Writing a novel is the dream of nearly everyone who actually writes. Whether they write for fun or for a living, the challenge of creating a novel is often regarded as a peak accomplishment in this art form. Actually getting one published is another story. Many writers do not consider themselves as having ‘made it’ until they get a novel published.

Fortunately, this challenge is softened by the wisdom and advice of those who have already made a name for themselves. One of them is Elizabeth Day, who has first novel advice for those authors still aspiring to join the ranks of the published.

One thing she argues in favor of is leaning hard in the direction of vulnerability. Being open to potential failure and trial and error is the only way to silence your inner critic and get writing. Also, being vulnerable in your writing will fuel your pages with genuine experience and emotion. Readers will connect with that.

She always argues against plotting things out in too much detail. Sometimes, mapping out where the story is going can wind up feeling more like a spreadsheet with information in hundreds of cells. Turning that into a compelling narrative can be hard. Have a general idea of where everything is going, and maybe do a color chart showing where each character is in each chapter. Other than that, figure it out as you go along.

Nurture yourself when you’re not writing. Analysis and revision are necessary components of the process, but tearing up yourself inside can lead you to tear up your pages on the outside. Always practice self-care and self-acceptance. You’ll need self-acceptance when you do sit down to write. What you write will never be perfect, but you just need it to be good enough to keep moving.

Being at peace with yourself is how you create space to get to know your characters. You have to personify them as much as possible. Their values and decisions drive the best plots. When you write that way, readers have no choice but to accept their fates as if they could not have been any other way. That’s when you make fiction feel real because, in reality, most people’s lives are just the sum of the choices they’ve made.

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