We’ve all experienced the joy of losing ourselves in a good, soul-feeding book. Staying up late nights mesmerized in it, holding on to your book like there’s nothing better in the world. And when it ends, you’re left speechless.
You want to write the novel that’ll have people thinking about it, talking about it and loving it for as long as possible! But what does it take to write such a captivating novel? There are key points to writing a novel that’s so exciting to read it’s hard to put down. I’ll let you in on a few of these points.
Write what you know
Stick to what you know best. If you’re a softie and get lost in romance novels like there’s no tomorrow, then write romance. If thrillers keep you up at night, then it’s probably not for you.
The truth is, all my books began from a place of pain and the bliss came through the writing and publishing process. It has been said that miracles happen at the border where pain meets joy. — Diana Raab, Ph.D.
What are the books you loved reading, your favorite characters, and the novels that shaped you into the writer you want to be? You’ll only do great at writing what you know and love so start thinking!
Create Believable Characters
Readers need to be able to relate to your character. They want to see a little of themselves in the character. If you create paper dolls, there’s no way your audience will react to the character or care for them.
Characters need to be diverse, not mundane. Each character should have their distinctive traits, problems, and back story. Don’t create the Brady bunch! Make them believable by trying to add characters from your real world into your fictional world. Then you need to start studying your characters and grow to love them in order for your readers to do so too.
Remember, your readers want to believe that your characters are real people with flaws that mess up and learn from their mistakes, just like them. So never stop developing your character as the story unfolds. Whether it’s good or bad change, keep your characters interesting to the extent that they surprise even you sometimes.
A compelling start
The first line in your book can make all the difference with a reader. It can be the factor that defines whether they will continue reading or not. Some readers will be nicer and judge by the first paragraph. If that first page doesn’t tempt the audience in, the rest is a waste.
I also wanted the novel to mirror the way in which we often change our mind about someone when we get new information, or see some aspect of their life from a different angle. It took a surprising amount of negotiation and revision to make the four sections of the novel fit together in what, I hope, is a felicitous fashion. — Susan K Perry Ph.D.
In a personal favorite of mine, Peter Pan, J.M Barrie started with “All children, except one, grow up”. Instantly the reader starts to wonder why that one child never grows up and wants to continue reading to find out.
Another amusing example is the 1992 classic, The Crow Road where Iain Banks started with “It was the day my grandmother exploded” and yes, he means it in the literal sense. The first thing that comes to mind is how did the old lady explode? This novel about a young man feeling trapped in the quirkiness of his family grabs the reader’s attention easily by surprise.
A good writer knows how to hook the reader from the start, but also needs to reel the fish in once it’s caught which brings us to the next point.
Plot is everything
Now that you have your characters set and hooked your readers, it’s time to work your magic! When working on a plot outline, you need to know what problem the character is going to face and how they’re going to overcome it. Keep your story juicy and full of events, like a roller coaster with ups and downs to avoid dragging it out in the middle.
Each scene you write needs to be towards the bigger picture, if the scene doesn’t make a difference, cut it! I know it’s hard to do but it has to be done.
We are all inspired by great novels and writers, and that’s okay. But at the end of the day, you want to write something that’s true to you.
Write out of your own experiences, memories and what matters to you. This will make your writing unique and avoid clichés that have been written and rewritten many times before.
The little things matter too! You may think it’s boring describing the surroundings and environment before getting into the action but that is what sets the mood. You want your readers to fall into your fiction world and see what you see. There’s no way they can do that if you give them small details here and there, so don’t be shy. Speak your mind.
Also, try to use smart metaphors and adjectives to season your writing and add to your description.
End with a bang!
You’ve made it this far, don’t slag on your book now! Your readers have expectations on how it’s going to end. You don’t necessarily have to reach those expectations as long as you can provide a satisfying, memorable ending.
Don’t leave your readers hanging with loose ends. Even if you plan on making a sequel, they deserve closure. That doesn’t mean everyone can’t get their happy ending. Just be sure to resolve the main problem and maybe leave some lingering questions taunting them for more.
A captivating novel is one that has an enticing plot, strong settings and descriptions, a diversity of meaningful characters, and an ending leaving you in awe. Before writing a novel, do your research, make clear outlines and lastly, write what’s close to your heart.