How do you learn to write a novel How do you get started Is there a format or a set of rules and procedures to follow

How do you learn to write a novel? How do you get started? Is there a format or a set of rules and procedures to follow?

When I started writing my first novel ‘An Empire Lost’ (still unpublished and unfinished), I was overwhelmed.
Took me 5 days to take those deep breaths, compose myself, and prepare to get started.
I was 17 or 18 at the time, and after binging on Game of Thrones, I wanted to write an epic-fantasy in Indian setup, of which there is a dearth in the Indian markets.
I started with the Prologue (that’s how I always start)— a 5-page epic battle sequence between men and a mythical race of warring beasts and it turned out to be good.
Next day, I drew a map of my fictional country, called Ancient Lands and plotted the entire story on Excel in the next 4-days—
I was a teenager then, excuse my horrible skills with the pencil :)
The original plot spanned to some 20 chapters.
The grey area is still unwritten.

I ended up writing some 120000+ words, a size almost twice that of an average Indian Romance book, in the next 2 years.
But I never was able to complete it.
One day, when I was at my worst, I happened to glance at this ad from a show on Discovery channel about some dude who was sent a Treasure Map from space.
And I was intrigued.
Everyone likes a good treasure hunt, right?

I can’t remember the next two months as I was mostly sleepless at all times, writing till 4 in the morning, and editing the book when I was commuting in Mumbai locals for my internship.
I didn’t plot the story.
I made it up as I went, thinking 2 chapters ahead.

Result was this—
Self-published my first novel at the age of 21.

It went on to become a Bestseller, entering the Top 10 Selling charts on Amazon India and Top 5 Hot & New Releases.
I was over the moon.
It was also recently published—
I also realised that formats and procedures don’t matter, what matters at the end of the day, is that you write.

Since Secret of the Himalayan Treasure was a light-hearted, intense read, I wanted to challenge myself with Gangs of Bombay—
Result was this Kindle book—
Funny part is, that I didn’t follow any particular format or rule to write this.
Writers are supposed to write on their laptops, sitting at their fav desks made from the wood of Kashmir Willows, which is garlanded by all the classic books on the planet, right?
Well, I wrote most of it on my phone (due to certain reasons) while I was lying on my couch, munching chips on the side, while Linkin Park songs blasted from the speaker behind.
In the end, it’s all about writing.

How you do it doesn’t matter.
You can always format and edit after your first draft is ready.
It hardly takes any time.
Rule No.
1
of writing a book— there are no rules.
Poets and artists aren’t born out of rules, it is the emotion that gets you going that matters.

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Not what you hoped, perhaps, but that's what it comes down to.
Stephen King, JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams used four completely different formats to write.
They approached their novels from different creative angles and they used different strategies to get them finished.
The one thing that they all had in common – apart from stratospheric success – was that they found a system that works best for the way they work.
So ask yourself what works for you that would allow you to write a thousand words a day.
What works for you to lay out your plot? What gives you ideas?
How do you get started? Well, it would help me if I knew what genre you were writing for.
Want to write a mystery? Read some mysteries.
See how it was done.
Learn.
Take notes.
How did they develop the characters? How did the antagonist discover the solution? What was the story arc like?
Same for fantasy, romance, or any other genre.
And then, just start.
"But how?" you ask? It doesn't matter if your first page just says "Introduction – I'll introduce the protagonist here.
" The point is, you've started.
Once you get those first words down on paper (or "on screen" in most cases) then the ice is broken and you can begin assembling your skeleton outline.
You might be appalled if you saw how I write.
Each chapter starts out with anywhere from 3-5 words.
One chapter right now simply reads "Detective meets Mary".
It eventually gets written, but at least it helps me to organize the story's skeleton.
I add the "flesh" to the skeleton later.
What inspires your creativity? Do some of that.
Then, while you're feeling creative, start asking those "what if.
.
.
?" questions.
("What if there was a child who learned how to communicate with trees?" or "What if Napoleon won at Waterloo?" or "What if there was a murder and the detective not only had to solve who did it, but also had to figure out how it was done?")
For me, personally, it helps that I already have an assortment of characters inside my head.
I can put them into situations and then imagine how they would react or solve the problem.
I ALWAYS start with my characters.
If you don't have characters yet, invent some.
Make them human – they should have strengths that we admire and weaknesses that we can relate to and challenges that they must overcome.
(Just avoid the clichés!)
Some examples of developing storyline ideas and side-plots using a couple of my own characters:
"Janet, the tough-as-nails former Secret Service member, suddenly has to cook dinner for the in-laws (whom she's meeting for the first time) and she is not used to feeling anxious like this.
Janet's same-sex partner has warned Janet that her parents don't approve of 'those kinds' or relationships.
How does Janet get through the evening and how does the scene play out?"
Cripes, I could write a whole book based on that one example that I just made up.
I want to write that evening now! :-)
And here's an example from my current book in progress.
.
.
"Private Detective Seberg can't get enough of the spotlight to the point where it's becoming reckless.
He doesn't share his evidence or clues with the small-town police force in order that he can reveal the clues himself in a dramatic fashion in front of the media.
The police can't stand Seberg because he revels in making them look inferior to him.
They've had enough of his antics.
"
Sorry if this is all over the map – you can message me if you have specific questions for a specific idea in a specific genre.
This answer is already too long because I'm trying to cover a lot of bases over a broad area.
Good luck!

To answer this question, I’m going to use one of my favorite things in the world – analogies! Creating a novel is like building a house.
First!
Image source =
Lower the pressure of writing a novel by not writing a novel.

What you will be writing instead, will be a Draft.
A Rough Draft.
An unreadable shitload of words, not intended to be read by anyone but yourself.
That last part is extremely important! Nobody must read that Draft, because it's not intended for public consumption yet.
The Draft is the Baby, the Novel is the Adult.

People don't make adults, they make babies.
Babies who shit and cry and demand food and attention and will keep you up at night.
Have you heard writers referring to their novel as a baby? Yes? They're not actual writers yet, because the draft is the baby, the novel should be an adult, capable of standing on its own legs and fending for itself.
If their novel is still their baby, then they haven't finished yet and they have published prematurely.
The Horror, the Horror.
.
.

Before a novel can stand on its own legs, it needs to be born first, which is a messy process.
Thus, the Draft is a baby – a stinking smelly mess that will hijack all your attention and cause you to lay awake at night, worrying if it will ever be able to be independent.
This draft is not the kind of baby that you show your family and friends — starting the Draft is not an accomplishment.
So shut up about 'writing your first novel' and never ever talk about the plot and the characters and the theme.
Screw all that.
Talking about your creative work kills the spark.
Just write and write.
Is it garbage? Don't second-guess yourself, you won't be able to judge it now, you're much too close.
Nobody throws out their baby, no matter how much it smells.
Just keep on writing.
Don't edit.
You can't edit a baby, it has to become an adolescent first.
The Need.

Visit any writing forum and you'll see the many many questions, that boil down to one single question 'Is This Any Good?'.
It's the fear of failure, the angst of wasting time, and the need for validation.
We have been programmed to desire approval – from parents, from teachers.
You won't get approval for the Draft.
Don't ask for it.
Just write it all down.
The Rules.

'How long is a chapter supposed to be?', 'How do I write a dynamite first chapter?', 'Should I use present tense or past tense?', 'Is writing in First Person easier than Third Person?', 'When do I Show, when do I Tell?'
When you visit writing forums, you'll hear a lot of talk about rules, but those rules are not for drafts.
Those rules are to clinically dissect a finished manuscript prior to publication.
Do you have that? No, you haven't.
You have a smelly mess that isn't nowhere near finished, so forget about all those rules.
Because in the end there is only one rule – Engage The Reader.
And your baby won't need to engage the reader yet.
It's a draft, intended only for your eyes.
The Work
Anyone with a knife and a dead pig can butcher a pig, but that doesn't make you a butcher.
And it sure as hell doesn't make you a veterinarian.

So you wrote an essay at school and the teacher gave you an A.
Does that make a writer? No, but it's a start.
If you can read this answer, you can probably write.
You can string words together, maybe in some pleasing way, but five hundred pages of words is not a book.
A book is when the words disappear and your imagination shows you the film in your head.
That's the hardest part, and the most neglected part — writers want to write pretty words or show off their ostentatious vocabulary, but what you want to do is tell a story.
Tell a story in such a way that the reader forgets about the book or the e-reader and is transported to another world — fictional, but just as 'real' as this one.
And that requires not only a large vocabulary, but also a decisive mind to apply just the right word.
And if you get that right, you won't need the validation anymore, because there is no better feeling that getting a sentence just right, a paragraph that leaps off the page, and a chapter that you don't want to end.

But before you get there, you have to put in the work.
There's a common 'rule' floating around that to become a professional at something requires putting in something like 10,000 hours.
I never measured that, but I do know that I'd been writing for twenty years before
How do you learn to write a novel How do you get started Is there a format or a set of rules and procedures to follow

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