How to Write Your First Novel

While planning to become an indie author with 3BX, a creator can expect money along with crumbled papers, spilled coffee and broken pens

What to Expect When You’re Expecting… To Be An Author

You’ve had an idea for a book in the back of your head, huh? Well maybe it was the front of your head, but you keep trying to push it to the back of your head, don’t you?

Is it even possible to turn this idea into a book? It’s a pretty good idea (at least that’s what you think!) and when you tell your friends and family about it, they seem to gravitate towards liking your idea and encouraging you to write about it. However, you know all these people. Of course they are going to encourage you. The more you think about it, the more you realize:

This idea… No, this story, yes, this story. It needs to be told and it needs to be told in the pristine format of a novel. It can’t be that hard! Right? What could possibly be that hard about writing my first novel?

A horse jumps over books to demonstrate a new author looking to break into becoming an author

You’ve probably already noticed this, but there are many resources online when you go to research how to write a book — it’s pretty daunting. We all grew up having to do some form of creative writing in school, didn’t we? Shouldn’t I be good-to-go?

Personally, I had always enjoyed creative writing in school and was disheartened when there slowly became less of those assignments and more and more essay writing. I used to gripe: “Why on earth is there so much research essay writing?”Don’t get me wrong, though; as an adult, I love a well-researched essay. I’ve read through the works of Susan Sontag and loved them. As a child though? Not so much. 

Professionally, I’ve found that creative writing was the niche I wanted to take by storm. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place.  

Ready to get started writing your first novel? It’s almost time to sit down to write your first ever full-length story — but first, I’ll share some tips that I’ve gathered in my own career as an independent author.

How to Write Your First Novel

The first question I asked myself was this: How long should I make my novel? How many words should I aim for when writing my novel?

A quick google search says that a book must contain 40,000 words or more to be considered a novel. If it is any less than that it, will be considered a “novella,” which is more than acceptable (consider that both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Light in the Piazza were novellas). 

However, here’s what what google isn’t going to tell you: 40,000 words is going the minimum requirement for a novel to even be considered by most major publishing houses and book agents. 

You also must realize that most successful books are usually somewhere between 55,000 and 80,000 words. If you are wondering how many pages that translates to, 55k words runs you, on average, 120-125 pages. 80,000 words translates to around 175-180 pages. 

So, all of this said, what length do I suggest you strive for in your first creative novel? Don’t worry about that just yet!

You might think to yourself: “… but… I just want this to look really thick on the shelf…”

I’m here to say:

Get that phallic mindset out of your head… Just write the book until you get to the natural conclusion!

I promise you that you won’t even know how many pages the book is until it is formatted by either yourself or your publisher, which you aren’t close to being ready for. In my case, I learned how to self-format books.

A person is frustrated by their writers block in despair

How Do I Get a Publisher for My First Novel? Do I Need an Agent?

Regarding big-time publishers (you know their names, already, I’m sure!), you need to ask yourself whether or not you truly want to go through the process of working with a big name publisher.

In a perfect world, that $5-10k plus advance sounds sexy — it did in my head! What isn’t as sexy about working with a large publisher, though? You already must write several drafts of a book and get it proofread and pretty adequately edited before sending it off to an agent. You can’t solicit a novel directly. If you, do you’ll get the whole “well, we like it but how about changing this, changing that, changing all of this, we left what should stay the same in pink.”

Now at that point, you’ve found yourself flipping through the pages until you find one single 300 word paragraph that they liked. You’re thinking “… but that book was 50k words!” Yep, they liked 0.006% of your copy. Now, you are stuck having to make those changes or the deal’s off! 

On top of all of this, there reamins the fact that this is your first novel and you’re still learning the lay of the land. You aren’t going to be able to negotiate a contract where you retain majority rights, regardless of how developed your negotiation skills are. You simply don’t have enough “clout” to back it up!

A 3BX indie author showers themself in cash after publishing their first novel

Then, even when you do, there’s a harsh reality that exists when they decide to make a movie adaption of your book: You assuredly won’t have any say in anything that goes down in the movie created after your book. Rick Rioardan, author of the bestselling ‘Percy Jackson’ series discusses just how little say he had in his series’ respective film adaptation. E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, joins others in expressing similar disdain for their own works’ movie adaptations. It should also be noted that in recent years, some authors have found that they’ve gained more creative control in movie adaptations, but that all depends on that initial book contract (which in your case, won’t be doing you much good as a new author).

Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing — Which Type of Publishing Works Better for Authors?

To traditionally publish or to self-publish? That is the question! 

First, I want you to get the word self-published out of your mind. That’s a dirty word!

Call yourself “indie published” instead. That’s the word you are going to use from this moment onward. Your friend is in an indie band and it gets street cred from that. You love a good indie movie. Indie comes with a much more professional connotation and adds a tone of coolness. So, call it what it is: Indie. After all, who doesn’t like the sound of Independence for Independents in general?

What is the Best Advice for a New Author?

In general, I can only speak for myself. Like I mentioned, the concept of that instant advance check from a publishing company sounds sexy until you really look at what it is. That’s why, when it came down to it, I decided that I would give indie publishing a try.

First, I watched as many videos as possible on the subject, listened to the advice of others… and then I threw that all of it out the door. Why? That’s just human nature not to take advice during your first go around and then you go back to the drawing board. 

A caterpillar tries to summit a stack of books to demonstrate the struggle behind becoming an author without the 3BX marketing social media app

Your first novel is always going to be the one you go back to and try to fix and tinker with. I know I have many times. I will be publishing the third edition of it sometime within the next year or so. This third edition is more so for changing up my branding a bit. However, regardless… artists, writers, whatever… we are always going to be our own biggest critics and we are always going to be the hardest people to please even when it comes down to pleasing our own self with something of our own making.

There are so many technical things I could get into with this. I could tell you about the fun of the final reread, when you get the first copy of the physical copy in the mail and the spine has the wrong font on it and then — oh my God — the wrong spelling of your name is all over it. Then during your next print you had someone format your book and put the about you section at the front of the novel…

…the list goes on. These things seem to just sort of happen. 

When you become an indie author you are essentially becoming a small business owner and a brand. It is both empowering and scary at the same time. You realize quickly that you have two options:

  1. Write for fun and hobby, or; 
  2. Make this a business. 

If it sounds like becoming a business-minded author means that your passion is eclipsed by a non-creative, corporate mindset then you would be incorrect. I can promise you that, at least when it comes to me personally as someone who chose #2, I still spend hours thinking of these characters in my head — I dream of these characters, I think about how a character would answer a phone call and what a character’s reaction to something going on in the real world would be constantly. 

The fact of the matter is that I want the world to enjoy these characters as much as I do. I want them to have similar thoughts to myself once they’ve gone down the rabbit hole of one of my books. However, to get those characters out there you must remind yourself that will cost money in advertising, marketing and more. Like any business, it’s an investment — I promise, you’ll soon realize you can make that money back and the concept of a profiting off of your own brand is a very, very cool thing.

Your journey as a writer is your own. Like most things in life, you get to make it up as you go along. You might only want to write one book. That’s fine. That one book might take ten, twenty, even forty plus years to write. It may sell five copies. It might sell hundreds or even thousands. So, press your fingers up against the keyboard and go to town. Good luck and have fun!

About the Author

Anthony Lobaito A.K.A. L.A. Michaels is the current Director of Public Relations in the 3BX Marketing department. Michigan born and raised with two year stint between Wichita, Kansas and Rock Hill, South Carolina, Lobaito is the published author of seven novels and counting. Outside of his professional life, Lobaito is an avid pop culture junkie, comic book fan, music lover and cinephile.

Anthony Lobaito, Director of Public Relations at 3BX

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