I recently finished writing my first full-length novel, Dawn of the Epoch. I learned a lot while writing. The learning curve was steep. If I could travel back in time to communicate with my past self before he started writing; I would tell him everything in this guide.
In this introduction, I am going to tell my story. Who are you? Why are you telling me how to write my story? Do you know anything about writing? If you have blind faith in my sage wisdom for no good reason already, then feel free to skip this intro and go straight to Chapter 1, which is the most important one. It is on outlining the narrative.
My name is Ian Ghrist. My first attempt to write a novel ended in failure. It happened while I was a sophomore at TCU. I literally woke up one morning in my dorm room and wrote down a dream that I had had the night before. In the dream, the school was overrun with vampires.
After writing down the dream, I started searching the internet for advice on how to write a novel. I found out about character templates and outlining. Unfortunately, I did not follow the advice that I had found online. Instead, I just plunged forward and started writing. I thought about the story from time to time and more or less kept the contours of the story in my head.
It was not the most original idea that anyone had ever had, but if it was executed properly, then it could have been quite entertaining. Ultimately, I wrote about twenty or thirty pages. The writing was going very well. Then, one day, everything collapsed. I realized that I had conflicting ideas in my head about where the story was going and I had inadvertently put both of them into what I had written so far. Also, I knew where the story was supposed to go, but I lost track of how it was supposed to get there. In other words, I had the big-picture objectives down, but I failed to consider what would actually happen in each little chapter that comprised the bigger narrative.
At some point, I decided that I was hopelessly lost and I gave up. Then, about five or six years later, I felt inspired again. This time, I don’t even remember how I was inspired. I spent so much time outlining, drafting character profiles, and writing background exposition that I forgot where the original, naked idea came from
The point of my story is that if you want to be successful, then you have to put in the work. Do not take shortcuts. Do not skip steps. Maybe Stephen King has written so many novels that he can just keep all of the characters, outlines, and exposition in his head, but unless you have an eidetic memory or you are a prodigy that the normal rules do not apply to, then follow the advice in this book. If you want to someday finish your novel and you want it to be good, then do the behind-the-scenes work.
If I could go back and write Dawn of the Epoch all over again, there are things that I would do differently. I know for a fact that, now that I have finished my first full-length novel, that I can do another, better one and I can do it in less time. At the end of the day, the only way to learn is to try. You have to make mistakes and learn from them. So, do not be afraid to make those mistakes! I made my fair share of them! I know, however, that as I edit and revise my work, I discover the mistakes. As I fix them, I become aware of why I made them. I get better at avoiding them.
Anyways, while the insights that I gained from writing and the tidbits that I have learned along the way could be helpful to you, the more important thing is that you keep trying! Just keep calm and carry on. If it helps, try to remember the following anecdote:
Question: “How do you eat an elephant?”
Answer: “One bite at a time.”
In other words, remember that when you set out to write a 100,000 word novel, you are really setting out to sit down and write 1000 words 100 times. Every time you write 1000 words, celebrate! You achieved a milestone! If you are constantly thinking about how far you have to go before you are finished, then you are missing the point. The point is that you just wrote 500 words, or you just wrote 1000 words and you will never have to write those words again. You may have to revise them while you are editing, but you will never have to express those ideas again from scratch. They will always be saved on your computer. Unless you die or stop trying, you WILL finish your novel.
Ok, that’s enough about me. On to Chapter 1.