How to Start Writing a Novel

Tips on Jumping into the Narrative Waters

Michelle Richmond
Jun 28, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

A couple of years ago, I reached out to aspiring writers to ask what challenges they faced in their writing. More than 2,000 writers have answered my survey, 5 Quick Questions About Your Writing Life. 66% of respondents said the hardest part of writing a novel is getting started. Maintaining a writing habit came in second.

For me, maintaining a habit for the long haul is the hardest part. This was true when I wrote my first novel 17 years ago, and it’s still true today, six novels in. Beginning is fun and full of promise. It’s the novel’s middle distance where I start to get weary, wondering how I’ll reach the other side. In the beginning, you don’t yet know what can go wrong, and how long it will take to fix it.

I’ll address writing habits in a separate post, but let’s tackle the big one first: how do you sit down in the chair and begin the hard work of getting the words on the page?

Step One

Writing a novel is a daunting challenge and a major, time-consuming endeavor. Looking from the starting line to the finish line, miles away, can be mentally paralyzing. The only way to start your novel without psyching yourself out is to break it up into small, daily tasks. Approach each day as a mini-project, not a major project. The mini-project is a scene, a chapter, or a page for that day.

Step Two

  • a specific (interesting) person
  • in a specific place and time
  • facing a specific problem

Who is the protagonist? What trouble is he or she in? Where and when does your story take place?

Character, conflict, setting. From these three elements, all of the rest flows.

Step Three

Watch my quick lesson on how to determine if your situation is novel-worthy.

So, if you’re having trouble getting started, do this:

  • Remember your three essential things: person, place, desire.
  • Determine if your situation is novel-worthy.

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two story collections, including the psychological thriller The Marriage Pact, which has been published in 30 languages. She is the founder of Fiction Master Class and Novel in 5.

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Michelle Richmond

Written by

New York Times bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE WONDER TEST. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Caffeinated Writer

Notes on novel writing, publishing, and the writing life from New York Times bestselling novelist Michelle Richmond. Write your novel in my Fiction Master Class: https://thenewmfa.com

Michelle Richmond

Written by

New York Times bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE WONDER TEST. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Caffeinated Writer

Notes on novel writing, publishing, and the writing life from New York Times bestselling novelist Michelle Richmond. Write your novel in my Fiction Master Class: https://thenewmfa.com

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