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5 Questions to ask when writing a novel

If you have been a lover of the written word, at some point you might have considered writing your own book. As a reader, I’ve constantly thought about the “what if’s” when I read a book. Like, what if the author made the character a bit stronger or a little weaker. What if the character didn’t get the happy ending, they wanted, and so on? This is one of the reasons I started to write books. With all of the “what if’s” I started to think about plots and character traits.

So, if you are considering writing a book, what do you need to consider for the novel? These are in no particular order.

1. Who would enjoy reading this book?

When you first start writing your novel, write the book you want to read. If you enjoy It, you will be able to find an audience. Pick topics that interest you and find a way to tell the story. This goes along with the second item, genre, but in order to move to that step you need to know what age group you are writing for. Part of this can be determined by the age of your protagonist. If you are writing about a 10-year-old child, you are writing a middle-grade book. If your protagonist is 18 years old, your book is for an older audience. Content is also an indicator as to who will read the book. If you are writing a book like Fifty Shades of Grey, you’d want to make certain the audience knows what to expect so they don’t purchase it for their teenagers.

2. What Genre is my book?

As you write, think about books set in the same location, time period, or on the same topics. These books are called comparables. If you don’t know of any book like yours, rest assured there is a similar book out there. The difference is how you tell your story. Comparable books will help you decide your genre if you are having a difficult time pinning it down. Don’t expect your readers or a publisher to figure out your genre if you can’t.

When I first started writing, I started with religious fiction as that was what I enjoyed reading at the time. I think I wrote half a book, then stopped. I moved onto Fantasy, and never finished a book. Even though I enjoy reading books in those genres, I had to find my stride and find the genre I could write and finish a book in. When I started writing regency romance, it became much easier to write and finish a manuscript.

3. What point of view should I write in?

Personally, I like to write in 3rd person limited view past tense. I usually try to have three characters sharing their points of view to round out the story line and help the reader stay involved with the plot. This helps keep my plot moving. But I have read a lot of books in first person, and the authors tend to do a good job with it.

Generally, you will find books written in the following viewpoints:

a. First person

b. Second person

c. Third person

i. Third person limited: This viewpoint is a narrator looking at the situation above the room but focuses on the thoughts and feelings of one character at a time.

ii. Third person omniscient: This narrator has a view of the entire room and can listen into everyone’s head. The thoughts and feelings of everyone are fair gain with this narrator.

4. What tense is best for the characters?

Looking at the point of views in number three, now you need to decide which one will work best for your characters. Do you have a self-absorbed character who needs to be the narrator, protagonist, and focus of the story? If so, it might be best to choose first person present tense.

I recently read a story in third person omniscient narrator present tense. It took some getting used to, but I enjoyed it. Check out Ransom by Calie Schmidt to be released in July 2020. As I said, it took some getting used to, but it worked for the story and the characters.

5. What is the main conflict in my story?

Conflict is so important for a book. If you don’t have conflict of some sort, it is hard to move the plot along. So, as the writer, look at your characters and see if there is any internal or external conflict.

One of my favorite movies of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life. Yes, it is a black and white film! But don’t let the lack of color and special effects fool you. This movie is a gem. George Bailey has both an internal conflict and an external conflict. The internal conflicts in his life include: Escaping Bedford Falls, responsibility for the family and the business, responsibility of the oldest son to take care of a younger sibling, and in the end, he decides all the stress is too much and he would be better off dead. The External conflicts in his life include Mr. Potter and his desire to see the Bailey’s ruined, Uncle Billy’s forgetfulness and the loss of eight thousand dollars, being arrested, and the inability to afford living and caring for his wife and children.

Although the list seems like a lot of conflict, it makes up the timeless experience of George Bailey and in the end, he is able to overcome the conflict enough to decide he wants to live. Of course, the internal conflict is fixed by overcoming the external conflict.

Take a look at your favorite books and movies and list out the internal and external conflicts and how these conflicts are overcome. Use your favorites as inspiration to help your characters overcome the items influencing their lives. List out what you liked about the conflict, how it made you feel as you watched it happen, and what you enjoyed about the resolution. Then make a list of what you didn’t like about the situation. This can help you shape conflict in your story.

There you have it, five things to consider when starting to write a book. I often wonder if people like Jane Austen came by this knowledge due to being talented, or did they have books on how to write even back then? I think I’ll take a look at the public domain to see if I can find books on how to write. I’d like to believe those authors were talented enough to just write. Or perhaps they were influenced by the greats, like Shakespeare.

My best advice is to find your inspiration and start writing!

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