When I was very young, 10 years old I was lucky enough to have a school visit from Michael Rosen. He said something which stuck with me for the rest of my life. To be able to write fiction of any type you need to imagine the story in your head like a movie and then write what you see. This has stuck with me since then. It was the first time I realised that I could write a novel. I could see the characters and action in stories as clear as if I was watching it on a TV screen. J.K. Rowling shared a train ride home with a imaginary Harry Potter and at that point knew she had to write his story. For this reason, my first piece of advice would always be.
1) Have a clear story in your mind. – Imagine the characters personalities, back stories and appearance. You will not include all these details in your novel but, know your character. Successful authors have back stories and facts about their characters that never make the final draft.
2) Start with tension. – Action despite what some readers say is not always the best way to start a novel. Action which is out of context can bore some readers. This is why I would say start your novel with tension. A character dilemma or problem is a good way to introduce your characters. It also starts the book with a punch that makes the reader want to read further. Whatever tension you decide to start the book with make sure your first sentence and chapter is the best in the book. This will keep the reader engaged. There is also important to ensure the first line of every chapter is engaging and sets the scene for what is to come.
3) End each chapter on a cliffhanger. – As much as you want to start every chapter with a killer line you also want to end every chapter on a slight cliffhanger. Again, this is an excellent way to keep the reader progressing through the book. I know many a long night where I have read way longer than I should have with the mentality ‘oh just one more chapter.’
4) Give your characters obstacles to overcome. – As the book progresses allow your characters to face obstacles and problems. Allow your characters to develop their personality and grow as the book continues. It is not true to think that all your lead characters should be perfect. Some of the best novels I have read have a flawed lead character. Someone who isn’t perfect, makes mistakes and deals with problems. It is far more realistic to have a flawed main character than a perfect one.
5) Understand your audience. – Are you writing a fantasy novel? A crime novel? Erotica? Genres are all different. These should be told in different ways. Audiences of each have different expectations that you need to cover. This is why it is important to write for a genre that you enjoy reading. You are your best audience and know what the expectations are for this.
Finally whatever path you travel to write your fiction enjoy the process. A book that has been a labour of love with resonate with the readers far more than one which was a drag to write.