Everything You Need To Know Before You Write Your First Novel.

07 Nov

Lately I’ve seen a plethora of blog posts on this subject. “10 Things You Should Know Before Writing Your First Novel”,  “5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Writing My First Novel”, “16 1/2 Things You Better Learn Before Writing Your First Novel”.

The articles range from helpful and informative to downright snarky, and I disagree with them all.

I am so grateful that I knew nothing at all when I wrote my first novel.

I was simply bored out of my tree, recovering from surgery and needed something to distract me from my cabin fever. I didn’t know anything about writing a novel … I simply invented some characters and started writing. 

It was the most fun ever.

If I’d gone into my first effort in novel writing thinking too much about craft and structure and future publication it would’ve sucked all the joy out of the experience. I wasn’t ready for that.  I was trying it on, discovering whether or not this was for me. (It really, really was.) That first effort languishes on my hard drive, where it belongs, but it taught me so much, perhaps most importantly that this was something I wanted to do a lot more of, and there really was an outlet for the narrative and dialogue that ran constantly in my head

After I’d finished, then I read everything I could find on novel writing. I read books on structure and character, I scoured the internet and read approximately 4000 blog posts on writing. I discovered Twitter. I took online classes.

The next novel I wrote was written with everything I’d learned swirling around in my head, and yes, it was harder. But it was still joyful, and I think it was because I had that pure joy experience of writing the first (albeit terrible) book that I knew to find the joy in writing, and not to lose it to ‘the rules’.

Here is my list of things that you should know before writing your first novel:

  1. Have fun. Dive in. Embrace the experience. (Wait, that might be 3 things.)
  2. Know going in that this book isn’t going to be the one that launches you into your career as a best selling author. Or if it is, it’s going to be a lot of rewrites later. And that is okay.
  3. When in doubt, refer to Rule Number 1.

That’s about it. I’m off to dive back into my NaNoWriMo project – I’m 13,000 words deep so far. If you’re Nanoing this month, don’t forget to find the joy in what you’re writing – that’s what makes the whole process worthwhile.


Posted by on November 7, 2011 in writing


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2 responses to “Everything You Need To Know Before You Write Your First Novel.

  1. MegansBeadedDesigns

    November 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Wonderful tips, thank you. I haven’t even attempted to write a novel yet, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The task seems daunting and scary, even though i love writing. Maybe it’s BECAUSE I’m too worried about structure, and rules, and what i would do with it after it’s finished… yada yada.

    Next time i start to think about writing a novel, I’ll try to take your advise to heart. Just have fun! Sounds like a great plan to me!

  2. Robin Hawke

    November 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Never underestimate the power of innocence!

    Wonderful post; I’m a fellow diver, Robin


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