How to Write a Novel

Photo by summervillain via Flickr
Photo by summervillain via Flickr

I had the next sentence to the novel that I was writing in my head for years. I never wrote it down because I thought it didn’t fit. So I stopped. I put my notes aside and told myself I would pick the notes back up again when I found a better sentence. I didn’t know how to continue the story, but I knew that my current method wasn’t the best way to go about it.

Several days ago a friend emailed me about my writing. The subject line read, “Writing anything new?” I didn’t want to have to tell her about how I had left my writing alone for so long just because I didn’t like the next sentence that was sitting there in my head, and so I procrastinated and didn’t open up the email until the next day.

“I forgot to ask you about your writing,” she said. “We almost always talk about that so I was wondering if there is a particular story you are working on right now?”

I felt incredibly guilty. It was as if I had abandoned a child on the side of the road and told them that I would be back for them sometime in the future. The only way to head in the right direction was to tell the truth.

“I’m just writing blog posts on the blog and freelance articles. Nothing new and I’m not really doing anything else. :/”

I scoured the internet for inspiration and found some tips about getting around an epic stint of procrastination, with the most memorable of tips instructing me to just put something on the page. I took the advice and retreated back to my writing notes. I opened my old word documents and remembered the sentence that had derailed the flow of the rest of an entire novel. I brushed the dust that had collected onto the infamous sentence over the long period of time and wrote it down.

What came after wasn’t exactly grammatically correct, or even the write set of words. What came instead was the unblocking of ideas pouring out on the pages of my notes. I figured out the rest of the plot to the novel after letting go of the one sentence that had blocked my train of thought for so long. Just putting something down on the page had kicked up the pace of the novel again and put the wheels into gear so that the story could keep going.

I’ve heard all about this so many times before, but I never followed the suggestion until now. The greatest piece of writing advice ever given to me was to write down everything first and to edit mistakes later. Worrying about making everything perfect as it first falls out onto the page isn’t very encouraging, and in cases such as mine, it can halt the flow of ideas to a complete stop. Letting everything flow and shaping it later is definitely the best way to go.

5 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel

  1. It’s funny how something so simple can stop us. Once I changed the name of a character and couldn’t write another word until I changed it back to the original name.

    Congrats on working on your novel again. 🙂


  2. ah, yes, letting go is often the key to moving forward. Years ago, I was drowning in a novel that just didn’t work when my editor said, “Could you write something else?” I told her that I could. best advice ever. The new novel came out in a rush of inspiration, because I was so relieved to be done with the old one.


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