As a professional writing coach, I always want to support writers in their quest for success. This month, my post “Book Coach Tips for Writing a Successful Novel” focuses on the most important aspects of novel writing. I also include resources that will help you level up your novel-writing game.
Tips for writing a successful novel: Voice + character
Job one, connect your reader to your main character (MC). While we often think that readers are more interested in the plot of our stories than our characters, that’s not quite true. What’s funny, perhaps ironic, is that while readers generally think plot is the main draw for them, they’re actually wrong! (Most of the time. Generally speaking. In this book coach’s experience.)
In fact, what pulls a reader into a story first is voice. While the back jacket copy’s catchy synopsis of your story is what gets a reader to open your book, the voice your potential reader meets on page one must hook them.
Voice conveys attitude—usually, your main character’s attitude. It’s how you introduce your character, and it sets the tone for your reader’s experience. (It’s similar to a vacation destination: Some readers hate the snow. They won’t book a ski vacation! But another reader might love the crisp chill of your character’s voice.)
If the voice is engaging, you will keep your reader’s attention long enough to reveal your character’s need, goal, dilemma—those elements of story that integrate character with plot. If your reader finds your character sympathetic, they’ll tumble down the rabbit hole of your story, committed to seeing how your character fares.
Tips for writing a successful novel: Plot
As mentioned, readers tend to think that plot drives their reading choices. And a well-turned plot with a strong hook will certainly get your book “read-more” clicks! Whether your story is high concept or not, your plot should drag your main character into situations, environments, and relationships that, in her ordinary world, she would avoid at all costs.
Convince your reader that your MC has no choice but to involve herself in the dire circumstances you’ve built for her. Do this by creating irresistibly compelling stakes: putting her loved ones in danger, perhaps, or forcing her to face illness, financial ruin, or loss of her hard-won reputation.
Once your MC has embarked on the roller-coaster ride of her story, make sure there are no exit ramps along the way (sorry, mixed metaphors). In fact, you want to keep escalating the stakes! Push your MC to continually face new challenges as she tries (desperately!) to either meet her initial goal or to succeed in whatever glass-mountain-climbing task your story has provided her.
However you play it, for your main character, there must be no way out but through. And every plot point you create should enforce this. (My deepest sympathies to your main character!)
Resources for novel writers
There are many masters of the novel-writers’ craft. And, fortunately for us, quite a few of them have written books to guide us on our writing path. As a long-time writing coach, I’ve found several that I recommend quite often. Here’s a short list for you.
THE SECRETS OF STORY, by Matt Bird
PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK, by Jamie Morris, et al
HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL, by James N. Frey
SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL, by Jessica Brody
Interested in receiving personalized book coach tips for writing a successful novel? A free chat with a top writing coach can offer just that!
Novels and their authors are near and dear to my heart. Over the last decade, as a professional writing coach, I’ve helped many novelists take their books to the next level. If you’re working on a novel and wonder how to make it more successful in the current market, let’s chat. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article “Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”