How to Write a Novel

How to write a novel

If you’re ‘born to write’ as they say, or at least it’s what you would spend all day doing if money were no object, you probably dream of writing a novel one day. I finally started, after years of procrastination, in February and finished a few days ago. The advice is to leave the first draft for a while before going back to it. Here’s what I learnt from this year’s endeavour.

Learn the craft of novel writing

Just because you write in one capacity eg journalism or blogging, doesn’t mean you will automatically be a good novelist, so learn this new craft. There are masses of free and affordable resources out there. I did short courses at City Lit in London, classroom and online. Free online courses with UEA, OU and a very useful online one with Curtis Brown Creative, good value at £200.

Find the time

However busy your life, there will be a time you can find to write. I just got up earlier and gave up other writing activities and jobs to focus on the novel. A set place, time and routine is essential. Just write something every day, however bad it is. You can’t edit nothing.

Cross pollination

The most useful course I did was a short, free online one on how to write screenplays. This helped hugely with structure and pace, things that can drift it you’re a newbie novelist. Maybe get started with short stories. I did before embarking on a novel and had a couple published. Having never written more that a few hundred words in a piece, for me, it was a confidence building way to segue into writing fiction from wine writing.

Get out there

If you just sit at home polishing your magnum opus, no-one is ever going to find you, nor will you know if you are any good, so get out there. Join groups, write with a buddy, do day workshops, send in stuff to websites, competitions and magazines, although I have a rule of not paying to enter competitions. Peer to peer feedback is essential, both giving and receiving.


When you’re ready, get out and meet agents. Yes, you do have to pay for this but the advice from the horses’ mouths is invaluable. I recently went to a morning at Bloomsbury Publishing organised by Writers & Artists. The sessions with the four top agents were excellent for clear instructions on creating a professional submission package.


Even if you get no-where with agents, there may be other ways to get your novel out there. This is what I’m going to do if the submissions lead to nothing. For example, serialisation on another platform or turning the novel into a screenplay etc etc. Anyway, thanks for reading and good luck to anyone else brave enough to commit to writing a novel, it’s certainly the most frustrating and yet satisfying writing activity I’ve undertaken.

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