Writing a novel

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A look at getting ready to write to your novel


  1. Introduction

  2. The idea

  3. Genre

  4. Audience

  5. Setting

  6. Characters

  7. Perspective

  8. Outline

  9. Research


      At Books from Start to Finish we like to keep things simple for you so here’s some basic steps that have to be considered when planning to write a novel and actually become a published author. Providing this information also recognizes that, as part of it being your book, you maybe want to have greater involvement in getting things going. We also hope it shows that we are entirely flexible about how we work with you and we will never seek to pressure you into every possible aspect of our writing services we think we could sell you! What we don’t cover here of course is the actual writing of the novel. What is covered is the vital preparation that needs to take place before the first word of chapter one is on the page. Writing a book and becoming a published author is like so many things in life, the better you prepare first, the greater the success later.


These are the things we will work with you to resolve or you can do them yourself first before you come to us for help with the writing. We’re not giving away any trade secrets here since you can of course easily find this information already in many other places; all we’re doing is giving you our perspective on it.  

Step 1 – The idea

Back to top   This is entirely inter-changeable with Steps 2 and 3 since any of them could come first! What we’re referring to here is the answer you would give when you’d told someone you were writing a book and they said: ‘what’s it about?’ The point is you wouldn’t simply say that it’s about a Private Detective; you’d say it’s about a Private Detective hired to find a missing heiress. The point we’re making here is that you need, from the very start, to give some context to your ideas. What you need to start thinking about is your finished book being on the book shelf in a shop and someone, intrigued by the title, picks it up and reads the summary on the back.


You don’t need to have finished writing that because you’ve not even developed the plot yet! But you do need to do is feel you have a real purpose to what your book is about.  

Step 2 – Genre

Back to top   Here’s where we get the first case of which is the chicken and which is the egg! If you already a Sci-fi fan in terms of what you read then you might decide to write your own; hence you’ve set your genre first. Alternatively, it could be that you want to write a romance or a thriller. Alternatively, your idea could come first and then you choose the genre. What we mean here is that you could have your Private Detective novel set in the future and give it a Sci-fi feel or you might set it in the past and give it a historical feel.


One thing that we’ve provided for a number of clients in the past is a business book written as a novel; this is particularly beneficial as a marketing tool as a means to set out credentials and experience.  

Step 3 – Audience

Back to top   We’re sure we don’t need to explain anymore about what does or doesn’t come first, but the important thing here is to know what your intended market is. If your book is a romance, will it be one of interest to those in their teens or early twenties, people in their thirties and forties or someone who’s retired.


Answering this question can easily be covered automatically when you choose your genre, but it’s important that people recognize that is not always the case.  

Step 4 – Setting

Back to top   We’ve already alluded to this here a little in terms of the choice the era of past, present or future, but there is of course much more to it than that. We could even have said that any of steps 1 to 4 could have come first! There is the question of geography and you can start with a county and then, if you chose the US, a state and on you go. The key point here is that, along with the era, what you chose here can really impact how much research you need to do.


The easy way around this is to make it all up, but even then there can be things you need to check to ensure realism. If you chose a particular place you need to either know it already or be prepared to spend some hours on the internet. More on research as step on its own later.  

Step 5 – Characters

Back to top   Many people who start writing think they can make their characters up as they go along, but that is a big mistake to make. Once you get into writing it is much easier if your characters have been defined first in terms of their age, personality, appearance and so on. The key thing to remember is that a well-developed and written about character is one which comes more easily into the mind of the reader as real person and that means your book is coming alive in their heads. There might just be one or two main characters or a few; the point is that the writer needs to know them as if they were close friends! And that is a tip that many authors use, basing their characters on people they know as long as it doesn’t mean they end up in court!


The other critical thing to think about is the relationships between different characters. If two people are supposed to dislike each other for purposes of the plot then the reasons need to be both clear and realistic; ideally the dislike would include personality traits.  

Step 6 – Perspective

Back to top   What we’re referring to here is will you book be written in the first person [I or me] or third person [he or she] and whether the narrative is the past or present tense. If your book really has one central character and you want to get across lots of thoughts and reactions for this person then you may well chose to use the first person, in other words as if your character is narrating the story. Even you want to have a couple of chapters that are about other characters and your main protagonist does not feature in them then that’s fine. There are of course no ‘rules’ and many authors use this mix of perspectives. However, even if you have that same single character you can still use the third person, but this definitely recommended if you have a lot of switching between chapters of characters and locations.


The matter of which tense you used is purely personal. The very great majority of novels use the past tense but sometimes a thriller writer will use the present tense to increase suspense. There really are no rules here and what you chose to do is what seems right for your book.  

Step 7 – Outline

Back to top   What we’re referring to here is essentially the plot, but in much more detail than would appear as the summary on the back of your book. When some people start to write for the first time they develop and idea, dream up a few characters and then start writing thinking they can make it up as they go along … big mistake!  Writing in this way makes it so easy to get confused and get the plot of sync and dwell too long on one aspect, the list could go on and on. What is needed is for the plot to be developed, along with all character inter-relationships etc into a chapter by chapter plan with enough detail for each chapter the outline to be almost a very abbreviated version of the book. A synopsis to be sent to a publisher to literary agent after writing will have a maximum of two pages. Where we are agreeing the details of a book we will write for you then the outline could be up to ten pages or more. If preparing one for yourself, you need to be sure have planned all the key events etc for each chapter.


All things such as sub-plots need to be planned for, if there is suspense then the steps to build this need to be prepared and the pace of all major developments considered. Once the total number of chapters is known then estimates of the size of the book can be considered. There are goals here that a first writer should aim for and you don’t want to end up with too much or too little.  

Step 8 – Research

Back to top   To some extent inter-changeable with the outline and indeed part of preparing the outline to some extent, the last of planning and preparation stages is to do your research. Some of this can take place as the writing continues, but it helps to have this done first so you are ready to write your descriptions of places and what a character might do if they have a certain profession and so on. All we’d want you to remember is to consider this before you start writing, especially if you don’t like doing research and base all the things in your book on that which you are already familiar with! Ready to discuss some more? Contact us today!

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