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On Finishing A Novel 

I typed the last word of my first novel a few weeks ago. And I knew what came next. Editing. But I decide that it should be saved for another day. And I know it is the hardest thing to ever accomplish for a writer. 

Finishing a novel can be one of the greatest joys, I was so happy when I typed the last sentence of my first novel. After three failed tries, this was the charm. I made it to the end, after two years of struggling to finish a work. 

There isn’t a joy much like finishing your first novel, no matter how much you know needs to be revised again. Or edited again. But the joy cannot be shaked off, it’s not something everyone can do. Not something everyone can actually finish. And it takes an insane amount of determination to be writing and at the same time, not give in and try to edit the words. That can be done later.  

This is more of a personal experience, since I do count finishing a novel as a milestone. But I think that with my three failed tries and attempts before getting something, there are some tips I would give to those who are still in the midst of this. And what I feel is helpful advice. 

#1 If It Doesn’t Work, Don’t Push It 

This is the best advice I could give you, if you feel as though that work doesn’t work well together. Or you simply cannot find the inspiration to push on, forget about it. Just drop it and leave it at the side. Don’t push yourself, or the work. Chances are, you are going to stuff it down the drawer at the end. You aren’t going to flip it and look through. 

Just follow your heart when your Just tell you it’s time to stop. Trust me, you wouldn’t end up having too many wasted words and time.

#2 Take Your Time 

Take your time, don’t rush it. When you are writing your first work, you are simply testing the waters here. Don’t push yourself or you will burn out. I was writing at a slow pace for a long time, before it picked up last year and this year. My schedule was insane, and it was insane to push myself so much. But at the end of it, I found myself being able to meet it and finally finish a work. Now, I’m slowing things down for my exams and just taking a more leisure pace here. 

But just take your time, I barely survived that insane schedule I set myself too. And plan your work out, you wouldn’t want to end up forgetting an important detail or hit a wall you can never overcome. 

#3 Forget About The Past 

Don’t worry how bad your words at the beginning are. There are still a lot more things you need to cover, such as foreshadowing, plotting. All this also needs to be added in, and chances are, unless you have written it all. You probably wouldn’t know. And all those hard work with editing the sentences would once more go to naught, and starting from scratch all over again. It makes a lot more sense to focus on finishing a work, before focusing on all the smaller details. 

Overall, this are generally my input on finishing a novel. Through years of experience, failed attempts this are what I managed to gather. But if you feel differently, please tell me. 

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Making Characters Realistic

Realistic characters are really difficult to create, and really difficult to handle. Even if they lack the sort of heroism that most protagonists have, but when they are done well I like them a lot more than before. 

Why? 

Because it means that they aren’t immune, they also have an awareness about them. It makes them relatable, because they do not want to lose their head. If they selflessly sacrificed themselves each time for the other, I will be more likely to end up scratching my head as to what it happening. And I would find them to be Jesus instead of real people I can love and believe in. 

So, what are my tips for making characters a little more believable. 

#1 Making Then Choose 

There is nothing more difficult than handling this, since a lot of times we would have a really good relationship with all the main characters. We find them likeable. But moral dilemmas would happen, dilemmas about what to choose and whether they should simply just accept and move on or fight it. 

It is giving them two difficult choices with endings that can turn out to be less than ideal. It can be endings that has a risk. And that is what makes them believable, when they are making a tough decision. When they know that there is no easy way out and there is no way to eat the cake and still have it. And having them to make a choice, a personal sacrifice to either this or that. 

#2 Making Them Suffer The Consequences 

Every action would have a consequence, that is something that we cannot change. And it cannot have them only have a light slap on the wrist and that’s it. 

I really like books which don’t let the characters off easy, they suffer but they survive. That is the whole point of being a main character, who wants to read about a main character who has a perfect life with almost no obstacles. No problems. 

That would be boring isn’t it? So make it hard, make them lose something precious to them. Make them suffer through the ordeal. As we said, something that does not kill us makes us stronger. 

#3 Knowing their mistakes and redeeming themselves

It is important that mistakes are fleshed out, mistakes are brought up. And redemption is earned not given. I would prefer that most characters know their actions would have an impact on the surroundings. That it won’t end in happily ever after for them. And I like happy endings which are earned rather than given. 

And that the characters need to work for their redemption, they need to do a lot just to have that. People are quick to hate and slow to forgive, and making characters take a long time to earn makes it believable and plausible. Or perhaps an apology from a character that never feels as though he has done anything wrong. 

Having them do all this makes it really believable as we all have done something wrong in our lives, we all have disappointed someone. So, isn’t it correct to have them redeem themselves and try to earn it. That makes it a lot more believable than just apologizing and it’s all forgotten. That would be impossible. 

These are all my tips when it comes to making characters more believable. If you have any more, feel free to leave them below, I really want to hear from you regarding this. 

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Making A Character Three-dimensional 

This can be one of the most difficult to pull off, and even sometimes I can barely pull it off. Making three dimensional characters is a must in almost any book, if you ask me. But it is also the headache for many writers, even me to an extent. 

The first thing which I would say would help make your characters three-dimensional is giving them a flaw. Or a number of them. Some small, some big. And enough to make them believable to a reader. Having one flaw can be quite boring, but a few where they would need to rely on others is more suitable instead. And one might just lead to their downfall. 

Another is develop details, sometimes certain quirks or details help to make a character have a little more depth. Even more so when why did they eventually develop such a habit, it can be quite fun to invent the various back stories constructed in such a way to make them so. 

Their quirks and habits, must reflect their mindset. Or at least give a nudge that there is a lot more than what meets the eye, or even any disabilities they might have. Not shove it into the reader’s face or simply mention it but also show it in some ways that they are as such. 

And most importantly, is to have another side to them. Rather than the usual characters personality, show a little more to them. It can make the book a little funnier, a little darker, a little more deep. Also, it must be a smooth transition or hinted from early on that they might have such a side or personality. Only that it is hidden from them. 

Most importantly, is to always be honest with the character you have and their motivations, their goals and their morality. Show what their mind is thinking, show what kind of actions they would take. And also, let their actions and words define them, you can justify it from their point of view but they should never change or become a gentler version of what they should have been. 

It is also to portray them in their true colours if they are main characters. Otherwise, they wouldn’t even sound like themselves anymore, just hypocrites if done unintentionally can be rather off putting. 

So, do you have any other ways to make a character three-dimensional? Feel free to leave it below, it is always welcome. 

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Improving Your Craft

To others that might include a lot of steps. But to me, I guess the main idea is to write, write and write. You probably wouldn’t know what sounds good on your first novel, but after countless tries, your work would sound better albeit still not perfect. 

But the most basic thing you have to do first is to write, write a first draft that is horrible, write a short story, write anything that doesn’t sounds right. Experiment. Just write basically. You won’t get it right the first time, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t later on. 

But like I said, you have to write. There is no simple way to go over it. Trust me, I thought that by reading writing tips my work will be a lot better than others. That my work would be a notch higher. Unfortunately, never worked out. You will only learn if you constantly write, and keep writing. 

And it’s simpler than having to attend workshops, courses on writing, which I have never even stepped foot into one. Although I used the internet for advice and tips, but at the end of the day it drill doesn’t help much with the exception of writing. 

If you want to say that failure doesn’t sound right to you, let me tell you that in this, you probably have to expect a lot of failures and disappointment. It’s in the life of a writer, when you get a critique that has a list long of suggestions where you can improve, trust me, it will happen and no work is immune to it, there isn’t an objective book in writing, only subjective. And you probably need to have something to show them, you can talk all you want about the book but if it doesn’t exist because you haven’t started writing then it is quite a waste. 

So, what are you waiting for? Just pick up the pen, as let’s face it, there is no perfect time to write a book, it’s either we do it now or we will never get around to it. 

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Making A Story Original

A story can be as clichéd or as original as you want to be. There always will be borrowed elements from elsewhere, but to me it is bringing something new to these elements and frankly speaking what you think of them. 

I mean, we write books which are meant to be subjective. There is no one size fits all in this approach, and nothing will be able to satisfy all. You have to accept that there will be people who hate your novel and people who also will love it to pieces. Thus the only important thing is to always bring in how you feel about the world into your book it is always present even if it is reduced to nothing more than subtlety within your own book. And to never shortchange your readers. 

As such, to be original is to just bring a new twist to it. To show things in a different light. And also, what you think makes up the particular genre you are writing in. And most importantly, whose story you are telling. 

No work is fully original, we all borrow a little here and there but what is original is how we say things, it is also how we write them and present our ideas and thoughts through novels. 

As such, to be original to me is to really enjoy what you are writing. If you put your heart into it, it will feel original rather than a novel who basically had all the elements in a checklist. 

Also, all writers would present it differently. Their works would all have something inherently different, if not then it’s basically plagiarising, to be able to have some original ideas mean some novelty and something different from other books itself. All books published I do have to admit has this, even if the execution doesn’t really make any like it. 

For me, this is what I think is necessary to being original. What do you think about this topic? What else could make your works a little more original? 

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On Worldbuilding

To me, this is as important as making characters itself. How your world is structured would make your characters, it would show what kind of society they grew up in, the kind of beliefs they were raised in. And to me, it is important. 

Some writers treat this as a character itself, to me it is an interesting perspective to see. That the world is intricate and hard to define in one sentence, it basically sums up our world. Where there are so many things which are so simple yet so complex, there are completely different explanations for children and adults. Just like morality, Jo answer is completely right, and most of the time it comes in shades of grey. 

To me, history plays an integral part in shaping my world. It tells me that to make a believable world, I need to show the history having its own merits and faults, and how the world is flawed itself. If the world was perfect, it would be called an utopia rather than what it is. And writing utopian works; they are simply hard to pull off. How do you write a work of an utopian world, a dystopia would work far better. 

To me, it is also figuring out how the world would impact the characters and what sort of characters might come out of it. Especially in long sagas about fantasy, the world plays a large part in making characters who they are or what they believe. Such as whether it’s a patriarchal society or matriarchal society, whether both genders are treated equally, whether they respect power and authority. It all plays a part in making the characters. 

With the world set, possible back stories can be made with the context of the world itself, and hence making the character even more believable with the environment they have grew up with and the sort of life they had lived. As long as the world is developed enough to justify the personality of the character and also how it happens to them. 

To me, worldbuilding can also be a fascinating topic. I once did a note on nothing but earrings, but they were quite an important way to show their status in my book, as such the development was necessary to me. For me, worldbuilding is about as much as the important beliefs, traditions, more than miniscule details which might matter little. For me, focus on what is important in the world. And don’t be afraid to use the real world as an inspiration and helping you to figure out some details and also use objects as a way of symbolism. That to me, has always been one which I loved to use in my books if I could find an appropriate form to use it. 

Worldbuilding can be fun, and also sometimes just let yourself loose and surf the net. I always end up surprised what I end up searching, the history of the world is basically your best friend here. There are plenty of interesting facts about the world waiting to be discovered in fact. 

As for those who didn’t worldbuilding daunting, just stop trying to fill your notes with words and details that might matter little, more on what is important and vital to the story for it to feel realistic. And also, leave it alone until you feel as though you want to add something. Mine are still sparse till this day but I keep in mind on what I develop and write in the actual document itself.  

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Creating Believable Characters

This applies to main characters mostly. I really hate characters which are always doing the right thing. They are simply not believable to me in the least. Whenever I read a book about such characters, most of the time I think they are stupid. 

There is always a fine line between having a moral code and forgiving and simply being a self harming idiot. And I absolutely despite villains who just change at the last moment, it never happens at all and please don’t tell me that he was possessed, it simply feels cheap. 

I really like realistic characters, and maybe it’s why I end up writing mostly anti-heroes, or even villains. Those that are realistic and sound in their decisions. Rather than being irrational and saving the world because of it. 

If a hero always manages to go through everything without ever growing at all, and not growing through any ordeal. Then, he is simply a flat character. He does not learn anything from his own adventures and simply is not a good hero. 

Or heroes whose view on the world never changes, even slightly. It doesn’t have to be as big as from good to evil. Perhaps a little more willing to sacrifice others for the greater good or just willing to accept that some are beyond saving. That’s a change. The saviour complex sometimes needs to stop really. 

And also, don’t try and link characters together by a prophecy. It’s old and it’s tried. For me, a far better and more interesting thing is to watch characters dig their own graves, and characters becoming their downfall through their own mistakes. I really like characters that are also driven whether by revenge, or any other means. They just need to have a goal, and not just a person that the reader slip into. 

They also must grow and change. Like earlier, it can be anything from personalities or moral ethnics, but I believe the goal should not change much at all. I strongly dislike characters who just change their goal unless they have achieved it or found a better goal. They should never just be solely forgetting the previous goal. Goals can make or a break a character, especially villains and protagonists. Their goal should always be opposite of each other to be interesting. 

Overall, I really think that believable characters are made of goals that may never change, constant growth at the end of the book and most importantly, having characters be driven through it rather than some prophecy. 

What do you think makes up a believable characters? Or is there anything I have left out which you think is important? Please leave it in the comments below.