Recipe for Writing a Novel

From the Archives of Writer’s Rite by yours trulygood words

Elements of writing a story:

2 or more hearty characters, preferably one with a problem in need of solving (you can proceed with one character, but with two there is possibility)
Peppering of quirks
One major plot
½ dozen, more or less, subplots
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
One good chair
Belief in self
Support of family and friends (note: some friends may abandon you during the writing of a novel)
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

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 specific 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. After mixing, place printed pages in a shoebox and store in a dark place for days, in some cases weeks, in rare cases, hours. When ready proceed to the next step.

Writing SuccessOnly proceed with this step when your head is clear, the heart is pure, your objectivity is solid. This phase will require the strength of Hercules, a heart of stone, a swift hand with a blade (or the delete key) to cut and chop, remove the backstory, the excess, the pretty little words that have nothing whatsoever to do with moving the story, the adverbs, the that’s, the passive verbs, and all the shite that sounded really good when you wrote it the first time, but makes no sense when you read it aloud. CHOP IT.   CAUTION: This first attempt — often referred to as a draft — may often require a new blank canvas. In rare cases, a bottle of wine is required to face this fact. DON’T CRY. Keep calm and write on.

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 new computers, endless journals for notes, software, wasted funds spent on writing books.

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. You’ll walk around the place where you live in awe of yourself. You’ll be amazed. You’ll shout to the moon. Tears of joy will run down your pale cheeks. You’ll dance a jig. You’ll tell the checkout clerk at Safeway, your hairdresser/barber, your great aunt Tootie, even you best friend from second grade, Elvira, about the book. Some will smile, some will say, “WOW,” some will wonder if you’ve lost your mind and remind you of the missed episodes of Dancing with the Stars. Some will even go so far as to ask, why.

You might even wonder the same thing. After all, those lost hours spent in front of the computer will not bring you instant fame and fortune (that might require a few more books and a heavy sprinkling of Tinker Bell’s fairy dust). Something in you will know no answer will satisfy the person asking the question. How do you explain the sublime, the surreal, and the burning passion that you desire to create? Personally, I shrug. If pressed, I say, because it was the only way to quiet the voices in my head. Of course, they run for the hills when I say that, but I don’t mind. I mean, I don’t ask them why they watch reality television when they could be writing. Fair is fair.


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.

26 thoughts on “Recipe for Writing a Novel

  1. Wonderful recipe, Brenda! Writing is very hard work for little reward, but when you come to the end of a project, get a contract, open up a copy of a book with your name on it, or get a good review, that’s a reward in itself.

    Guess that’s why I’m still doing it after all these years.

    • Thanks, Deborah. I was looking through my hard drive for something and stumbled on it. I had forgotten about it and enjoyed rereading it. So I dusted it off and brought it back. It’s a surprise rereading old posts, sometimes scary. One of my non resolutions is to re-read one old journal entry a week, maybe post it.. maybe.

  2. Brenda, you have described the process, head to toe, backwards and forwards, with such humor, wit and grace. That’s EXACTLY what it’s like! By the way, do you have any extra fairy dust hanging around? :) We would all like our books to go viral; I just keep reminding myself that it’s all in God’s time and no matter what happens, you couldn’t stop me from writing for nothing!
    Blessings in the New Year!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Christ is All We HaveMy Profile

  3. Brenda, this was so light and fresh… and as usual, there is always a bit of magic in your writing.
    I especially love “imagination.” This is one of my key words when I am giving my author presentations to the children.
    I also have a tab favorite for a thesaurus website I use almost on a daily basis. My chair came from Home Goods and it’s my favorite! I even pull it out from my desk and place it at my dining room table where I write because of the better view.
    Gina Stoneheart recently posted….Monday Feature and the Power of Unleashing a Positive PresenceMy Profile

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