How to Write a Novel in 16 Easy Steps!

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Image by mpclemens via Flickr Creative Commons

Step 1: Get a new story idea that you’re totally stoked to write.

Step 2: Spend hours outlining and plotting that puppy.

Step 3: Start writing!

Step 4: Write about three chapters, then decide your B plot should be your A plot and your A plot should be put aside for the next book in the series.

Step 5: Throw everything out, including the outline and start pantsing it from the beginning.

Step 6: Just as momentum starts to build, have life become unusually hectic and force you to stop writing for about a month.

Step 7: Get back on that horse. Make progress. Sluggish progress, but still, progress.

Step 8: Get to what you think is the halfway point and celebrate!

Step 9: Get a little bit past the halfway point and realize you have no idea what needs to happen next. Spend days opening the file, staring at it while munching Cheetos, then closing it without writing anything.

Step 10: Feel like an utter failure, fraud and phony who will never finish another book again. Eat more Cheetos.

Step 11: Debate whether to throw it all out and start over, or keep going, knowing that probably at least 50% of it will have to be completely rewritten.

Step 12: Decide to keep going, because a finished broken draft is better than an unfinished draft and you’ll never finish if you keep going back to square one.

Step 13: Push yourself over that wall, bit by bit, one word at a time.

Step 14: Get sudden inspiration as to how everything comes together and get totally stoked.

Step 15: Write like the wind!

Step 16: Reach the end. Collapse. Have some celebratory Cheetos. Try not to think about all the rewriting ahead.

***

Currently, I’m at steps 9, 10 and 11 as regards Ghost of a Chance. I haven’t written on it all week, save for 334 words on Monday that I’m pretty sure are going to get deleted. I think the problem is that I’m at a point where what I feel is best for the main character and the story is conflicting with my own personal morals and values.

That might sound odd, but for a writer who happens to be a Christ follower but who doesn’t market herself as a “Christian Author,” this tends to be a thing that happens. My characters want to have sex! But they’re not married! And my mom might read this! And people from church! And what will God think? Will I be glorifying sin? Am I gonna get in trouble? Arrgh!

I always end up going with what’s best for the story and truest to the character. After all, not all my characters share my beliefs and values, so it would be weird for them to behave as though they did. Still, as a rule of thumb I try to write things I won’t be too embarrassed for my mom to read, and sometimes that rule gives me anxiety.

Sometimes that rule has to go out the window. This may be one of those times.

***

What about my end-of-week update on how I did on my goals for the week? Here it is: outside of getting caught up on my freelance editing queue, I got frick-all done besides. Between the weather and hormones, and all of the gluten- and cheese-filled comfort foods those two things compelled me to munch on all week, my focus and energy levels were shot. This means I’m going to have to spend tomorrow doing our taxes, but really, I’m just happy to be caught up on the client stuff, and I’m really, really glad it’s Friday.

How did your week go, dear reader? Better than mine, I hope. And for the writers in my audience, what kind of conflicts tend to derail your writing, at least temporarily? I want to hear all about it in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel in 16 Easy Steps!

  1. I don’t write stories, so I haven’t had a conflict of interest yet. However, I’m thinking of switching to a new nonfiction book for my classes. I’ve heard other teachers say they’ve had a good response to the book-some students have reread it w/o prompting!-but it’s very new age-y, God is love, good things in the universe… like Oprah’s religious views. They sound good, but they don’t exactly align with my view of Christianity.

    That said, I’m considering using the book, because a) this is the third year I’ve used my current book, and I’m tired of it and b) I want a book that engages my students. I can’t force my religion on them-I don’t want to force them-but I feel guilty at the idea of leading students towards happy-feely good child-of-the-universe, etc.

    And that sounds so, so, so narrow minded and like my way is the only way. I don’t want to be responsible to God, though, on why I promoted this non-religion. Yet, I can’t promote my religion. I read a good article on praying for atheists. Like, they’re facing a difficult time in life, and you want to be there for them, so you tell them you’ll pray, because that’s a powerful way to intercede for people in your mind.

    Praying to an atheist friend, though, is meaningless to them. Some will appreciate the thought behind it (I know this means you care about me, etc…), but others might not. And instead of bringing a casserole and running to the grocery for your friend in need, you basically say, “My religion is more important than your values, which are clearly wrong, which is why I’m going to pray.”

    I have lots of feelings about this. Hope I don’t come across as too judgmental. I know you’re one of the few friends who will understand.

    ❀

    1. “And that sounds so, so, so narrow minded and like my way is the only way.”

      Well, do you believe Christ is the one true way to have an eternal relationship with God, or not? I think we as Christians need to be very careful about buying into certain cultural assertions that conflict with what we believe to be true and caving to pressure to be more “open minded” and politically correct at the cost of compromising our principles and what we believe to be the truth. You either believe that the Bible is true and that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation or… you don’t. There’s not much in between. You don’t have to actively promote your religion and evangelize when it’s not appropriate, but that doesn’t mean the alternative is to actively promote a worldly viewpoint that you don’t agree with.

      That said, you are teaching adults who have to make up their own minds. When I was in college, back around the time we first started chatting, I took a class that made us read the Tao Te Ching. At first I was pretty upset about it and I felt like Buddhism was being forced on me. But we ended up having some interesting discussions that compared and contrasted Taoist principles with Biblical principles and Christ’s teachings, and ultimately it forced me to think about why I believe that the Bible is the truth and that other religious texts, although they contain nuggets of philosophical truth, are not THE truth in the way the Bible is. And I realized that exposing myself to alternate beliefs and viewpoints ultimately strengthens my faith.

      I think you bring up a good point about atheists. I think it’s important when dealing with atheists–or anyone, really–to do what you can to actively portray Christ to them. Yes, of course loving actions are going to mean more to an unbeliever than just letting them know you’re praying. Doesn’t mean you can’t pray for them, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for acts of kindness. This is something I’m trying to work on in myself–not just saying “Oh, I’ll pray for you” and moving on, but trying to take the time to reach out and DO something whenever possible, even if it’s just to offer an encouraging word or a listening ear. Wish I could say I was doing a better job of that…

      *hugs* Love you, sunny. Any time you want to bounce these types of questions off of someone, you have my e-mail address, and you can always PM me on Facebook. ?

  2. I’ve been struggling with some of the same things with Undoing, too, and I think that’s part of the reason I’ve been putting off revisions on it for so long. And honestly wondering if I should have just created a pen name way back when and established all my writing stuff under it, but oh well. Too late for that!

    Just remember, though, that this is the first draft. Anything that goes in now is negotiable – and when you do go back and rewrite, you may find that some things didn’t fit after all. But sometimes you never know until you write it.

    *hugs* best of luck!

    1. Good point. I guess I can always go back through in the editing stage and tone things down to be more “mom-friendly.”

      I’ve already got people from her church giving me the side-eye because I portray ghosts as human spirits and not demons, and they’re not going to read this series because of that. But people from my own church have read Restless Spirits and loved it and have let me know they’re looking forward to the sequel. So no pressure there…

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