How To Write A Novel: The First-Time Author's Course

Learning to learn from your mistakes

In the previous lesson, you wrote down everything that came to mind, with no planning, editing or polishing of any kind. It was quite the thrill though, wasn’t it? Those first few steps into your story world; following along with characters that spawned from your imagination: it’s all a pretty miraculous thing. 

Of course, just because it’s magical doesn’t mean it’s any good. Just like you’re not gonna backflip-corkscrew the first time you ski, your first writings won’t be bringing home any Pulitzer Prizes. And there’s no shame in that, at all: at this point in time, your only goal is to write something a little bit better than whatever you wrote last. 

It may sound cynical, but starting out as a writer is all about cutting yourself some slack. After all, never slipping up isn’t the mark of a great writer; it’s a warning sign that you’re being way too careful. Allow yourself to follow your instincts; to go out and make a glorious mess and then learn from those experiences. Many of your first writings will be cheesy, or dull, or predictable, and that’s exactly as it should be — you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

So before we move on, let’s get you into that learning mindset:

Read your first writings out loud. Note down anything that makes you hesitate, cringe or giggle.

It’s a short exercise, but oh so important. You can take notes using a highlighter, or a notebook, or inline comments on your computer: whatever works best for you. And don’t worry about typos, at this stage: instead, focus on the story you’re trying to tell. You’ll notice there’s plenty of room for improvement, and that’s an amazing asset as a writer — the better you train your critical eye, the greater the strides you’ll be able to make.

When you truly can’t think of anything else, let’s go put those notes to use.

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About the author

Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

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Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

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