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How to Write a Novel

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How To Write A Novel

As someone who is writing their eighth novel, I feel slightly entitled to answer this question. Now can I do it well? 

*Whispers* This is where you’re supposed to say of course you can Kate, we have faith in you. 

Well, the idea of writing a book is fairly simple. 

  1. Come up with an idea you can write for a lot of pages.
  2. Write the book 
  3. Edit the book 
  4. There, you have a book.

Congratulations, don’t you feel good now? I know I’ll be consulting that list for years to come.  

Yeah okay, I give . . . It’s a little more complicated than that if you’re actually intent on publishing that novel. However, if you just want to write a book just to say you’ve done it, that list is perfection. You don’t need to read any further. Have an idea, write, and you’re done. You don’t even have to edit it you lucky duck.

*Lip quivers, eyes are tight, fists clenched* God, I hate editing. 

So here we go. A real list of how to write a book. 

1. Have an Idea  

Okay, we’re looking pretty similar to list one, but hang in there. 

You can’t really start a novel unless you have an idea. Even if your plan is to just write the first sentence and see where it goes, you probably have an idea of what you’re writing either for genre, a character you like, or a setting you find interesting.

Don’t have one? Well let’s start with something you do like. It can be a movie, a painting, a story. Pick a point in that piece of art and ask- what if? 

I know, i know, you’re saying “Kate you’re an idiot.”

AM I? AM I? Because I’ve had every novel of mine spur out of the idea of what if. 

  1. What if mothers really did have superpowers? 
  2. What if older mothers with grown children were the most powerful? 
  3. What if a forty year old mother had to save the world? 
  4. What if her name was Rona and she had to save the world, but couldn’t save her twenty year old son from dying of cancer? 
  5. What if her only partner was a sixteen year old mother that thought she knew everything but at the same time thought she was failing every step of the way with her baby and life?

Whoo. Now we’ve got a story. 

And keep in mind, it doesn’t matter how crappy the idea is. Work on it and it’ll be amazing. 

“Bad ideas are like playground scapegoats. Given the right encouragement, they grow up to be geniuses” - Under the Tuscan Sun . . .A must see movie for every writer, divorcee, person entering a life crisis. This was the original Eat, Pray, Love and its better.  

2. Fit Idea into a category 

Now, I’m a very structured person. I like knowing everything about my novel before starting. It makes the writing process faster, more comfortable, and the editing is usually a lot easier. 

With that in mind, you can either scroll down to the next step or hear what I have to say. 

Every genre has a different word count requirement to be picked up by an agent. And sadly, for me at least, these words counts are growing among the genres. 

Here’s a break down of the major genre word requirements (as accurate as I could find). 

Urban fantasy 75-90k 

Romance 70-90k 

Fantasy 90-120k 

Thrillers 70-90k

YA 60-90k

Remember, you want to stay close to the middle of these ranges if you’re a first time author. And if there’s a little fluff? Well, it’ll give the editor and agent something to do.

Remember Heinlein quote? People like the taste better if they pee in it first? 

*Awkward silence* never mind 

The important thing is to figure out your genre and make sure your idea can extend to the word count. If it can’t? Don’t dump the idea. Combine it with something. Make it work, because as a writer, that’s your job. 

You have to take the crap and bologna and make a five course dish out of it. Sorry, if no one told you that before. It’s more fun than it sounds, I swear.  

3. Plot the Outline 

Now I know what the discovery writers are going to say . . . PLOT? ME? HOW DARE YOU STIFLE MY CREATIVE FLOW YOU PANSY WEARING DOUBLE WIDE MULE. 

And just know, I really took those words to heart.  

But outlining is bomb. It’s amazing. At the very least, you need to outline your novel’s beginning, middle, and end. 

Some writer’s don’t like to do this. They think it stifles them, but have you ever read a novel that kind of seemed to go on and on with no real plan? 

I’m looking at the first sixty pages YOU wrote Tolkien. 

Point is, even when done by a master, it doesn’t make for the best reading. 

Of course I love Lord of the Rings *panicked eyes* I swear, I love Bilbo and the dwarves and Legolas *Starts sweating* I swear, I SWEAR okay? 

Anyhoo- outlining makes sense to me. Having a game plan is awesome because you almost always know where you’re going? 

How detailed do you want to get? Well, search for my article on Outlining here. It’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

Some books to help you get started with outlining are Save the Cat: Writes a Novel and Story Grid. Don’t buy story grid though unless you want to read a book that like beating your head against a wall. You can also read about that here. 

4. Write the Novel 

This is both a really simple, and really complex section. Write the novel. Write it however you want. Start to finish. End to middle to beginning. You could even do the quilting method which I’ll talk about in a later article.  

Any way you want to write it, you write it. And no one gets to tell you you’re wrong. That’s the beauty of this. Do it your way. 

5. Edit Novel 

Editing is a painful mistress. A horrid entity that comes around every 90,000 words. It’s horrific and damn near traumatic to see the crap you spewed on the page after manically typing out every word. But it’s necessary. I also wrote an article about editing that you can read here. 

Take a breath, you’re done.  

Alright everyone, that’s pretty much it. Now we could get into character development, setting, establishing conflict, and developing a writing routine but let’s save all of that for the future. 

You don’t need too much to digest right now. Just coming up with an idea is enough for one. 

Congratulations, y’all. You’ve taken the right step. And, later, if you want, you can find out how my control freak brain would suggest writing a novel if I weren’t trying to “work on myself.” 

Ugh. Personal growth never ends. 

Happy writing! Stay saucy you little minx. 

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