5 Things You Need To Do Before You Start Writing A Novel.

It is one thing to know how to write. However, knowing how to write isn’t what gets you to complete your manuscript. The secret to completing your manuscript is adequate planning and preparation. Many writers have conjured great ideas and amazing plotlines, which is great, but here is the thing – they miss the preliminary stage and jump right at writing because they have a great story to tell.

It doesn’t always work that way.

A great novel or book isn’t created without a plan. Even the most seasoned authors never ignore this stage. Before writing even the first line of their book, they’ve gone through a series of planning, preparation, and brainstorming, and they know what to do per time. Knowing what to do doesn’t necessarily mean figuring out the whole story from start to finish. Instead, it’s just creating structures and systems that will help you see your book to completion successfully.

If you consider the time and stress it would save you in the long run, you’ll realise that preparation is necessary. If you’ve considered it a necessity, we’ve curated six things you need to do before putting your pen on paper.

  1. Organise your thoughts: Writing means there is an idea in your mind that you want to execute. The ideas could come in chunks as you write, but you need to know what you want to do first before you start writing. Nail down your ideas to a particular theme or subject matter, which will help you organise your thoughts and give a structural pattern to your ideas. Don’t let loose on everything that comes to your mind; have a central message or idea that funnels other ideas.  
  2. Research: One thing you can never overdo is research. Research is the pillar of any beautifully written masterpiece. If the subject matter is what you are not acquainted with, gather information and materials on the subject. If it’s what you know, you still have to discover more; there is no end to knowledge. Whether fantasy or not, let your story be true, no matter how bizarre. Let it be believable even if it’s impossible, and thorough research is how to achieve this feat. If it’s a non-fiction story, there is no debate about the importance of research in this case. Research gives more depth and authenticity to your work. With enough information to feed on, the pedestal on which will be when you get around to the actual writing stage will help your ideas and words flow better, and you’ll easily produce a masterpiece. The earlier you start your research, the better it is for you. Before you start writing, it’s imperative you equip yourself with adequate knowledge so that you don’t get stuck or produce a shabby piece. The more time you’ll invest in research, the better the quality of your writing.  
  3. Create an outline: Locating your destination becomes much easier when you have a map. The function of an outline is like that of a map; it helps you navigate your way when writing. When you are stuck in a rut, all you have to do is look at your outline to find your way back to your destination. So before you start writing, create an outline; creating an outline is a pre-writing process that helps you structure your ideas sequentially.  

At the point of outlining, it becomes easy to spot any likely problems before you begin writing. If there is a chance that your plot is not sustainable or that your character might be in an impossible situation you can’t write them out of, it’s better to figure that out and fix it before delving into writing. When you spend time planning your plots, scenes, chapters, etc., you will reduce the number of times you will have to rewrite because of the logical flow of ideas, and you’ll write more quickly.

  • Create a non-negotiable writing schedule: You require a high level of discipline to see a task to the end, and writing is no exception. Therefore, it’s important to create a non-negotiable timeline to achieve your writing goal. Whether once or twice a week, commit some hours to write. Creating a schedule helps you mentally prepare and holds you accountable for the progress of your work or otherwise. So, ensure you choose a time and pace that conveniently works for you. During your scheduled time, eliminate every form of distraction during the hours you are slated to write and ensure nothing interferes with your precious time.
  • Create a convenient environment: When it comes to writing, you need the right ambience to get your creative juices flowing. There is no formula for this. Just choose a convenient spot around your house. You can call it your writing lair—a cool and comfortable space with all your writing tools (laptops, books, notepads, pens, etc.). Some authors have successfully gotten inspiration from busy environments. If that works for you, that’s fine! Locate your convenient spot. There is nothing worse than writing in an uncomfortable environment or place where people bother you; it’ll make you lose focus. So, take care of this before writing.

A great piece of writing doesn’t just involve coming up with great ideas but also shaping those ideas into meaningful text that is understandable. Of course, it takes time, effort, consistency, and patience to see a line add up to pages and eventually turn into a book. But, above all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.

5 Tips To Sustain Your Reader’s Interest

Google a topic or a keyword. The first thing that grabs your attention is a relevant title or headline. It can’t be argued that the first thing that hooks you into a write-up is the title. But beyond that, a great title isn’t an automatic ticket to making your readers like your content.

Surely, an eye-catching title will make them pause, think, and even want more, but once you’ve piqued their interest, it’s left to your content to keep them to stay. It is always infuriating when you find a captivating headline/title, and a few seconds into reading the write-up, you can tell that it’s not worth your time and the title was only a clickbait.

At times, it is not a result of your content but your craftsmanship. Having a great story to tell is not all there is to writing. You need to master the art of craftsmanship, and that entails using various techniques to urge your readers to read on—that’s where the real work is! For your writing to be effective, it needs to have these two elements:

  1. The first is the attention-grabbing factor. You need to make your readers feel that your write-up is worth their time and effort.  
  2. The other factor is to sustain and eventually meet up their expectations. You need to make your content truly worth the read.

No one will pick up an article or story to read if there is no element of interest. The first factor is crucial because no matter how good your content is, it won’t be read if it doesn’t pique interest. You can’t simply say, ‘this is why you should read my book’. Let your title, paragraphs, and chapters do the explanation by being convincing enough to get your readers to read the very last word in your book.

In this article, we’ll dwell more on what comes after a great title and how you can make sure your readers stick around till the very end of your writing.

  1. Pay utmost attention to your introductory sentence: Like your title, an opening or introductory sentence performs a similar function. If your title sparked their interest, your opening sentence should continue the work. One of the ways to create a good opening sentence is to use the question technique.

Questions propel you to seek answers; it creates curiosity in a reader. When you ask a question, they either know the answer or don’t. 

If they do, they will likely want to ascertain the answer to ensure it hasn’t changed. If it’s a rhetorical question, the personal element embedded in it will awaken their curiosity. Readers who are uncertain about the answer will seek out answers in your text and will be motivated to read further.

Here is a good example:

Did you know tomatoes are fruits but are considered vegetables by a nutritionist?

  • Make your argument clear: With a good introduction, the body of your write-up should corroborate your opening sentences. Articulate and express your viewpoint with clear-cut words. You don’t want to sound uncertain or confused to your readers. Build your points logically, and let your readers see and feel what you are trying to convey without stress. Learn to simplify your ideas and break complex words into simpler words. Professionalism isn’t in the big grammar you write but in how your words can be easily interpreted and understood. Don’t be blinded by the complexity of your words. The simpler your readers comprehend, the better it is.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs: Long sentences or paragraphs are difficult to comprehend easily. Having too many words and ideas embedded in one sentence or paragraph can be an overload. Think of it this way: you are trying to listen to a friend that talks too fast without catching his breath; how long can you enjoy such a conversation? The truth is, you would likely miss some information that he’d say.

That’s the same effect lengthy sentences and paragraphs have on your readers. They may pick up your article and get overwhelmed, which can be mentally tiring. If your paragraphs are short, simple, and concise, the write-up will be more appealing and encouraging to read.

  • Incorporate storytelling: Storytelling is one brilliant writing technique that can never lose its touch. Once you start narrating a compelling story that has interested your reader, they will want to see how it ends. Even if you don’t like reading lengthy stories, once you start an interesting one, you won’t remember the length till you’ve gotten to the end. For your non-fiction writings, you can fictionalise a relatable story or ride on people’s experiences to drive home your point through storytelling.
  • Avoid using word fillers: Writers often fall into this trap when trying to meet a specific word count. If you communicate your points strongly enough, there will be no need for word fillers. Words like really, okay, right, very, well, actually, basically, etc., can be avoided. However, there may be times when you will need to use them in your writing but use them sparingly. Over-flogging an article with these words shows your uncertainty and lack of depth which readers can easily sense.

Above all, ensure your words, sentences, and paragraphs evoke emotions. Whether it makes them cry, laugh, happy, or sad, just make sure it creates a feeling. Implement this in your writing, and your audience will keep getting hangovers.

If this post was helpful, drop a comment and share. You can also check out our Instagram page for more helpful tips @sabiwriters.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

What Is Writer’s Block?

Writer’s block is a mainstay in a writer’s life, irrespective of how gifted the writer is. Sometimes, it becomes unbearably difficult piecing thoughts together, much less putting pen to paper or punching words on a keyboard. Writer’s block is the inability to figure out what to write or how to embark on a writing exercise.

This uneasiness does not compromise or question the expertise of a writer. It is merely a mental or psychological closure a writer encounters due to churning out too many pieces within a period. It is a creative hibernation or slowdown of a writer’s pen-power but not a winding down of his prowess.

Interestingly, the term ‘writer’s block’ can be traced back to the 19th century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet, described his ‘indefinite indescribable terror’ of his inability to produce works that commiserated with his talent. A few years afterwards, French writers expounded on the sufferings affiliated with writing. They blew it up to create a myth that writers possessed tormented souls and could not write without misery.

Nevertheless, creativity is the grundnorm of writing. Hence, it requires thought-provoking priming of the mind to be able to raise and articulate issues, information, ideas and hypotheses a writer intends to deduce, as well as bring to the fore. Since writing is more of a creative task, it is pertinent to note that certain factors may confound a writer’s creative power, thus limiting the ability to perform their gigs. Some of these factors are:

CAUSES OF WRITER’S BLOCK:

Perfection: In the world of creatives, you are as good as your last job. Hence, every creative—whether a writer, singer, fine artist, fashion illustrator, etc.—is faced with a self-inflicted rivalry with his most recent job each time he gets a call for a new one. This makes the task of starting another work very consternating.

Stress: The feeling of a mental or physical tension and weakness can create an opaque glass before a writer’s lens. It becomes highly difficult to indulge in any mental or physical exercise when one is stressed out, and writers are not immune to this.

Depression: This causes a loss of interest in all kinds of activities, irrespective of how talented one might be in it or the gratification it offers. It negatively affects our immediate environment’s feelings, thought processes, and reactions. A depressed writer cannot write, no matter how knowledgeable he is on the brief or how enticing the reward is.

Pressure: Sometimes, we are persuaded or gaslighted into doing what we do not feel like doing at a given time, even when we are very good at it. When this happens, the mind becomes limited to exploring new ideas and perspectives, thus limiting our creative flow.

Fear: The uncertainty of how the outcome of a job will be can create a blockage in the mind of a writer. Often, a writer is probed with the inner question of the client’s review of the writing and the general perception of the readers. Furthermore, the fear of rejection by publishers, including negative reviews, can affect a writer’s zeal.

REMEDIES TO WRITER’S BLOCK:

Exercise: Exercise is a natural buffer to stress. It rejuvenates the body and mind, increases stamina, enhances focus, stirs productivity, and enhances memory. Acrobatic exercises like jogging, running, etc., helps in the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, which controls the imagination of new scenarios. Regular exercise can help a writer improve the creativity and imaginative mind required for writing.

Reading and Research: A knack for reading and carrying out our research should be part of a writer’s DNA. A writer who is not an ardent reader will be wanting in knowledge, insights and perspectives. Reading and researching boost a writer’s confidence and equips him with the ‘technical know-how’ required to excel in the pen profession.  

Switch tasks: Based on the popular axiom that variety is the spice of life, swapping actions and scenarios can be what a writer needs to snap out of writer’s block. It is advisable to explore adjacent creative activities like drawing, painting, playing, taking a walk or even more socially engaging things, like spending time with friends and family, attending events and programs, etc., can remedy writer’s block

Take a break: Sometimes, burying our heads on a keyboard or writing pad can be very monotonous. As a writer, sometimes it is necessary to take a trip away from the writer’s world and explore other adventures like travelling, swimming, picnicking, excursions, etc. These will suppress writer’s block and usher in fresh ideas and perspectives that will prove highly valuable to a writer’s craft.

Gain mastery, not perfection: Mastery is the core of competence, and it is built over time. Just as a toddler learns to talk by talking, a writer who intends to be a master of his craft must keep writing. As a writer, do not be caught in the race for perfection but walk on the lane of mastery. More so, it is only when the ink keeps flowing that competence is consolidated, and mastery becomes the new order.

A writer on the lane of mastery gives room for criticism and corrections, while a writer chasing perfection grows a swollen head and takes criticism as voices of envy. Suffice to say that there is no writing that cannot be improved upon, irrespective of how gifted the writer is. Mastery will always leave room for that precious improvement a writer needs to scale his work to the next level, but perfection may not – i.e., if it’s even attainable.

How to Outline a Memoir

A memoir is a personal, non-fiction writing where the author (memoirist) writes about their life, using first-person narrative. It is a book that tells the events in an author’s life. Unlike biography and history writing, this book reveals first-hand accounts of experiences in an author’s life.

It focuses on a particular aspect of the writer’s life, which could be their personal or professional life. It could also come in form of an informative book, such as a personal food recipe or a travel experience book.

To effectively collate your experiences to produce a compelling Memoir, you need a well-structured outline. Therefore, as you prepare to write your memoir, you have to organise lots of incongruent experiences to arrive at what is known as a narrative arc.

How to Outline Your Memoir in Four Steps

 1. Arrange possible events in chronological order.

Doing this helps you understand how everything happened. This is not to say that your final work would be well-arranged, but it would give you a sense of how each event happened. Nonetheless, you can twist the memoir to fit any style later.

2. Start writing your narrative arc.

A story arc can also be referred to as the narrative arc. It is a term used to describe the plot of your story.

Are you a newbie or wondering why it is called an arc?

It is called an ‘arc’ because of the different grades of actions that are discussed to make up the memoir.

That being said, in this step, you will start writing your narrative arc by rearranging the events into a captivating story. There are two ways to do this:

You can either follow the chronology of the events as they happened to you or alter the chronology and use a backstory to tell the missing story later in the future.

A backstory is necessary so that there are no plot holes in your story. It also helps to carry your readers along.

3. Choose the Perfect Ending.

No matter where you choose to start your story, always have the end in mind. A good book or memoir is always written to fit a certain conclusion. So, while you’re writing, consider the ending you want to give your readers and let your story structure lead to that point.

4. Centre the Story Around You.

Like every other story, your memoir has a ‘main character’ and that’s you! Never make the mistake of shifting the focus from you. Represent yourself accurately at all levels of your memoir.

PS: Finalise the Story Arc of Your Memoir.

However you choose to organise the story arc of your memoir, use the outline as a roadmap to every stage of your story. The way you present your story will determine if the book will be interesting or not.

Conclusion

Before writing the first draft of your memoir, outline the key elements and structure. This will particularly be important if it’s your first time writing this kind of book project. Use the four steps you’ve learned in this article to organise and tell your story more effectively.

Do you wish to write a memoir but don’t have the time? Contact us now!

How to Write Your Character’s Thoughts

When writing your novel, showing your character’s thoughts is one way to make your story beautiful. Whether it is your protagonist or antagonist, revealing your character’s thoughts is a valuable effect to infuse in your story. It gives your readers insight into the character. Imagine a character that has been portrayed as a good and peaceful person suddenly exhibiting evil intentions.

Other reasons why you may want to write your character’s thoughts include:

  • You can use a character’s thoughts to develop or present your back story.
  • A character’s thoughts will bring your readers into the internal conflict that your character is facing, which will build tension and suspense.
  • Your readers can feel your character’s emotions once they can read his thoughts.

When presenting your character’s thoughts in your story, make the thoughts distinct from the story to avoid confusing the readers.

Here’s how to write your character’s thoughts in four simple but effective ways:

i.          Italicise the thoughts: You can italicise your character’s thoughts to differentiate them from your narrative. This way, your readers can flow with the story without any break.

For example: After John’s statement at the manifesto, the crowd applauded with great pleasure. If only you all knew what was coming.

Most writers use italics when expressing a unique idea within their stories, and this may be a little confusing if you do the same with thoughts. In this case, you can try the next tip.

ii.        Use dialogue tags: A common way to express your character’s thoughts is the use of dialogue tags. That is, the thoughts should end with ‘he/she thought’.

For example: After John’s statement at the manifesto, the crowd applauded with great pleasure. If only you all knew what’s coming, he thought.

This is a lot easier to understand because it stands out clearly as the character’s thought.

iii.       Use quotation marks with dialogue tags: Just like the option above, your character’s thoughts can end with ‘he/she thought’. However, the thought should be encased in quotation marks.

Example: After John’s statement at the manifesto, the crowd applauded with great pleasure. ‘If only you all knew what’s coming’, he thought.

iv.       Use of deep Point of View (POV): When you want to give your readers a deep connection with your character, use deep POV. With this, you can choose to write your character’s thoughts without any major change. All you do is lace thoughts around the story.

For example: After John’s statement at the manifesto, the crowd was so excited. He looked at them with a strange smile as he walked back to his seat; they didn’t know what he had planned for them.

In the end, there’s no one way to express thoughts in your stories. How you choose to do it depends on you and how well you think your readers will comprehend your story.

What other ways do express your character’s thoughts? Kindly share in the comment section below.

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