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Jun 9, 2023

Step-by-Step Guide to Write Your First Novel

A complete step-by-step guide to write your first work of fiction.

A complete step-by-step guide to write your first work of fiction.

Writing a novel is exhilarating. But it can be a rough ride. Some days, you might sit at the keyboard and feel completely uninspired. Other days, you’ll be unable to rein in all of your great ideas. But successful novelists don’t wait for inspiration. Instead, they write every day because they know that consistency is the best way to finish a novel.

In addition to some serious discipline, you also need guidance to complete your first book. You may be a born writer, but no one’s a born novelist. Every first-time author can benefit from a step-by-step plan. 

What Is the Structure of a Novel?

Most novels contain 5 elements: characters, conflict, plot, setting, and theme. While some experimental novels may deviate from this structure, the majority interweave these elements to tell a relatable and entertaining story.

What Is the Average Length of a Novel?

The average novel contains 40-80,000 words. A novel of this length could be written in less than three months or in three years. 

Now, let’s discuss what steps to take to complete your first novel.

Step 1: Develop the Outline of the Story 

Before you can start, you need an idea. 

As simple as it sounds, the process of developing an interesting story can be difficult. We've spoken to many first-time writers who have a desire to write a novel but are unsure of what to write about. 

But maybe you have so many story ideas that you’re overwhelmed by and are not sure which one to choose. If that’s the case, go with the story that you like the most.

Step 2: Write Character Sketches of Your Main Protagonists

Characters drive the narrative. In other words, the story doesn’t happen to your characters. Instead, your characters create the story.

This means that you need to sketch characters you know. Get familiar with your characters, especially your protagonist and antagonist. Discover their backstories, their idiosyncrasies, their goals, and what inspires them to act in the way they do.

Step 3: Insert Conflict

Conflict happens when two forces oppose each other, such as character against character or character against an idea. Conflict is necessary to move any story forward. 

A good story introduces two types of conflict: internal conflict within the minds of the main characters and external conflict which prevents the characters from easily meeting their goals. 

Step 4 : Choose a Point of View for Your Narrative

It’s important to consider your story’s point of view (POV) before you start penning down your novel. Decide who will tell your story. 

Will it be a personal narrator, such as the story’s protagonist? This is the first-person POV and it uses “I.” A first-person narrator is someone who is personally involved in or tied to the story as a character. This personal narrator could also be a secondary character in your story.

Will you choose the POV of the reader? This is known as the second-person and it's the least common POV. It requires that you turn the reader into an active character in your novel, which is hard to do, but it has been done. This POV uses “you.”

Will you use the POV of an impersonal narrator who does not exist within the story? This POV is known as the third-person and it uses “he,” “she,” or “they.” This POV can be broken down even further. 

You can write from a third-person limited POV where the narrator sticks to one character, usually the protagonist. 

You can write from the third-person multiple POV where the narrator can move between several characters. The narrator doesn't know everything, but he does know the characters that he follows.

Finally, you can write from the third-person omniscient POV where the narrator has an omnipotent knowledge of every character in the story, including their motivations and thoughts. 

Step 5: Choose a Setting

Let's talk about the setting of your novel. Decide on the time period and whether it's an actual location or an imagined one. Because your characters live there, it's important for you to see and know what they do. 

Step 6: Create a Writing and Editing Schedule

To complete your novel, you’ll need plenty of deadlines. Here’s a step-by-step guideline that you can use:

  1. Give yourself a deadline to choose a story idea. This step can take months but don’t let it take longer than 7 days. Decide on a topic that you like and then move on to the next step.
  2. Set a time limit for research. This includes learning about the main and background elements of your story, such as its location and time period. It also includes figuring out how to write a compelling story. Set a time limit for when you should leave this step and enter into writing mode. 
  3. Outline your story. There are two groups of people: those who like to outline their novels and those who don’t. Set a deadline for when you'd like to complete your story’s outline if you wish to do so.
  4. Give yourself a word count to target each day, such as 1,000 to 2,500 words.
  5. Set a final deadline for when you’d like the first draft to be completed.
  6. Read through your first draft and make revisions. This process may take a few weeks.
  7. Send your manuscript to a professional editor for a manuscript critique (also known as the big-picture edit). This edit takes between five to seven weeks, on an average.
  8. Make a second round of revisions based on the editor’s advice. This process can also take a few weeks.
  9. Send your manuscript to a professional copyeditor for a copyedit. This type of edit focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other technical errors that may be in your manuscript. Copyediting is necessary for any novel before publishing. This process takes between 3-5 weeks.

Step 7: Hire a Professional Editor

All writers need editors. Just like bread goes with butter, writers and editors make a great team. 

Remember, you will always be too close to your own work to critique it impartially. Plus, there's the matter of grammar. And let's not even talk about typos! Even the smallest grammar mistake could damage your story because it interrupts the reader's focus. For all of these, you need professional editors to help you.

Step 8: Resolve to Finish

This is perhaps the most important step. Make a promise to yourself that you will finish your novel by a certain date. Write the promise down. Broadcast it on social media so you keep to it. Hold yourself accountable. 

At Supercraft, we work closely with writers on the editing, proofreading, design and printing of a book. We also help you create a book club of your own. To know more about us, write to