Writing Tips

writing tips

How many words should your novel have?

Most aspiring writers wonder how many words their novel should have before they even get started. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have an overall word count goal. Once you know how many words you want your novel to have, you can calculate how many words you should write each week.

What’s the average word count of a novel?

This is not an easy question to answer. The average Word count greatly depends on the type of book you’re writing. Here are a few examples:

  • Short stories: 1,000 – 8,000 words

  • Middle grade: 20,000 to 30,000 words

  • Young adult: between 40,000 and 80,000 words

  • Romance novels: 40,000 – 100,000 words

  • Horror: 80,000 – 100,000 words

  • Historical fiction: 100,000 – 120,000 words

As you’ll quickly realize, every type of fiction book has a common word count range. Some are more flexible than others. Generally, romance novels tend to be shorter than historical fiction, but that doesn’t mean your romance has to be. On average, fiction books have about 64,000 words, but averages don’t always matter when it comes to books (or people).

You’ve probably read quite a few books yourself that were extremely short and some that were very long. The number of words doesn’t usually give an indication of how good the book is. For example, “White Fang” by Jack London is a rather small book but extremely well written with only 72,071 words. On the other hand, “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell has 418,053, but it keeps its readers on their toes until the very end.

Check out this website to see how many words your favorite classics have: http://commonplacebook.com/culture/literature/books/word-count-for-famous-novels/.

Set a goal and use it to get going

While you don’t necessarily have to decide how many words your book is going to have, having a goal will get you going. Using a word count can help you calculate how many words you need to write each week in order to get your book written within the next 3, 6, or 24 months. You can start with the lower end of the range as your goal to make it less intimidating. After all, you can always write more.

Another reason why you should have a general idea of how many words your novel should have is to flush out your story. If everything important event has already happened to your main character in the first 15,000 words, then you either need to come up with more ideas or get more flowery with your writing.

Here is an example of what I mean:

“He was hungry so he ate breakfast.” – That’s the short version.

“He didn’t even notice how long it had been since his last meal until his stomach started to growl. After carefully evaluating the contents of his empty refrigerator, he decided to prepare some scrambled eggs with a side of bacon.” – This could be the longer version.

You don’t have to elaborate every little detail like that. After a while, your readers will get bored reading about meal preparation times. However, if it’s important to your story, then you should use more words to talk about it.

Focus on developing your story

As we’ve already explained above, you should really focus on developing your story. What’s going to happen in your story? Should you write an outline before you begin writing? At which point will it become impossible for your readers to stop reading because they really need to know what happens next? The sooner you engage their interest, the better.

If you have reached 90,000 words with your novel but still aren’t done with your story, by all means continue. However, you can also consider breaking up your book into a series of some sort if it gets too big. Additionally, if you’re going to be looking for a publisher (versus self-publishing your book), then it may be necessary for you to stick to a smaller word count range.

Now it’s time to set your writing goals. All you have to do is log into your Novelize account, open the manage panel inside of your novel and enter in your weekly and overall word count goal. Novelize will help you stay on track by sending you a weekly progress report. Your job is to keep writing!

How many words should you write in a day or week?

writing

The tricky part is that there is no right answer to this question. Obviously, you want to write as many words as possible, because the more you write each day the sooner you will reach the end of your novel. That being said, your goals should be realistic for you.

First of all, you need to decide how many days a week you’re going to be writing. If you’re participating in a writing sprint (like National Novel Writing Month), you may be able to commit to writing for 6 days a week. However, most people will be too busy to sit down almost every day and write.

Start small

The great thing is that you can adjust your goals. In order to set yourself up for success, you may want to start small. Commit to working on your novel for 2 or 3 days per week (unless writing is your full-time job). If you find that you can easily add another day of writing, then you should do it. But if you start out trying to write 5 days each week and then find that you can only manage 3, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment. And feeling like you’re doing enough might lead you to stop writing altogether. Obviously, we want to avoid that.

3 Steps to setting a daily goal

1. Set your overall word count goal

Let’s take a look at your word count goals. It’s a good idea to have a word count goal, especially in the beginning. In order to come up with a good daily goal, you need an overall word count goal first. For example, you may want to write a book that has about 70,000 words.

2. Pick a deadline

Next, you have to pick a deadline. Yes, you want to have an end in sight. When do you want this novel done by? Of course we’re just talking about the first draft, but you still want to have a deadline for it. If you want the first draft done in 6 months from now, that gives you about 26 weeks to write.

3. Calculate your daily or weekly writing goal

This means you have to write about 2,692 words every week. If you can write for 5 days each week, you only have to type 538 words each day you’re writing. Whether you want to aim for your daily goal or your weekly goal is merely a matter of preference. It might be too intimidating to write 1,000 words every day if you can only write for 2 or 3 days each week. It’s certainly doable, but you may need to trick yourself by working on your weekly goal instead.

Don’t expect it to be easy

As you’re getting started writing, you will get a feel for how much you can write each day. It partly depends on how much time you have to write and whether or not you can do so without distractions. If you feel that the goal you sit is just unachievable, then you may have to adjust it a little.

But don’t forget, it’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it. Plus, on some days you’ll greatly exceed your daily goal because you will be on a roll and unable to stop. During those times, you might not even notice when everyone else is evacuating the town because a hurricane is coming….

Should you outline your story before you start writing?

outline your story

When it comes to outlining versus just writing your story, there are about as many opinions as there are writers. Many writers need to have a general outline just to start writing. Some need to plan out every little detail of their story before they commit to putting it down on paper. Then there are writers who don’t enjoy outlining and abhor the entire process.

Advantages of outlining your story

Outlining has certain advantages. First of all, having even just a broad outline helps you know where you’re going with your story. It might even help relieve blank-page syndrome and give you that nudge you need to get started writing your book.

If you’re working with a general outline, then you’ll have a basic idea of what’s going to happen to your characters and your story. So you’ll be writing with a sense of flow. You’re not likely to get sidetracked into minor issues. Another advantage of outlining is that it can speed up your writing. If you don’t have to think about what’s going to happen in your story, then you can just write and write and write.

And if you don’t really like where your story is going after all, you can always veer off the beaten path. Your outline is not there to restrict you, but rather the opposite. A good outline will give you the nudge you need to get going with your story.

Disadvantages of outlining

Obviously, there are some disadvantages to outlining. For one, it may spoil the mystery of the writing process. If you already know how your story is going to end, do you still want to write it? Some authors find that knowing what’s going to happen makes them less inclined to write it down. After all, they’re already done with the story in their head.

Outlining may also not work well for your story. If your characters turn out differently than expected as you’re writing your book, then your story may not be suitable or believable. Of course, you can always change your outline if you find that it just doesn’t work for your story.

Finally, breaking down your story and outlining the details ahead of time may stop your creative juices from flowing. Some writers don’t like to write within certain constraints. They tend to be more creative when the story has not been predetermined.

A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

Some authors can just sit down and start writing. They may have an outline in their head; or they may really just create the story as they go along. But most of us need a little bit more help in the beginning. You don’t have to know what’s going to happen in each chapter in order to put your story down on paper. But it could help to know what your overall plot will be.

Anarchy Can Be Good

The creative process of writing requires some anarchy. After all, your characters should develop inside of your story and what they do may be dictated by who they are and who they become. Plus, most writers make changes to their story as they write because they end up disliking their original idea. In the end, you have to be flexible as a writer to finish a novel that’s worth reading.

Find What Works for You

As an author, you have to find out what works best for you. You can just start writing without any outline or general story ideas if you feel creative. Alternatively, you can try creating a general outline before you start working on your novel. In the end, you may choose to do a little bit of both.

Novelize allows you to do it either way. You can create a general plot for your story and use it to outline your novel chapter by chapter. But you can also just go to the writing screen and start typing.

How to get started on your outline

Outlining your story before writing it has the advantage that you can easily make changes before you’ve spent a lot of time on your novel. For example, if you’re having difficulties to get your character from your beginning to your ending, you may have to change one or the other as well as adding different material for the middle.

Outlining can be a lot of fun. While you outline, you may come up with names for the characters you need along the way. You can easily put them inside of your notebook without leaving the screen in Novelize. You can even add details to your characters if you want to, but you don’t have to. The important part is to get the outline done as soon as possible. If you have time, let it sit for a day or two and then read it again with new eyes. Does the story still make sense? More importantly, are you excited about writing it? Then you’re off to a good start.

Of course, outlining a story is rarely a smooth process (neither is writing a novel). Do you feel like it’s not really coming together properly? Does it get vague and boring in some places? Do you feel like you’re getting stuck? We have some tips for you next.

How to continue writing your novel when you get stuck

The beginning of a novel may be the easiest part to write. You have lots of ideas, you have a story to tell, and you can’t wait to get going. The ending is often just as easy, because you’re wrapping up all of your loose ends.

But what about the middle? And what happens when you get stuck writing your novel? In this article, we’ll offer up 16 tips to help you get out of your hole and back to writing.

Tip #1: Revisit your outline

For most writers, having an outline is the only way to roll. Before you start on your first scene, you should come up with an outline. Your outline will cover what happens when and why. If you don’t have an outline, then go and create one. If you have one, then you may need to fix it. If you don’t like the way your story unfolds, then you might need to scratch that outline and write a new one.

Tip #2: Put up some roadblocks

roadblock

Sometimes your writing isn’t progressing because your story is just not exciting enough. Is life too easy for your protagonist? Then add some obstacles for your character. Setbacks don’t always have to be devastating, but if your hero or heroine doesn’t have to overcome anything challenging, then your reader will be bored. And obviously, you’re not thrilled enough to keep writing about him or her, either.

Tip #3: Dust off your other characters

Since we all live life through our own eyes, it can be difficult to tell a story from different points of view. But it might be a good idea to explore your other characters for a little while. Give your reader some backstory if needed, but stop hovering over your protagonist. He or she will be fine for a while without you.

Tip #4: Explore your world

So you’ve told your readers about your protagonist’s first day at school and their first kiss. But do they know what world your character is living in? You might want to take some time and explore your world a little. You don’t have to include every detail in your book, but it helps if you know what you’re talking about in your story. Make it feel real by setting the scene properly. For example, instead of describing what a shop in town look like, talk about the people shopping there and the kind of merchandise they see on sale.

Tip #5: Ask questions

Sometimes it helps if you ask some questions about your story. These should be questions that can’t be answered by a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Explore your main characters’ motivations and why they behave the way they do. What are their goals? Why did they do what they did?

Tip #6: Start at the end

You may not always want to start your story at the beginning. If you’re stuck in the middle, it could be a good idea to write the ending next and work your way back. It may be an unusual way to write your story, but if it gets you going, why not try it?

Tip #7: Set a deadline

It’s easy to get stuck in a story and leave it in your drawer or on your computer for months on end. But that won’t happen to you if you have a deadline. If you need to get something done by a certain date, then you don’t have time to procrastinate and read blog posts online. Give yourself a goal and a deadline. For example, commit to writing another 500 words right now and do that again tomorrow and the next day.

Tip #8: Introduce a new character

If you’re stuck in your story, now may be the time to develop an interesting side plot. Add an exciting new character to draw your reader in. The best books feature a handful of memorable characters the reader gets to know rather well. But you could also have a few quirky minor characters that add something to the story. They could be humorous, creepy, a pain the butt, or all of the above. It’s up to you.

Tip #9: Add subplots

It’s important to have a big story to tell, but you need small plots to keep things interesting. Your subplots don’t all have to feed into the big plot, but they shouldn’t be totally irrelevant, either. There is no limit to the number of subplots you can add to your story, as long as you don’t confuse the reader. Are you not sure what your protagonist should do next? Then make them go on an errand in one of your subplot.

Tip #10: Add an unexpected twist

When you read a story that is riveting, it’s almost always because something unexpected happened. The good guy turns out to the bad guy, and you didn’t see it coming. The main character dies. The protagonist is dead and doesn’t know it. It doesn’t matter what kind of twist you add to your story as long as you keep things interesting. Have fun and experiment.

Tip #11: Add a secret

add a secret

Someone in your story might have a secret that they can’t tell anyone about. The challenge is for you to find a good reason why they can’t tell anyone as well as finding a secret that’s really important to your story. For example, the secret could have something to do with the character’s past or with their current identity. The juicier the secret, the better for your story.

Tip #12: Add a betrayal

Nobody wants to get stabbed in the back, but it makes for a good story to tell and read. Let the best friend betray the protagonist. Maybe he cheats on his wife. Maybe he steals his money. Maybe he attempts to murder him. Betrayals are fun and exciting.

Tip #13: Add some imprudent romance

Even if you’re not writing a romance book, adding some romance to your story can’t hurt. But ill-advised romance is probably more exciting than an obvious romance story your reader can smell for miles away. Let people get together who shouldn’t get together for many reasons. But make it believable. Oh and they don’t necessarily have to fall in love. You could just stick to the physical act of getting together to spice up the story.

Tip #14: Brainstorm new ideas

A great way to get your story unstuck is to brainstorm what could happen to your character. What if your protagonist lost his hearing? What if your main character got fired at his job the same day that he discovers his wife is cheating on him? What if your protagonist turned into a unicorn? Generate as many what-if scenarios as you can and then keep the ones that make sense for your story or excite you to write about or both.

Tip #15: Follow the worst business advice

There are lots of ways to get your story unstuck. But adding some pain and suffering for your protagonist is always a good idea. Make life really difficult for him if you can. 

“Remember, the worst business advice happens to be very good storytelling advice: elevate costs and eliminate convenience.” 

Tip #16: Don’t be afraid to delete

Ideally, you’ll knock out the first draft of your novel without going back and editing. But sometimes writers create scenes that they just can’t live with. You might have written 5 scenes that pull your story along only to realize that the action was completely out of character for your protagonist. The only thing left for you to do is to delete the scenes and start over. If you’re absolutely sure that the scenes won’t work for your book, then it’s a good idea to delete them sooner than later. If you want to keep the scenes for a different book, you can copy and paste them into a new document. But don’t let the bad scenes stop you from writing that novel. Get back to work right now!

Tip #17: Just write!

Now you have lots of ideas on how to get your story unstuck. All you have to do is write them down. So get to it. Stop looking for solutions on the Internet and move along with your story. The block is all in your head, and your protagonist is impatient to get a move on.

For a more in-depth guide on how to write a novel, check out our 13-week guide to write a novel

How to Get to Know Your Main Characters

When you come up with a new story idea, it’s tempting to just dig in and start writing. But even when you create unforgettable characters, it’s not uncommon to get confused on and mix up the details. Not every reader will catch your mistakes, but it’s a good idea to remain consistent. Don’t make him come from a poor family where they couldn’t afford to buy shoes and later mention that he took swimming lessons as child.

Novelize helps you keep track of physical traits, such as their height and eye color. It also allows you to illustrate the internal and external conflicts this character is dealing with. Maybe they’re depressed about being overweight, and they always fight with their family when they see them.

Here is a list of the things you can keep track of inside the Novelize notebook right now:

  • Name (use the name generator for inspiration)

  • Short description (shows up in the list of characters under their name)

  • Height

  • Weight

  • Body type

  • Eye color

  • Hair color

  • Skin color

  • Basic nature

  • Birthday

  • Marital status

  • Nationality

  • Details (fill in a longer description of your character here)

  • Personality

  • Mannerisms / habits

  • Internal conflicts

  • External conflicts

  • Education

  • Occupation

  • Family & friends

  • Enemies

Building out your character can be a lot more intensive though. To really understand them and their journey, you’ll want to dig deep into their world. Once you understand their journey through life and what they have dealt with in the past, you’ll know exactly how they would handle any conflicts or challenges thrown at them.

If you need more inspiration, check out this awesome characters bio template from SelfPublishing.com. Their lists include endless suggestions, including your character’s tattoos, favorite movie, and whether they’re a night owl or morning person. You can fill out this template for each of your main characters to give you a good starting point for your story. After that, they’ll come alive in your head, ready to act in the drama you’re creating for them.

Don’t get overwhelmed trying to come up with all the details, but you should spend some time putting yourself into your main characters’ shoes. You definitely want to hone in on what makes them tick, what their goals are, and how they will grow over the course of your story.

How many scenes should your chapters have?

Whether you’re a beginning writer or a successfully published author, you may still wonder how many scenes each of your chapters should have. You may also wonder how long each of your scenes should be. Those are great questions, and we are going to attempt to answer them for you.

Chapters can be long or short

Your chapters can be long or short. Each of your chapters can have only one scene or multiple scenes. There are no rules you have to follow except for what makes logical sense for your story. You’ll probably want to stay away from having lots of very short chapters unless your story takes many dramatic twists and turns. But there is also something to be said against chapters that are too long. Not having the end of a chapter in sight might make your reader feel like they have to work too hard to get to a good stopping point in your story.

Scenes can be long or short

Scenes can also vary greatly in length. Some scenes may have fewer than 100 words, and some scenes may have over 4,000 words. What happens in your story will determine how long your scene should be. If your characters are having a long conversation with each other, then your scene might run to be several pages long. On the other hand, if your scene consists of a quick hit-and-run incident, you might decide to keep it short for dramatic effect.

When to start a new scene

What you really need to know is when you should start a new scene. There are different ways of tackling this topic, but it all depends on your story. Here are a few examples of when it may be appropriate to start a new scene:

  • Change of locations

  • When time has passed

  • When introducing a new problem/situation

  • Introducing a new character

When to start a new chapter

You may also wonder when you should start a new chapter instead. Again, this is subjective and completely up to your discretion. Here are a few reasons to start a new chapter:

  • Changing the point of view of the narrator

  • Taking a big jump into the future

  • Adding a flashback

3 Reasons to write your novel first and format later

write your novel

Many of our writers look for formatting options when they first try Novelize. They want to be able to indent paragraphs and have it show up that way when they export their work. Some of them want to adjust the line spacing, font, font color, and background color before they type a single word in their novel.

We get it. You’re used to doing things a certain way.

The fact is: if you’re particular about how your novel is formatted before you have even written it, then Novelize isn’t for you, because there’s only one thing that matters for Novelize writers: getting that novel written.

1.      To format is to procrastinate

Formatting your novel before you have created an outline or started on the first chapter is just another form of procrastination. Be honest, how much time do you spend on setting up your novel, determining the appropriate margins, selecting a font and font size, and more? If it’s more than a minute or two, it’s probably too much time.

2.      Different uses require different formats

You don’t even know which format you’ll end up needing once your novel is done. Maybe it turned out to be just a short story after all. Then you’d be submitting it under different guidelines altogether. Maybe you plan on publishing it as an eBook. Your formatting will have to be adjusted, depending on which format you end up using, whether that’s PDF, ePub, or Mobi. Formatting it now, before you have written it, is work that will have to be done again, when you’re ready to publish.

3.       Formatting can be automated

Since formatting your novel can be automated, there’s really no reason for you to be doing it. At Novelize, we have created a manuscript that’s already formatted to meet most manuscript submission requirements. Here is what the manuscript export entails:

  • Times New Roman Font

  • 12-point font, double spaced

  • Your contact information in the top left corner of the title page

  • Word Count (rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • Author name, title of novel, and page number on the top right of every page

And if something is slightly off in your final manuscript, then you can tweak those details when you’re ready.

Get that novel written first!

We may add additional formatting options in the future, for those of you who have to have things looking just right to feel the muse. But when it comes down to it, Novelize is never going to offer you an endless variety of formatting options. That’s because we don’t think you need to be formatting right now. Instead, you should be writing.

How to get of your rut and keep writing your novel

write novel change of scenery

Working on a novel isn’t always exciting. While you may spend hours on end pecking away at your keyboard, some days are much more subdued. If you’re not really feeling it, how can you get out of your rut and keep writing your novel? Why don’t you try a change of scenery?

Try a change of scenery

It can be really beneficial to write outside of your home office for a nice change of scenery. You don’t necessarily have to leave your home, either. In fact, we have come up with a whole list of exciting new writing locations for you to try:

  • At the library

  • At the Zoo

  • Next to the flower beds at the Botanical Garden

  • On a bench at the park

  • On the bus

  • By the pool

  • In your backyard

  • In your closet

  • On your front porch

  • At a coffee shop

  • At the museum

  • At the aquarium

  • Inside the shopping mall

  • On your bed

  • At a friend’s house

  • On a boat or ferry

  • At the campground

  • At your kitchen table

  • Inside the chicken coop

  • Inside a tree house

Don’t let this list stop you from finding other, more exciting places to write. However, there is one requirement your writing place has to meet: you have to like it. It should probably be comfortable enough to allow you to write for extended periods of time, too. But there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from taking a pillow or blanket with you to get cozy.

The great thing about writing in a different location than the one you normally choose is that it may spark your creativity. That’s one of the reasons people enjoy redecorating their home or moving their furniture around. Sometimes change can be really good.

It’s also possible that writing in another location has a calming effect on you. After all, you’re not there to see the dirty dishes in the sink. And you’re not reminded of your to-do-list that includes grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, and paying bills. Finally, if you end up writing outside, you might be in a better frame of mind just because the sun is shining on your face and there is a nice breeze in the air.

You don’t even have to work somewhere else every time you write in order to benefit from the change of location. However, getting out of your comfort zone on occasion is a good idea.