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Writing

8 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Novel

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 4 min read

Good writing and a great story can make a bestselling novel, but as many bestselling authors can attest to from their own experiences, reaching the point of having a published book takes consistent hard work. Writing a great novel takes planning, patience, and time—most authors won’t even start writing their first chapter until they feel reasonably confident about their plot, characters, themes, and structure. Knowing what your main story is about is the most crucial aspect of writing novels, and once you’ve figured that out, you’re already one step closer to writing a great novel of your own.

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8 Tips for Writing Your Next Great Novel

There are hundreds of great tips out there that can help you write a bestseller. Below are a few novel writing tips that can help you craft the next great novel:

  1. Set aside writing time. Some authors like to time their writing sessions, while others prefer to write until they meet their daily word count goals. The process of writing a book, especially if it is your first novel, will likely take a long amount of time. Giving yourself a set block or specific goal to accomplish can save you from becoming overwhelmed, help you keep going, and prevent burnout. Designating a writing space for yourself can also be useful, like a quiet area or any place that you can do your best writing. Find an atmosphere where you can be productive to ensure your thoughts can flow distraction-free.
  2. Plan it. Plot out as much of your book idea as you feel you need to get a sense of your story structure and main plot points. The writing process is different for all authors—some prefer to meticulously flesh out every single detail, while others take a looser approach, going straight to the rough first draft and putting down all their ideas in one place, organizing throughout the process. Whatever your style, both first time novelists and professional writers alike should know at the very least what their story idea is, and where they think the storyline will go.
  3. Build the world. Writing fiction requires a universe for everything to take place in, especially if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction. Knowing the rules and limitations of what can and cannot occur in your world establishes boundaries and a stable foundation to build your writing upon. The more believable a universe is, the more time your audience will want to spend in it. Some writers use worldbuilding as a starting point, while others like to extrapolate the details as the premise unfolds, reforming and rewriting as they go. However, it’s also good to leave some room for your readers’ imaginations to fill in the world of your story. To learn more about worldbuilding, take a look at our guide here.
  4. Write believable main characters. Fiction writing comes in all flavors, but regardless of the genre, characters need to be based on some kind of reality, even the bad guys. A backstory is a useful way to make a main character feel like they could exist, and inform how their character development will occur. The more relatable a character is, the more empathy the reader feels, bringing an emotional investment to their reading experience. Learn more about developing characters with our tips here.
  5. Decide your point of view. Choose whether you’ll be writing your story in first person, second person, or third person. Point of view is the “eye” or narrative voice through which you tell a story. When you write a story, you must decide who is telling the story, and to whom they are telling it. The story could be told by a character who is involved in the story, or from a perspective that sees and knows all of the characters but is not one of them.
  6. Have a solid beginning. Use a hook—like in medias res—to grab the reader’s attention and keep them interested in the story you’re telling. A great novel starts with a great beginning, and fiction writers have a lot of freedom when deciding how to open their novel. Choose the right tone and atmosphere to set the stage in the first place, and the audience will stay for the rest of your premise.
  7. Provide unexpected plot twists. It’s not easy crafting a twist no one would ever see coming, but taking the time to develop fresh takes on old genre tropes is a way to punch up your own writing. Avoid clichés and overused ideas, using creative writing exercises to brainstorm new ways to approach your own story. Keep raising the stakes for your characters, building up the events to an explosive climax or satisfying event.
  8. Embrace your rewrite. Accept that you’re not going to nail it on your very first try (especially if it’s your first book). Rewrites are where you can really dig into the meat of your story and tweak anything that isn’t quite right. Bringing your novel to workshops or writing groups can be helpful, and receiving unbiased writing advice (at your own discretion) can help polish your novel and take it to the next level. Revising is about knowing what your story needs, and what it doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to let go of ideas that aren’t working in order to streamline your narrative. Ensure your arcs come to a satisfying conclusion (even if it’s not the end of the whole story just yet).

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