Really Useful Links for Starting Your Novel | Resources | Links for Writers

Paul FitzSimons

Last week it was self-publishing and all that involved. This week, we’re reversing course to take a look at internet resources that help with actually starting your novel. Concept, structure, plot, characters – a novel is a brave feat to take on. And, as with all big feats, the right start is hugely important.

This week we dip into The Guardian newspaper, which has a great section on its website dedicated to writing fiction. This is an archive post, but just as pertinent today as when it was written, where Jill Dawson talks about the importance of getting started.

Over at her website, American paranormal author Shonda Brock knows the key to getting your novel started – organisation. She talks about the well-established writing process of ‘mind-mapping’ as well laying out a few other options for organising the various elements of your book.

When it comes to structure, there is a lot to be said for breaking your novel up into parts or ‘acts’. John Mc The Writer tells us more about the act structure and the advantages to and pitfalls of using it.

Outlining your plot and characters will make your life easier when it comes to writing chapters (believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way). Knowing your plot and any subplots will keep you on the straight and narrow and prevent your story meandering and having a good idea of your characters will ensure that nobody in your book does anything…well, out-of-character. The Duolit team give us a useful guide into writing outlines, telling us why we really should use them and even providing us with some templates ideal for building your plot and characters.

When it comes to writing the dreaded synopsis, it is this writer’s opinion that it (or a first draft anyway) should be written before the novel itself. But whenever you decide to tackle the synopsis, the Whoosh editing service offer some good advice on what an ideal synopsis should be, what should be included in it and, importantly, what shouldn’t.


“It was a start. I believe in starts. Once you get the start, the rest is inevitable.” Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, The Commitments.


A false start is better than no start.

Novelist Jill Dawson tells us on the Guardian’s fiction-writing website that getting going is the first crucial step.

“Mired in research? Fearful of failure? Procrastination is the writer’s biggest enemy. Fight it: a series of false starts is better than no start at all.”


Organisation is the key.

Shonda Brock on the organisation of novel-writing.

“Writing takes forethought, planning, revision and above all, organization. To keep your plot cohesive, your story arc in time and your characters well-defined, some framework must be laid.”–writing-fiction/2231225


3 acts? 5 acts? The Importance of Structure.

John Mc talks about Act Structure and how they can help write your novel.

“Structure! Structure! Structure! Sometimes one might imagine that this is all there is to script writing the way some writing teachers and coaches talk – me included.”


Outlining will make life easier.

Shannon and Toni run the Duolit site to assist self publishers. This is Duolit’s take on why we should outline our novels.

“What’s your book about? No, no, I don’t want the long explanation. If you started with “Well, um, you see…there’s this girl…” I immediately stopped listening and started thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight.”


‘Synopsis’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word. is the website of freelance editor and creative writing specialist Hayley Sherman. Hayley worked in journalism and teaching before turning her talents to the publishing industry where she has spent years working with writers of all genres (fiction and non-fiction) to enhance the quality and clarity of their vision.

Time to write your synopsis? Here’s the insight Whoosh have to offer.

“It would be a tragedy for your masterpiece to remain in the loft because you were synopsiphobic. You can do it, but the essential here is planning.”

About the author

(c) Paul FitzSimons
Paul FitzSimons has been a writer for seven years and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’  and the start of two others. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’ and has developed a number of TV dramas. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers.Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He does not like country-and-western music or people who don’t know how to indicate on roundabouts.

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