It’s said that everyone has a book in them, and many people dream of ditching the day job and writing a best-seller. Knowing where to start when you’ve not written a book before can be a challenge so here are five things you need to know before you start writing.


Whether you are writing for pleasure, or with the aim of getting published, it helps to know how many words you are aiming for. A short story comes in around 1,000-15,000 words (anything less is classed as micro fiction), a novella is between 15,000 and 50,000, and you’ll be looking at 50,000 to 100,000 for a novel. Although there are books which fall outside this remit (War and Peace, anyone?) these are realistic lengths to aim for and most stories can be told within this wordcount. Beat the bloat, longer is not always better!

The Best Writers are Readers

Structure is important in a novel and the best way to learn how to structure a novel is to read widely. If you are planning on writing a sci-fi thriller, read books by successful authors in the genre to research when the pivotal points are. There are many non-fiction books and websites which provide you with a framework so you know when the major ‘beats’ (memorable points that move the plot along) happen. Using these is not cheating – utilise the resources available to you so you are able to write a cohesive, engaging novel.

Be a Plotter (or a Pantser)

Writers fall into two categories – ‘plotters,’ who plan out their novel before writing and ‘pantsers,’ who instead choose to fly by the seat of their pants. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, with pantsers seeing the time plotters spend meticulously planning their work a waste of precious writing time. Plotters find it hard to believe pantsers can draft a novel without hitting the wall or leaving a gaping plot hole. Whichever method you try, remember you can always embrace the positives of each – work with a brief outline to help you scaffold your writing but allow your imagination to run wild with the smaller details.

You Need a Reliable Laptop

Writing a novel by hand is an arduous task, especially when it comes to the editing stage. To help with this, invest in a reliable laptop by a brand like Lenovo, save your work in multiple places and sleep well knowing your precious words are safe. You don’t want a heart-stopping moment worrying that you’ve lost your manuscript!

Writers Need to Write

The dream of being a writer stems from the romantic portrayal of authors in films and TV. From the glamour of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City to Colin Firth writing in a remote lakeside cottage in France in Love Actually, writers in pop culture live the perfect life. The reality is, to be a writer you need to dedicate time to writing your novel and keep dedicating that time until you reach those two glorious words ‘THE END.’

Writing your first novel is a challenge – it will take longer than you expect and there will be obstacles you didn’t imagine in your way – but the pride when you have finished your manuscript will more than make up for the blood, sweat and tears. Enjoy the process, and good luck!