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How To Write a Novel

Writing a novel couldn’t be easier.


Really, it couldn’t. I didn’t say writing a GOOD novel was easy…but the process of actually writing a novel is very simple. You write words. Everyday. For a long time.

I know that sounds like an over simplification at first…but really – it’s not. Let me explain…

The key to writing your first novel is to JUST DO IT. Put the notecards down. Stop spending hours outlining the life of your characters, the world they live in, and what they had for breakfast when they were six.

Stop doing EVERYTHING that isn’t actually writing the novel. Here’s a list of things you’ve probably done instead of writing your novel.

  1. Outlined the novel on notecards
  2. Written a Query Letter to publishers
  3. Researched publishers to publish your Novel
  4. Looked at ways to Self-Publish your Novel
  5. Told everyone who will listen to you about the Novel you’re writing
  6. Imagined all the money you’re going to make when Tom Cruise stars in the Movie based on your Novel

All of these things have their place, and all of these things are fine…but none of these things are actually writing your novel. Until you actually do that, none of these things matter.

So… Here’s the short list of what you actually have to do to write your novel.

  1. Sit down in front of your computer – I know, this one seems obvious, but work with me here…
  2. Stare at a blank screen – That’s right, you’re going to stare at that blank screen until your eyes bleed…and when you want to get up, you’re going to stay right where you are…because that’s the only way you will ever get this novel written.
  3. Put words on that screen – You decide how many to put there, and how frequently you want to do it. Let’s say 1,000 words 5 days a week. Too much? Fine, 500 words 5 days a week. The point is, no matter what you choose, you need to put that many words on that screen every day you said you would.

    Even if you hate the words you put down…keep doing it. If you think it sucks, it doesn’t matter…keep doing it. Most writers (even the big stars) think their work sucks a good deal of the time. Just get it done.

    If you keep putting 500 words on that screen 5 days a week you will have a 60,000 word novel complete in 6 months time. You will achieve your goal…and even if that novel isn’t great…it doesn’t matter.

    You Did it. Now comes the hard part…

  4. Leave It Alone – That’s right…this is the hardest part of the process, but the most necessary. Back away from the novel. Put it in a drawer. Do not send it to a publisher. Do not give it to your friend to read. Just back away from it for a little while. A month or so.
  5. Pick it back up and revise – After you cool off from the book for a while, pull it back out, and start reading it. You will find errors and problems you didn’t notice the day after you finished writing it.

    You may discover plot holes, or parts of dialogue that need work.

    Now is the time when you worry about if your work sucks or not. Now is when you take a hard, objective, look at it. Fix everything that you think is wrong with it.

  6. Send it out and wait for rejection – Sound harsh? It shouldn’t. Rejection is a part of the game. If you can’t handle it, you will never get anything published. Here’s what you have to remember.

    Just because some kid picked it off a slush pile and didn’t think it was worth telling the boss about doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means you need to send it to someone else.

    Don’t get discouraged. You’ve written a book. You’ve already done more than 90% of the people that ever talk about writing a book.

  7. Keep sending… – Keep sending it to potential publishers, listen to their notes, and revise the work to get it up to snuff. Be patient. If no one wants this one…don’t worry about it.
  8. Repeat Steps 1 – 7 – That’s right. Don’t wait for that other one to get published…start on your next one. You know why? Because your next one will be better. Your next one will be easier, and if you keep this process up, eventually you will get something published…or you will die with an amazing body of work that was before its time…either way, you’re a winner.

Categories: Writing


7 Responses to “How To Write a Novel”

  • Derek says:

    After a novel is rejected, would it be safe to make the changes the publisher commented on and send it back?

  • Alex says:

    @Derek: Depends on the level of rejection. Some publishers may comment that the work is good enough to get published but you need to edit a few or a handful of things. A total rejection often means that even with revisions, the work is generally bad and unpublishable.

    Scout around for publishers who may want to take on your novel. If all else fails, then keep on writing and writing and writing (building on all the comments you got). Practice makes perfect. Remember, writing is a discipline. :D

  • william says:

    I have never writtin a novel before, never tried, but i have recently had the inspiration, and actually started one. And i have to admitt i like what i’ve acomplished. The words and ideas just flow out. I’ve written over 1000 words in a day in a half. Well really less then a day and a half. But my question is whats a good way to end a chapter, and a good way to start the next chapter? Is there certin approach? Thank you.

  • Anna says:

    I would always try to leave a hook at the end of my chapter, so the reader will want to read on. Usually, a turn of events or an entrance of a new character. Anything that will make the reader continue to read! Once, I complete a chapter I will step away for a few days, while thinking about my next chapter. Then, when I return and reread my written chapter it is usually easier to spot problems, revise and move forward. But this is just my style, but other writers may have other ideas.

  • Kelly says:

    What is a target size novel to aim for in order to get published. I have written a manuscript 61,000 words long but am not sure if it is too short and I should work on it a little more before sending it out?

  • Amy says:

    I just think of something in my head, type out one chapter, good or not? if its good, use it, if not, then erase it and think of something better.

  • Emma says:

    I’ve always wanted to be an author I have been encouraged many times by teachers and people that I know, but there is a problem. I write but don’t finish, I want to but then I think there’s no point since it’s no good and this has helped by giving me a boost-up, so thank you very much.

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