The best and first tip one can give to an aspiring writer is to read. Reading, not only is it fun, but it is a way to explore what other novelists do. So first of all, if you want to write a novel, read a dozen of them in your field. For example, if you wish to write a story about, let’s say, a kidnapped child, you need to read novels on kidnapping. That way, you know what has already been done. And hence you may become more original. If you want to write a series of short stories, see how others assemble their short stories, how they mingle.
In my case, I wish to write a dystopian novel where equality between men and women is the main theme. On my list, I need to read other feminist dystopias such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin or books by Octavia E. Butler and so on. I don’t wish to write something that has already been explored and yet these novels will inspire me.
Other than the storyline, reading novels close to your subject help you identify literary devices that you need to master. In my case, reading dystopian books shows me how authors present this futuristic world of theirs in a convincing and in a non-artificial way.
So make a list of at least 10 books of fiction. Choose them well. Try canonized books, bestsellers and underground quality novels. Make sure you give yourself a deadline for reading those books.
Then, take out your list again and note a couple of essays and savant books on your subject. What are the tendencies in 21st century science fiction? What are the psychological repercussions on a kidnapped child’s family? If you don’t feel like researching a lot, read articles or introductions on these subjects. Even if your story doesn’t aim realism, reading on your subject helps to stimulate your creativity and gives you sometimes a new perspective you never would have thought of.
Don’t forget, once again, to make a schedule for your readings. This is the preliminary step to a big writing project, a step that we tend too easily to forget.
Don’t have a story with easily identifiable themes? Describe your project below and I will help you identify them!