Writing can be very hard: the blank page, the million ideas, the feeling of uncertainty? They're all common side-effects of being a writer, and because of them, attempting to make something out of nothing, especially something as big as an entire novel, can seem very daunting. However, as long as you do things one step at a time and try to remain calm, these tips should help you push down that feeling of unease and create the novel of your dreams.
1) Decide on your idea
Before doing anything else, you need to have an idea, something that you want to write about. It doesn't have to be a fully formed plot with characters and twists and details. All you have to have is some inspiration. A good idea is to always keep some sort of inspiration board or journal, so that you know what kind of things inspire you, what kinds of things you want to write about. Decide on a genre and tone, and jot down all the ideas you want to include in the story.
2) Develop the characters!
One of the most important things in your novel will be the characters. Your readers will look to them for relatability, inspiration, and wisdom. Your characters can be anything you'd like, but make sure they're interesting. Don't just think about how they'll act in the story, but also about their entire personalities- you want them to seem as much as real-life, 3D people as possible. Try to make a character profile for each person, describing their physical attributes, motivations, wishes, fears, family history, traumas, etc.
Another huge part of the novel is the setting, because it's a place where all of the action will happen, and therefore requires great attention to detail. This really depends on the genre of your book, as your novel might simply be set in the real world. If not, however, you will need to build a whole new world, focusing on names, landscapes, and personal particulars. Remember, the more detailed you are now, at the beginning of your writing process, the more consistent you will be later.
4) Keep it all in one place
It's really important that all your notes and ideas remain together, so that when you need to remain consistent with details down the line, you can simply find the information you need, right in front of you. For this, you can use a notebook, folder, or if you prefer to keep it virtual, you can save the files in one section of your computer. Whatever form this area takes, it can be useful to organize it: separate it into sections, color code it, change it in whatever way you think will help you most.
5) Establish the plot!
At this point it's time to create your plot. Start by jotting down a general idea, like what you want the start and endpoints to be, and the journey you want in between. Make sure the action has points where it's high and points where it's low. Sketch your timeline out on a big piece of paper (often it helps to see the big picture) and add points all around to flesh it out, veering off into sub-plots and backstories. If you're stuck, try to think about it from the character's perspectives. If this were real life, how would they react? What emotional development do you want them to go through? How could you achieve that?
6) Set a goal for yourself
Whether it's five minutes a day, or 1000 words a week, a tangible goal is always useful when writing. It makes sure you remain consistent and keeps your novel running. You can do this by setting yourself a number of minutes or words per day/week, or simply by saying, 'today I'm going to complete this chapter'. It might be hard to commit like that, and some days you'll feel too tired, or not inventive enough, but push through those days, and your novel will thank you for it!
7) Alone time
It's important that you always write in the same place, and by yourself. This will help you to always get into the right mindset, free from distractions. Find a space in your home that you rarely use for anything else, and make sure it's a space where you won't be disturbed. You should also strive to obtain a time period each day when you're completely alone and free to write. This could include switching your phone off, even if it's just for five minutes, to get into the correct headspace.
8) Stop editing!
Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in going over and over the work you've already completed, editing it for hours instead of making any actual progress. While this may be tempting, you need to force yourself to just put words down onto paper, and leave them there, even if you think they're terrible. This is just the first draft, and once you've completed it, you can always go back and change things as many times as you'd like.
9) Accept feedback
It's hard to have perspective as a writer, especially when the story you're creating has come exclusively from your own mind. Sometimes it's helpful to have some feedback, whether it's to remind you to write down some unclear information, whether it's to approve of your characters, and give a little boost to your confidence, or whether it's only a simple spell-check. Anyone can help you, as long as you're comfortable to show them your work. Family, friends, teachers, colleagues, etc. Ask for other people's advice- they might often have a different perspective, and new ideas you otherwise wouldn't have considered.
10) Believe in yourself, you can do it!
Finally, the most important thing in all of this is self-confidence. Writing can be so hard, especially when working on a project as big as a novel. It can be easy to doubt yourself, but you need to remember that as the creator of this world, everything you write will seem insufficient, while to others it might seem perfect. Your story deserves to be told, and you're the only person who can tell it, so try your best and don't give up.