Writing a Novel Is Like Planting a Tree

A budding writer can and should explore what may be a life-changing pursuit

The joy of writing a novel is like planting a tree and anticipating its blooms. Photo by Tiểu Bảo Trương from Pexels

Writing a novel is not easy, even if there are claims to the contrary.

We see such claims on our social media feeds in the guise of invitations to enrol in a writing course. Prompts like Writing Novels Made Easy or Write a Novel and Be Famous may appeal to budding writers, or to those who are seriously considering becoming a novelist.

There is nothing wrong in signing up for writing courses or joining writing seminars. Participants may gain new insights in writing, and about the industry itself.

If the coach is a well-known author, much can be learned from the course. The value of what they share that are culled from their personal experience cannot be underestimated.

If the writing seminar is offered by a book agent, tips on how to land a book agent will be an advantage.

Not everyone, however, is inclined to spend much time in studying or commit to paying up for an expensive course. So let me share what I have learned in my humble journey as a novelist.

Plan and structure your idea for a novel, see it grow like a tree

The plot. It is the focal point on which the entire novel hinges. It may be a central question that underpins the story for development. But note that a plot should already have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. This is crucial to remember.

(In my first romantic novel, the plot involved a not-very-conservative lady who fell madly in love with a priest who was unwavering in his oath of celibacy. In my second, the plot was about a feminist who worked for a man whose business was perceived to exploit women. In those plots, I already had the three pivots, riveted on conflict and complexity.)

Photo of the budding lilac tree by the author

A story plot, hence, is akin to a seedling that you are aiming to grow into a tree.

And when aiming to grow a tree, you already have in mind which plot of land or space in your garden the tree will be planted.

This time, though, let us aim for a tub on which to plant the seedling.

Developing the story. This is the part in which names are assigned to characters, how the story will progress, and how the central issues will be resolved towards the ending.

Naming the characters involves giving them flesh and blood. Under story development, do a character sketch for each: age, physical looks, how they dress, where they live, education, mannerisms, temperament, quirks and peculiarities if applicable, et al.

A novelist cannot make a protagonist or a minor player do anything that is out of sync with his/her characterization. A book editor will question you on this.

The back story. This is essential to the novel for without a back story, there can be no intrigue, no motivations nor complications that are required for the resolution of the story.

As the back story is developed, the story structure should progress as well.

A sample of a timeline I am currently using in my WIP. My novel covers a period of more than a hundred years, and a spreadsheet is a helpful tool for a book author not to lose track of dates, ages, et al

If your novel covers a lengthy period of time, I will suggest doing a timeline, as shown above.

I started doing a timeline after having written several romance novels. I learned the hard way why it was important to have an easily accessible structured timeline.

As I tended to have a lot of physical notes, some of which were interspersed with my other writing projects, it was an inconvenience checking dates, settings, ages. A timeline plotted in a spreadsheet will come in handy.

As the plot and the characterizations and the back story are developed, we can think of the tree we planted on the tub as having more leaf-buds.

Photos of these young lilac trees by the author

And as further story development progresses, your novel, like a newly-planted tree, will gain more branches and leaves.

When your tree has grown to a point where most branches have young leaves and more leaf-buds, in reference to the story you’re developing, then you’re ready to sit down and write your novel.

So, what are you waiting for?

Good luck, and may your tree grow taller and more robust and start flowering in terms of huge sales.


First published here.

Thank you very much for reading!

Find me on LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Author’s Page | Medium | Vocal Media

You can also find some of my 200+ romance novels on pinoypub.ph under my by-line Josie Aventurado and my pen names Heart de la Rosa and Noreen del Mar.

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