write.
They get bogged down with daydreaming about the characters they want to create. Or about what it would be like to actually be published.
Or they get obsessed with outlining the novel.
Or they get distracted with research that takes them in a thousand different directions at once.
But they don’t actually do any writing.
They use the first three necessary steps of this post (and some unnecessary ones) as their excuse for not writing a single word.
They procrastinate away their time focusing on worries that are never going to materialise or on things that are beyond their control.
What if I write and it’s horrible?
Let’s settle this once and for all – your first draft is going to be crap. It’s supposed to be.
The first draft is just you telling yourself the story – Terry Pratchett
Your first draft isn’t supposed to be the final manuscript. So, it’s OK if you’re not satisfied with it. In fact, you shouldn’t be satisfied.
I cringe whenever I think of the first draft for FOREVER THERE FOR YOU. And when I can bring myself to read it, I always think, “I can’t believe I wanted to put that out in the world!”
Being afraid that you’ll produce a terrible first draft is not a good enough excuse for you not to write!
Neither is talking about writer’s block. How are you even talking about writer’s block when you’re not writing = you’re not a writer?
Stop procrastinating and start writing where you can. Jotter, Notes App on your phone, whatever.
Knowing how to write a novel the easy way isn’t about having the latest top of the range laptop on the market. Or the most expensive writing software.
Stop procrastinating and just write.
6) Pick a goal and a routine that works
So, it’s one thing to say “I want to write a novel” but you need to be a bit more specific.
When do you aim to actually finish writing the novel? And work from there backwards. This is really important for how to write a novel the easy way.
So, bearing in mind that a novel is at least 50,000 words. If you said, “I want to finish writing my first draft by this time tomorrow” and you haven’t written a word yet – I think it’s fair to say that’s unrealistic.
And the fastest way to make sure you don’t achieve a goal is to set an unrealistic one.
However, if you said, “I want to complete a novel in 30 days from now”, that’s more doable.
But you don’t stop there – you need to settle with yourself how many words per day or per writing session you need to write, to reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.
It’s all well and good to say, “I’m going to write 1000 words a day”. But if you’re a single parent working two jobs, doing a degree and trying to run a side hustle? I think it’s fair to assume your writing 1000 words a day just isn’t going to happen.
Many writers (even full-time ones) have other responsibilities apart from writing. So, you’ll need to find a way to write that works with or around your current schedule. It doesn’t mean you’re less dedicated to your writing. It’s just that certain things can’t be avoided.
I was just about to enter my final year at uni when I wrote the first draft of FOREVER THERE FOR YOU.
And when I was working on the second draft, I was working a full-time job AND doing my Postgraduate degree in Food Law. I stretched myself but it was not realistic for me to write everyday.
So, pick a schedule that works for you. And as far as is possible, be consistent. You’re not the same as everyone else trying to write a book and that’s OK.
Even after making sacrifices, you might not be able to write everyday like someone else. But you might be able to write for two hours, thrice a week. So, do that and be consistent.
If it’s thirty minutes a day first thing in the morning, it is what it is. Be consistent.
I feel like I have to stress the consistency part purely cos creativity isn’t enough to be a writer. You also need to be consistent.
Else you’re never going to complete anything or reach your full potential, no matter how creative you are.
Planning ahead also helps you maintain consistency. So for instance, if you write best on a phone, make sure your phone battery is fully charged before you begin writing. Or get a power bank.
If you write best at your dining or study table as opposed to in bed, make sure that as far as is possible, you’re sitting at that table just before you’re scheduled to begin a writing session.
It might also be an idea to gauge how long it takes per session to complete a set number of words.
So, if your session is an hour a day and you know you typically write 500 words in an hour, you know what you’re working with.
Some people do better with chapter counts as opposed to word counts. So, instead of a set number of words per writing session, they aim to complete a chapter, half a chapter or whatever. If that’s you, do you.
Just like not every novel has the same number of words, not every chapter of your own book will have the same number of words. And that’s actually normal. It’s fine.
Some say write from the middle of your story. But I say do so only if that works for you. Some stories can be told from the beginning, middle or near the end. You can always switch things around later if one format doesn’t work.
Use your writing time to just write – not to research or even edit. Research time should be different from writing time.
And seriously, don’t edit as you go along. Remember that the first draft isn’t supposed to be the final outcome. And the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
7) Stop stressing, breathe and learn
It’s just a novel.
It’s not the cure for cancer. Or COVID 19. Or HIV. In other words, it’s not that serious.
A novel isn’t and will never be serious enough for you to neglect your physical or mental health. Knowing how to write a novel the easy way includes taking care of yourself.
Cos if you collapse, the world will go on – even if your novel never comes out.
Writers are influenced by books from other writers. So, it’s OK to learn from others. Just try not to plagiarise.
If you’re struggling, there are some courses and resources to help you simplify things even further.
Have you learned anything new about how to write a novel the easy way today? Which of the 7 steps will you be implementing ASAP? Let us know in the comments section below.