How to write a novel

Truth is, there’s no right and wrong way. All I can tell you is how I write a book.

Before I start, I have in my head the following:

  • A beginning.
  • An end (of both the book and the trilogy – although I have been known to change the latter).
  • A few key scenes in between beginning and end for the book I am writing.
  • The main characters.
  • The place(s) – the world, the magic. This bit is quite detailed in how it works.
  • The driving force(s) of the plot – i.e., why the characters are doing what they are doing.
  • What I don’t have is a detailed outline or the sub-plots. I am a very disorganised writer.

During the first draft:

  • I may have a non-detailed synopsis but I don’t stick to it all that strictly.
  • I have no idea how many chapters there will be or how long they will be.
  • I write about one third, then go back and reread it and maybe change some stuff.
  • I write another third and then go back and read from the beginning again. And maybe change some stuff. About now I have a good idea of how long the book will be.
  • Write the last third.

The second draft:

  • Time to do the big stuff – reorganise the plot where it doesn’t work. Change chapters around if necessary. Redefine characters if they don’t work for me. Correct the plot holes I see.

The third draft:

  • Get down to the small stuff, sentence by sentence.
  • Send to beta readers.

The fourth draft:

  • Work on the weaknesses as suggested by beta readers.

The next twenty (that’s what it feels like, anyway) drafts:

  • Polish, polish, polish.

The last two books of mine did not work out quite that way. Both of them just wouldn’t come together properly for a long, long while. I could feel there was something fundamental “off” and it took my beta readers to put their fingers on what was wrong, which necessitated quite a big rewrite at the fourth draft stage.

I am hoping that does not happen this time. At the moment, more than 40% through the second draft, I have not got that sinking feeling that there is something “off”. So far, it feels good. Fingers crossed it stays that way as I read on…

People ask me how many revisions I do – honestly, I dunno. Some parts that don’t work well have too many rewrites to count. Other scenes hardly change at all from the moment I wrote them.

One thing I can tell you – for me, writing is not easy. Nor quick. And everybody is different.


How to write a novel — 4 Comments

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