You want to write your novel, but you haven’t had the time or opportunity to formally learn the writing craft at university or any writing courses. You have an excellent command of the language, but should you wait to get your bestseller started? Can you write a novel even if you haven’t taken any courses?
You can write a novel without having any training, but it’s likely that the book will stand a higher chance of being successful if you take time to learn the craft. Although some literary giants have written novels without formal training, most celebrated authors practiced their craft diligently.
Some people believe you can’t teach a person to write, while others say anyone can write a novel if they have the training, but where do you stand? Stick around to find out why you’re less likely to write a successful novel without dedicating time to training.
Why Do You Need Training To Write a Novel?
You will benefit from training to write a novel because it takes time to learn how to craft a novel properly. Training teaches you to plot a story and keeps your writing from meandering into dead ends. It also teaches you to read critically and learn from other authors.
Let’s now talk about the main reasons untrained novelists may face difficulties.
To Write a Good Novel, You Need To Put in the Hours
Like any apprentice, you probably need to put in your hours to learn your craft. You might be able to write startling prose, but a successful novel is a system of many moving parts that usually takes time to master.
Just because you know how to use a shifting spanner does not mean that you are a qualified engine mechanic. The same can be said about writing.
The novels you read and love may seem seamless and fluid but behind the scenes, a writer’s mind uses all their crafting skills to make the illusion seem real. You can learn and use these devices to elevate your work and increase your chances of a breakout novel.
However, learning the craft takes time and practice, and it won’t happen overnight. It will be worth it, and besides, who needs yet another mediocre book out there in the digital abyss?
Writer Training Teaches You To Read Critically
The adage “readers are leaders” is undoubtedly true in this case. Most successful novelists are avid readers, and each will explain the icon who inspired and motivated them to write a novel in the first place.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that you can kick up your feet on your favorite ottoman and have a jolly good read. You actually want to start reading critically, which means you reread the books you admire and start examining all the moving parts that made up the whole.
For instance, you may investigate how the author brought the characters to life through dialogue and action. Raymond Carver (with the wizardry of Gordon Lish) used minimalism to strip his characters down to their bare bones, which made his characters jump off the page.
Or J D Salinger’s use of highly self-conscious narration in colloquial style created a magic set as it was against his finely nuanced prose. All of the greats are there to train you in their specific brand of cloak and dagger magic behind their seamless prose. Take a pencil and start making notes.
Writer Training Teaches You the Mechanics of Plot
Understanding the mechanics of the plot is probably essential to creating an engaging piece of writing. Although a few writers managed to forgo plotting and emerged full-fledged, this is rarely the case for those who lack training, both formal and informal.
You could view the basics of a plot in the following way:
- Rising Action
- Falling Action
Ultimately a plot creates character development, suspense, and energy, and evokes the emotional response from the reader that separates a great novel from a lesser one.
There are also monomyths in the underlying structure, such as “The Hero’s Journey,” that define some of the most successful novels and films that were ever written. All of this knowledge will help lift your writing from the mundane to the stellar.
Training Keeps Your Writing on Track
E L Doctorow once compared writing a novel to driving on a dark road in the fog with only your headlights on. Without training, one could say that writing is like driving in the fog at night in another country you have never visited.
Watch out for the overpass!
Many enthusiastic and talented writers have raced out the gates with an idea and hammered out their masterpiece only to hit a brick wall a third to a halfway through the slog.
Training gives you the structure of your story so that your story doesn’t meander into a boggy marshland and sink. Creating conflict, pacing your action, and building tension is the key to bringing your story to life and keeping you from drifting off the long foggy road.
Can I Train Myself To Write a Novel?
You can train yourself to write a novel. There is a lot of literature on the writing craft written by those who have experience in bringing stories and characters to life. However, you’ll probably benefit from joining other writers either in a writers group or online writing courses as it encourages productivity.
You need not take a fancy course for a fortune or enroll in a creative writing program, although it certainly helps. Here are some of my favorite books on writing that you may access to train yourself, which are all Available on Amazon.com.
- Tom Chiarella: Writing Dialogue. Chiarella contains a wealth of advice to make your characters climb off the page.
- Donald Maas: The Emotional Craft of Fiction. Maas gives an excellent blueprint for engaging your reader’s motion through various literary devices.
- James Scott Bell: Superstructure. Bell gets nitty-gritty and talks you through your novel scene by scene for maximum reader engagement.
- Lisa Cron: Wired For Story. This fascinating book looks at the reader’s neurological response and how to engage this hardwired response through narrative.
- John Truby: The Anatomy of Story, The highly successful scriptwriter Truby uses his experience crafting complex narratives and emotionally engaging the audience/reader.
With these books, among other greats, you could train yourself in the elements of craft necessary to create a great story, but ultimately you will only learn through putting your fingers to the keyboard.
Short stories are a great option to hone your skills and don’t require the commitment of a longer novel, although they will put you through your paces.
Although you can write a novel without training, it’s a great idea to set aside the time to understand the craft and, of course, to write, write and write.
The great and tragic part of writing is that we learn as much from our mistakes as our success, which means you need to keep trying. With practice, your prose will shake off its difficulties and shine.