About that Idea for a Novel You Had

Different approaches can lead to a finished novel

Photo “Heart on Paper” by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Oh, to see a byline with your name on it!

My dream has always been to be an author of a fantasy book. For the last few decades I’ve found that I especially like to read contemporary fantasy. Charles de Lint, Simon Green, Neil Gaimon, Stephen King are some of my favourite writers. Although I did have a falling out with Stephen King a few decades ago but I like his new books like “The Dome”, and “Doctor Sleep”. It kind of irritated me that he wrote about a dome since the books I’ve been trying to write since I was 20 have a dome. He got there first because I’m rather slow out the gate. But mine is completely different so it doesn’t mattter but mine is not derivative of his. Just so that’s clear when you finally have an opportunity to read mine. That day will come though because I’m working on my fiction, and I will get my book done.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

There are a few ways to write a novel. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November is a challenge to write a first draft of a 50,000 word novel. Some people prepare in advance, and when November 1st comes around they already have a plot, chapter outlines, character sketches, and setting descriptions. If you complete the 50,000 words by the end of the month then you become a NaNoWriMo winner and can put a little badge for the year on your profile. There’s a book called “No Plot, No Problem” by the founder, Chris Baty, that explains how you don’t need a plot to begin writing a novel. Writers that write novels without figuring out the plot first are called “pantsers”. They’re making it up, flying by the seat of their pants.

James Patterson’s Master Class

I signed up for the James Patterson novel writing master class in 2015. Another student was miffed that he didn’t actually read our stuff but really the course wasn’t that expensive. It’s composed of a series of videos with him talking about his process. They’re the kind of instruction that you can listen to multiple times and have it sink in to your subconscious. A few of the other students went on to self-publish their work. Whatever takes you to that novel finish line is good. This method was for “plotters”. It took you through the plot outline that he had developed for “Honeymoon”.

Snowflake Method

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method is one that I have lightly looked at. In it you transcend from a single sentence to a complete novel through layering.

Too many choices

I have yet to see which method of novel creation will work best for me. I have committed to finishing one with Shaunta’s Novel Write Along (NWAL) course running right now. I’ve already fallen behind because the first step is to prepare the plot outline. I think that what I’ll do is take the first novel that I completed the draft for in NaNoWriMo in November 2011. Part of my difficulty has been in choosing which novel to focus on. My 2011 novel was post-apocalyptic. The 2012 one was pre-apocalyptic. I feel a bit like the Star Wars movies when they threw in a prequel. My son says that I should work on the first novel. It’s the one that I’ve been trying to write since I was 20. Shaunta suggested that we work on the most recent novel because that’s likely the one that we’re most excited about. I haven’t gotten very far with my latest one. So I think that I’ll work on the 2011 one.

Free Writing

The “Plot Whisperer” by Martha Alderson suggests going through each chapter summary and seeing how the scene causes the following one. I think that I’m going to be doing massive rewrites to have everything flow properly and to have the plot arc correct. That is probably the weakness of the NaNoWriMo free writing style is that you meander along instead of building tension at vital points. I’ve always favoured free writing. I enjoyed reading Natalie Goldberg’s book called “Writing Down the Bones” and the morning pages suggested in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. I just don’t think that free writing leads to finished presentable writing without a great deal of rewriting and editing. But I guess that’s why authors need to have multiple drafts. As long as each one is an improvement on the last.

Camp Nanowrimo

I had signed up for Camp Nanowrimo which covers July each year. I had intended to work on my first travel book. I had promised myself if I got the first draft done by the end of August that I would allow myself to go to Florida at the end of January. I need to go so that I have more material for another travel book, and that’s the perfect time to escape the Pacific Northwest rainy season. Alas though I am not going to be able to increase my word count from 62,000 to 150,000 like I had wanted in that amount of time. What happened, you ask. Well I’m easily distracted, and shiny things catch my eye.

Shaunta Grimes’s Ninja Writers

I have a plan and that’s to follow Shaunta’s advice on plotting, and get my book done. The Ninja Writers novel course uses Christopher Vogler’s book “The Writer’s Journey — Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters”. It walks you through each stage of a plot. So really you should have a solid structure once you’ve laid it all out. Then it should be simple to write the first draft.

My trouble is that I’m a pantser. I don’t know what’s going to happen until the characters know when they get to that part of the story. I’m afraid I’ll get bored if I try to forecast it all.

I decided that I wanted to work on my novel with Shaunta’s class. I even have an accountability partner but so far we haven’t been keeping each other accountable. The class is for six months so there’s still time to get back on track for both of us. I think that I now know which project I am working on for it. I bought three tri-fold boards at the dollar store because I couldn’t decide between all the projects that I have started. I’ll probably try this method for everything. I think that going through the first one will be the hardest but then I’ll get in the groove, know how to do it, and just buckle down and get them all finished. It’s kind of the way that I learn, and function. I think that completing the first novel / book will greatly increase my self-confidence which I am currently lacking. Once I have proof that I’m capable of this kind of huge project then there’ll be no stopping me.


The other thing that Shaunta had us do was to get going publishing articles on Medium. It’s a platform for blogs that actually get written. She wanted us to post one behind the pay wall and one public one each week. So I’ve been alternating between the two types of posts. You join the Medium partner program in order to post behind the pay wall. You can earn money by posting there. Readers who are members are allowed to read the member only posts behind the pay wall. The public is only allowed to read three before their access is cut off. The membership is very cheap and is used to pay the writers. So far this month I’ve earned $6.17. My first pay as a writer. It’s a start and it’s more than last month. Tomorrow there’ll be the amounts for this past week added in and I know that I’ll get more than that. On the public posts you’re allowed to build your email list.

Jeff Goins’s Tribe Writers

I also belong to Jeff Goins’s Tribe Writers which is for non-fiction. Some of the students there are doing 30 posts in 30 days on Medium. I signed up for that too. Silly me stretching myself so thin everywhere. I’ve had my own website that no one has really read or commented on. Since I’ve been writing on Medium I’ve had far more readers and comments. My friends are even reading posts which is really great. My topics are completely different from what I’ve covered on my own website but that’s good. They seem to be about more common situations that have a more universal appeal.

Build a writing habit

I find it hard to sit down and just write. I’m trying to build a habit. I’ve certainly devoted more time to writing in the last two weeks than I have for awhile. That’s what’s good when you do NaNoWriMo as well. It brings you into a productive mindset. You think “I can do this for a month”. It’ll be difficult but it’s for a limited amount of time.

What about you? Are you writing a novel too? Which method works for you? I’m curious to know what others have done or are doing now.