Writing Tips

The Ingredients For A Great Novel

how to write a novel


Writing a novel is much more than the analysis of grammar, sentence structure, and use of witty words.  It’s a deep swim into your headspace. It’s a doorway to creating a new world with limitless possibilities.

More than anything, it’s a fun-filled responsibility. Your characters are puppets on a string only you get to pull. You get to choose their fate. You get to be the advocate and the judge.

So how can you do justice to the characters you’ve created? What are the ingredients for a great novel?

Here are the basics:


A Captivating Opening: 

It is your opening that is going to intrigue the reader into reading the book further. After all, the first impression is the last impression. 


Think about Toni Morrison’s Paradise- They shoot the white girl first. 


Such an opening automatically invokes the questions in the reader’s mind and lures them in.



Writing a book without a clear vision usually ends in disaster. Now, I am not asking you to bind your creativity into an outline or limit your muse. But having a summary or a directional document serves as a safety net. If you get stuck or lose your balance, you can always look back to review your initial plan.


Powerful Description: 

You paint a picture through the words; invite the reader on the emotional roller coaster your story has created. If you have created an outline, drawing out a powerful description will be hassle-free. Use all the five sensory imagery (touch, sight, taste, smell and sound) to help a reader envision the scene you’re describing.


Take this for example:


“I can hear the rain falling outside the burned-out building, its loud, heavy drops smacking on canvas. It’s falling inside too, trickling in through gaping holes in the roof down through floors of rotted wood and broken staircases.” 


– Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger



Developed and Evolving Characters: 

Create evolving characters. A good character has desires and motives; who has lost something and is struggling to find it again. Amidst the struggle, the character evolves because he has to hold his ground, fight the obstacles, resolve the conflicts and then rise again like a phoenix. And that’s the essence of evolved, developed characters. 



Write brief and impactful dialogues that give each character a distinct voice. Your dialogue should serve either of these purposes:


  1. Reveal a character’s personality 
  2. Advance the story
  3. Present an exposition of past events


Show, Show, Show and Tell a Bit: 

You want your readers to see before they know that it’s cold. You want them to see that your character was walking down the snow-covered road in her boots and the scarf wrapped around her face. And then you have to tell just a tad bit about the weather and what she is feeling – makes for a perfectly balanced show and tell.


Tension and Release: 

Your protagonist was looking for her leather jacket but couldn’t find it until she saw a homeless guy wearing it. And then the guy vanishes into thin air. 

Tension keeps a reader turning the pages. But it’s also important to pace your suspense. Don’t keep a constant stream of enticing things. Practice ‘ebb and flow’ and keep events concrete with a timed release. 


A Satisfying Conclusion: 

Your story’s ending shouldn’t leave your reader into some kind of internal or emotional conflict. Now that’s completely up to you if you have planned to write a whole trilogy so you have ended the story with a cliffhanger. But a satisfying conclusion is what a reader looks forward to, the most.

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”