Know your characters
Voice is always important in a novel, and your
protagonist(s) have a lot of influence on your voice. It can help to write out
the main characteristics or fill in a character profile (everything from hair
colour to pet peeves to what their Twitter password would be), or maybe to
mind-map your character to help you know them better.
I usually get the ideas of my characters before I develop
the plot, but they’re always worth putting some effort into thinking about
before you get stuck into your novel.
Tense and Person
Are you using first or third person? Past or present tense?
It’s totally up to you, and I’d mostly recommend doing whatever feels right and
comfortable. For instance, most of my YA writing is first person, present
tense; but my historical fiction is typically third person, past tense. You
might have to try it out a few times to get a feel for what works, but it’ll be
worth it. And remember to stick to your choice!
You might be one of those people who likes to plan out your
entire novel before you start writing (more power to you!) or you might be more
like me and not work like that. Either way, I think it can be really helpful to
draft a plot outline to help guide you through – it doesn’t have to be a
paragraph about every chapter; maybe you just outline the main plotlines you want
to follow, the main events. It can also be helpful to think about any sub-plots
you want to work on, and any character development you’d like to have.
(You might like to check out this post on plotting your
story versus winging it!)
And a blurb/story description
This is something that always works well for me when I start
a new book: it helps me think about the tone I want to set, and helps to keep
me on track of the main plot even if I haven’t got much of an outline to go on.
This is different to the synopsis I’ve mentioned above, but definitely worth
your time as far as I’m concerned.
(You might like to check out this post on writing a good
Tone and Style
A YA romance reads very differently to a thriller novel. It’s
worth taking a little time to think about the tone you want to set (again, your
characters can have a lot of influence on this, as can the tense and person you
use). Also, if you’re planning on using other elements – say letters, or blog
posts, or lots of Facebook messenger conversations – you might like to think
about how you’d like to incorporate those.
For instance, you could write your whole novel through
emails. I read an amazing book called Read Bottom Up that was a story told entirely
through texts and emails. Or you might want to go for a ‘Dear –’ style, telling
everything through letters, like Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Just start writing
There’s only so much prep you can do when it comes to
writing a novel. It’s worth having a think about some of these things before
you start, but ultimately, you have to just start writing. (And good luck!)