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Ten things you should be clear about before starting to write a novel

One of the main problems for beginning writers when writing a novel is to work the structure of a plot in a logical way and with the appropriate complexity.

It is a problem that we see continuously among the students who join our Novel Course and who do not stop raising their teacher.  How to know if your idea has the necessary entity to occupy an entire novel? What type of structure will suit you best? What about the point of view or the narrator?

Well, you have two ways of working with structure when writing a novel:

  • Start writing and cross your fingers, hoping to get it right.
  • Read this post and find out how you have to do it.


Before starting to write a novel

Before writing the first sentence there are at least ten things that you should be clear about Vox Ghostwriting. If you have not thought about them, you can start writing but, sooner or later, you will find that there are aspects in which you get stuck and that can wreck your novel.

  1. The story

The germ of some novels is a character. Suddenly you have it clear: you want to write about a woman who immigrated to Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century. But the most common is that novels begin with a story. It is not about women, but about their history: emigrating, Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century, etc.

You have to be clear about the story you are going to tell. The plot comes later. At first, just the story.

  1. The character

The next thing to borrow before you start writing a novel is the character . Who is the protagonist of your story? Who will bear the brunt of the action?

You may be clear about it from the start, but be careful not to go for the obvious. Is the story of the immigrant woman going to tell it herself? What if her granddaughter did it?

The same happens with the attributes of the character. An immigrant woman must be brave, determined, a woman who takes her destiny in her hands. But where is the conflict in such a story? Create chiaroscuro to avoid building a flat character: a woman with moments of hesitation, of doubt, who must overcome her fears … That is an interesting character.

  1. Context

Context is vital in a novel. It is the curtain on which the action takes place and, although it may seem secondary, it outlines the characters and enhances the story. That is why it is essential to be clear before starting to write a novel.

For our novel of the migrant woman we would need to document ourselves. Know what Spain was like at the beginning of the 20th century. It would also be necessary to know what Argentina was like at the time, how it received foreigners, what was its social, political, labor climate, etc.

But if you were to write a fantasy novel, you should create the rules that govern the world or society where the action will take place. And then make everything happen according to those rules that you have created yourself.

  1. Triggering event

All novels have a trigger event that triggers the action. Something that alters what was the normal situation to introduce the changes and conflicts that will have the reader in suspense.

The triggering event is critical, but you don’t need to be obsessed with it at first. You just have to sketch it superficially, then you will develop it.

For example: the protagonist of our novel emigrated to Argentina when she was left a widow and without a livelihood to meet her brother, who had emigrated years before.

  1. Key moments

Before you start writing a novel you have to be clear about its key moments, taking into account the story you are plotting and your character.

Again, you don’t have to develop them. Just write them down to keep in mind which milestones you should lead the story towards.

It should look something like this:

– She becomes a widow. – She decides to emigrate.- Time of departure.- She discovers that her brother has moved and does not know his new address.- Finds her brother.

Try to think of at least three key moments for your novel. Remember that key moments don’t have to be life and death situations. They can simply be moments of understanding or resolution. Of course, they have to make sense within the whole of the novel and be in accordance with the preliminary character that you have outlined for your character.

  1. Outcome

In the same way, you must be clear about the outcome of your novel, towards what end you will direct the action.

Write down the general idea. If you are clear about some details, write them down as well. If you can think of different possibilities to close the story, take note of all of them to see later which one best fits the story as you progress in writing.

– The woman ends up as a prostitute. She finds her brother as a client of the brothel where she starts working. Her brother takes her out of the brothel. Or her brother, embarrassed, abandons her to her fate.

  1. Tone

The tone of a novel is a more intangible aspect, less concrete, than its protagonist or its plot. However, it is just as important.

You must be clear about the tone of your novel and not lose sight of it as you write.

Before you start writing you have to decide what is the tone in which you will narrate your story. Sometimes the tone is obvious: if you are writing a humorous novel the tone has to be funny or ironic. Other times you have to think a bit to find the right tone.

  1. Scenarios and atmospheres

The settings and atmosphere of your novel are not decisive elements. But they can be.

There are many good novels where the settings are not more important than being the spaces where the action happens. However, settings and atmospheres, when worked well, can become an element that runs through the novel from beginning to end. An element that is so embedded in the narrative that the reader recognizes it as characteristic of that novel.

The settings and atmospheres can condition the characters and, with it, the course of the action.

Before you start writing, think about where you will develop your novel: city or rural environment. If there is a characteristic place, such as a forest, a river, a desert, the sea. What time of year events happen: a hot summer is not the same as a relentless winter. If there is any unusual element: a drought, persistent rains.

Well-crafted settings and atmospheres usually give very good results, taking any story to a higher level. If you can’t think of any at first, nothing happens. As we say, it is not mandatory that you give them a relevant space in your novel. You will also see that many times this element appears as you type.

  1. Time and narrator

Before you start writing a novel you should think about what time you are going to tell your story and through which narrator (or narrators).

Both time and points of view play an important role in shaping a novel. If you change just one of them, you will see how your novel changes completely.

So you should think about them before you start writing. Trying to change them later, when the novel is advanced, is a lot of work.

If you’re not very fluent in writing yet, play it safe: a single point of view and narration in the past tense.

  1. Secondary characters

Your protagonist must interact with other characters. And some of those interactions will be key.

You do not have to develop the secondary characters with the level of detail of your protagonist, but if you have to be clear, before you start writing, who they will be and how they will intervene in the story.

Writing a novel: building an outline

A good novel has a clear structure (the most important parts of which you can see here). Drive to an end. It has subplots.

When a writer faces the challenge of writing a novel, he must be clear about a basic literary scheme. Any book has it.

Start by preparing an outline. If you start writing a novel and haven’t already done so, stop immediately and sketch an outline.

It is not necessary that the scheme you prepare has great complexity. Review it over and over again to make sure that nothing more than the fundamental framework of your story appears in it, without any unnecessary detail for the correct understanding of the plot and its development.

Go through the chapters of your book one by one. Pay special attention to the characters, the rhythm, and the conflict. Remember that good writers are careful. If you have doubts, our Novel Course can help you.

Also pay attention to the scenes.

A scene is a simple narrative unit in which something specific happens.

That “something” that happens moves the story forward, both in time and in its resolution.

That is to say, the event that the scene describes carries the action forward in a temporal sense, since as it happens time advances.

It should not be confused or mixed with the chapter, which is an organizational unit: a novel can have many scenes and few chapters, or vice versa.

How should you structure the different scenes?

As a novelist, you can experiment (which is always risky), but the classic literary approach intro> action> climax> anticlimax always works. The writer (who does not have to be the narrator) has to control the entire development of the writing from beginning to end.

Scenes are one of the most important narrative features in a book. As a writer, you must be careful with the fundamental literary elements. Review them thoroughly when you start writing your novel.

We have already reviewed some of the things you should be clear about before starting to write a novel. If before you start writing you spend some time thinking about them and take note of what comes to your mind, you will have significantly increased the chances of completing your novel successfully.


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