Advice,  Book / Writing

10 Tips to Write a Novel


To celebrate the release in English of the first volume of my novel “Chroniques de Galadria” (under the name “Chronicles of Galadria I – The Other World”), I have decided to write a post about the adventure it is to write a novel, and to share a couple of tips taken from my own experience as an author.

I hope this will help those wishing to start writing, that other authors will use this opportunity to share their experience and opinion, and maybe that readers interested in knowing more about the “backstage” will find some answers as well.

What should you think about before starting? Traps to avoid? Methods and techniques to make things easier? If these questions caught your interest, read on…

Writing a Book – An Adventure in its Own Right

The Relationship Between the Author and His or Her Book

The majority of authors are also readers, but only a minority of readers are authors. So let’s have a look at the relationship these two categories of people have with a book:

Reader: curiosity, discovery of the story and its characters, surprise, continuous rhythm (can read everything really fast or take time but the whole story is available and you only need to dive in), can use reading to relax or choose to think and reflect.
Author: knows the whole story from the start, no surprise or discovery, slow rhythm since the writing process is long and sometimes dull, needs to plan, organize, check (meaning no real space for relaxing).

In short the author creates and the reader consumes, and when introduced as above, the interest of being an author may not be obvious. And yet…

Let’s take the example of the connection between the author and his or her characters: if a reader is able to feel close to them after only a few hours of reading, imagine the relationship of an author after several months (or years) or writing!

Or let’s talk about the absence of surprise in the scenario: even if the author indeed knows its every ins and outs, each scene is experienced intensively during the writing process, even more so because it’s a long process (reading an emotional scene will go much faster than writing it, and the emotional impact is, I believe, directly proportional to the time spent on the scene).

One last example? Immersion in the world created: the reader is limited to the book or series he or she is reading. It means they dive in the adventure when opening the book and leave it behind when they close it, while an author will probably live his or her story and universe all the time (while trying not to loose touch with reality!). And similarly, the fictional world for the reader is limited to the story he or she is reading. Authors on the other hand can imagine whatever they want (which explains why fans are so eager to get sequels: the world grows bigger, we reunite with the characters we love, the journey continues…).

As far as I’m concerned, I remember those evenings and their very particular atmosphere when, alone in my bedroom, seated in front of the computer with some light from a desk lamp, I was about to leave the Earth and go back to Galadria and its protagonists…

A book is thus an adventure for its author, even if it is first and foremost the writing process that makes things exciting, and that same book is an adventure for its readers because of the story and journey it contains.

A First Book that is Personal

We often hear that the first book or series we write is a personal one. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, why do we get started in the first place?

To those reading these lines and interested in writing, do you know why?

In my opinion, it’s often because we have something to share, something to tell. And this gives some kind of authenticity to the final result. An authenticity that we may loose a bit in the following books, when the process becomes more automatic, more structured and when habits start to form (which also often lead to higher quality: the books are deeper, the story better told, the style smoother and more enjoyable to read).

And so the first book is often even more of an adventure for its writer than the following ones.

An Adventure, Yes, But Not an Ordeal!

Even if we try to keep the authenticity mentioned above, it’s important to have a couple of tools and best practices that will prevent problems from building up, which would eventually obscure all the fun part. They could even lead to a waste of energy (reworking whole parts, having to add or take away content…), to a final result that simply is unusable (unavoidable consequence for those who lack the courage to rework what needs to be reworked) or, in the worst case, to giving up on the whole thing altogether.

So here come 10 tips taken from my experience accumulated during the 7 years it took to complete the “Chronicles of Galadria”. Some that I have applied right from the start, and others that I’ve learned the hard way, by making mistakes. I hope they’ll help you turn the writing of your book into a great adventure!

A Word of Caution
I’ve decided not to talk about writing techniques (i.e. how to describe a place or people, how to write a dialogue that is engaging, etc.). First because I have no training in the field and so I don’t think I can give advice, and also because in my opinion that’s what defines an author’s style and so there is no good or bad.

In my case, I had chosen for example to keep my descriptions to a minimum; just enough to give a general picture to the reader. For a character: hair color and length, eyes color and one or two details about the anatomy such as corpulence or shape of the face. For a location, its type only (forest, field…) and one or two points of interest. If some elements were necessary for the story they were of course included (lots of space between the trees meaning few places to hide, scar on a character’s face who will tell how he got it…). However I’ve often spent time describing colors, especially at dusk.

Another example: in the case of dialogues, I have almost always mentioned who talked and how (for example: “exclaimed X” or “whispered Y”). And during long conversations I tried to interrupt the flow by adding small descriptions aiming at letting the reader breath (for example: “X thought for a while before answering” or “Y ran his hand through his hairs and said”).

Therefore the following 10 tips cover (in order):
• The attitude you should have toward the book you’re about to write before getting started
• The project’s set-up, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of content you will create
• The tools that will help during the writing process
• How to reach the end of the story despite the amount of time needed

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  • Lillian Moore

    I thought it was interesting that you say writing a novel is an adventure not and ordeal. I can see how writing can be a fun process. Writing down your own thoughts and displaying them on paper can make you feel somewhat naked and exposed to the reader. This for me has made my writing more of an ordeal than an adventure. The stress of feeling like my story needs to make complete sense right from the beginning makes the writing process so much slower. As I read through your article, I liked your first tip the best. Write the story you want to tell rather than the story the readers want. I feel obligated to my readers sometimes and that gets me in a tough spot. I really appreciate your tips. I am already improving my writing. Thank you.

    • David Gay-Perret

      And thank you for having taken the time to read all this and leave a comment!
      I actually haven’t experience the “feeling naked” you mention since I didn’t think of publishing until two and a half year after having completed the story! Which means I mostly wrote it for myself, so no stress there.
      As for having a story that makes sense right from the start: it’s only my opinion, and my story actually didn’t follow this tip when I started (I built up and tried to find explanations as I went), but with hindsight I believe it actually saves a lot of time and headaches. And so I think you get back the time invested in planning and thinking forward a bit when, at the end, everything falls nicely into place.

      In any case I wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavor!

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