Have you always wanted to write a novel? Here are 5 tips for turning that idea into a work of Art.

By Joan K. Lacy

1. Before everything else, do your homework!

There are several different kinds of research that must be done before you ever sit in front of your computer or pick up that pencil to create your work of art. Learn from others who have gone before you and made mistakes. It's not necessary to "reinvent the wheel" when published authors want to share tried and proven ways to structure your story and develop your characters. Buying their books is an investment in your future.

2. If you don't know where to start, begin by writing what you know.

When you write about a subject you are familiar with, you have a deeper understanding and appreciation for that subject than if you picked something to write about because you think a certain story might sell.

Even more important than knowing something about your particular subject, is to select one that interests you. If what you write about is interesting to you, there is a good chance your topic will be interesting to others, as well.

3. Learn all you can about the story you want to tell.

Now the second phase of research begins. Don't be disappointed! Research can actually be a lot of fun when you are learning about a topic you enjoy or one that interests you. Libraries are full of books from which you can glean information. I mention libraries first because they are a great place to be quiet and organize your thoughts. I take a notebook with me and write down all the interesting facts I find surrounding my story. You will learn a lot of other facts along the way, and that can be very interesting too.

Computers are the more usual mode of creating documents these days, I know, but there is something satisfying about the mind/hand coordination of the written word when doing research.

Don't worry about what is pertinent, just write down everything you think might have some bearing on your story. You might not use all the facts you garner, but you will find enough useful information that can be put somewhere to add depth to your story.

Some people like to listen to music, but I find that complete silence and undisturbed writing time is the best way to get my thoughts on paper. You will find what works best for you if you are really serious about writing your novel.

4. Create a Story Board.

The best way to organize your thoughts about your storyline is to create a story board. I use a white board with colored magnets to anchor the different parts of my story.

There are four basic parts to every novel, and each has a purpose. The first part introduces your story idea and makes the rest of your story meaningful. The second part places in jeopardy the characters your readers have come to care about. The third part increases the level a drama, and the fourth part deals with the resolution of the hero/heroine's conflicts, the pay off for everything he or she had to endure, and a satisfying ending.

I wrote my first story by the "seat of your pants" method. That is an actual term! Some writers choose this method when the story flows into their imaginations. The characters they've created "come to life" and the story takes the writer into that imaginary world, complete with action and dialogue.

I was fortunate because I had a good idea of plot structure and the points necessary to move my story along. Again, there are many "How To" books by published authors who are willing to show you how to structure your story from introduction to denouement, focus on the plot and setting, decide on the characters who will best tell your story, and how to introduce the conflict(s) facing your hero. Will the main character narrate? Whose point of view is important to your story? These and other questions can be found at reputable websites. Don't be afraid to explore! There is a lot of useful information available. Choose what works best for you.

There are rules about how a story should be told, and it's best to learn the rules before you decide to break them!

5. When you feel prepared, just start!

Don't worry about being perfect, just get your thoughts down at the beginning. Later on, as you get into your story, you may think of better ideas, or another way to approach a situation. It's always easier to correct some idea with a better thought than to wait for the perfect inspiration which may never come.

I hope these tips help you to get started. Writing is an exciting journey, and I hope it brings you joy. I wish you the best of luck!


Travel and living abroad, coupled with Lacy’s interests in archaeology, science, myths and legends, inspired her to write the novel A Shadow Away, the first book in the "Alex Cort Adventures" series. She hopes you will enjoy the flavor of travel with A Shadow Away even if you're only an armchair adventurer! For more information visit www.joanklacy.com.

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