So You're Writing a Novel: What to Do Before You Dive In
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So You're Writing a Novel: What to Do Before You Dive In

Writing a novel is tough work, and if you're anything like me, you didn't know much about the process or the aftermath before you started.

So You're Writing a Novel: What to Do Before You Dive In
Lauren Fitch

Writing a novel is tough work, and if you're anything like me, you didn't know much about the process or the aftermath before you started. While I enjoy writing these articles every week, my true passion is fiction. I love communicating ideas and philosophies through stories, and I've learned that fiction is indeed an art- yea, that's right- your high school English teacher wasn't lying. Authors do, in fact, make a ton of purposeful choices. With that being said, let's take a journey through the stages of writing a novel. (I'll only be discussing this in a traditional publishing context).

The Planning Stage:

Make sure you have a plan, or at least a general idea of where you want the story to go. It's always okay to deviate later, but you need to make sure that the novel doesn't start as a sci-fi novel and end as a detective mystery. Planning out your chapters before you write them also helps your story gain coherence. Make sure everything makes sense and that you know the characters before you write. Writing short fiction is a great way to practice. Also, make sure you know the genre of your novel, because that will make the next stages much easier.

The Writing Stage:

Set word count goals for yourself, whether that's a chapter a day, or 4,000 words per day. Do what works for you, or else you'll never finish. Try to make yourself work on it everyday, even if it's only 5,000 words. Edit and reread as you go so that you don't have as much work to do at the end. Make sure that you're writing something that you want to read.

Social Media Can and Will Help:

Writers and Agents love twitter. I haven't read an author yet that doesn't have a twitter, and for good reason. There are tons of hashtags that writers use in order to get help from other writers. Here are some of the most popular:




#NaNoWrMo (for national novel writing month)

and #querytips

In short: get a twitter and follow your favorite agents and authors. Read as many of their books as possible and get to know them. It can come in handy. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr too, if they have them.

Word Count

Average Word Count for an Adult Novel is around 80,000 but a good range is 70,000 to 90,000. This differs my genre. I suggest doing plenty of research, but at least you know that if your word count is 30,000, you have a problem.


What now? Yes, querying. See, in this day of age, it's very hard to get a publisher's attention without a query. A query is like a cover letter to a literary agent. It includes a synopsis, a pitch, and a little bio of the author. Without this, no agent will even so much as look at your manuscript.

In some ways, the query is more important than your actual novel. If you can't sell your novel, then you're out of luck. Don't get too ahead of yourself, though -- make sure you don't reach out to agents until your manuscript is fully done. I haven't reached this step with my novel yet, but if I'd known it from the beginning, I could have been saved a lot of time researching.

Websites like Manuscript Wishlist have list upon lists of agents, and you can even sort them by your genre. Only Query to one agent per agency, and include your twitter handle. Again, agents love Twitter. It's normal to query to 50 to 80 agents before receiving interest, but you also can't just query to any old agent. If they don't represent Sci-fi, don't pitch them the next Star Wars. If you reach 100, you may need to re-evaluate or consider self-publishing (which, incidentally, is also a good thing to look into).

Have Fun and Be Inspired

The most important aspect of writing a novel is that you love your craft and you're passionate and inspired by the story you're putting out. A novel is a ton of work and chances are your first one isn't going to be a get rich quick scheme. You must love what you're doing, just as any artist. Strive for the joy of yourself and your readers and you will succeed.

Happy writing!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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