Five Steps to Help Start Your First Novel

When I tell people that I’m a writer, sometimes I get the response, “Oh, I’ve always had this great idea for a book!” or “I started a book years ago that I just never finished.” 

Writing a book and then finishing it is an incredible feeling. I’m always excited and extremely proud every time I finish a book. I want everyone to experience the joy of writing a book. 

If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, here are five steps to get started on your book writing journey. 

Step One: Plotting Your Plot

Before writing books myself, I thought writers instantly thought of their whole story when they got an idea. A lot of my stories came from just a sentence, like, “I wonder what living in a mobile home park is like?” or “This is so good, it’s like I died and went to Heaven!” As long as you have an idea, your plot will build around that. 

Step Two: Insert Main Character Here

I would say don’t just think of who is starring in your story, but what their aspirations are and how they’ll change at the end of the story. 

Sometimes writers name their characters accordingly with what they do in the story. In my book Saving Flight 926, my main character’s name means “heroine”. It’s fitting for a girl who saves the lives of her classmates. 

Step Three: This is InTENSEifying! 

A story can either be told in past or present tense. Personally I just prefer past becuase it’s easier, but I have written a story in present tense. If your story is full of “in-the-moment” action, you may lean toward present tense. 

Step Four: You, Me, or a Fly on the Wall? 

After picking your characters, decide how you want your story to be told. Point of view, or POV, can be in first, second, or third person (aka the fly on the wall perspective). I prefer first person because I feel like I can better connect with my characters that way. If you want to be more neutral, choose third person. Writing a choose-your-own-adventure story? Then second person is the way to go. 

Step Five: Sitting Down to Type

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting that first chapter. Sometimes writing can be so scary that you don’t want to start. Just remember that this is a first draft, and it’s okay for it to not be perfect. 

So don’t worry when writing your first novel! It may seem scary or overwhelming at first, by following these steps and writing a little at a time, you’ll be on track to finishing your first novel in no time! 


You “Watt” not Believe it: 5 Years Since I Joined Wattpad

Five years ago, I was a senior in my Christian high school, talking with one of my friends from the drama club during lunch. She loved to write, and I loved to write. She suggested I join Wattpad.com, a website where I could share my stories, and read the stories of others.

On a Wednesday night, bored after finishing my homework and without something to watch on TV, I opened up my laptop and registered as the user “dreamsmadereal,” simply because being an author was/is my dream and this was helping to make it a reality.  That night began a journey that would change my life. To celebrate this five-year milestone of being on the site almost daily, I’m counting down the five biggest highlights that have happened over the years.

5. A Whole Lot of Books

My first night on Wattpad, I posted a few of my poems. Today, I have 19 posted stories on my profile, three of which are short story and poem collections. At the time, I’d written only three chapter books. Right now, that number stands at a monstrous 14, with number 15 about halfway done.

4. So Many Numbers

A lot of things can add up over five years. The night I started I had zero followers. Today, I’m at over 1,100. All those followers mean a lot of reads. After freaking out that my poems got ten reads each overnight in 2012, today all of my Wattpad works have a combined total of 136,673 reads. Yes, I personally went and added all that up.

As an editor and critic, I actively use the discussion boards, or “clubs.” In five years, I’ve posted on the discussion boards 5,358 times, mostly in the “Improve Your Writing” club. Hopefully I’ve helped a lot of writers!

3. I’ve Got the Power

For a few months back in 2014, I was an official Wattpad moderator. It was so exciting to help out on the site and have face-to-face video calls with people who I considered Wattpad legends, who I was working alongside. Sadly, due to college life and my internship (that turned out to be a scam) eating up a lot of my time, I had to exit the moderator train, and would someday love to get back on.

2. The VIP

Back in the summer of 2013, I was a rock star…an editing rock star. For a short period of time, on the “Find an Editor” thread, Wattpad would be listing a section of VIP editors. They would appear at the top of the thread so everyone could see. After recommendations from a lot of satisfied Wattpadders, I made it to the VIP list, getting tons and tons of requests a day.

1. What’s Hot? My book is!

My number one Wattpad highlight involves me actually being number two…of 22,000, that is! Still a newbie to the site in April 2012, I posted my most recent finished chapter book, “Hype.” Since my main character was a devout Christian, I put it in the tiny Spiritual story category. Hype was slow to catch on at first, but then took off like a rocket. I suddenly found myself getting 700 to 1,000 reads a day. At that rate, I climbed all the way to the number two spot in the “What’s Hot” list for Spiritual stories. In this case, I’m fine with being number 2 out of 22k.

Well, there you have it, my top five highlights in five years of Wattpad. Here’s to another five years or reads, edits, critiques, and whatever else comes my way!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of First Chapters

A first chapter can make or break your story. In the publishing world, the opening line of your story could mean the difference between the person judging your story moving on or setting it aside in the rejection pile. After being an online editor and critic for nearly five years, I’ve seen my fair share of bad story openings and have compiled this list of openings so terrible that they’re practically sins. 

1. The Alarm Clock

I’ve seen many stories starting of with things like “the alarm clock started ringing” or even “BEEP! BEEP!” The first line of your story should be exciting and drawing the reader in. Instead of the noise of an alarm clock, start off with your character being late for something important. It’s still extremely cliche, but at least a little more exciting. 

2. The Fashion Show

Most of the time after said alarm clock goes off, I see teenage characters getting ready for school. The authors tend to get a little carried away, describing the character in full, including each individual element of their wardrobe, including jewelry, makeup, and even nail polish. Remember, first chapters need to hook the reader. I’m sorry, but as nice as your character’s outfit is, it’s just not that interesting, and as a matter of fact, neither is the whole school thing, which brings me to my next point:

3. School Time!

I’ve seen way too many normal characters heading to normal high school on a normal day, which makes for a very uninteresting first chapter. Of course, there’s a lot of exceptions, like being a new student or having something exciting happen at said school. 

4. Being Different and Letting Everyone Know

As writers, all our characters are special in their own way. Every main character has something we love about them that sets them apart from everyone else in the story. That’s why we chose them to be the star. Every main character in every story is different from the rest of the population in that story in some way. Never start off with your main character explaining how “different” they are. Stay focused on action and leave all those explanations where they belong, in chapter two. 

5. Breakfast

I’ve had to critique and edit stories where all of the above happened except for the character actually getting to school. Unless your character’s breakfast is crazy or something really important happens during it, the best thing to do is just save those sit-down meals for a later time. 

6. The Big Backstory

A lot of things need to be explained in stories, including a character’s background. However, every detail of your character’s life doesn’t need to be said in a first chapter. Again, save all the mundane details for the second chapter. 

7. Super Exciting Letdowns

Imagine reading a great first chapter. It’s interesting, exciting, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. You’re reaching the last few lines of the chapter, ready to turn the page to chapter two, and suddenly the character has just woken up, about to get ready for school. A word of advice: readers do not like being disappointed! 

Fellow authors, I guarantee if you stay away from these writing sins, your first chapters will benefit! 

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Everyone has goals that they set for the New Year. Maybe you want to go on a vacation you’ve been putting off or want to get in shape. If you’re a writer, your resolutions might look something like this: 

1. To Finally Make that Social Media Page

We’ve all thought about our own offical author pages on different websites but have been putting them off. Just go for it! 

2. To Hit that Magical Number of Followers

No matter what sites you use, we all have that number of followers we dream of getting. Start working on sharing your pages and driving up those followers! 

3. Getting Our Blogs in Shape

A lot of us have blogs. Some are doing really well. Others…not so much. Maybe you don’t know when to update or, like me, never know what to talk about. Try setting up a day of the week that you update. That’s helped me stay consistent. 

4. Sending out a Manuscript

If you’ve been thinking for a while about getting your book published, make this the year that you start editing and get a manuscript ready! 

5. To Finish the Old

I’m sure that we all have that old story sitting around that even though we probably will never publish, we still want to finish. Don’t spend any more time dwelling on it, and just finish! 


Ten Things Every Writer Wants for Christmas

Hi everyone! I normally go in to detail about my posts, but this one is pretty self-explainitory. So here are ten things that are on every writers’ (or at least this writer’s) wishlist. 

1. A Publication

This is a no brainer and pretty obvious. Every one of us has that deep desire to see our name in print. 

2. A Distraction-Free Workspace

I, like many other writers, have trouble focusing on my work. It would be nice to have a quiet space to just let inspiration happen. 

3. A Cure for Writer’s Block

Becuase it can seriously be the worst thing ever at times. 

4. To Actually Finish Our Work

I’m usually a quick book-writer, but sometimes things just take so long. 

5. More Social Media Followers

We all see professionals doing what they love and having thousands of followers. It would be nice if Santa could bring those to all my social media pages. 

6. Hearing Back from all of our Submissions

A lot of us are constantly in the process of writing and submitting pieces, which causes an eternal waiting process. It would be great to have some good answers this holiday season. 

7. A Job in Our Field

Keep your heads up, college writing majors! 

8. Financial Stability

For writers going back and forth with freelance jobs or short contacts deals, making ends meet as a writer can be tough. 

9. Writing-Themed Accessories

Really, who doesn’t love a cute journal to scribble down ideas, fancy pens, etc? 

10. People to Actually Read our Stuff

Sometimes we can have a lot of followers, but not a lot of people actively reading a critiquing our work. If you have a family member or friend who is a writer, ask to read some of their work. I guarantee, it’ll be one of the best gifts you can give them. 

Time Traveling Through Your Old Stories

Last night I was snowed in and bored here in the Northeast. I thought it would be entertaining to read a book that I haven’t touched in years. I settled on my fantasy story Euphoria that I finished back in 2012, when I was 18. Back then, it was my only story that didn’t receive good reviews. I couldn’t figure out why. I created a whole different world and had a main character that was vastly different from anyone else I’d seen. 

Now, after finishing my writing degree, I caught on to every mistake, every repeated word, every time I told instead of showed. In a way it was completely embarrassing. People had to sit through and suffer through chapters of repetitive facts, info dumps, and my main character, Violet, who had to tell readers multiple times that yes, she was smaller than everyone else. 

I guess the main point of this is that we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our own stories,and we shouldn’t be scared to go back and read them (a problem that I’ve always had). Our old stories show how much we’ve grown as authors. They’re part of our journey to achieve whatever it is we want to do in the writing world. Back in the day, I was extremely proud of Euphoria, And I still am. 

Of course, now reading it had inspired me to go back and update all my old books, but that’s a project for another time. 

5 Tips for More Interesting Characters

Are you characters boring? Are critics telling you that they’re flat and have no personality? I ran into this exact situation a few weeks ago. Follow these simple steps for more colorful, interesting characters. 

1: Give Them A Habit

What does your character do every day? Do they check their social media? Read the paper? Walk the dog? By knowing their habits, readers can better know your character. 

2. Give Them A Hobby

Hobbies are a key personality trait of your characters. Just like every person alive, give your character a favorite past time. 

3. Include Some Insecurities

Overly confident characters are such a bore! Whether it be height, weight, or trying to impress everyone, make sure your characters have something that holds them back. 

4. Loners Are Not For Long Stories

For a few page story, a loner character may work great. But for something longer than a few pages, it’s not the best idea. Always have someone else for your character to talk to every once in a while. Dialogue is key to their personality. 

5. Give Them A Quirk 

Is your character overly apologetic? Self-centered? A downer? Or maybe they’re careless? Always make sure your character has some type of quirk to liven them up.