29 January 2023
So, you have a story in the back of your mind that wants to come out. You are one of those who daydream a lot and you want to share some of that internal play that only you have been privy to. But you don’t know how to go about it or where to start. Well, I am here to guide you on what to do to make that dream a reality.
These are 12 steps for you to take to move your story out from a series of muddled-up thoughts in your mind to a written novel that people will read and
1. Read many books:
Both from the genre you like and the one you are not interested in. It is worth knowing and understanding the different types of genres and writing styles that are out there. Observe things like The styles, the language, the structure, character behavior,
and how everything relates to each other to make the story work. You might even find a new thing that you like. Reading opens your mind and makes it mailable to you. Meaning, you can be able to control your thoughts and direct them to where you want them to go. It teaches you new and sophisticated words and phrases. It also gives you ideas. As you read one book, your mind automatically makes up new stories and corrections to that one and that is how you start to form your own story.
2. Come up with a story idea:
The fact that you wanted to write a novel in the first place meant that you already had a story that wanted to come out. That is good. Start working on that story. Please give it a good thought. The more you think about it, the more you will start to come up with Characters, scenery, structure, etc. Get a book and dedicate it to your ideas. Jot down everything you come up with, even those you think are stupid and irrelevant. Those may be the ones that save your story. Do not stop at just a one-story idea. Think of more and jot them down. As you write one story, more new story ideas might occur. Well, jot them down and save them for later. You are a writer now.
3. Start writing:
Don’t bother yourself about starting from an official beginning. Start from where you are—that is, from where the story is in your head right now. I mean, you don’t have to start from the official beginning; start from what you are thinking right now. You can rearrange it later. In fact, it is always better to start a story from a place of action, chaos, or drama. That way, you can immediately grab your audience's attention and pique their curiosity to make them read more to discover what happens next. Think about all the books and movies that you love. How did they all start? That is right. For example, In Kain Agary’s Yellow Yellow, from the first page, her mother came home from the farm with her feet covered in leaked crude oil from the refinery, indicating there was a disaster, and it was immediately followed by protesters demanding the leader of the village do something. That is a dramatic beginning to a story that would make you want to discover more.
As you write, do research on the topic you choose. This is so you can be able to paint a clearer picture for your reader. You cannot explain what you yourself don’t understand. Even if you are writing about something familiar to you, it is always better to find out more about that thing so you can explain it more clearly and eloquently to others. You can do field research when you go out to the places you want to reference and maybe take pictures of them to help you set up your scenery. You can ask questions, sit with old people, and hear tales from them. The internet is an excellent tool for research, and you can find anything on Google and Bing. Your local library is another good source of information. Be careful, however, to only research what you need and not get lost in the research process. What I mean is, for one thing, you only need a little of the information for your book, most of the research you do, you may not even use. So, please don’t spend too much time on it. Secondly, when you are using the internet, there is the danger of getting distracted by social media and so on. So, do your research every day, before you write, and give yourself a time limit, like 20 minutes a day and no more. Also, stick to only doing the research. Even if you see an alert from social media, ignore it until you finish writing that day.
5. Identify your major characters and setting:
It would be best to decide who your characters are, especially the ones that the story is heavily dependent on. They are the ones that will carry the story, and they are the ones you should pay more attention to. Usually, there is a protagonist and an antagonist in every story. They are the two opposing forces of good and evil that must clash, leading to a resolution by the end of that story. It doesn’t matter what the genre or setting is, there is always a conflict that the players must resolve, and that is the story. Now, these players may be people, animals, things, governments, institutions, or even ideas or trauma that our main character suffered at some point that he needs to resolve because it affects every aspect of their lives.
The reader needs to identify with the characters and feel sympathetic to them; even if they don’t root for them to win, they still must understand why that character did what he or she did and what drives them. It would be best if you took your reader on the journey of your character's struggle, growth, and victory or failure, whether that character represents the force of good or bad. It doesn’t matter unless your reader makes a connection with them; they will quickly lose interest in your story. For example, in the first chapter of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, you meet Okonkwo, an arrogant bully who, despite being the village wrestling champion, has some questionable behavior regarding his temper tantrums and how he treats people whom he deems less fortunate or physically strong than him, and that includes his wives and children. But by the third chapter, you will understand the trauma of his upbringing and the consequences it had on his adult life.
You need to keep yourself motivated and push yourself to keep writing. No one is going to do it for you. You may start strong and confident, but as you write, there will be days when you won’t feel like writing or you don’t feel the story, which is when most people give up. Sometimes it's self-doubt. You know that little voice that keeps whispering to you that your story is stupid and that no one will like it, and maybe they will even laugh at you? That is just you getting cold feet because you took on this mammoth task, and it's scary. Yes, writing is challenging. It is tasking, both on your mind, time, and self-confidence. And there is very little encouragement out there, as we live in a satellite and internet era in which fewer and fewer people read books. However, it would be best if you didn’t let any of that get to you. Write because you have something to say. Write because you love to write, not because of what people think or how much you will make. Write for the craft itself. When I wrote my first book, The Thin Line, I was reluctant to show it to people because I was worried that they would take one look at it and then laugh at me because of how stupid it was. When I finally got the courage to release it, it turned out that the fear was just in my head and people loved it. No matter what you write, be it good or bad, there is always someone who will hate it, but at the same time, there will always be those that will appreciate it. You owe those people. Write because of them. People with similar fears as you also wrote the stories you read and enjoyed. If they had succumbed to their fears, you wouldn’t have had access to their stories. So, write.
7. Tools and equipment:
It would help if you had something to write on and a place to write. If you can afford it, get a computer or a laptop to write on. It makes the process so much easier. But if you cannot afford it, get a notebook and a pen and write away. When you are done, you can take your work to a business center and get them to type it for you. These days, most people have cell phones, so they text a lot, browse the internet, and make all kinds of comments on social media posts, usually on things that don’t even concern them. If you can do all that typing on your mobile phone, you might write your story on that phone. A good twenty minutes of typing will move your story forward. Just download Microsoft word on your phone, type as much as possible, and then save it. It will add up over time. It would be best if you also had a place to do your writing. The most preferable is a comfortable chair and a desk. However, if you don’t have one, you can sit on your bed or the floor and write away. You can even go to the library or a café, anywhere you can find a chair and a desk. However, writing on the floor can be taxing on your back and neck over time. So, keep that in mind.
8. Set a daily writing time:
Set a time just for writing every day and protect that time with your life. it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. 20 minutes a day is a good start; over time, you can find ways to increase it. You could write in the morning after you are done with your chores and your brain is still fresh, in the afternoon when everyone is busy, or even at night if you go to work during the day. What is important is that you put something down every day, no matter how little. Consistency is key. If you cannot find time during the day, wake up 30 minutes earlier and write when everyone else is sleeping. Not writing every day leads to procrastination and then writer’s block.
One way to avoid writer’s block is to have an outline or a blueprint of your story that will guide you and remind you of what your story is about and where you intend it to go every time you forget. This outline is just a few pages, 2 or 3 at most, containing the names of the major characters, scenes, and plot points, and it is usually written before you even start writing your story. Some people don’t write outlines and prefer to write them away, which is ok. Do what works for you. However, I recommend you jot down your outline before you start and refer to it from time to time.
This is also another area where people differ. Some suggest that you write away and ignore all mistakes until you finish your first draft, then go over it and make corrections. I, however, correct my work as I go. Seeing all those mistakes drives me crazy, and I must correct them before I move on. One good thing about Microsoft Word is that it highlights all your mistakes and grammatical errors and even offers suggestions, making it easy to make all the necessary corrections as you write. You can also download apps like Grammarly that do the same thing but better. Doing all those corrections as you write makes your first draft readable and helps you see what your story looks like to readers, and you will be able to re-arrange and re-adjust the story as you go. By the time you submit it to your official editor, you will have been delighted with the story, and there wouldn’t be a need for any significant changes. However, do what works for you. But be warned: before you give anyone your manuscript to work on, make sure you register it with the Copyright Commission. This is to protect your work from plagiarism.
11. Get Feedback:
After getting your manuscript copyrighted, please give a few friends and colleagues read it and give you honest feedback on how they perceive your work. That feedback is essential, as it gives you an insight into how your readers will react to your work and if you need to make changes before publishing and releasing it to the public. It is also a great way to get reviews for your book. Be careful who you give your work to read, though, because some people criticize it to make you feel bad and discourage you from writing. You already know who those people are in your life; therefore, avoid them. Only those you know will tell you what is good and bad about the story. Criticism itself is not bad, but constructive criticism is what you need.
Finally, it’s time to publish your book. Research the different publishers in your area and find out which is best for you. One way is to visit your local library or bookshop and look at the books there. Check for the publisher’s information and see which is more convenient for you. We live in an interconnected world now, so if you see a work that you really like, then contact the publisher by phone and email and work with them, even if they are on the other side of the world. But as with everything else, be careful. There are a lot of scammers out there, and they are ready and willing to take advantage of vulnerable writers. Do your homework thoroughly before committing your work and money to anyone.
In conclusion, writing a novel is a journey of 1000 miles that you need to take one step at a time. It takes hard work, patience, commitment, and continuous self-motivation to start a project and stick to it to the very end. If you make it, however, the reward is out of this world.
I hope you learned a thing or two from this blog post. If you do, then what are you waiting for? Get up and start writing your story.
To listen to my podcasts, read my blogs, and check out my books, go to www.hadizabagudu.com. Thank you and have a great day!
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