If you’re going to write a novel, you need to know exactly what a novel is—and what it isn’t.
A novel, strictly speaking, is a lengthy work of fiction. Depending on what genre you’re writing in, a novel might range anywhere from 40,000 to 125,000 words—that’s 160 to 500 pages. There are novels that are shorter or longer than this, of course, but that’s about the average.
In general, it’s accepted that a novel is 50,000 words and up.
Beyond that, the only real guideline is that a novel is fiction—that the events and characters in the narrative are strictly imaginary. Nonfiction works have their own unique set of guidelines and criteria, and are written using different techniques and concepts. (We also have a guide on how to write a nonfiction book if you’re interested in that.)
You can write in a huge variety of fiction genres—science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, mystery, horror, suspense, paranormal, magical realism, Western, historical fiction, YA, middle grade, gothic, Southern, and so many more—or you can combine genres. You can even create your very own cross-genre or genre-bending category!
That’s the awesome thing about fiction: the only limit to what you can create is your imagination.
But this abundant freedom can also be a little intimidating. With so many options, how do you figure out what to write about and how to start your novel?
Right now, you need to decide how you want to go about the novel-writing process. Do you want to be a plotter or a pantser?
Elements of a Novel
If you’re thinking about writing a novel, odds are you already have some idea of what you want to write about —you have a character nudging at the back of your mind that won’t leave you alone, or you’ve come up with an idea for an amazing imaginary world, or you’ve got this fantastic idea for a thrilling adventure.
That right there is your starting place. You don’t need to have every element of the story established before you begin—it’s enough to have one element that has grabbed you and won’t let you go.
We’ll work out the other elements as you go along!
What are those elements?
- World or Setting
You can boil these down to four main areas:
- Story Arc
If you liked this post, here are some other articles you might love:
- Naming Your Novel: How to Choose a Fiction Title That Fits
- How to Write Great Descriptions in Novels: 4 Ways Overwriting Can Sink Your Story
- Elements of a Great First Chapter: 5 Things Your Novel Needs Before Chapter Two
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.