How To Write A Novel


1. Read — Read the sort of novel you want to write. Read the classics of the genre, and read what’s being published now. Read other sorts of novels. Read poetry. Read non-fiction, on subjects that pertain to the sort of novel you want to write, and on subjects that seem to have nothing to do with it. If a novel really satisfies you or delights you, study it; pick it apart and see how the writer did that.

2. Write — Write letters, timed writings, journal entries, poetry, or pages and pages of prose, even if you throw most of those pages away later.

3. Begin — Choose a place to begin, like picking a thread to follow through a labyrinth.

4. Build — Research, beginning with your beginning and following where that leads. If you begin with a place, read about that place. If you begin with a character, read biographies of people he or she resembles, or read about his or her time period or vocation or pet hobby. Let the research lead you where you want to go, keeping your thread firmly in hand and noting down whatever you find that you may be able to use.

5a. Plan — With your research handy, make a bare-bones outline of the plot.

5b. Cast — Who do you need in this plot? What do they need to be like?

6a&b. Expand — Make more detailed outlines and character sketches, until you feel secure; you know the characters well enough to trust them to thicken up the plot where your outline is thin; you know your storyline well enough to know that a vague character will sharpen up as events progress.

7. Take the plunge — Start writing the book. Tell yourself that this is just the rough draft; it doesn’t have to be perfect; it can be awful, so long as it’s on paper. Write as much as you can without re-reading. Only re-read what you need, to keep you on track.

8. Revise — Keep a notebook of changes you want to make. Just write them in the margins or stick insert pages into the manuscript. Have several people you trust read the book and ask them to write down what they like, dislike, question. Pay close attention to anything more than one person says. Make any changes you think should be made with your readers’ comments in mind. Make a clean copy of the manuscript.

9. Go to market.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What, are you crazy? WRITE!



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “How To Write A Novel

  1. James Hilton

    November 19, 2012 at 7:56am

    Good, solid advice – a true road map to publication.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 19, 2012 at 3:46pm

      Hey, Jim! Good to hear from you. I’m late with my Q&Q assignment, and I’ll probably be later still!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Jane

    November 19, 2012 at 9:43am

    Awesome. True, motivating, comprehensive, yet (relatively) simple. The bottom line, as always, is just write. You are a geneiiyous.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 19, 2012 at 3:48pm

      Thank you! And thanks for sharing The Future of Publishing. LOVE IT!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Joyce Nance

    November 19, 2012 at 5:53pm

    I like these ideas. I like the one where you say don’t reread. That will make everything go a lot faster.

    ps I am not a spammer. too lazy.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 19, 2012 at 7:17pm

      LOL! I know you’re not a spammer, Joyce. 🙂

      I often get hung up in rereading what I’ve written to the point that I can’t go forward. National Novel Writing Month has been a great exercise in just WRITING until it’s all out, and then cleaning up the mess!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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