2024

How to Write a Novel that Gets Read [In 15 Steps]

How to write a novel is a scary and overwhelming concept. However, if you can break it down into some simple, practical, and actionable steps, the task can become less daunting. Everyone is different, and some things will work for some that won’t work for others, but some guidelines can help anyone get started. This is the ultimate step-by-step guide on how to write a novel – it will walk you through the following steps:

  1. Settle on an idea
  2. Create your writing space
  3. Find some tools
  4. Create goals and set deadlines
  5. Eliminate distractions
  6. Do research
  7. Create a plot outline
  8. Write plenty of tension and conflict
  9. Create believable characters
  10. Don’t edit before completing the first draft
  11. Learn how to edit well
  12. Take classes
  13. Find support and mentorship
  14. Get feedback
  15. Call yourself a writer

Following these steps will help you with each part of the process. In addition to this, using a template will help you plan and organize them even better. You can find multiple novel writing templates in Squibler:

Novel writing templates in Squibler

A novel-writing template gives you a road map of the entire process so you don’t get lost or overwhelmed. Writing a novel is still hard work, but it keeps the story idea on track and moving forward. Let’s jump into the entire process of writing a novel.

How to Write a Novel in 15 Steps

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a novel:

1. Settle on an Idea

If you’re reading up on how to write a novel, chances are you already have a story idea in mind. However, make sure it is an idea you love and can get excited about. Make sure it is an idea that you can flesh out enough to transform it into a whole novel.

The market is saturated with novels these days – of varying quality and originality. Don’t settle for something small or overdone, go for a concept that will get people excited.

Write something that hooks the readers. Create a storyline they have never read before. Here are a few techniques to generate ideas to start writing for your next novel:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Mind mapping
  3. Roleplaying
  4. Research
  5. Storyboarding

If you’re stumped on what to write, try using this writing prompt generator. It’s a simple but useful way to spark some creativity if you’re struggling with writer’s block. 

You can also use Squibler to expand your idea if you are stuck at adding more details. It generates a scene taking into consideration your story plot, scene, emotions, writing style, and depth. 

Smart writer expanding selected text

2. Create Space

If you aim to become a serious writer and write a novel to completion, you need a good place to do it. An office, or room for one in your home is the ideal place to do the work.

If you don’t already have a desk, get one that you are comfortable with that has lots of space. Having an office to yourself will give you a quiet, personal space to do productive work. Get a good quality chair, and make it comfortable. You can decorate the walls with art, pictures, quotes – anything that brings you peace and inspiration.

If you can’t set up an office for yourself, that’s okay. Find a quiet space for your desk to go, and make it as personalized as possible. Ensure you have room for all your tools and essentials.

3. Find Your Tools

Once you have your space set up, it is time to determine what you will need to get this done. Notebooks, pens/pencils, AI tools, an editor, and of course your computer are your physical necessities.

Next, you need to decide what you are going to use actually to write the book. Many will default to Microsoft Word, but this is not the best option. Word has its benefits, but at the end of the day, it is clunky, linear, and not ideal for writing detailed books and novels.

If you want something sleek, smart, simple, powerful, and organized, you will love Squibler, a book-writing software. Squibler not only assists you with content development but also leads to higher productivity because of its smart AI tools. You can expand the story plot with a single click and it generates exclusive content that fits your idea. Apart from expanding the content in a single click, you can also rewrite, describe, and generate a scene similarly with the help of its advanced AI technology.  

For writing fiction that is complex and comprehensive, you can check out Scrivener (read the full review here). It is a popular option among novelists, and it will help you in a lot of incredible ways.

Both of these choices also come with options to assist you in the publishing process. For example, Squibler allows you to self-publish by downloading Kindle, PDF, and various formats. 

You can find free tools that scan your work and edit for things like grammar, syntax, and even readability. They are especially helpful when crafting that first novel when everything is a little overwhelming. 

Here’s a PDF you can use that we specifically made for you. You can download the entire 5-page PDF on “The Complete Guide to Writing a Novel” right here.

4. Set Goals and Deadlines

You might get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work that is required to finish a novel. Sometimes, you might also stare at the blank page in front of you and don’t know where or how to begin.

You can overcome this mental overload by breaking up your project into smaller goals.

Goals will be different for everyone depending on their lifestyle, but a good place to start is choosing a daily word count. Commit to writing at least 200 words every day. If you think you have more free time, make it to 500 or even 1000. If you have nothing to do but write, make it 5000. 

You can use a spreadsheet to track your daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals. Once you have analyzed your availability, create a schedule and stick to it. Don’t hesitate to use book writing software that will help you create and manage your schedule. 

With the help of Squibler, you can set your daily and file goals to make a schedule. You can also:

  • Set the due date for each chapter of your novel
  • Put a status to each chapter, for example, first draft, final draft, revised draft
  • Add target word count and achieve word count
  • The progress bar for each chapter to view your productivity  

Organization and collaboration features in Squibler

Write every morning, write every day after lunch, or write each night before bed – whatever works best for you.

But put it in your schedule, and do not deviate from it. This will create good habits, and it will ensure that writing your novel doesn’t drag on for years and years.

5. Eliminate Distractions

Everything can turn into a distraction especially when you get stuck and/or hit with writer’s block. Leave unnecessary papers off your desk, and keep your cell phone on silent and in another room while you work.

It may also be a good idea to find an app that blocks your social media for a given period. This will eliminate the temptation to check Facebook or Instagram.

LeechBlock NG is a perfect Chrome extension that will block websites that stop you from doing your work. Writing a bestseller takes hard work, and distractions have no place in the process. 

LeechBlock extension screenshot

With this extension, you can focus on writing your novel on Squibler’s editor, making use of its Smart Writer to generate and expand content specific to your story plot and desire in just a single command. 

6. Do Your Research

Most – if not all – novels require research of some description.

Some people outline like crazy and need to plan every piece of the story. Others keep it all in their head.

When it comes to research, don’t ignore or rush this part of the process. You want your novel to be believable and accurate where necessary. Especially something like psychological thrillers or historical fiction, these things require extreme accuracy with a lot of small details. 

This is where notes come in handy. You can insert your research, thoughts, and notes right next to your projects in Squibler. This way, you don’t have to jump to a different tool to view your notes and then another tool to write. With Squibler, you can keep all the notes and points right beside your novel on the same page everything all at once before your eyes. You can use of them once you have started writing.

Notes and research feature in Squibler

After research, it is time to start writing.

7. Create an Outline

Outlining is a touchy part of the writing process.

Some people outline like crazy and need all the pieces of the plot planned out. Some only create a brief and simple outline that they can change and work with. Others still will write with no outline whatsoever.

Do whatever works for you, and don’t be pressured by people who try to say that you must create an outline, or that outlines are a waste of time.

Outlines don’t define how to write a novel. That being said, most bestselling authors do recommend an outline if you’re aiming for The New York Times bestseller list. 

In Squibler, you can outline your novel in multiple sections/chapters that you can always edit later. You can also use Squibler’s ready-made templates to work with an existing generic outline and adjust it according to your plot. 

8. Fill Your Story with Tension and Conflict

Conflict is the backbone of every single story.

Even soft, light-hearted romantic comedies need it. Conflict is what drives the plot. Think of any novel you’ve ever read, and try to come up with some of the conflicts the characters experienced. It probably didn’t take you long. If you try to think of a novel where no conflict existed, you probably can’t. So create a conflict.

Put your main character in dangerous and compromising situations. Create tension between characters, and write interesting dialogues. Don’t be afraid of drama. Use perspective to your advantage.

First-person and third-person are the two most common narratives when it comes to point of view. Both of these have the potential for conflict. The third person is great for creating dramatic irony, and the first person is the main character which gives a lot of insight into the minds of certain characters. 

The second person can be a fun and dramatic way to write, though it’s not used often and isn’t as effective for many types of stories. 

What could be better than a book-writing tool that automatically generates tension and drama based on your plot? With Squibler, you can use the Generate Scene smart feature to develop a scene that carries the storyline with the respective character’s emotions, drama, conflict, and according to your story plot. 

9. Create Compelling and Dynamic Characters

Nothing kills a story faster than flat, boring characters.

Spend some time before you dig into your story, and flesh out your characters. Create a deep and developed personality. Write a list of their likes, dislikes, and interests.

In Squibler, you can create story elements and then later seamlessly integrate them into your narrative as you create chapters and scenes.

Some of these things may not come up in the story, but knowing a character’s personality will help you write them in a compelling, believable, and consistent way.

It can be helpful to create a physical appearance for them as well. This can be done mentally, or you can generate their picture with Squibler’s character visualization feature based on what you want them to look like. These pictures will be for your reference or you can even embed them into your novel for the audience. 

Storing characters in Squibler

Don’t be afraid to let your characters dictate things at times.

Once they have a personality of their own, you may find that they do and say some unexpected things as you write. Let them go where they want. This will bring them to life and have your readers invested in them.

10. Don’t Edit Before the First Draft is Done

Editing process has its place, but the first draft is not it.

If you are constantly worried about quality, editing for every typo, and re-reading every line, you will never get anywhere. Lock up your internal editor until your first draft is finished and don’t use any writing software.

It is helpful and important to remember that no first draft is ever great. Good quality writing and a well-developed plot don’t come with a first try – for anyone.

If you’re writing and you just know that it’s a little bit horrible, keep going. Fix it later. This is how you are going to get to the end. Pantsers tend to be good at this, but many writers struggle to turn off the inner perfectionist. But you must. 

If you are still scared of making significant errors, use Squibler and make it write for you rather than write yourself. You can provide the instructions to its Smart Writer and it will write the plot based on your instructions without any grammatical, syntax, or punctuation errors. 

11. Learn How to Edit Well

Once it has come time to edit, you want to be able to edit well. Editing is more than just fixing typos and breaking up run-on sentences.

First, finding every grammatical mistake will probably take a few read-throughs as our minds will sometimes overlook the little things.

It is also a good idea to get someone else to edit your draft – a fresh set of eyes will often catch things you didn’t. You will also want to watch out for things like awkward sentences and poor word choice. 

Finding plot holes is a big thing too. Things that don’t make sense or don’t add up. Facts that contradict each other, or impossible circumstances. These are common occurrences and will require some reworking of your story. Learning how to do this is essential in figuring out how to write a novel. 

You will also find parts that you don’t like or don’t fit with the story. Don’t be afraid to remove an entire section because you spent time writing it. You will likely find yourself rewriting large portions and even rearranging scenes.

Don’t let this upset you or throw you off. It’s completely normal.

It’s also always advisable to hire a professional. Go ahead and do lots of editing yourself, it will save you money. But, a good quality, successful novel won’t come to fruition without work by a professional editor. 

You can invite collaborators, editors, and proofreaders to your draft in Squibler. In the List tab, you can assign them sections and chapters and also set the level of priority for them to edit and proofread. What’s better than having everything in one place before your eyes in an organized way? 

Organization and collaboration features in Squibler

12. Take Classes

Even if you are a natural-born writer, there is always something you can learn. You need to learn how to write a book even if you know a lot about it already.

Don’t be afraid of taking some classes. Your local college or university may offer some classes that could help you, or you can check out the library. Failing both of those, there are many great online classes available. 

Classes will help you develop your skills in all areas of novel creation:

  1. Plot development
  2. Character development and character arc
  3. Research skills
  4. Worldbuilding
  5. Writing with good flow
  6. Editing techniques
  7. Story structure
  8. And many more

Udemy is one of the best places to find novel writing classes to improve your skills.

udemy writing courses screenshot

13. Find Support and Mentorship

Novels are rarely written without external input.

Writing is a crazy, mind-boggling process and you are going to need some support. If you don’t have any friends who are writers, try to find a local group. Many libraries and community centers have clubs you can join.

If none are available, there are some online resources.

Many forums, communities, and chat rooms exist where you can connect with other writers and get some encouragement.

Here is a list of leading communities that you should join to find some critique and writing tips:

  1. Critique Circle
  2. Fictionaut
  3. Absolute Write
  4. Critters
  5. Reddit Write Group

It is also very helpful to find a mentor. This relationship may develop naturally if you can join a group of some sort, but be on the lookout for someone who can fill this role. Having an experienced and established writer walking the journey with you will be exponentially helpful. 

14. Get Feedback

Many writers, especially those who have never been published and have recently learned how to write a book, are shy and have a hard time sharing their work.

If this is you, fight through it. Try starting with some short stories. These are small pieces of writing and can be less scary to share than an entire novel. 

Do not be afraid of constructive criticism and good feedback. It is essential to creating a great story. A novel is nothing without readers, so figure out how the readers are going to react to your story early on in the process. Especially if you plan to try self-publishing on Amazon- your manuscript will pass through fewer professional hands and quality is important. 

You can also look for a literary agent to assist you with publishing phase.

There are a few other ways to go about this. You can start a blog, you can post parts of your work on platforms like the very popular Wattpad, or you can simply share the document with others.

Here is a great writing feedback tool that you can use. 

15. Call Yourself a Writer

Start calling yourself a writer. Even if you have never been published or never even finished a first draft, if you write, you are a writer. Even if you don’t know how to write a book yet, you need to call yourself a writer.

Don’t back down from the title because you don’t feel like you fit the typical image. When people ask what you do, go ahead and tell them you’re a writer. Hopefully, these steps allow you to feel like you have everything you need to get started.

This will build your confidence and put your name out there – at least within your circle – as a writer. You will become known as a writer, and eventually, this will make you feel like an author.

When you feel like a writer, you will be excited about writing. 

Final Remarks

Whether you are an aspiring author or a seasoned writer, the art of novel writing is an ongoing learning process. Remember that every writer’s journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a novel. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and grow as a storyteller. 

While the process may be challenging, it is important to embrace the creative journey with passion and perseverance. The key elements discussed in this guide—such as:

  • Developing a compelling plot
  • Creating well-rounded characters
  • Maintaining a consistent writing routine

All of these steps serve as invaluable tools to guide aspiring novelists.

Ultimately, the most important writing advice is to believe in your voice and the story you want to tell. Trust your instincts, stay dedicated to your craft, and enjoy the creative writing process. With commitment and passion, you have the power to bring your novel to life and share your unique perspective with the world. 

FAQs

Here are the questions that a majority ask regarding the novel writing process:

What are the Rules for Writing a Novel?

Novel writing requires hard work and dedication, combined with a bit of discipline. Great novelists and professional writers always follow these rules to achieve their goals:

  1. Keep your targeted audience’s interests in your mind.
  2. Give yourself daily goals.
  3. Add suspense and plot twists to your story.
  4. Refine your ideas by reading other authors.
  5. Get inspiration from other writers, but don’t imitate. 
  6. Don’t stress over your first draft.
  7. Don’t give up on the practice.
  8. Never forego research.

Above all, always try to keep track of your story and take some breaks to allow your brain to reboot.

How Do You Write a Novel for Beginners?

Follow these steps when starting to write a novel:

  1. Think of an idea and a theme for your story. Create characters and their roles in your story. Making a visual sketch of your characters before writing your story helps you be more creative.
  2. Always scribble your random ideas and add them to your story roadmap.
  3. Try to create enticing opening lines for your story and end it with a bang.
  4. Take frequent breaks, but try not to get too distracted.

Taking a systematic approach toward novel writing will make the job a stress-free, fulfilling, and rewarding experience. 

What is the Format for a Novel?

Compiling your novel in a proper format makes reviewing and editing easier. Take care of the following format basics and you’ll be good:

  1. Choose a font that’s easier to read.
  2. Apply margins (1-1.5 inch).
  3. Create a title page and mention the author.
  4. Add a chapter title page. A chapter should start on a new page with a centrally aligned title.
  5. Adjust the page headers, numbers, line spacing, and paragraphs.
  6. Justify your content.
  7. Use proper indentation.
  8. Add scene breaks.

Publishers and agents prefer aptly formatted novels over unformatted chunks of text. Therefore, make sure to fulfill all prerequisites before submitting it to a publisher (or even if you’re self-publishing, as it’ll make the editing and reviewing phase a lot easier).

Is it Hard to Write a Novel?

Writing a novel is hard. It requires a lot of struggle, including brainstorming ideas, planning, actually writing the story, and staying up all night fixing plot holes. It’s cumbersome to resist yourself from going off-track and a grueling job to mesh your ideas together to maintain your story’s fluency.

And when you’re done writing, there’s editing, which is a completely different story. Even if you’re a great writer, you might hate even your tenth draft and continue to find room for improvement. After the final touches, get your novel approved by a publisher or publish it yourself. 

Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder and CEO of Squibler.