The Art of Novel Writing: 10 Basic Tips on How to Write a Good Novel

The art of novel writing is a relatively new art and we mean by (relatively new) some few hundreds of years ago and this is new in comparison to thousands of years when humans knew writing in general. There were no novels in ancient civilizations because all of the effort of writers was directed mainly towards writing religious manuscripts or even the accomplishments of great leaders. Even Homer's (Iliad) and (Odyssey) and other Greek mythology stories were all a part of a bigger religious picture for the sake of immortalizing the memory of great heroes whose stories were told among the public and who also evolved to be considered gods of humans. In Arabic literature we can find the story of (Hayy ibn Yaqdhan) which was the original idea for the later known story of (robinson crusoe) and (One thousand and one nights) for sure which comes from an Indian origin by the way and not strictly Arabic.

Back in these days, people hardly knew writing and they couldn't provide a massive production of several hundreds of paper works known as (Novel), it was hard for them to memorize a novel by heart no matter how beautiful is this novel, they could have only memorized small meaningful public cultural stories and poetry of course due to it's musicality and quotability to apply for everyday situations. With the modern evolution of bulk printing methods and human acceptance of this kind of art, novels started to rule the world of literature.

Difference between novels and stories:

Novel as we defined as a modern art is far more complex than simple public stories, they are also usually longer and contain a more complex morality. Novels should fulfill some conditions to transcend to the state of a novel by definition, there is no novel without a purpose or characters or events or introduction or a dramatic plot. Novels should form a tight texture of events and characters in general and ell events should be bonded together from the first page to the last one. Novels could possess less elements of entertainment than those found in public stories in general as they may usually aim for a higher logic or point to a bigger problem and hence trying to change reality by writing about it.

A tiny look at any book store shelves would give you an idea about the varieties of many titles and published novels and most of them would be written by young money crazed people who forget about the real art of novel for the sake of achieving rapid fame. The problem of modern day novels is that they are mostly for a commercial purpose. A real novel wouldn't be written to make money or fame or even for winning some prizes.

In my humble opinion, a real novel should be driven by the author's inner feelings to express different values than common ones and add to it. This added value should change reader's life or at least the way they look at things than they used to be. You - as a novelist - should add to your readers something that is worth their time and money. Some knowledge, some psychological value, some spiritual value, or any kind of added values that would simply make them a different person whenever they finish reading your novel. If you don't do that then your novel is just another waste of time and money life any other useless object they bought once and forgot about it.

How to write a good novel?

There are many points that should be fulfilled to write a good novel but we will start with the classical definition of elements that compose a classic novel. Any novel should contain an introduction, some characters, and a plot with an end. These simple elements should form a novel and there is no novel without these three elements and otherwise it could be something else but not a novel. You can't write a novel without introducing your plot and characters, you will also need to work on your characters and their surrounding environment, and you will need to set the pace and rhythm of events and plot to keep your novel at fire from the beginning to the end which will make readers get interested to finish it instead of just closing it out of boredom and go watch TV.

There is no golden compass for how to write a good novel, you will need to have some talent to start with and then work on it. We will try to explain some points that you need to work on to produce a good novel:

1- General script:

Before you start writing your novel, you will need to bring a paper and pen, sit down a little for some days, and start writing in your own words the general script that you will go through writing your novel. A general script will help you keep in mind the general line of your novel and the whole picture of your plot. Some novels can be written in several months or even years and you don't want to waste your time working on something that will not produce a good quality novel at the end. These few days you will spend writing your general script will save you lots of time later when you discover that your work wasn't based on tight pillars.

2- Characters:

Characters are the most important component in your novel, they can make it funny, silly, deep, or even shallow. The deeper and more complex your characters are, the deeper your novel. Now you have to spend some time too to start building your characters. Look around you for characters of people you already meet in real life and mix these characters to produce your novel characters. You will need to think about your character motives, their psychological state and disorders, their purposes in life, and the way they deal with situations that occur to them. 

All your characters must be doomed in some way or another. Plain characters will be a big burden over the body of your novel and even the simplest version of a novel should contain doomed characters. Superman has allergy towards kryptonite and Batman lost his parents when he was a kid, Captain Ahab suffers paranoia and a big scar in his soul by the whale (Moby Dick). There shouldn't be any normal characters in your novel.

3- Place and Time:

Every novel should go around in some place and time frame that should fit your plot. You shouldn't fall a victim for wrong choices of place and time and this would put your whole novel out of proper logic. America is a good place for serial killers novels, middle east is good for spiritual believes, future is good for flying cars while past is good for horror and mythical stories. These examples are not strict for sure but we are talking on a general prospective, otherwise you will need to build a whole community that makes your plot acceptable, a hidden island with surrounding clouds with technological advances than the usual technology we know, this previous example required the island to be hidden someway to make it acceptable to have some technology we don't usually experience.

4- The prospective:

First person prospective is where you tell the story in your own words like (I did something, I decided to try it), while the third person prospective is when you tell the story as a third person who isn't a part of the conversation (He thought about it, she decided to go up). You already know that I guess but I needed to explain to make you think of the probabilities you have, there is nothing wrong with using any of these prospective but some novels based on the solitary hero could be better told in the first person prospective while novels with multiple equal characters and simultaneous events are better written in the third person prospective.

5- Use footnotes:

Footnotes are useful at any stage of novel writing and you shouldn't feel ashamed to get back to some of the early pages you wrote some time ago to make modifications at some of your footnotes or adding paragraphs that wasn't written. Nothing wrong also with jumping to pages that you didn't write yet to add some footnotes or write paragraphs about events that would come later. These tiny details will enrich your novel and give it a tasteful flavor, it is generally a good practice to re-evaluate the whole script and even make modifications to it all the time.

6- Consider the plot:

The plot or the problem is the heart of your novel and it shouldn't be exposed easily in early stages of your novel. The more your skill as a novelist the more powerful and complex is your plot. The more powerful your plot is, the more suspense the reader feels and hence the drive that makes him finishes your novel. The plot should have a big secret that will be only exposed at the end. Even when you expose your secret at the beginning (flash back novels) you will need to cover the (HOW) till the end meaning that even if your reader knows the end he shouldn't know how we reached that end until the real end of the novel.

7- Get out of the general script:

Unlike the first advice, having a general script for your novel shouldn't be obstructing you from jumping to a better plot when it occurs to you during the process of writing. You could discover some better alterations to your original script while you go on writing and you shouldn't ignore it if it helps your novel. It might cost you some time but writing a good novel is worth it. Now you will have to compare between your original plot and your new plot but you need also to consider finishing your novel at some time.

8- Write about what you know and what you don't know:

The classical school would advice you about writing about something you already know, it is safe you will have a good novel at the end with tight events and logic.

Now you have to ask yourself: do you know something your readers don't know?.

Let me explain this: Your reader needs to know something new, something he doesn't know yet so you need to know something your readers don't know or even have the ability to express normal feelings in new ways.

Writing about what you don't know will cost you some time of research and reading about this unique material but will produce a unique novel in the end, it will also expose you to new horizons of literature that you wouldn't normally acquire by just writing about what you and other people already know. It's a good advice to stay safe but you will have to take the risk from time to time.

9- Stick to the time plan:

You will need to finish your novel at some point, writing a novel is better than spending months trying to write a novel without finishing it. You shouldn't wait for inspiration to hit you and you should specify some daily time for writing. Even When you don't feel like writing, you will be inspired whenever you start writing and then you might go on and on till you finish your work eventually. 

Set a time plan for your novel (3-5 months is a good start), you could finish later than that but always put on your mind to stick to the plan to be able to finish it.

10- Choose a special reader:

We mean by choosing a special reader that you should pick someone who wants to read your new novel before it is published and who can give you an honest critical opinion about your novel before it goes public. This special reader could be a friend, your wife, your room mate, or anyone you would trust to read your work with some sense of criticism and remember that early criticism is better than getting it too late after your novel is published. 

Writing a novel is a talent that should be grown by continuous reading and writing for some time. Many people write novels but only few are worth reading and memorizing. You need to seek excellence in mastering this art in order to build your base of faithful and loyal readers.
  • 436
  • 1,385