How to Start Writing a Novel from Rough Draft to Smooth
I thought I knew how to start writing a novel. I have written several novels, started and didn’t
finish even more. What I didn’t know is that I was knocking myself out with what I thought was
good “pre-writing” stuff. It was all important material: character development, plot outlines,
subplots, character interaction worksheets, action/response worksheets, timelines, who was doing
what when (seriously), anything that you could write down or chart out about the novel, I did it
before actually writing a word of the story.
How to Start Writing a Novel Gaining New Perspective
However, the pre-work didn’t provide the same satisfaction I get from the actual writing of a story, and I
was always antsy to get started on it. So I decided to try a different approach: I would chart and plot a
little and write a little, chart and plot a little and write a little more. This worked somewhat better for
me, but then I found that with the creative juices flowing also came more notes and comments (I use
the “comment” feature in word quite a bit when writing), and questions arose like, “Does this scene
reflect my lead character’s traits?” Or worse, “What the heck are my lead character traits?” which sent
me back to my worksheets.
This method did get the job done eventually, but I began to realize that writing a novel was
taking me longer than I thought it needed to. So, I went back to the drawing board to relearn how
to start writing a novel, and I’m glad I did.
How to Start Writing a Novel with Unadulterated Abandon
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenges new and experienced writers from around the
world to sharpen their pencils (or keyboards) to write a 50,000-word story during the month of
November. The 30 days of November. By the nature of the challenge that means writing 1667 words
every day. If one day you can’t find the time or just plain don’t write 1,667 words, well then you would
need to write 3,334 the next day to stay on track. I never thought I could write consistently at that pace
and hadn’t even considered trying to. While I was looking for a new way of learning how to start writing
a novel, I wasn’t sure this was it.
But, I had a story idea floating around in my head that I hadn’t yet found time to work on. Then
at the end of October last year (2011), I had a small lull in my freelance writing assignments. I
thought about NaNoWriMo; knew it was on the horizon. I batted the idea of participating in the
challenge around in my mind, thinking that I hadn’t yet done any of my charts, plots, and
worksheets for my novel’s idea, how could I possibly begin writing it? And who can write 1,667
words every day?
How to Start Writing a Novel as a NaNoWriMo Writer
I checked out the NaNoWriMo website and tuned into the fact that writers were “writing with
abandon” – they weren’t stopping to check for plot errors, character development flaws, and
heaven forbid – not even punctuation. November 1 came and went and I was still mulling over
this crazy way of writing. But now time was of essence. It often is with me; I think things over
until like 10 minutes after a deadline and then find a way to slink in the side door. So, I
wondered, would NaNoWriMo let me start late? Could I still sign up for the challenge? Short
story even shorter – they did and I did. And I’m so glad I did. It turns out that I can write 1,667
words a day, that’s who! (And so can you.)
NaNoWriMo cast a brilliant light on novel writing for me and frankly, the experience changed
my perspective of how to start writing a novel. I had nothing but the keyboard in front of me
when I began to write the idea that was forming in my imagination. I was following somewhat of
a plot in my mind and I just let it come to life – on its own, in a way. I wrote it as it came to me.
There was no stopping to check or redo any of what I’d written. I loved it! I let the characters
lead the way, knowing that they weren’t yet fully developed and they would most likely have
inconsistencies that would later have to be corrected, but that was the point – I would correct,
revise, everything later, after I’d had written a first draft of the novel.
You can finish reading this article on our website about how to start writing a novel.