A few moths ago I decided to self-publish the YA novel I had written in late high school and finished during early university. Ever since doing that I've felt freer to pursue my personal essays, flash fiction, and eventually my next novel. For today's post I thought I would discuss how I wrote my first novel, seeing as I never really had any advice going into it and would have liked a bit of guidance. In our current social climate, what with social media dictating what we do and our value from the response our content garners, I think we feel pressured to always be producing a masterpiece. In reality, most of what you create won't be. And no one who ever did create a masterpiece went into it aiming for that. It's important to just create what feels true and genuine and worry about everything else once it's all done.
Love What You're Writing
Whenever you start a project, especially working on a novel, you have to really love what it is you're creating. Your drive shouldn't hinge on whether the topic is trendy or how much attention it will get because of controversial material - it should come from deep within you. The characters should be banging on the door that is your subconscious, wanting to come out. The plot shouldn't be forced, but rather a well-crafted version of a story that you feel has to be told.
Whether you're telling it to work through an issue you've experienced and that others might relate to, or exploring the relationship of significant others in a romance novel, the reason of why you're doing it should out weigh the purpose. That might be a bit confusing, so to explain, the reason is (for example) working through the notion of loss by having your main character live without a parent rather than focusing on the end purpose, being making money off of a common trope in young adult fiction.
The story should almost be writing itself and when you begin overthinking everything to the point where it can't be told anymore, then maybe it's time to stop or take a break.
Plan It Out...Or Don't
Almost all the writing advice I've gotten online states that you should always plan out your novel in advance. I think it can be extremely helpful to have a general idea of where the story is going, but I find that when everything is already constructed it doesn't give your characters room to grow and develop as the story progresses. Maybe a character you initially wanted to be mean has started to show a nicer side - why not let that transform your story organically? Creating a general layout of each chapter is a great way to envision the universe you are crafting and how your characters are interacting within it, but by being too strict about what will happen next might stop you from exploring a plot point that could be much more interesting than the one you've planned out.
The most important piece of advice I can give to any new writer, is to just write. I've fallen into the trap of feeling too overwhelmed with my grandiose thoughts of what my novel should be that I stop writing it altogether. If you think you can't do something, then you're probably leading yourself into a self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment. Once you realize that any self-doubt is only inhibiting you from creating something that you can feel confident about then there won't be anything left to stand in your way.
Taking the first step and actually writing has always been difficult for me, especially if a story idea has been bouncing around in my head for a long time. The only method that really helps me to push passed that initial fear is to promise myself I'll write at least a paragraph and usually it ends up being more than that because of how immersed I become with the story.
How do you approach the novel writing process?