I Want to Write a Novel: How to Get Started (French version available)
Humans are natural storytellers, and one of the ways people like to tell stories is by writing a novel. Libraries and bookstores are full of novels, and the thought of writing one yourself might seem intimidating. But like many challenging projects, writing a novel is entirely doable — and extremely enjoyable! — with a bit of planning and determination.
Plan Your Story – At Least a Little Bit
There’s no “correct” way to write a novel; there are as many different methods as there are different authors. But all novels have a common core made up of a plot, characters, and settings. In other words, a novel tells a story about events that happen, the people involved, and the places where everything occurs.
You don’t have to plan out every single detail, but when getting started writing a novel, it can be helpful to take a bit of time to think about these parts of your story. Grab a paper notebook or open a blank document on the computer, and write down your thoughts on the story you want to tell. Most importantly, let your imagination run free!
Decide Your Plot
The plot of a novel is the overall “what happens” throughout the story. Will you tell an adventure story, a comedy, or a science fiction or fantasy tale? What events do you want to happen in your story? Will you write about heroes and villains, or strange new worlds, or magical animals?
Next, think about how your story starts and what kind of conflict will give your characters something to do. Try to think of all the different ways your character could overcome their conflict, then decide which ones you want to write into your story. A good way to plan your plot is to keep asking yourself, “And then what happens?”
Lastly, try to imagine how the story could end. Will your characters be successful? Will the ending be happy or sad?
(Don’t get too hung up on knowing the ending before you start! Lots of great writers don’t know how their story will end until they have written most of it!)
Create Some Characters and Locations
Get an idea of who your characters will be, and the places where you story will take place. You don’t need to be super-detailed; all you need is what’s called a “character sketch” or “location sketch.” This isn’t a drawing, but rather a few lines or paragraphs describing the people and places in your novel.
Come up with a name for your character (or characters) and a description of what they look like and how they act. You can include information such as hair and eye colour, personality traits, their family, and things they like or dislike. You can also decide their role in the story: are they the hero, or the villain? Family members, friends, or love interests? What plot events will they be involved in?
Do the same for your story locations, and create a short description of what the place looks and sounds and smells like. Decide what events happen there, and how much time your characters will spend there.
These are just a few brief suggestions to get started, but there are lots of useful resources about writing novels at your local library. You can also get your parent, guardian, or an older sibling to help you search for novel writing tips on the Internet.
And remember: nothing is set in stone! Stories change as we tell them, and you will think of new things and change your mind as you write — that’s part of the process! Let the story take you where it wants to go!
Writing A Whole Novel Sounds Intimidating – But It Doesn’t Have to Be!
Don’t panic! Writing a novel might sound difficult (even impossible) but it’s not! Once you know the basics of the story you want to tell, it’s time to get into the actual writing.
Once again, there’s no single writing process that is the “right” one. But there are a few tips that can help you start writing, and keep writing, until you successfully reach the end of your story.
Develop Regular Writing Habits and Manageable Goals
The main advice when it comes to writing a novel is: “Just write.” Putting words on the page is the only way to get it done. Try to build regular writing habits by finding time to write where you can concentrate without distractions. Whether this is twenty minutes every day, an hour a couple times a week, or a weekend afternoon, find the time that works best for you to have some uninterrupted writing time.
Setting yourself manageable writing goals will also help you keep motivated and keep your writing moving forward. You can choose a word count goal per day or per week, or count by pages of your notebook or digital document — whatever works for you!
Find a Writing Community for Encouragement and Support
Writing is often a solo activity, but connecting with other writers means you can encourage each other, trade tips, and discuss your stories to brainstorm and share creativity. You can find other young writers through your school with the help of your teacher, or through your local library.
One well-known writing community is the online non-profit NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The NaNoWriMo organization champions writers of all ages; it offers supportive communities, resources, and several challenges a year where writers work on writing their novels. The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is geared toward youth and teen writers, and provides challenges and online tools to help with creating a story, setting writing goals, and motivating young writers.
One of the most important things to remember is that every story is worth telling, and only you can write the story you want to tell. Get writing!
Jones, Lily. “Tips to Bring Novel Writing to Elementary Students.” Teaching Channel. https://www.teachingchannel.com/blog/novel-writing-elementary
National Novel Writing Month. “How NaNoWriMo Works for Writers.” https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/pages/for-writers
Reading Eggs. “A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Child Write a Story.” https://readingeggs.ca/articles/2015/06/19/story-writing-for-kids/
The School Run. “Creative writing techniques for kids: step-by-step guide to writing a story.” https://www.theschoolrun.com/creative-writing-techniques-kids-step-step-guide-writing-story