As a lead editor, I am all too aware of how many people dream of becoming the next best-selling author. However, I also know most end up abandoning their unfinished manuscript. In fact, only 3% actually go on finishing their manuscript.

Often it is because they underestimated the time and investment required or did not have a clear understanding of the process involved. If you want to increase your chances of success and see your manuscript through to completion, here are 10 things to know before writing your first novel.

1. It Will Take Longer Than Expected

Do you have a clear deadline by which you expect to finish your final manuscript? Well, multiply that time duration by three and use that to gauge a realistic deadline for your novel.

Even if you are a prolific writer, there are times when you will be stuck, unsure of how to progress through the story. Then there is a lot of rewriting, editing, proofing, and yet even more rewriting involved – all of it is going to take a lot more time than one can even fathom.

2. Writing a Novel Is a Lot Harder than Blogging

“I can write 2000 words a day for my blog. Writing a 50,000-word novel in a month should be no biggie.” – I know a lot of people might think that way when starting out; I, myself, can attest to that.

However, in a novel, you are carrying a plot across 50,000+ words. This is a task in a whole different league compared to say writing a short story, a blog, or an article. The level of commitment, focus, and creative energy required from a writer means

3. It Is Fine to Be a Bit over the Top

Sure a plot needs to make sense but, in the end, you are writing to entertain a reader and something that is all too realistic would end up being boring. Go ahead and add some crazy to your world. Take The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams as an example and inspiration. Don’t be afraid to venture out into the implausible. Your readers might welcome it!

4. Don’t Shy Away from Getting Critiques

A lot of writers are introverts and this is why they don’t go out of their way to seek critique about their work from others. However, not doing so is a surefire way to sabotage your novel from succeeding.

Simply put, it is impossible to be a writer and not view your own work with a biased perspective. Other’s critiques will help you identify issues in your draft you would have missed otherwise.

5. Forget about Money

Do you have plans of living off the income generated from your books? Well, scrap those plans because they are unrealistic. The reality is that most authors hardly make enough money with their novels to justify the hours they spent on them. Those who managed to earn enough to entirely live off their published work are an exception rather than a rule.

If you want to write a novel, do it because you are passionate about your imagined world. Unless you already have a large following or a contract with a major publisher is guaranteed, doing it for the money is a sure-fire way to end up being disappointed.

6. Understand Structure

Look at this blog here. The content written here is structured which makes it easier to follow and digest the information presented.

Novels aren’t an exception either. Nobody wants to be overwhelmed by a wall of text that goes on and on without breaks. Learn to structure your writing properly so it makes for easier reading for your audience.

7. Discipline Is Key

Countless days and nights will be spent in the materialization of your novel. Lacking discipline, it would be easy to get sidetracked or discouraged along the way. Establish a routine, set clear goals, and commit yourself to writing a certain amount daily.

Consider eliminating distractions while you write. Turn your notifications off, keep the door shut, glue yourself to the chair if you have to, and put your entire focus on writing.

8. Just Keep Writing

This is advice a famous author gave me when I was younger while attending a literature festival. Now, all the more experienced and wiser, I cannot recommend this advice enough to aspiring writers.

What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while. If you want to finish that book, you have to keep writing. Don’t leave it hanging if you can’t find the perfect sentence to narrate what you want – you can always improve on it later.

9. You Will End up Forgetting Your Story

You have spent months or even years finishing up your draft and now it is time to create a promo summary. “Hmmm…what were the details of my story again?”

And then you re-read your manuscript and find that your narration deviated a lot from the original plot line.

This actually happens…a lot. It is important to re-read your draft multiple times as you make progress. This will eliminate the risk of you ending up re-writing entire sections once your initial draft is complete.

10. Finishing Your Novel Is Only Half the Journey

So, you finally finished writing your novel? Well, that’s good but your work is only half complete. Now you will have to query multiple agents in hopes one accepts to work with you and get your manuscript published. Alternatively, you might consider going the self-publishing route and making preparations accordingly.

And then, once it is finally published, you will need to find ways to promote it, build your audience, and even be your own salesman. All of these can be exhausting work but if you are persistent, you will be duly rewarded for your effort.

Are you currently writing a novel or have you already published it? What are some lessons you’d like to share with other writers? Tell us in the comments!

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