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I would like to know how to start a fictonal novel. What tools do I need to get started. How many pages should I produce to have a good book with subtance?  

Dear Anzora:

The first thing you must do is decide whether you will be writing a genre novel or a mainstream novel. Mysteries, romance, science fiction and thrillers are genre novels, meaning they are rather heavy on plot and skimpy on character development, while mainstream novels are just the opposite.

How you proceed depends on the choice you make.  Many authors writing genre novels outline heavily to make sure the plot is strong enough to support an entire book (of 300-400 pages, say), that the plot points are in the proper place, that there are enough obstacles to give the hero/ine a good workout, etc. The writer of a genre novel usually has some idea of where she is going to end up; the writer of a mainstream novel may not know until she gets there. The main character in a mainstream novel may be given a "situation" to start out in, but that one's no sooner resolved than another pops its head up. For a good clue, look at what you like to read. If you like best to read character-driven novels, where the people struggle and grow as they explore life, the mainstream novel is for you. On the other hand, if you love an exciting story no matter who it happens to, you will probably be happiesst with the genre novel. It's always a good idea to write what you most enjoy reading.

Of course, for all these "rules" many exceptions exist. Many genre novels have very well-developed characters, while many mainstream novels have ripping good plots (think of M*A*S*H - yes, it was a book, first!) It's an old axiom that the best books are impossible to categorize.

Examine your idea carefully, and when you decide how best it can be presented, come back and we'll what to do next.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my "straight 10" rating over 120+ questions!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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