The very first thing that every single aspirant, who reads articles and watches videos on YouTube, about, “Write a novel in 2 weeks, or 30 days,” or whatever the time may be, should bear in mind, it is not that easy. You don’t own a JK Rowling wand, that you’ll generate a story by a single swish and flick. Novels need time, they have a specific language, a formal set of words which aren’t used in our daily lives, their structure, flow, plot, etc. you have to vouch for them all. Not everyone has the mind so powerful, so to generate a whole new world and create characters.
If you digested my previous sentence, we can now move forward towards a more important discussion. Your first draft is going to be garbage, bear that in mind. Like every good painting starts with artist, dropping paint on the canvas, you also have to take everything out of your head and place it on the paper. But the question is where to begin? And how to start?
The very first things that you ought to do is to plan. What are you going to write about? What genre are you going to write? Is it going to be a Love story or science fiction? Magical world or mystic? Action or mystery? You need to decide it first, before even grabbing a pen in your hands.
It is very important, for you don’t have that much knowledge about that specific genre, your novel is doomed even before being written. If you are going to write about the science fiction and you have no idea about the basic concept about science, or you are going to write a historical novel and you are not aware of the history of that time (when the novel is set), then how can you write?
To avoid this, novelists do research, they run their investigations. Kamila Shamsie, one of the most renowned novelists, when she started writing, Burnt Shadows, she studied a lot about the Nagasaki bombing, before penning the incident down.
Create an outline
Create a rough outline. Note it down on your diary or keep a board where you can draw a rough sketch about your story. Remember one thing, it is only a rough outline and can be modified or completely changed, depending upon the flow and pace of the novel.
Time and place of the novel. For realistic novels both the time and space are important but for wonder worlds, only time matters and in some cases even that doesn’t. But since we are being general here, so, you need to keep the space and time of the happenings in your mind.
While you are deciding the setting, you need to be explicit about it. The city, Where in the city? Lane? House? And what exactly happened there.
First-person or third person?
It is very important, who is narrating the story? Is it the author himself? Or a character in his novel? If latter then, which character? Is he involved in direct action i.e. the protagonist himself or one of his sidekick? Or an omniscient narrator? Or the story is being narrated by different narrators, each narrating his side of the story?
In most of the novels, a third-person narrator narrates the story.
It is the center of the story, around whom the whole story revolves. He is one person, who is going to be looked up to during the entire story. For most of the times, he is highly flawed and has to go through a transitional period, where he is dropped in the situations which he can’t escape with effortlessly. His character is tested again and again unless he reaches a breaking point where he has to make a choice. That choice would change his fate forever and he is would never be the same again, both by making the choice and by evading it.
Divide your story into small bits. Don’t make it easy for the reader to see everything. Make things subtle and sensible at the same time. There has to be logic behind everything that happens in the plot.
You can divide the story into different parts, where you can conceive a few parts of the story linked, left for some other chapter to be revealed. The best example is JK Rowling’s Snape. One of the most complicated characters, whose story was sustained by the author to be narrated right before the final battle. She used this technique of fragmentation throughout the series of Harry Potter but always left something for readers to think after revelation. Like at the end of Philosopher’s stone, Quirrell tells Potter that Snape was trying to save him when the former was trying to kill him. Just like that good suspense is always there, but it is so subtle that no one notices it.
Circumstances and conflict
No novel is complete without it. There has to be something which keeps the protagonist going. The circumstances which put him in the situations from where he can’t escape easily, it generates a conflict between him and time. He needs to come out of that conflict, it is like his life depends on that.
In Reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez is subject to criticism for his faith after 9/11. The condition that he is in, or the depression that he is suffering through, it is killing him from inside. If he can’t make a move or show any intent to come out, it is very difficult for him to keep going.
The takes the protagonist to the breaking point, where he has to make a choice. Though you don’t need to keep conflict on the very first page. But you should keep it somewhere in the first chapter.
Why should a character make a choice? What is it that drives him? What makes him come out of his cozy world, and face the risk of losing it all? Which force keeps him going? Is it worth, doing all that? Why does he care so much about that thing?
You need to have a clear picture of all these questions inside your mind.
Like I said before, a novel can’t be completed in weeks or months, it is a whole adventure. Every time you write a story, you find yourself passing through that. The same happens you’re your stories, you live in that cosmic world over and over again. You read it for one perspective, then you do it for another. So, it is a long process.
As far as the deadlines are concerned, you have to make small targets. With the outline, prepared and written somewhere, you have to make your mind to reach your target before a particular date or time. When you have reached the target, prepare for the next and then for the next.
You cannot write the whole novel in a day, there is a maximum number of words which you can write in a day and can’t exceed that. Know that number. For me, I can’t write more than 5000 words of fiction in a week. So with that rough estimation, the first draft of your novel can be completed in 20 weeks. That means almost six months. This is followed by the editing and preparation of the second draft, it also takes, if not the same then a month or two lesser than the previous time.
Writing the novel is one of the most flamboyant feelings in the world, but you need to be patient, before showing your work to anyone. Find someone who can give you advice, and give honest feedback. Bear in mind, it will probably break your heart, but you need to be ready for that.
But before being rated by someone, do it by yourself. Make a thorough survey of your work, correct the obvious grammar mistakes, fill in the gaps and give meanings to the storyline. Check for the choice of words and other literary factors. When you are done with that, get it read by just one person and get his feedback. Take his critiques, if you find that logical, work on them if not then move on.
When are sure that you have written an engaging story and the readers would love to have read your work, then comes the next step, which is to get your work edited. You can hire a professional, who can do it for you. Make sure you hire someone aware of the modern age novels and contemporary literature, for if you end up stuck with a Dickens or Wilde fan, your work is good for nothing. Not that they are not good, it is because they are too good.
Every novelist and writer has his style and way of narrating a story, comparison at any stage is the meanest thing that can be done to a writer. There is one more, setting the rules. No one can set rules for writing.