This post is not about how to write a novel because there’s only one way to write a novel and that’s by stringing together more than 50,000 words into a coherent story. That’s it. You need more words. Get to it. Connect them. Yeah, you wrote a novel.
I realize that the above description may not be helpful to aspiring writers out there even though you cannot refute it’s basic essence. So let me expound a little bit. How writers go about putting those words together is a completely different process for each individual writer. What I do won’t work for you. What she does won’t work for me. But as I’ve complete six novels at this point, I do have a few suggestions, or perhaps even personal observations about the process which may or may not be helpful.
So here we go:
- First draft – focus on story. When I’m writing the story for the first time, I do not allow myself to get bogged down in word choice and grammar. I focus on the story and the characters. The story must make sense. It needs to be logical, believable, engaging. The characters need to tell their story, their backstory, their aspirations. Write, write, write and push the STORY forward until you have a coherent, fun, engaging story line.
- Second draft – focus on language – I’m currently writing the second draft of my 6th novel. As I’m going back through the story, so of which I haven’t even read in months, I focus mainly on language usage. I look at each sentence and ask myself if I phrased it well. Can it be improved? Is there a better word choice? Does the paragraph flow? Do I repeat words? Is the structure boring? This is a slow, methodical process, but my goal, by the time I’m finished with the second draft, I have the first glimpse of the what my final product will look like. Once the second draft is complete, I’ll elicit feedback from some beta readers to better understand how well I’ve done my job.
- Third draft – I incorporate feedback from my beta readers and I begin to analyze how I can improve the flow of the story. I also pay closer attention to grammatical details and try to produce a clean copy for my editor who will receive it at this point.
- Fourth draft – I clean up the manuscript according to my editor’s advice, correcting all those commas and small minutia.
- Multiple read-throughs. I read it again and again. I read it out loud. I listen to the language. I try to catch any remaining mistakes. (There will be some. Editors are not wizards. I am responsible for the final product, so I have to take charge.)
- Finally, when I make it to this stage, when I have exhausted all effort on this manuscript and I’m happy with what I got, I move it into the publication phase.
That’s how I write a novel. How do you do it differently?