Things you should know before you begin your debut novel

Before

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Just a fun post for today, based on what I have learnt during my writing journey. It’s been three years since I started my current WIP, and although I’m not deterred by the length of time it’s taken me to reach this point, there are a few things that would have sped up the process a little, had I known them before I launched in. But alas, it’s too late for me, but perhaps they may be of some help to you…!

1) You are not going to complete your finished manuscript within 6 months

Yep, Naive Heather did actually believe she could have a polished, completed and awesome novel within 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, you could easily finish your first draft in that time but your manuscript will be nowhere near as good as it could and should be. But why? This question leads us nicely on to point two…

2) You will improve with time

And with practice. Even if you think you know enough, you will never know everything hence there’s always room for improvement. If you write consistently, you will be constantly improving. This is a good thing for your novel, but a bad thing for your deadline. Please bear in mind that as you learn and improve…

3) You will likely stray from your outline

Even if you’ve spent months outlining, chances are, as you’re writing (and hopefully getting better at it), you will encounter flashes of inspiration that you didn’t have when you were planning. That plot device you loved? It doesn’t fit your character as well as you thought it might. That character you thought was necessary? She’s dead weight. But remember, straying from your outline isn’t a bad thing, as long as you bear in mind that…

4) Story structure is important

Don’t worry, structure won’t inhibit your creativity. Like it or not, satisfying stories follow certain structures – beginning, middle, end, with rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. For this reason, it’s vital to understand structure before you begin, so it’s wise to read widely on the subject. But don’t just stick to reading about structure…

5) Find out as much as you can about how to write a good novel

There are so many awesome websites and books on the subject so just Google it and get going! As stated before, you can’t possibly know everything before you begin, but it’s good to get a solid handle on the basics: POV, structure, character, tense, genre etc. I have beta-read for several writers before, some of whom didn’t even know how to use full-stops (there were none in the entire novel…!), let alone understand what POV was and why it was important. I wish I was joking…

6) Bonus point: no matter how ‘finished’ you think your book is, you will pick it up several weeks later and realise that long-standing scene you love is actually rubbish

To be honest, it’s pretty blindsiding. You’ve been sure about said scene since day one, so why is it only now, on day 700, that you realise it doesn’t actually make sense / is written terribly / doesn’t fit with the rest of your tweaked manuscript. It feels a bit like having the rug pulled out from under you – I mean, you were practically finished, and now you have some major restructuring to do?! It is scary but it is normal. So don’t worry, you got this!

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