How To Write A Novel

So You Want to Write a Novelsize ten

You’ve dreamed your entire life of writing a book. Finally, it’s time. The room is quiet, the bottle of red is empty, the moon’s magic electrifies your thoughts.

Your words flow with ease onto the blank page. The prose is brilliant, heartfelt, and amazingly perfect.

You wonder why others struggle to write. If only they had your talent.

Your type a single pitch letter, share it on Facebook. It goes viral.

The requests from agents to represent you flood your email account.

Publishers are wooing you. They are offering the best book cover designers, tours in top cities. The swear your book will have prime real estate in all the best bookstores.

Your story rockets to the top of the Amazon’s Best Seller list. The downloads for your book surpasses Adele 25.

Your picture is on the cover of Poets and Writers, People, and Time Magazine.

Your number of Twitter followers passes Adriana Grande’s. Jimmy Fallon is your bestie.

And then the dream dissolves. Your neck is stiff and the letters from the keyboard are imprinted on your cheek. You’ve fallen asleep in front of your computer again. Every night it’s the same, even if the only liquid to pass your lips is Green Tea. You wake up to a blank page with a jackhammer pounding inside of your head.  

You finally ask yourself: how is it done?  

There is not a precise answer on how to write a novel.  This is more of a guideline I dug out of my archive for a friend who asked for advice.

How to Write A Novelgood words

2 or more hearty characters, preferably one with a problem in need of solving (you can proceed with 1 character, but with two there is possibility)
Peppering of quirks
1 plot
½ dozen, more or less, sub-plots
Multiple dashes of conflict
Heavy sprinkling of tension
Senses on the pages in equal parts:
1/3 touch
1/3 smell
1/3 sound
Believable dialogue
Just enough narrative
Adequate setting – too much and your readers get bored, not enough and your readers get lost

Not required, but helpful:

Unlimited patience
1 good chair
Belief in self
Support of family and friends (note: some friends may abandon you during the writing of a novel because you’re “no fun anymore and all you ever do is write”)
1 Dictionary
1 Thesaurus  
One ream of paper or 2-dozen blank moleskins (or journals of preference)
Time (scheduled, measured, managed, and respected)
Daily word limit
A room of your own

Do you still want to write a novel? Really?

On a large blank canvas combine the essential ingredients, stir with equal parts vigor, passion, blood, sweat, and tears, in unquantifiable measurements. Note: The time required to complete is unique to the writer. The approach in which the writer mixes and stirs with vigor is unique to the writer. How the story unfolds on the page is unique to the writer. There is no class or how to book that auto-magically makes the words appear on the page. Only the writer sitting at his or her desk, hour after hour, day after day, until the story is complete, makes this happen. At the end of your journey, perhaps 100,000 words give or take, you’ll have a story as unique as you are, one only you could write.

Do you still want to write a novel? Really truly?

Once you have all the ingredients, mix and write.  The baking process is arduous and goes something like this:

Shitty First Draft- you
First Edit – you (completed after the shitty first draft is finished)
Second Edit – you (completed after the first edit; this step consists of rereading your book aloud to your cat or the wall and tweaking as you read; note: may require two reads before next step.)
Third Edit – not you (hire a professional copy and or story editor; at a minimum, a copy editor is worth his or her weight if gold)
Fourth Edit – you (review and incorporate the suggested changes)
Fifth Edit – not you (back to the professional- really truly)

Still want to write a novel?

The above measurements are not exact and merely a suggestion based on personal experience, loss of friends, numerous bottles of wine, several blank canvases, a new chair, three computers and Mac, endless journals for notes, software, unnecessary funds spent on writing books with jacket descriptions which promised me a book in a month.

DON’T CRY. Keep calm and write on.


I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

16 thoughts on “How To Write A Novel

  1. This is priceless, absolutely priceless! Must go and share your link on Facebook for all those who think it’s easy… Thanks for the humor! (Sometimes we writers need that most of all)

  2. Ashantay Peters

    Yes, I shared that dream of instant success, too. Kinda like “instant stardom” after being seen by just the right director/producer. Great post!

  3. Yep, I had that pipe dream, too, about going viral. Still waiting . . .
    But I would not have traded one second of all the hours and hours spent writing and editing (well, forget the editing); best time of my life!
    Blessings, Brenda!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Slip-Sliding AwayMy Profile

    • Hey you! Jennifer – Once you start writing there really is no choice. I finished two books in the past two years, but editing now and working on marketing, something I should have started before writing. :)

  4. Oh I’ve had those dreams of getting a phone call from some Hollywood producer who wants to make a movie based on my book. It’s an occupational hazard as a writer do dream such grandeur. Not that it’s impossible, but definitely more likely than winning the lotto (and here I’m just guessing). But first, dreams aside you have to get the words on the page. And you’re right, there’s no precise answer on how to write a novel. But what you’ve listed are good as any. Especially the not so secret ingredients of rewriting, edits and revisions.

    • Hi Brian – For a small percentage there might be something like instant success, but for most of us, there is a lot of hard work. Thanks for stopping by.

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