How I Write A Novel – FAST- 10 Steps
- Pick a theme. What’s your novel about in one word, then develop from there. For example, I hadn’t seen my brother for a couple years, he visited me in Australia, and we had a few conversations about brotherhood, our past, and our present as brothers and friends. I wanted to explore this theme, and am currently writing a western called “Brother’s Keeper”. Almost every chapter touches on brotherhood in someway, whether as a symbol, directly, or a problem.
- Get the basic idea of the protagonist, antagonist, a “buddy” for the protagonist, and a few minor characters. I don’t do in-depth studies of these characters. Instead, I like to cast the characters as actors, artists I am familiar with from movies or TV. I google their images and save them on my computer. Then I find names for them. I might make a couple notes, but I have to get excited about the image and name together, and then just letting “the actor” react as I imagine he would.
- With my characters and theme in mind, I come up with 30-40 scenes. I develop them pretty much in order, but rearrange, cut out, and expand as needed. Keep everything flexible, and be open to adding characters, cutting them, or condensing two characters into one. I try to find twists and go beyond my first ideas, pushing and pushing, until I come to some extreme image or twist–then try to make it work. A good idea is to make lists, jot down 10 things, getting crazier and crazier with it. Then usually it’s best to, yes, pick the craziest idea!
- Now, you’ve got 30 scenes in a reasonable order. Now add 30 “sequels”. A novel is composed–in the theories I follow–of scenes and sequels. A scene is conflict, here and now, in one place. A sequel is that post-scene interlude, where the character broods, reacts to the scene, then makes a decision which will flow into the next scene. So now you have 60-80 “bits” composed of scenes and sequels. I like each scene to be fast paced, so I tend to write scenes that are about 700 – 900 words. All together, this should give you enough words for a novel, 50 – 80K words (the word count will expand and contract in the editing process).
- I jump in and write a “flash draft”. Just write. Don’t look back. Don’t edit at all. Go, go, go. When I am not doing the day job, and have a full writing day, I can do about 5000 words a day. If you have a three day weekend, that’s 15,000 words–a big chunk. The fast results will inspire you to write more. What’s writer’s block? Never had it, never will.
- OK, you’ve finished your book. The scenes toward the end probably changed greatly because you came up with better ideas, and during the writing process, learned more about your characters–you’ve richened the book through character. You can set the book aside for a week, then jump in and read it through, making minor edits to smooth things out.
- Now go in for major revisions, detailed editing, and possibly using software. I use prewriting aid. Just be careful you don’t flatten out your style – don’t follow the software too much, use your instincts and trust in your voice. The software is good for detecting annoying overuse of words, passive voice, and basic grammatical errors.
- You can edit something forever – when it’s “good enough”–depending on what level of mess was the first draft–just declare it DONE. Find some good beta readers, people who will be honest with you, and who have good humanities backgrounds, or are fervent readers, and ask them to read your book and get it back to you with edits, suggestions, and criticisms within a certain time frame. Agree on getting it back within a month, preferably two weeks. Be firm, and if they can’t do it, move on. You didn’t write fast to let someone sit on your book for three months with little reward.
- Do a final draft with your beta reader’s criticisms/ suggestions/ edits in mind.
- Send it to publishers, or publish it on Amazon after creating a cover.