How to write a novel

I was smitten with the following photo that pranced around Facebook yesterday courtesy of Melissa Foster. It makes the writing of a novel seem so simple and the deterrents to writing a novel so easy to solve.


I’ve been working on my novel for about four years off and on. I revised and got my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, published in the meantime, and I spend a lot of time every day marketing it. However, I don’t let any of that take away from my writing time and my commitment to my novel.

What I want to do is to briefly comment on the photo I’ve shared here and let you know where I am in my novel’s process.

Think up a story
I was fortunate to have a story fall into my lap from my aunt’s lifestory writing, and when I presented the idea at my first novel-writing workshop, it was very readily accepted. I’ve, of course, fictionalized her true story, making up characters, dialogue, events, and locales. However, I’ve tried very hard to be historically accurate about place and time the internet just bursts with relevant information.

Write the story down
That’s what I’ve done, in, I think, about 90,000 words. I have the novel completely written. It has a prologue and twenty-seven chapters, and I’m now revising it for the third time. My first plan was to give it to a group of beta readers after revision two, but I got some very good notes from my writing group leader who read the first half of the book just a little while ago, so I’ve decided to incorporate her comments before letting my novel go public. Her main concern was that I round out the characters more, build up their conflict through action and make the characters seem less contrived. And I must say, that’s a hard assignment. However, I’ve given myself a goal. Revision three will be ready to go out for beta review by June.

Of course that’s not the end of it. I suspect I’ll go through two or three more sets of revisions after that and a full-up critique by a professional editor. Could I be completely finished a year from now? Possibly. If so the whole process would have taken almost six years.

Just saying think up a story and write it down is not so simple.

Pitfalls that get in the way of writing a novel
The pitfalls have been a little easier for me to deal with. Thankfully, I thought up a story and not only wrote it down, I’ve finished writing it down. And the only way I did that was to keep my seat on the chair in front of my computer and keep my fingers moving on the keyboard. There is no getting around doing the hard work.

I work at my writing and marketing every day. First thing, though, I go to the gym I’m there between 6:30 and 7:00 every morning.  Then I have my breakfast, take a shower and get dressed for the day, and walk downstairs to my office. I am there right now. I’m secluded from the rest of the house. I don’t let what’s going on anywhere else distract me. My computer screen even blocks the beautiful view outside my office window. However, I can relate to:

Pitfall No. 4 pissing about on the internet
The internet does distract me, but I try to keep it to a minimum. First I check emails, and then I check Facebook comments and likes all on the guise that these things are important to my memoir marketing program. And actually sometimes they are. And then I get down to work. I start by writing a journal entry first thing that helps to jump-start my other writing like a little warm-up, and I’m on my way.

I also allow myself to go back to the internet periodically like a reward for a finished piece of work. For example, I checked emails after my journaling this morning, and will allow myself an internet break when I finish this piece and post it on my blog. After that, I’m on to revision three of Chapter Two of my novel.

I wish you all a happy novel-writing experience. Despite the hard work, mine so far has been an experience of a lifetime. I love it.

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