The Novel Writing Process
The writing process for professional writers is not very different from the one second graders learn in elementary school. It is important to follow the steps below, because they are incredibly effective and will help make your novel the best it can be.
Who or what will your novel be about? Where and when will your novel be set?
Of all the steps, this one has the most freedom, but is also the most important step. This determines the future of your story.
Whether your story begins with a character, a world, a time period, or a conflict, it’s important to start a project, especially one as large as a novel, with inspiration.
Prompt generators are okay for flash fiction, but if you’re going to dedicate yourself to writing an entire novel, make sure that your outline begins with a scene, character, or setting that you are truly passionate about.
Describe how your characters look and act. What will happen to them and how will they grow? Describe your world.
You have an idea. Now what?
Outlining may not be the most enjoyable part of the writing process, but it is essential. Believe me when I say that writing the first draft becomes much easier and less time-consuming when you know what you actually want to write. One of the simplest ways to overcome writer’s block during the first draft is having an outline to refer to.
Now, you don’t need to outline everything, but you should have a basic idea of the major plot arcs in your novel. How detailed and in what format your outline is will depend on who you are as a writer.
Write. Write. Write.
This is the part of the writing process that first comes to mind: the actual writing part. Let your creativity run loose! Try to set a writing schedule and setting: a place and time to write… and stick to it!
You will run into writer’s block (when you are just unable to write), and that’s okay! The most important part is overcoming it.
Your first draft does not have to be perfect. It cannot be perfect. Feel free to skip around scenes and chapters. Try to avoid revising and editing as you write, because these steps are more effective with fresh eyes.
Take a break. Read what you wrote.
Take a break before revising. You finished your first draft! Celebrate.
Don’t look at your writing for at least a week. Don’t think about it.
When you return to writing, start revising with Chapter 1. For some chapters, this may be adding or removing a few lines, but for most, it probably means rewriting the entire scene.
You have undoubtedly grown as an author between the time you started writing and the end of your first draft. You now understand your writing style more deeply, so you can implement that more strongly. You know your characters better, so you can develop their voice and actions. You know exactly how the rest of your story unfolds. Foreshadow and pay attention to plot holes.
Sentence fluency. Word choice. Punctuation. Spelling.
Editing is the part where you look at words and sentences instead of scenes and chapters. Think about how necessary each word is and whether it can be replaced with a more accurate word. Check your grammar, conventions, and spelling. Read your story out loud to check for sentence fluency.
REPEAT STEPS 4 & 5 MULTIPLE TIMES
Revise. Edit. Repeat. Research your genre and audience.
Take a break after your first round of editing. When you return to your writing again, you will be an even better writer.
Read your story as a reader, not a writer. Think about what scenes you find exciting (add more of them) and what scenes you skim over (cut them out). Think about what characters you can relate to and which are flat.
Research the industry you’re stepping into. Who is your audience? Based on this, how long should your novel be? Your word count may not be in the range of a typical book in your industry. Edit accordingly.
Show others your work!
Once you can read your entire novel without making revisions or edits, you are ready to move on and get opinions from fellow readers and writers. There are many types of people who can help make your novel better. These include:
Alpha Readers: Ask your friends or family to read your book and get their opinions about the overall storyline. Ask them how relatable the characters are and how predictable the plots are.
Beta Readers: These are fellow writers who will give you their opinions about your writing style and mechanics. There are many volunteer beta readers available for hire online.
Editors: They will look over your work from a professional standpoint. There are many types of editors, each of whom focus on different aspects of writing.
Take time to make the necessary changes after each reader or editor before handing your work to the next one.
Remember that critique is subjective and whether you accept it or not is up to you. Still, consider each piece of feedback and think about how it could help your story. This is not a time to be egotistical. These readers will be reading your story from an unbiased perspective. They will find the plot holes you missed and the errors you skimmed over.
Congratulations! You just reached the hardest part!
Find an agent that meets your genre and audience. Research their submitting requirements. Submit! Do not give up if the first agent does not accept your novel. Consider how you can fix it and submit elsewhere! Keep trying; you’re almost at the finish line.
And once you pass it... Great job!
Start brainstorming ideas for your next novel—although, odds are, you already have many!
What is your favorite step in the writing process? Let me know in the comments!