How I Write a Novel

Last week I shared on my facebook page that I had written almost 100,000 words on Heir of Hope (the third book in the Follower of the Word series). I had one person leave a comment that she had written 10,000 words and that was hard for her. She couldn’t imagine writing 100,000 words!

You know, she’s right. I remember back in high school and college writing a 15-20 page paper and I thought that was a killer (and I had weeks to work on it). Now I write that much in less than a week. So how do I do it? How do I not only write 100,000 words, but actually write something worth reading? Here is how I write a novel.

1) I plan my novels out years in advance. I have an idea and I create a folder for it on my computer. As the idea grows, I add to the folder (like scenes, dialogues, character information, etc…). I also recently started using Pinterest as a place to keep images that inspire me. By the time I am ready to sit down and write the novel, I pretty much know who is in the book and what is going to happen.

Storyboard
                              My storyboard

2) I take one day and do a storyboard. I condense every scene/chapter into one sentence, write it on a sticky note, and pin it to my board. This becomes my map. I don’t always follow it exactly, but it gives me the big picture and major events so I don’t get writer’s block.

3) I write the rough draft. Usually the rough draft comes out to be about 120,000+ words and takes me almost a year to write. I will admit every time I start a novel, I feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing that much. So I break it down. I remind myself that to eat an elephant, you just need to take one bite at a time (no, I don’t eat elephants, but it is a great picture).

My “bite” is 500 words a day, 4x a week. Every week, every month, until the novel is done. Most of the time I write more, and sometimes 5 or 6x a week. But there are some weeks when writing feels like pulling teeth. I groan and gripe and drag my computer out and make myself sit and write 500 words.

I had one month not too long ago that all I could do was write 500 words a day, and that is all I did. Usually this happens in the middle of the book. I’m tired, I hate everything I’ve written, and I don’t know if I will ever reach the end. But I press on. I don’t go back and change anything, I just keep writing a little bit everyday. Usually I find my joy again when I reach the last third of the book and see the light at the end. I also realize what I wrote wasn’t bad. In fact it is quite good and worth keeping (one reason why I don’t go back, usually it’s my emotions rather than reality that is telling me my writing is junk).

4) After almost a year of writing, I finish the rough draft. At this point, I am sick of this story and need to do something else. I put the rough draft away for a month and recharge, usually by reading gobs of books or playing games. Then I come back and spend 2-3 months tightening all the scenes, checking for continuity, adding description, and making sure the flow is good. I don’t do a lot of rewrites, probably why it takes me so long to write a rough draft. I put most of my energy and thoughts into the story during the rough draft stage. When I come back, the meat of the story is there, it just needs some clean up.

5) I do one more glance over for grammar and typos, then I am done. I have completed a novel. Is it ready for publication? Not at all. I’ll explain next week how I publish a novel. This is simply how I write a novel: one bite at a time 🙂

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9 thoughts on “How I Write a Novel”

  1. I always enjoy hearing how other authors write their novels. I’m an organic writer, and can’t imagine any other way. But the way you describe your method here sounds similar to one of the other Captains in Writership. I bet she uses a storyboard–I’ll have to ask! Great post.

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