A few days ago someone found this website by searching “how to write a novel step by step guide pdf” on Google. As you can see, there is no step by step guide to writing a novel available on my website.
It seems to me that it’s in our nature to search for shortcuts. That’s why how-to guides are so popular. We want guides, recipes, formulas, and crucial insight from experts. We have gurus in basically any field. And I understand. It’s part of what makes us great – we evolve by building upon what others built before us. But, sadly, writing is not the same as gardening. It’s not just a craft, no matter how much we’d like to believe so.
In fact, this is why some people will disagree with my previous statement. It’s human nature to think that everything is a skill that can be acquired. It’s the easiest way to look at it. We don’t like unanswered questions and unsolved puzzles. We like things to be clear-cut. We are systematic creatures.
But art is not like that, because art incorporates our views of the world, our habits, addictions, phobias, and everything in between. And these things change rapidly.
In one of the most popular posts on this blog, E-book vs. Print, I said that fiction (and the way we expect fiction to be) has changed. Fiction has become blunt, stark. Maybe a bit darker in tone. But there are other, more subtle changes as well. Like transitions. You don’t have to explain each and every action. And there’s also this fact that visual writing doesn’t involve page long descriptions. We need less to see more. Maybe this is what television has changed in the way we perceive the world around us.
Of course, there are exceptions.
And this is why there is no holy set of rules to fiction writing. Exceptions.
If you read enough fiction, you’ll find writers who break certain rules with great effect. Writers who use a lot of adverbs, writers who tell a lot, and the list goes on and on. For every rule there’s at least one great writer who chose to discard it.
I have said it quite often here, and I will say it again. You should read about writing, read all the rules of famous writers, all their habits, but only choose to incorporate into your own writing what you think works best for you. It’s your choice, your fiction. And your chance to leave a mark on the world. The same goes for any feedback you might receive, regardless of the person who’s offering that feedback.
Fiction has evolved so much over the century precisely because of this. Because of the few who chose not to obey a strict set of rules. And they made what I like to call beautiful mistakes.
When I started blogging, I didn’t want to write about writing. I wanted to write about my books, to promote, to write one or two reviews, and to spend the rest of my time aimlessly wandering the Internet. Because I felt that writing about writing is the only shortcut a writer can take. It’s easy. You write down a set of rules, try to make yourself sound as the expert, and then wait for people to agree with you.
As Oscar Wilde once said,
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
But then I realized there’s more to writing about writing than just giving advice. It’s also a way of understanding your own process and the process of others. So instead of just giving advice and sounding like a guru I opted to write about the process, about what works and what doesn’t (for me) with the intention of finding out what I can do to be a better writer.
That’s what those comment boxes are for. The process may be intrinsically similar, but it’s also different. Not only that the stories we write and the way in which we write them is different, but also our rules and habits are different.
As long as you aspire to be different, not for the sake of being different, but because that’s who you are, I believe there’s no reason for you to be searching the web for step by step guides on how to write a novel.